Focus: People Management - Case study - The challenge of expansion

Graham Willgoss,

Send a Cow called in a consultant to ensure its board and senior management had the necessary skills.

The Cranfield Trust ( puts charities in touch with management consultants prepared to work for them free of charge. It also runs HRNet, an internet advice service. This is one of a series of monthly case studies.


Send a Cow is a charity that gives farmers in Africa livestock, training and advice, enabling them to become self-reliant. It also works with some of the most vulnerable groups in Africa.

The organisation began to expand after the publicity generated by The Daily Telegraph's 1999 Christmas appeal.

As resources poured in, Send a Cow needed a structured approach to manage its growth and ensure its board and management had the necessary competencies to cope.

It called in John Vincent, an organisational development consultant who takes part in Cranfield's free management consulting programme for small and medium-sized charities.

He spent ten days working with staff and trustees.


Vincent began with a skills audit to identify what the charity was good at and what it needed to be good at in order to expand. He also helped to establish whether different aspects of the organisation were the responsibility of the board or the senior management.

"Send a Cow was clear that it did not want to lose the enthusiasm of trustees, but also wanted the skills and strategy it needed to allow it to develop," says Vincent.

Staff and board members were asked to fill out self-assessment questionnaires to assess their levels of competence.

"We compared their actual competence with the required competence for what they wanted to achieve as an organisation, and we identified where the gaps were," Vincent explains.

Martin Geake, chief executive of the charity, knew the evaluation could be intimidating.

"Our team was initially defensive, as I think it's quite natural to be, but John got everyone involved in a way that proved very useful," he says.

A final meeting was held to work out what Send a Cow needed to do about the skills gaps it had, how urgently they needed to be filled and whether personal development of staff and trustees or recruitment was required.


The charity has recruited two trustees to fill the gaps it identified, one with general senior management experience, the second with experience of running a large international NGO.

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