Regulation with Rosie: Planning ahead

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on the need to plan ahead.

There's no knowing just how many new year resolutions have been broken by now - but for those in need of a replacement I'd like to offer the concept of 'seasonal mapping'.

There are so many ways to maximise your charity's effectiveness, but this is one of the most inclusive. The day-to-day pressures of keeping the show on the road can make it difficult to plan forward consistently. Sitting down at the beginning of the year helps ensure that key dates are planned for and milestones marked.

This process should, of course, encompass meeting your fundamental regulatory requirements. Knowing when your annual accounts and returns are due is one thing, but many charities fail to file on time because an auditor or independent examiner wasn't booked far enough in advance. This seems to occur more often for organisations that rely on pro bono assistance. Planning ahead will ensure it doesn't happen.

Funding can be a daily struggle. This quiet period at the start of the year can provide a chance to take stock of opening and closing dates for grant applications and other sources of funding. Applying for money is time-consuming - knowing what the deadlines are allows you to work backwards to find both the date you need to be starting the process and the human resources to complete it.

Is there scope to make the most of opportunities provided externally? Does a particular bank holiday, centenary or cultural date offer a chance to generate awareness? Would publishing your annual report on a certain day allow you to tie it in to something bigger, reaching a wider audience?

Nobody knows what opportunities and challenges the next year will bring, but planning gives you more time to deal with the unknown.

- Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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