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Strong leadership has never been more important for our charities


David Dunsire says bold thinking and actions are needed in facing up to a future framed by the consequences of Covid-19

The need for charities to be bold in their outlook has never been greater as we all face up to the long-term fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Shaping a strong vision for the future starts at the top. For me, that means we must have the best people - those who inspire ideas and innovation - as chairs.

We need people who are prepared to ask themselves difficult questions in order to put proper plans in place. Has what’s been done right, what should have been done better and where does the organisation go next?.

In some cases they may even need to ask themselves whether they are the right person to lead the changes needed.

I’ve worked with charitable organisations for more than 30 years and know this is not easy. That’s why I and my colleagues at Lindsays are pleased to be working with ACOSVO to provide third sector leaders with opportunities to inspire, excel and develop as part of the Chairs Network Scotland.

A key part of the most recent event, on October 8 - Successful Strategies: A Chair's Perspective -  was an in-depth discussion on how to create effective strategies and how to achieve buy-in from those delivering them. This is critical for the future.

We all realise the scale of the challenges third sector organisations face. This was reinforced last week by the latest Covid Charity Tracker, published by Pro Bono Economics in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Group. It found that more than half of UK charities fear demand may outstrip their ability to deliver this winter - with almost all confirming the pandemic had left them with a financial challenge.

The biggest problem charities continue to grapple with, of course, is how to generate income while the major fundraising events that would normally provide significant cash boosts cannot be held because of social distancing rules.

Across Scotland we are thankfully blessed with innovative leaders through whom we are seeing some remarkable resilience in the face of challenges the likes of which no-one could have predicted.

All of this is against the backdrop of the fact that there’s not a lot of fat generally in how charities operate financially. But the pandemic has undoubtedly put a focus on how things can be done better.

That is challenging charity executives, trustees and chairs with vital - often difficult - decisions.

This is why I believe all of us involved in charities must challenge ourselves to ensure we have the best chairs in place - someone who can steer our charities through the immediate challenge while also looking to the future.

Sound strategy and advice are key to achieving a better way of working. Without this, the ability to raise income is going to suffer. All of that is underpinned by good governance, which is led by the chair.

By looking at strategies now and being bold in their outlook, charities are less likely to be left behind. That way organisations can find the best way to serve the beneficiaries of their work.

What’s clear is that well run charities with solid, motivating leadership are going to be the ones which come through this.

For more information about Chairs Network Scotland, please visit

David Dunsire is a consultant at Lindsays, specialising in the third sector, and is also a charity trustee



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