Why and how to start and grow business activities

Cafe event in October: Business Development for Charities, 18th October 2012 (see below for cafe write up)

The cuts are challenging charities to find new ways to sustain their work. Faced with the loss or reduction of charitable, local authority or health sector funding, charities have four choices: they can close; they can cut back the scale of their operations to fit the funding they do have, they can dip into reserves to keep going, or they can find new ways to generate the lost income.

This month’s Third Sector Café explores the topic of Business Development. Through a series of case studies we will explore the issues charities face when they develop new businesses and define products or services for sale at a profit as a way of sustaining their income in the future.

 We will look at examples illustrating how they approached different start-up stages such as:

  • Coming up with a new business idea
  • Stress testing a new idea – how do you know if it will sell?
  • Financing a start-up – how much and where from?
  • Deciding on the right structure for a new business: a stand alone, or a trading arm?

We will look at key cross cutting themes such as:

  • Attracting necessary new skills among staff, volunteers and trustees
  • Culture change: making the switch from beneficiaries to customers
  • Leadership at times of stress

And we’ll discuss the factors that can help, and factors that can hinder charities in their journey to run entrepreneurial businesses such as:

  • Context -  do some sectors offer more opportunities than others?
  • History - extent of previous dependency on grants/single contract
  • Organisational culture – open to change, or not?
  • Access to expertise, new ideas - networks & connections

For this month’s discussion we will be running a slightly different format from normal. In order to enable participants to discuss the issues in depth, we’re going to have a fairly small group. We’d like to offer places to any charities who are currently working on developing new businesses and who feel they would particularly value the chance to hear how others are dealing with difficult issues, and are happy to share their own experiences in return.

If this sounds like your organisation, then please follow this link to send us information about the nature of the challenges you face, the progress you are hoping to make and how you hope a session like this might help you. We look forward to hearing from you!

Our speakers

 This month’s speakers are Third Sector Café co-founder Sophy Hallam and social enterprise expert Dave Thornett.

Sophy is director of Cadence Works a Sheffield based consultancy. Previously a director of a company that established and ran Manchester Business School’s Business Incubator, she has many years experience of supporting business development in private and charitable businesses. She will draw on key findings from Austerity Research Cadence carried out recently which looked at strategies charities are using to respond to the cuts, including more entrepreneurial behaviour.

Dave Thornett has 20 years experience in the voluntary sector and is a specialist in social enterprise. Chief Executive at SCEDU, he left in 2009 and is now a consultant who works very closely with a number of regular clients, in addition to undertaking one off evaluations and consultancy projects.

As director and investment panel member of The Key Fund he has extensive experience of assessing new business ventures. As a director of Zest and Upperthorpe Healthy Living Centre, the founder member of an IPS and member of The Phone Coop among other user coops, he also has a very practical understanding of the current challenges facing the charitable sector.