'Abandon yearly targets'

Charity finance experts have given a mixed reaction to World Bank strategist Adrian Poffley's recommendation that they should abandon yearly budgets and embrace more flexible, long-term financial planning.

Speaking at the Charity Finance Directors' Group annual conference last week, Poffley urged charities to look at multi-year strategies and consider new ways of achieving success that are not dependent on targets.

Poffley developed long-term strategies, which he calls "beyond budgeting", while employed as finance director at Sight Savers International, and has since developed them at the Washington-based international loan giant.

"These ideas present some excellent challenges for the sector," said Gill Nunn, director of business development, charity financial services, at the Charities Aid Foundation. "But finance directors will need to work alongside their trustees and senior teams to rise to these challenges; they can't go it alone."

She also said Poffley's proposals were inherently risky. "Would trustees really be ready to step into a brave, new, non-targeted world with a three-year rolling time horizon?" she asked.

James Brooke Turner, assistant director of finance and administration at the grant-making charity the Nuffield Foundation, said charities should respond positively to Poffley's call. "Being more flexible about budgets or key performance indicators is fundamental to the way in which charities can express their independence, " he said.

"The degree to which charities can respond is to a large extent dependent on the latitude they have in managing their finances or in setting targets," he added.

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