Enlisting the experience, energy and expertise of your colleagues will greatly increase your chances of pursuing sustainability successfully.
We are all leaders and no matter what your role is in your organisation, there are things you can do to discuss and address sustainability with others. Typically, people who lead this action are those who see and explain the big picture. What is happening in the environment around your organisation? Are there ways to align opportunities and developments to the organisation’s aims?
Critically, taking action on sustainability means recognising and dealing with uncertainty and risk within the organisation. Charity survival and sustainability are scary topics, so communicate clearly and effectively with everyone who may be affected by changes. Start by reassuring them about – or involve them in identifying – what will be sustained. Keep reminding people of the vision and mission and make sure people and values remain at the centre of all the organisation’s work. This can help overcome anxiety about, or resistance to, change.
When the organisation is facing a challenge or crisis be honest with people about the situation and what needs to happen. Model the behaviours that you believe in or want other people to adopt. For example, acknowledge uncertainty; ask questions; ask for and respond to feedback. Contribute to a constructive environment where current thinking and practices can be challenged.
Remember that in a changing environment, the risks involved in staying the same are greater than those of changing.
Identify a small number of colleagues, trustees or internal or external peers to work with, for example you could form a staff working group or a board sub- committee looking at sustainability. We find that forums made up of people at all levels of the organisation are the best way to get an inclusive, rounded view.
It’s common to come across people, particularly chief officers, thinking they need to carrying the burden of sustaining their charities alone. When responsibility for sustainability and survival are shared, ownership increases. People feel more empowered and able to contribute to change. The burden is not so heavy.
Brand new for 2020, Charity Survival and Sustainability is a one-day workshop taking place on Tuesday 7 April to help you understand, assess, prioritise and implement strategies to tackle sustainability. You will even receive one copy of Graeme’s book – Making a Lasting Difference.