Guest Blog: Charity CEO Reflections in Scotland During Week 7 of Lockdown

This guest blog is brought to you by Julie Hutchison from Aberdeen Standard Capital who summarises the key themes which emerged during ACOSVO's Week 7 CEO Check-In During COVID-19.

 

ACOSVO has been hosting weekly CEO zoom calls since the Covid-19 crisis took hold. I joined the zoom call with CEOs in week 7 of lockdown. This blog summarises the key themes which emerged.

 

The equalising effect of video calls

An interesting perspective on the power dynamics in video calls was shared. In the pre-Covid19 world, if someone was working remotely and joined an office-based meeting by video call, they were usually the exception. In the days of misplaced presenteeism, the unspoken thought might have been that their colleague had not made an effort to turn-up in person – how might that have affected the impact of any contributions made via video call? Turning to where we are now, with online meetings now the norm, the comment was made that this is having the effect of being a great leveller.

What has been shown to be possible with flexible and home-based working for many charities means it is easier to say ‘work is what you do, not a place you go.’ This has positive consequences for inclusion – will that positive culture change endure post-Covid19? What can we do to ensure it does?

 

The unique challenge for place-based charities

Working remotely and using digital technology is not the answer for all charities, however. Where a charity’s purpose and mission is based around a physical place, and that place is closed for the time being, this is resulting in a large drop in the income for such organisations. This affects charities operating from heritage buildings brought back to life, or newly-built premises, where hosting income-generating events and delivering F2F support services from a physical place simply cannot happen under current rules.

Discussions covered the future point when gatherings might again be possible – that doesn’t however mean that people will be comfortable attending and being part of a larger gathering in the period before a treatment or vaccine is available. Weddings and conferences in 2020 remain hard to imagine in the size and form they were before. For charities whose income came from making their venue available for such gatherings, urgent cashflow modelling is needed to analyse impacts, and for creative problem-solving to underpin survival.

 

Do we even need an office?

One organisation shared experience of no longer having a physical office, with staff being based at home. A barrier had arisen with a fundraising website which required evidence of proof of address of the charity, requesting a utility bill – a reflection of ‘old ways’ of identity verification, and one which needs to evolve. This home-based charity highlighted the benefits of staff no longer spending (wasting?) time commuting; staff saving money with no commuting costs; and the lower carbon footprint associated with its operations.

 

Recover and thrive

Many CEOs on the call were beyond the initial crisis management phase for their charity and were now turning to other areas, such as revisiting their fundraising strategy and looking at recovery planning. The question was asked: is it worth scenario planning, when there are so many scenarios to consider? Mapping the range of possible futures is not easy with so many known unknowns still present.

This week’s closing quote is from a CEO who spoke of their future focus, ready to move to a forward-looking mode:

“In my head, I’m onto the next phase.”

 

Aberdeen Standard Capital is a corporate partner of ACOSVO.