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Why I work in the third sector: making a difference through doing OD & D for real

Mayvin Director Sarah Fraser on how OD can make a difference in the third sector when charities face the reality of balancing fundraising and impact.

I was listening to Radio 4 recently, a repeat of a programme aired a while ago that I had missed, called The Charity Business. The episode was about charities and impact. It made for some depressing listening as, let’s be honest, many third sector organisations fail to have the impact they intend to and that means every pound being donated is not as effective as we might hope. It’s the reality that charities have to face and, as Iistened to the radio programme, I realised that it’s part of the reason I work in OD in the third sector.

How should charities make wise choices about where to focus their resources?

Charities are caught in a bind: people respond to fundraising campaigns rather than evidence of impact. This means that some charities that are very effective, and have the biggest impact may not be as well funded as they should be, because they are not necessarily great at fundraising and may not have a significant presence.  And vice versa: some of the charities that are less effective may be better at fundraising, taking a greater share of the funds available but without necessarily fulfilling the potential  for impact.  I’m talking here not just about the money that you and I donate of course, but of the donor or government funding available as well.

I think the fundraising question is a tricky one. Earlier today, before I even switched on the radio, I was talking to a Mayvin associate consultant about a new charity she was working with who are already being pulled off course from their strategy in order to secure funding. Does this make them savvy, or just unfocused? Put Brexit in the mix too and we have one of those complex, wicked problems to solve to understand where third sector organisations focus their resources to support their work to have the most impact, whatever the cause.

So how should charities make wise choices about where to focus their resources? How can they better connect every person in the organisation to the positive social impact they are trying to achieve, in order to maximise the use of their resources? Where should we as the OD community be focusing our work in order to support this process? These are all good OD questions I am pondering now, as I reconnect and explore the potential for Mayvin’s third sector work. At Mayvin, we believe that successful Organisation Development, Design and change is grounded in real work, real relationships and politics, real time and real language. So what does this mean in practice for our work in the third sector?

Should the third sector really be investing in OD?

I believe the role of Organisation Development (OD) in the third sector is to enable the people that work for organisations to be as effective as possible, in order to have the greatest possible impact with the resources available. OD isn’t a nice to have in the sector, it’s a critical tool to enable people change that will lead to tangible differences. This isn’t about improving a bottom line, it’s about social purpose, saving lives, improving lives, solving the most complex of problems in our society. What better work could I get to do than help with that?

Focus, purpose and building capability: OD’s call to action

There aren’t big pots of money sitting there in the sector to invest in OD and people change, so we must find ways to do it with greater focus on the real challenges, in community, with a sharpness of purpose and always building OD capability in order to have the greatest possible impact. The Charity Business programme felt like a call to action: to make sure everything I do in the sector, however many steps removed from the front line, is in service of achieving the greatest possible positive social difference it can. So am I feeling motivated heading into September? Hell yeah!

Join the conversation

What do you see as the current challenges for the sector? What does doing OD mean in practice for your organisation? Join us for an evening of shared inquiry at our next Mayvin Community event: Doing OD & D for Real. Find out more and RSVP here.