Trade Secrets: How to lose money in a recession

David Sant, chair of consultancy Action Planning, maps out a fast route to rock bottom

1. Assume the recession won't affect you at all - Never believe what you read in the newspapers. They don't usually get the weather forecast or racing tips right, so why should we believe we are in a recession? Just carry on as normal and it will simply pass you by.

2. Slash whole functions rather than topslice several - Let's slash the training budget, the IT budget, the marketing budget and the maintenance budget. The measured approach of taking a little off all the budgets requires more careful thought and will lose a lot less.

3. Try everything - If you use a shotgun, at least you are more likely to hit something (but maybe not your target). It's guaranteed to be expensive and probably won't work. Carefully targeted work such as nurturing major donors won't lose you nearly as much.

4. Assume nobody has any money - Of course, there aren't any major donors around now because they have all lost their money in the collapse of the markets. Accept this received wisdom and ignore the fact that there are always winners as well as losers, and that some people will be getting rich while the rest of us are tightening our belts.

5. Exploit 'the crisis' as an emergency - Donors love it when you cry wolf. They might see through a cynical and paper-thin attempt to link your cause to the newspaper headlines, but they will applaud your creativity and recognise that your charity is the only entity in the world that is having a hard time at the moment.

6. Keep secrets from staff, supporters, suppliers and competitors - As long as you put on a brave face, nobody will be worried. Staff won't think their jobs are at risk. Supporters will believe everything is fine. Suppliers will rest assured they will be paid on time. And don't show any weaknesses to your competitors because they will only exploit them - and they won't have any problems of their own.

7. Take a short-term view - Don't worry about the long-term future or reputation of the charity. Just make sure you get through this month. And next month. And the month after that. Let someone else worry about next year - after all, you might not still be there.

8. Panic - This is an excellent way to lose money. Things can only get worse.


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