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The Heyheyjoe charity strategy awards

Here are the Heyheyjoe charity strategy awards. I have read a whole bunch of charity strategies (over 100) and this is a collection of my favourite. Nobody entered for these awards, no fees have changed hands, and this long blog (strategy blog 7) is purely designed to give people some inspiration for great charity strategies that are out there. You can also read the blog with all the snips I mention as a pdf. There are some really inspiring strategies here – enjoy!


Best Large Charity – RNLI

The lifeboats is my favourite large charity strategy (RNLI has over £200 million of income), although it is a little on the long side at over 30 pages. One of the best things about the strategy is it saying: here is our objective, this is how we are going to achieve the objective and this is how we are going to measure progress. There is a summary version and a long description of each objective.


It also highlights the progress they hope to make by 2021, midway through the plan. This is particularly good for plans with a longer duration – 5 years or more. Underpinning their approach to objectives is what they call the ‘drowning epidemic’ and the notion of a drowning ‘chain’ (drowning happens because a series of things go wrong). It is well produced with great photos, and case studies – but they complement the strategy and aren’t a substitute for clear thinking.


Our web page with a couple of snips from it is here: https://www.heyheyjoe.info/post/best-large-charity-rnli


Best Medium Charity – Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

The Cherie Blair Foundation is a £2million charity that focus on women entrepreneurs. It is probably the best single strategy I read. It’s not too long at around 10 pages, it has great objective setting, great description of its values, and a good section on raising income and looking after its people. It highlights the kind of women it is helping, with some good case studies.


In particular I think the objectives it set out were clear and I could envisage the difference between the beginning and the end of the strategy period. The ‘how we work’ section and the values guide were particularly strong. All in all the strategy showed some clear strategic thinking. My only criticism would be that the charity name is too long, and does no justice to the work they do with women entrepreneurs. It would have been good to see the strategy address that.



Best small charity –Facial Palsy UK

Facial Palsy UK is a tiny charity with an income of under £100k a year. But its strategy is clearly set out in a word document: no designers, no photos, no corporate headshots, just the strategy. In particular I like the fact that it sets out the context in which it is working of the NHS, and the challenges of the healthcare sector currently.


It also sets out its goals clearly with details of the specifics involved in each goal. The information operational goal is included in the snips in the page link below. This has 13 different sub-goals covering written articles to distributing information leaflets. The whole strategy is a simple no-frills approach, perfect to guide a small organisation.



Best strategy on a website – Blood Cancer UK

One of the challenges of any strategy is how to present it to staff, volunteers, and stakeholders. Blood Cancer UK has tackled this by having both a pdf document (which is excellent in itself) and also a web section which divides into 6 different areas of the strategy. These cover areas such as ‘a message from people with blood cancer,’ ‘our strategy in seven sentences,’ and ‘how do we know this is the right strategy for people with blood cancer.’ It’s an engaging way of getting the strategy into some relevant bite-size chunks



Best strategy on a page – John Muir and Acevo

Strategies can get to be really long documents, so all credit to those organisations who try and sum things up on a page. Two very different examples here. The first is from the John Muir Trust who work in protecting wild places. They have a neat one pager that sums up who they are, what they are trying to do, their key messages and more. It isn’t a strategy in some ways (no targets or specific goals) as it tries to pull together everything they do in simple clear language, but it’s a great summation of the organisation and its work.


The second one-pager is from the charity chief executives body ACEVO. It has the scent of a ‘theory of change’ course behind it, but that is no bad thing. I like how it sets out its different goals, activities, and outcomes in diagrammatic form. I couldn’t quite decide whether I should be able to go down each column, to find out the activities that delivered a ‘how?’ and the outcomes that they delivered. Some worked and some didn’t. Either way it is a simple way of communicating ACEVO and what it is trying to do.



