Your quarterly update from the Business Development team

Hoping you have all had an ‘egg-celent’ Easter (no prizes for bad puns here!).  Welcome to our latest update from the FSI’s consultancy and qualifications team.  We’ve been out and about as ever the last few months, working with charities of all sizes and some public and private sector clients too.  Some of the team’s highlights include:

  • Partnering with Superhighways and Media Trust on their Digital Leadership programmes – check out the links for loads of great resources and opportunities for your charity;
  • Securing funding for 25 places on our e-learning ‘Fundraising Strategy’ course for current Lloyds Bank Foundation grantees (if you are a grantee, contact your grant manager for details!)
  • Supporting one of our qualifications learners to graduation
  • Delivering a whole range of projects with consultancy clients, including strategy reviews, organisational strengths reviews, impact assessments and income diversification strategies
  • Developing and delivering bespoke training with sector partners including the Association of Chairs ‘Beacon Programme’ for Chairs and Vice Chairs of small charities, Battersea Academy as part of their offer of support for small charities operating animal shelters, and the Law Centres Network;
  • We’ve also partnered with local CVS organisations to deliver training for their members, including Community Action Isle of Wight, Kingston Voluntary Action, Bexley Voluntary Service Council and Mid Sussex Voluntary Action.

In this blog we’ll be sharing some of the things we have learned and insights we’ve gleaned that might be useful for your organisation.  We hope you find it useful!

Would you be interested in networking events for small charity CEOs and senior staff?

You might be aware of the In Conversation events we have held over the last couple of years.  We’re looking at our programme for next year, and are thinking about how we can expand these free learning and networking events outside of London.  We have large concentrations of members in and around London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol so we would probably trial there first, but if you have a network of interested people and would be interested in working with us to arrange a meet up in your local area, please get in touch.

These events would include guest speakers, peer learning, and plenty of networking opportunities.  We’d love to hear from you about what you would value from such a network, and what would encourage you to attend.  Get in touch with us to share your ideas by emailing

And of course, if you know of other brilliant sources of networking then please let us know, so we can share!

Strengths-based approaches for development

One of the central approaches to any of our consultancy projects is ‘Appreciative Inquiry’.  Appreciative Inquiry is a way of looking at organisational change and strategic development which focuses on identifying and doing more of what is already working, rather than looking for problems and trying to fix them. In our experience, it works really well in strategic development contexts.  It’s a way of managing and working that encourages trust, reduces defensiveness and suspicion, and helps to establish strong working relationships quickly.

The Appreciative Inquiry 4Ds model forms a great basis for structuring an away day or strategy development process, and we’ve also used it to explore income diversification strategies and to help organisations develop their Theory of Change.  Let us know if you have any other favourite models, or get in touch with us to chat about how you could use this model with your team!

To SWOT or not?

Acronyms like SWOT can be really off-putting for people that might not be experienced in the area or simply don’t know the jargon! One of the tools we’ve come across recently is a variation on the classic SWOT analysis called the Hot Air Balloon.

Our Consultancy & Development Manager, Lloyd, recently used this tool during an away day with a consultancy client, who fed back on how positively the team responded and how well they all engaged in the activity.  Here are his tips on making the most of it:

  • Your fuel is what helps you fly – what helps you achieve your goals. These are your strengths.
  • The ropes are what hold you back – what prevents you from achieving your goals. These are your weaknesses.
  • The sunny skies ahead are the exciting things on the horizon that you can seize. These are your opportunities.
  • The storm clouds are the things that could blow you off course. These are your threats.

Two interesting follow up questions that we learned from working with Julie Gavin at Greenspace Scotland, on a joint Resilient Heritage project were:

  • What is it we are travelling towards in our balloon? What’s our vision or end goal?
  • Who is in the balloon? Is anyone missing?  Is anyone there that shouldn’t be?

Get in touch if you’d like some advice on planning your away day or how to use this and other tools, we are always happy to offer tips through our free advice clinics.  We can also offer external facilitation services so get in touch with Janine or Lloyd for more info about how our consultants can help you make sense of your current situation, plan for your future and work out how best to meet your aims and objectives.

Building a strong and effective board – what helps Chairs and Vice Chairs?

Janine and Ali have been travelling the length and breadth of the country with the Association of Chairs as part of their Beacon programme specifically designed for Chairs and Vice Chairs of small charities. From Bodmin to Birmingham, London to Leeds, and lots of places within and beyond, we have loved meeting with and hearing from all the delegates.  Check out their free webinars and low-cost training.

There are loads of brilliant resources available on the dedicated Beacon page, and lots of these have been developed with the insight and learning from Chairs, to Chairs. So whether you are a current or aspiring small charity Chair, be sure to check them out.

And for Trustees, the FSI has a fantastic range of interactive webinars for only £5 per place coming up this May. Topics include Good Governance, Strategy & Business Planning and Fundraising. These are a great way for charity leaders both old and new to refresh their knowledge and think creatively about their role in the charity as a whole. We hope to see you online!

Janine Edwards, Head of Learning & Business Development, the FSI.