The Charity Sector: Adapting Post-Pandemic


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​Last week the Charity Team at Altum Consulting had the pleasure of hosting a thought-provoking and informative panel discussion on how the charity sector is adapting post-pandemic.

Chairing the session was Irene Sobowale, CEO of The Disabilities Trust and joining her on the panel was Caron Bradshaw OBE, CEO, Charity Finance Group, Chris Luck MBE, CEO, Shaw Trust, Harriet Oppenheimer, Deputy CEO, RNID and Sarah Vibert, Interim CEO, NCVO.

The discussion covered many important topics faced by charities and social enterprises, with our panel sharing their experiences, insights and learnings from the last year and discussing what the future could hold for the sector.​

Key takeaways:

Surviving and thriving beyond the global pandemic

    • The pandemic has challenged organisations to strike the appropriate balance between building on innovations and knee-jerk reactions. It has been important to develop a focus on ensuring changes are aligned with the overall strategy and that organisations aren’t just doing things because they can, they are doing things because the fit with their values and strategy.

    • Digital has been given a turbo charge boost for both service users and staff. Which is also presenting opportunities to provide people with support in more locations, and it is opening the talent pool by allowing remote working opportunities.

    • During the crisis, collaboration (internally, between different charities and between charities and external parties) has really stepped up and this improved collaboration seems to be here to stay.

The changing role of charities and social enterprises

    • Charities and social enterprises played a critical role in the immediate response to the crisis and in this response showed how innovative and flexible the sector can be. Going forward the sector will continue to be central to bringing communities together and driving innovation to reach more people. In many areas there has been improved relationships between local authorities and the voluntary sector, resulting in a more genuine partnership which is very encouraging and something to build upon. The commissioning environment and in particular the funding of local authorities is important in terms of charities being able to play this role.

    • Throughout the pandemic charities have shaped and driven change in society through effective campaigning. There are numerous examples of how charities have highlighted problems, suggested solutions, and engaged with media, government, and others to campaign for change. This is something we will be seeing more of.

    • The Government have come a long way in recognising that it doesn’t really understand how the sector works, how it is funded, and the different business models work, this is something we can capitalise on to put social considerations at the heart of decision making, not an afterthought. Organisations need to move beyond just thinking about their individual entity and start to think as part of a wider ecosystem of civil society.

    • Charities are challenging themselves to change and address issues such as systemic inequalities.

The future CEO

    • CEOs need to rest comfortably with uncertainty, imperfect information, multiple futures, reduced and competed for resources and an overwhelming demand for the organisation to act with certainty.

    • CEOs must elevate their views beyond their enterprise and take a sector and increasingly a global perspective.

    • CEOs must create and empower talented people who understand the importance of ambiguity.

    • Leadership today is about change, transformation, a relentless pursuit of mission and purpose, whilst holding tight to your values and vision of the better future you ant to create. A CEO is a collaborator, mentor, arbitrator, and responsible officer.

    • There has been a generation of future leaders that have become leaders through change which will have a positive impact on the quality of CEOs for the future. It will be exciting to see what will come out of the generation that has experienced the crisis as growth development.

    • Staff wellbeing is critical on the CEO agenda and the pandemic has increased this importance. However, CEO wellbeing in the sector is also imperative, pressures are not going to go away once the pandemic is over. We need to build resilience but also look at how we can further support CEOs wellbeing.

    • Uncertainty is the normal and always has been. Leaders need to be comfortable in understanding and acting in the true environment, this creates opportunity.

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

    • Over the last decade we have been speaking about equality, diversity and inclusion, however the conversations have not met actions at the pace people deserve. This year has been a shot in the arm to push us to act collectively and individually.

    • EDI is really about culture and shifting culture. We need to make sure we are giving conscious focus and attention until we eventually get to the point it is so imbedded it is just something we do. There is no end point to the relentless focus on culture.

    • We must acknowledge that culture isn’t something that changes overnight. And whilst we need to challenge ourselves and want pace, this must be balanced so we don’t focus on pace over culture change. If the strategy and intent are right and the culture is changing even if it isn’t at the pace we would like, this may lead to more sustainable results over time.

A big thank you to our amazing chair and panel for delivering such a thought-provoking session. If you are interested in finding out about our future events please email