Expert View: Planning for the best-case scenario

My five-year-old son has declared that he is an Arsenal fan, before he has even watched a football match.

I fear he is facing peer pressure in the playground already. Wanting to be a supportive and loving mum, I tell him that he should make sure he is able to answer questions about the game.

Among other things, I explain to him that the success or failure of a team has much to do with how wealthy its owner is and how a sudden influx of capital can change the fate of a struggling team.

And this gets me thinking. If charities were football teams and a wealthy supporter brought a windfall beyond our dreams, would we be ready for it? And how would we help the charity to make the most of it?

As financial directors, we so often spend our time planning for the worst - talking doom, gloom and despondency. But how often do we sit down as a team and plan for a windfall? Even if it seems highly unlikely to happen, I still say it's worth taking at least a day out each year to plan for it.

Having a plan up your sleeve will ensure that you hit the ground running and can start to apply the funds to your cause relatively quickly. I can think of nothing worse than sitting on a pile of money while the organisation takes a year to work out what to do with it, or waits for the next budget cycle in a rather lacklustre way.

If you already have directorate and trustee away days, why not add a session on windfall planning? If nothing else, it could brighten up the day as a first session in the afternoon.

'Charities should not wait'

You could enjoy working out how to spend an unexpected legacy or donation. Is this an opportunity to launch a new project, improve your buildings or carry out new research? There are many possibilities.

You could even get trustees to approve a draft plan alongside the budget for any windfall that might come in part way through the budget cycle. That way, you avoid having to wait for the next trustees meeting to get things going.

I am guessing that a football team with a windfall might wait a few months for the right transfer opportunity, but I doubt it would wait a whole season - there are cups to be won. Charities should not wait either.

- Helen Verney is finance director of Jewish Care


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