The Road to Growth: money, impact & change

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Ella Simpson, Chief Executive at EVOC (Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council) shares her thoughts on the importance of impact on the road to growth.

Doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing.

If anyone wants an “easy” place to work, the third sector probably isn’t for them. The sector is built on passion and compassion which makes for a heady cocktail. Over decades I’ve seen inspirational people take an idea and belief that things could and should be better, and turn that into the most amazing organisations, making a real difference to their communities.

But if your calling is making a difference in people’s lives, how do you measure your ‘road to growth’? There’s only so far any organisation can go on passion alone – the reality is money is needed to further the vision of the organisation. Funds are the vehicle to delivering impact. That said, many third sector organisations have had a crisis of identity when “chasing the pound” has become an end in itself.

The road to growth must be carefully crafted and considered. Like any organisation there are foundation stones that need to be in place; understanding the context you operate in, analysing the need for the service you provide, governance and fiscal probity. Creating sustainability and growth isn’t a lone journey, it’s a team game drawing on skills within the organisation and trusted external partners.

Edinburgh has one of the most vibrant third sectors in the UK, with over 2,000 registered charities, 200+ social enterprises and over 2,000 community organisations. We employ more people than the finance sector, and for every public £1 invested in us we lever in a minimum of £8.

"35% of the population volunteer with us and we touch the lives of every single family living in Edinburgh.*"

Ella Simpson, Chief Executive, EVOC (Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council)

We’re noisy, nosy, hardworking and exciting but our most important skill is listening to people. We take the time to get to know the people we work with and commit for the long term. In return, people are generous and lend us their voices to tell stories and show the difference we make.

Scottish policy direction of travel is towards the “enabling state”. Our sector should be a major driver in that journey. The Carnegie UK Trust report on progress towards this goal is worth a read.

The eight steps towards an enabling state clearly focus on the wellbeing of our citizens and communities, which must resonate with our mission and purpose. Our collective power to accelerate this journey cannot be underestimated. However, we must all work together. We all have a responsibility to focus on mission and purpose and not fall into the trap of measuring success in terms of our individual organisation’s turnover and staff headcount.

Success and growth must be measured not just in terms of income and expenditure, but in how we change our communities for the better.

Ella Simpson, Chief Executive, EVOC (Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council)

The views on this page are those of EVOC

*Source: Compact Voice 2017: A Guide to Edinburgh’s Third Sector and Social Economy Compact Voice 2017

EVOC is an event partner of Charity Bank’s Road to Growth events, a series of free regional events exclusively for leaders of charities and social enterprises as part of our commitment to support the social sector.

The half-day sessions this September and October will provide insight on the state of the social sector at a time of change. Panelists will share research and insights on the challenges and opportunities that exist and give examples of how charities and social enterprises are responding.

Road to Growth