Onwards and upwards: lessons learned over the past year

12 Aug 2021

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Over the last year, we have delivered a series of webinars focused on the impact of Coronavirus on charities. These offered guidance on managing relevant tax and VAT risks, questions trustees should be asking, managing fraud risks and assessing going concern.

Our most recent webinars focused on our shared experiences of working through the pandemic:

In June, we presented ‘back to the office’, discussing the challenges of home working and the implications of returning to the office for charities that have been mainly based at home. Lauren Bennett, an employment law expert at Farrer & Co, also provided guidance on the legal issues charities were likely to face.

In July, we presented ‘onwards and upwards – lessons learnt’, at which our experts reflected on real life case studies, exploring the key lessons we can learn and take forward. It has been a challenging and uncertain year but there are positives that charities can build on and be proud of.

Recordings of both sessions can be found on our website here.

Communication emerged as a key theme in both the June and July webinars. Open, effective communication within teams and across an organisation can help to dial down anxiety, to build trust and to improve performance.

The webinars also highlighted other key takeaways:

Back to the office

We asked attendees to share their thoughts and experience using polls. The results showed that the majority:

  • Believed they were more productive working from home.
  • Would like to work 2-3 days per week at home.
  • Were concerned about the commute, lack of time and losing work life balance.
  • Expect to be working in a hybrid model in future.

Lauren Bennett from Farrer & Co explained that:

  • Employers should maintain flexibility to adapt to employee needs to ease the transition.
  • All employers have a statutory duty to provide a safe place of work and so employers must take all reasonably practicable steps to minimise risk. They also have a legal obligation to consult with employees on health and safety matters.
  • There are specific legal considerations for vulnerable employees, childcare and pregnant employees.
  • Changes to working patterns may require changes to the terms of employee contracts.

We discussed:

  • The practical implications of moving from the traditional office 9 to 5 to working anywhere anytime.
  • The need for ground rules, careful diary management and planning.
  • The importance of communication, flexibility, and experimentation.

Onwards and upwards – lessons learnt

  • Attendees were asked to describe the past 15 months, from which they told us it’s been: Relentless, challenging, thought provoking and, busy.
  • We interviewed Will Travers from the Born Free Foundation and Dean Daniels from Weldmar Hospicecare to understand how the pandemic has affected them. They told us:
    • Unsurprisingly, it has been a year of uncertainty, with limitations on their primary activities.
    • Fundraising has come to a standstill but is slowly making a return as restrictions reduce.
    • They were both able to make quick changes to adapt to working from home and remote meetings.
    • Whilst virtual meetings have, at times, seemed relentless, patrons and third parties have received a seamless service.

Their top tips included:

  • Embrace change and be adaptable.
  • Do what you can today not tomorrow.
  • Don’t panic. Have faith in yourselves! Keep calm and carry on.

Coronavirus has impacted the charity sector in an uneven and unpredictable way, with some charities having recorded a very successful year whilst others have struggled to stay afloat. Through talking, listening and sharing experience we can help to support each other. Those who attended the July webinar told us that they would be keen to revisit the topic of lessons learned in a year’s time – we look forward to it!

Casidhe Baleri, Director and Helen Wilke, Director