Agenda: There are charities for us – and for one another –

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Through Alastair Keatinge

WHEN times are difficult, believing that we are all alone in the challenges we face can be all too easy. But if there’s one single unifying factor in the coronavirus pandemic, none of us are alone.

The way all of our lives have been enveloped by the fog of this crisis means that there is someone somewhere – if not a lot of people – who is going through the same issues or struggles you face.

And it is crucial that none of us, either at work or in our personal lives, forget that. Really, it is something from which we can take comfort.

That’s a point that feels especially valid when we try to forecast what 2021 will hold for Scotland’s third sector organizations.

I work with several charities, and after the funding collapse triggered by Covid-19, there is no hiding from the scope of the challenge they face.

Every day, tough choices must be made, and the various challenges that charity executives and trustees need to consider can be overwhelming. The need for bold thinking and creativity will, indeed, be greater than ever this year.

That said, any leader or trustee should not attempt to do it all alone or fail to pursue external views. Peers and others are there who can help. We definitely had customers who turned to us for our insight and a reassuring conversation.

I always think that Scottish charities’ biggest strengths are their ability to work together and their resilience. Charities should be there for each other when times are difficult.

One guarantee for the third sector in this time of volatility, when things change regularly, is that good leadership, sound policy and expert advice are more critical than ever.

The pandemic, tempered by the fact that charities usually don’t have much financial fat, has certainly placed an intense emphasis on how to do things better.

Shaping the new dreams that are needed, of course, begins at the top. To me, that means making chairs for the best people – those that encourage ideas and innovation.

In order to put the right plans in motion, we need people who are able to ask challenging questions. Was the right thing done, what was best to do, and where is the next company going?

However, with all that said, don’t underestimate the lessons we can learn from each other – and talking is the most human advice I can give. It doesn’t help you to bottle up the challenges you or your company are having emotionally or professionally.

So, positive or not, pick up somebody’s phone or email and share your experiences. Among Scotland’s charities, there are great individuals and networks. Chances are that they deal with the same problems, whether it’s digital fundraising or the intricacies of limits on movement or holiday travel.

You should not have to go it alone at times like these. Someone is still there to listen and give guidance.

Alastair Keatinge is a partner at Lindsays and head of charities.

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