Julian Mines: Charities need to be bold and entrepreneurial

This means finding new ways to collaborate, hiring the best people and having a big vision, says the chief executive of FareShare South West

Julian Mines
Julian Mines

In recent years fundraising has become more competitive, with cuts made to statutory funding, small charities often competing for the same pots of money and even the risk of donor fatigue from individual givers. Charities need to be bold in order to stand out. This might mean ensuring campaigns are creative and fundraising activities are unique, but might also require an entirely new narrative around primary purpose activity.

In the past at FareShare South West, we might have been able to fundraise for vans, a forklift truck or warehouse racking, but now our campaigning and fundraising narrative has to focus much more on our social impact. A good example is our No Child Goes Hungry campaign, which has allowed us to connect our donor contributions directly to the work we are doing to combat food poverty among children.


In this competitive fundraising market, ensuring that a charity can continue to run is one of the biggest challenges facing chief executives. I believe that although the status of charities will remain the same legally, the mindsets of staff and trustees must change, allowing charities to adopt aspects of social enterprise models that could include developing new ways to monetise their core offerings.

For example, at FareShare South West we have found a way of providing a service that has enough value to develop a membership income from the organisations and charities that benefit from our redistributed surplus food. This equates to a third of our income while giving substantial cost savings to our recipient members, alleviating the pressure on traditional fundraising but still delivering our core activity.

Charities will increasingly have to adopt this entrepreneurial spirit and explore new products or services and new markets for existing activity. We did not think there would be a way of getting the high-quality surplus food we receive to the general public, but 2019 will see the launch of our "pantry model". It’s a bit like the Co-Op of old, with membership-based outlets run from community centres and open to those on low incomes. Taking our core activity into a new market will create further revenue for the charity as well as delivering increased social impact.

New ways to partner

Collaboration brings more people to the cause, but charities often seem to lack the creative or commercial thinking needed to make effective partnerships, which would help them find meaningful solutions. Charities need to be bold by working with partners from the commercial world and charities from other sectors that might not be within their normal domain. For example, our day-to-day "business" is food and we couldn’t exist without the support of national supermarkets and food producers, or local businesses working right across the food industry. This includes recent partnerships with well-known local chefs, which have improved our profile and increased donations for our campaigns.

We’ve also increased our engagement with non-food-related local businesses that want to support us with fundraising and awareness-raising. We’re having to be bold and entrepreneurial about what we can offer to make this CSR meaningful and valuable as well as leveraging creative fundraising ideas and resources. We’ve a number of exciting partnerships with large-scale businesses that are now providing much-needed funds.

Find the best people

Charities are never going to be able to compete with big corporations when it comes to salaries, but many are actively looking for jobs with meaning, particularly younger people. I am lucky to have a brilliant team around me. I have built it by finding really motivated young people and giving them the opportunity to take on roles and responsibilities they perhaps wouldn’t get at their level of experience in bigger businesses. The challenge is to allow people in your team to grow into their roles, providing the permission and scope to make mistakes and learn from them. Luckily, the team behind the scenes at FareShare South West continues to ensure major successes for the charity.

Be bold in your recruitment. Take informed risks and allow space, time and training so those you take on develop and benefit your charity.

Make bigger things happen than seem possible

In my career the biggest successes for charities have come when I’ve been bold about decision-making. This often requires having a big vision, but starting small, perhaps before all the resources you would like to have are in place, building support and momentum until you reach a tipping point.

To reimagine and develop new ways of doing things, to enter new markets or create new services that could create new income streams or trading opportunities, requires charities to be alert, flexible and able to make decisions, while managing risk. Think big, say yes, build new narratives around your core activity and re-cast your vision through passionate storytelling. In so doing, more often than not we have found that the funds and resources will follow. If you only ever plan in accordance with your existing resources and funding, you’ll never grow and tackle your mission as effectively as you could or with the level of impact that might be possible.

Julian Mines is chief executive of FareShare South West

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