Best explanation of involving beneficiaries – Mind and CRUK

The health and disability charities are particularly good at making clear how beneficiaries are in involved in the development of their strategies. It makes perfect sense for them to do this. What is interesting is not that they do it, but I don’t recall seeing any overseas development charities, or homelessness, or community charities setting out how they have involved their beneficiaries. Why on earth not? The two winners here are CRUK and Mind who start their strategies with an introduction/ explanation of how beneficiaries are involved, and go onto name the specific individuals who are on their beneficiary groups. Nice touch.



Best way of talking about values: Cherie Blair Foundation, the Wallich, and Thames Valley Air Ambulance

Strategy documents are full of values. In my view they are often one of the most useless sections. There are only so many ways that an organisation can say we are compassionate, we are authoritative, we are bold, blah blah, blah. I have a simple test – would anybody say the opposite of the values. No charity says we are hard-nosed bastards. So what is the point of the values section. I think it is when the values make it clear how an organisation will behave in practice. When the values make an organisation stand out – particularly so staff and stakeholders know what it means for how the organisation will behave. Three winners in this category: the Cherie Blair Foundation, the Wallich, and Thames Valley Air Ambulance each of who makes clear what their values mean in practice.

You can find the Cherie Blair Foundation strategy here: https://cherieblairfoundation.org/about-us/threeyearstrategy/ and the Wallich strategy here: https://thewallich.com/app/uploads/2020/12/Business-Plan-2020.pdf and Thames Valley Air Ambulance here: https://www.tvairambulance.org.uk/about-us/our-strategy/



Best context setting – Trussell Trust and SAMH

Strategies don’t happen in isolation. They happen in the context of the wider world in which an organisation is working. The external or internal context will to a greater or lesser extent impact on the goals that the organisation is setting. The winners in this section are Trussell Trust and SAMH who both neatly set out the context and changes that are driving the use of food banks and rise in mental health challenges respectively. In particular they both highlight some of the faults in the external world that are driving the demand for help or creating problems. The benefits system as an example for food banks, and long waiting lists for mental health treatment for SAMH.



Best for people – CHAS

Too many strategy documents forget about their people. Its as if strategies are delivered by magic – the elves make it all happen at night clearly. So its really good to see a charity taking its commitment and development of its staff seriously. The winner of the award on being best for people is CHAS who have a detailed set of goals, including when it will happen, and how will they know if its successful. Although there was a mention of volunteers it would have been good to see more references to how volunteers are used. Nonetheless inspiring stuff.


And our page with a couple of snips here https://www.heyheyjoe.info/post/best-for-people-chas


Best for goal setting – Thames Valley Air Ambulance

At the heart of any strategy is the setting of goals and how they will be delivered. Too many strategies have a few lofty aspirations with little clarity about what the goals mean in practice. The winner for the best outline of their goals is Thames Valley Air Ambulance – I only found out about their strategy because one of their trustees thought it was so good it had made them apply to be a trustee. I really like the way the strategy explains all the different things it will need to do to achieve its goals.



Best way of being held to account – Blood Cancer UK

There are lots of strategies where its hard to work out how anybody, internally or externally, will know whether the goals have been met. It is really important that the strategy is accountable – its clear how stakeholders know how the strategy is doing. Blood Cancer UK address this problem by tackling it head on with a section entitled – ‘10 measures that will tell us whether we are on track’.



Best strategy head shots – Danny and Jamie

There are a lot of strategies with pictures of their CEOs or Chairs in various poses introducing the strategy, or talking about how excited they are about the plans. For me a little of this photo-embellishing goes a long way. Too many pages of too many strategies document are padded out with beautiful pictures – including of the CEO or Chair. So I thought I would give a tongue-in-cheek award to the best two best bits of eye candy. Danny from Oxfam with an enormous photo and a dazzling shirt looking over his shoulder. Jamie from the Co-Op Foundation looking straight at camera with those piercing blue eyes. Its enough to make any strategy manager quiver with the clarity of their strategic intent.



(These awards are sponsored by Heyheyjoe.info, researched by Joe Saxton, written by Joe Saxton, edited by Samiksha Rai, uploaded by Samiksha Rai)


Any queries or questions or brickbats email joe@heyheyjoe.info





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