Cancer Research UK (CRUK) aims to keep to a smaller workforce and ensure that its resources are being used effectively, a senior member of its finance team said earlier this month.
Richard Bray, who works in the finance regulatory & taxes team at CRUK, outlined how the charity had dealt with the pandemic at the Charity Finance Summit, organised by Civil Society Media, earlier this month.
Like many charities, CRUK made staffing cuts as a result of the pandemic, losing 20% of its roles.
Bray told delegates that CRUK was aiming for “an efficiency-based agenda which isn't simply one of cutting costs, but trying to make sure, in whatever we do, that we seek value for money as the prerequisite”.
Adapting to the pandemic
By June 2020, CRUK had a new budget, a three-year plan, and was working on recovery plans.
“It was important that actually our mission was at the heart of what we were doing, and that everything was to serve to protect that mission,” Bray said.
He told delegates that as part of this the pandemic accelerated some cost-cutting measures.
“It's possible at that time that we would need to have gone through a process of change anyway, and there had been hints that we would be going down that route,” he said. “But of course, what we had with the pandemic meant that there was no time to wait.”
He described the 20% job role cut as “challenging” and meant leaders had to consider how “we then use that headcount, more effectively”.
Bray said through following the reorganisation CRUK's finance team aims to focus on adding value and finding new ways to do things.
“We have reorganised our back-office function to try and make us more that service sector for the rest of the charity,” he explained.
CRUK has also appointed a new chief operating officer and a finance transformation manager, which is a catalyst for “some fresh thinking in some of the things that we're doing”.
He added: “What we're trying to do is to make sure that we're not just seen as the bean counters, that we add more value than that.”
The finance transformation manager role was created to give priority to finding more efficient ways of doing things.
Bray said: “The idea is that we've got somebody who can be dedicated to use the existing resources that we have more effectively.”
They will also be responsible for making the case for targeted extra investment where it is needed.
Get better at anticipating problems
Looking to the future, Bray said that as a sector charities should consider how to anticipate upcoming challenges.
“We're always very good at answering problems from the past, not anticipating the problems of the future,” he said.
He added that it is about “challenging our thinking, and really being ready to think and to have ideas”.
With this in mind, CRUK is moving from budgeting based on a three-year profile to a ten-year plan.
“Cancer Research UK is about the long term,” he said. “You can imagine how long it takes to get a drug to market, for example.”
Yet when it came to budgeting, “the maximum was a three-year profile”.
“What we're trying to think about much more is a 10-year plan. But more than that, have a 10-year plan with flex, which looks at various scenarios.”