Case study: Admitting defeat can be for the best

Special Needs Active Partnership decided to wind things up when it lost its core funding.

The challenge

Solihull charity Special Needs Active Partnership had been working with the parents and carers of children with special needs for 12 years. It was largely reliant on funding from its local authority, but when it lost its biggest contract to the local branch of a large national charity, its six trustees had to make a decision about whether it could carry on.

The process

Trevor Gay had been chair of Snap for only two months. His immediate concern was to keep the organisation running, and he worked for two weeks almost full time after the resignation of its chief executive.

He describes the experience as useful and would recommend it to all chairs - if they have a good relationship with their chief executive. "It can be seen as interfering," he warns.

The board then met to consider the future. The trustees discussed various options, including diversifying and seeking similar contracts from other local authorities. However, they eventually decided unanimously to close the charity.

"We would have been losing our core staff to a new provider, so we would have had, effectively, to start again," says Gay. "Many of the trustees had been with the organisation for a long time and didn't have the energy for that."

The board decided to work together with the new provider to maximise continuity for clients, and found other local organisations to take on the charity's other contracts. Trustees also worked up criteria for disposal of the charity's surplus assets, based on the winding-up clauses in its memoranda.

The outcome

Snap has had expressions of interest from about 15 organisations to take on the assets. It will decide at a board meeting which to accept, and expects to finalise everything by July.

The charity has employed the manager of a neighbouring organisation since the last of its own 15 staff left two months ago. "I'm sure we got far more work from her than her organisation will bill us for," Gay says. "That's how it is with charities, isn't it?"

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