Focus: Finance and Governance - Outlook - Plan ahead to organise your outputs

Charities with multiple funding streams and turnovers of between £300,000 and £1m often have a major problem. They can find it hard to establish all the outputs that the organisation has to achieve during the year and then set up a system that ensures they are achieved or that highlights any slippage.

With a turnover of £1m, it is normally possible for charities to move away from the one general manager model to having both a chief executive and a middle manager. When this change is made, the organisation often looks at the strengths and weaknesses of its senior employee and either appoints a fundraiser or an operations manager depending on the chief executive's weaknesses or preference. Charities then quickly grow to £3m, which explains the small number of charities in the £1m-£3m bracket.

That does not help the general manager with a turnover of £500,000 who is struggling to understand 12 funding streams with various match-funding arrangements, partnerships with other organisations and outputs that cause confusion. For example, a charity may find that for some funders it delivers course places, for another it delivers training days, for another it has to train 25 people, and these all link together in a match-funding arrangement.

On top of that there are another nine funding streams with their own idiosyncrasies.

February is a good time to start planning for 2006/07 and bring some order into the situation.

Begin by reading each funding agreement. Write down the outputs and outcomes that have to be achieved, the dates for monitoring returns and the draw down of funds.

Try to get all of this onto a spreadsheet. Now timetable out by month or quarter when outputs are going to be achieved and monitoring returns sent in.

Note that if a monitoring return has to be sent in November, the data has to be collected from staff in October, so activity has to be timetabled early. Start allocating tasks to specific members of staff.

Produce a paper for each member of staff who details the activities and outputs to be achieved each month, with space to record the results. Now work this paper into the supervision agenda for each employee so that at each meeting you can discuss if you are on target or not. If there are activities for the senior employee to do, such as arranging a speaker for the AGM, write a work plan for them as well.

As new funding streams come on, revise the main plan and staff work plans.

Besides reducing stress, this approach will take the charity a long way down the road towards getting an Investors in People kitemark.

KEY POINTS

- Outputs can be the most difficult area to manage for charities with turnovers between £300,000 and £1m

- Such organisations can struggle to handle multiple funding streams and partnerships

- Forward planning is the key to dealing with outputs.

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