Will you be ‘Going for Growth’ in 2019?

I have a theory about how charities develop. It’s based on the following three words:

Decline | Trundle | Thrive

These three simple words form the basis of the trajectory that I believe all charities have the opportunity (or misfortune) to follow. Let me explain. . .


Clearly no charity wants to be in decline – yet every year many charities are faced with the harsh realities of how to survive. Decline in a charity can be caused by a number of things:

  1. Lack of money/support
  2. Lack of people resource (volunteers and/or paid staff) to do the work
  3. Reputation damage/lack of trust
  4. ‘Competition’ from other organisations/charities
  5. Need for the charity or its services is no longer required or valid

Charities that are in decline need to have one single focus – what to do in order to survive. Nothing else matters and a sharp, unwavering focus needs to be on creating a plan for halting the decline and turning things around. This is easier said then done – charities in decline often try to simply carry on and battle through with the usual delivery of day to day business. Difficult decisions have to be taken and critical time and focus needs to be spent on a clear plan of action. In these situations, ruthless prioritisation of effort and resource is the name of the game.


For me this is the most fascinating of the three areas and it is the way that I see so many charities operating. By ‘trundling’ along, charities are moving in the right direction and they are delivering more each year for their beneficiaries – a good thing.

For many Boards the ‘trundle’ may be perfectly acceptable – but I often wonder if they have slipped into this way of thinking almost unknowingly. Boards and senior teams have a lot to be thinking about on a daily basis and many might simply be content in the fact that they are managing to achieve a ‘bit more and a bit better’ every year?

To my mind, healthy Boards and staff teams should be prepared to regularly question and challenge the norms in order to ensure they are doing more than a ‘trundle’. They should be asking themselves three simple questions:

  1. How could we do more (or do things better) than we currently do?
  2. What would it take to create a step change in our impact?
  3. What would we need to do differently or focus on in order to achieve this?

Over the years I have seen some great examples of these questions in action and I have worked with numerous teams to help them think differently. Often the answers are already there but delivering ‘business as usual’ has got in the way. One CEO once told me that ‘the day job’ of delivering the day to day business of the charity was all consuming meaning that any serious development work or thinking was simply not possible.

So how do charities move away from a ‘Trundle’ in order to begin to truly Thrive?


Ensuring that your charity is thriving is obviously the nirvana everyone should be aiming for. Clearly, every charity wants to be in a position where it is thriving, growing and creating the greatest possible impact for its beneficiaries. 

In my experience this requires a different way of thinking from delivering the day to day and often requires someone working with the organisation to help challenge the norms in a healthy and productive manner.

I am a fan of the organisational life cycle diagram from Mike Going for Growth in 2019? Thrive ConsultingHudson (click on the image to enlarge). Whenever I am working with organisations I remind myself of this simple but effective theory. The chart shows the key stages of how organisations develop and outlines some of the considerations and challenges that come with each stage – do any of the statements look familiar to you? 

The idea of organisational life cycle is nothing new and much has been written about this over the years. Moving from one part of the cycle to the next requires thought, action, determination and effort often bringing with it challenge and occasional crisis. However, it is a vital part of developing your organisation so setting time aside to think about this is critical if you want your charity to really thrive and grow over the coming year. 

So what will you do in 2019?

As we begin a new year now is a great time to think about whether 2019 is the year your organisation is likely to Decline, Trundle or really Thrive. Clearly no one wants to see a charity in decline but equally important is the need to think about how to move from trundling along to really thriving. Those organisations that invest time and thinking in challenging the norms in 2019 will be the ones that really make the greatest possible difference and impact for the people and issues they are here to serve.


Former charity CEO passionate about helping charities and not for profit organisations across the UK to Thrive. With over 25 years experience I support people and charities to be the very best they can be. I set up Thrive Charity Consulting offering a wealth of insight, experience and expert advice. We help people to solve problems, overcome challenges and maximise individual and organisational effectiveness.

Contact us to find out how we could help your charity.


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