Perhaps we should ape the social enterprise director

What is the future for the traditional roles of fundraising and finance directors? Helen Simmons, finance director at the Diocese of London, poses the question

Helen Simmons
Helen Simmons

It's a jungle out there. In the words of the great philosopher Baloo from The Jungle Book: "If you look under the rocks and plants and take a glance at the fancy ants and maybe try a few, the bare necessities of life will come to you."

According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations' Civil Society Almanac 2012, nearly half of all charities consider themselves to be social enterprises, and 90 per cent of community interest companies regard themselves as a social enterprises. Definitions of 'social enterprise' vary, but most people would agree that it's a business with primarily social or environmental objectives - with, as a guide, at least a quarter of its income coming from 'trading'.

Given this backdrop, you have to wonder whether the traditional roles of finance director and fundraising director will be relevant for much longer. What charities will need are social enterprise and funding directors, won't they? Will directors of finance and fundraising one day find themselves sidelined to the category of 'endangered species' - the dodos and the diplodoci of the sector?

Do we need more Baloos - a combined role with flair and imagination, but also prudence and care? Baloo knew how to reach the fruits or nectar other animals couldn't, but he did it using skill, care and knowledge of the jungle fruit. Do our finance and fundraising directors have the skills to go into an arena where perhaps 75 per cent of future charity income will be earned, trading or social enterprise income? Do fundraising directors know how to shift from the 'ask' to the 'offer' in their strategies?

You also have to wonder where these social enterprise directors will come from - they are not necessarily accountants or salesmen, but a new breed. Some existing finance and fundraising directors will adapt and develop skills to survive and even flourish: others will struggle. Then there will be a new team on the block from neither route: students straight from university or even school.

King Louie the orangutan told Mowgli he wanted to "be like someone like you": perhaps as fundraising and finance directors we need to be like someone more like a social enterprise director. Now all we need to do is hunt down a good one in the jungle and make a careful study.

Helen Simmons is finance director at the Diocese of London

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