Today is the launch of GET INFORMED – a campaign to help charity and social enterprise boards understand the opportunities and risks of social investment. As part of the launch, we hear from one of our “Faces” – board members who have used or considered social investment – on why boards should GET INFORMED.
One of the fundamental tasks for a Chair is to ensure that the charity has sufficient funds to do its job properly. It’s incumbent on Chairs to ensure a broad spread of income sources – avoiding the ‘eggs in one basket’ syndrome, since this unduly exposes their organisation to economic pressures and fluctuations in public attitude. Securing funding to develop and enhance the organisation (rather than money tied to a specific outcome) is judicious, if not crucial to its wellbeing. Social investment has the potential to offer this, often providing more flexible funding than traditional sources.
So how can Chairs carry out this role well? Firstly, they need to be aware of what’s going on in the social investment field. A Chair doesn’t have to be an expert, but they need to be canny enough to harness knowledge and expertise from around the Board table and amongst the executive. This doesn’t absolve the rest of the board from its role in raising sufficient funding in appropriate ways; nor does it remove the requirement to monitor the impact and outcomes of its financial choices. Part of the Chair’s role in this regard is to make sure trustees ask good, insightful questions. Sometimes the simpler the question, the more insight it generates!
Equally critical is keeping a clear eye on the mission of the organisation – ensuring that both finance sought and activities funded are mission consistent. Alongside mission consistency, focusing on maximising impact from the activities funded applies whatever the funding mechanism.
Many Chairs will need help to understand the technicalities of social investment. Many boards in general do not even know that it exists. This is why I am supporting the GET INFORMED campaign as it offers an opportunity for boards to get the information, guidance and support they need to find out what it is, how it works and whether it could help to support their charitable mission. A key part of a board’s role is to ensure the organisation delivers the best outcomes for its beneficiaries. It is important that boards explore how social investment might enable them to do that well.
Good Chairs will see this as business as usual. Social investment may be a relatively new term, but innovation in fundraising has been around for a long time, and this is no different.
By Alice Maynard, former Chair of Scope and one of the founding trustees of Association of Chairs