Mistakes made. Lessons learnt.

Will Muir speaks about the top three challenges of the quarter

It has been a great year for ECF so far. We have had our set of achievements and setbacks. You would have read about some of the highlights of the year in the current and the previous newsletter. In this conversation Will Muir, CEO of Equal Community Foundation talks about the top three challenges that ECF has faced in the last quarter.

Challenge 1: Raising money to pay for the leadership team.

It has not been easy to find people who will pay for a leadership team that develops our organisational strategy for scale and programmes.
The talent we look for is high calibre. During recruitment we are competing with national, multinational charities and also with private/corporate sector for these individuals. Costs associated with recruitment and retention of such talent is high. If we expect high quality performance against targets from these experienced professionals then we should also be willing to pay for it.
At some point during this year we were not paying all of our senior management and that has led to some very difficult decisions.
Luckily, we have managed to secure some money from an individual donor who is interested in funding part of the total senior management salary costs.
Also, we have been recently contacted by one of our current funders, who have created a fund for senior management talent having identified that funding for talent is a critical need within the sector. The timing couldn’t be better and we will soon initiate the application process.

Challenge 2: Recruitment for senior management positions.

Historically our senior management structure included the CEO with three Senior Managers focussing on Programmes, Partnerships and Administration respectively. We are now moving into a structure where we have a CEO and an Executive Director (ED) where the ED will look after the overall partnerships, programmes and administration. Also, there will be one more role that we are currently recruiting for, which is Programme Director. The Programme Director would report to the Executive Director. Based on our current plans and needs, we plan to pause the recruitment process for the senior manager positions within partnerships and administration. The current need is being met by managers in those areas.
The challenge has been in being innovative on how to recruit for these roles. Firstly, because there isn’t enough money to pay for these roles and secondly because there is a lack of talent out there. We’ve had to be creative about how we recruit for these people. Both in terms of what we are looking for and where we can find them. We’ve had to network through multiple channels to find people- we’ve gone through personal networks, social media and recruitment consultants as well as popular websites and portals.
Recruitment process for both roles is on.
It has taken time for us to develop the structure, identify and narrow down on requirements and identify individuals. It has been a time consuming process and has resulted in delays within two of programmes – Research and Development and Man Up India. But, it is an investment that will pay returns in near future and further strengthen our team.

Challenge 3: Securing permissions.

The issue we are going to now have is how we are going to finance the growth that ECF is looking to have in the coming months. Not from a lack of committed funding but mainly from a lack of accessibility to that funding. ECF is going to have great capacity and it’s our understanding that the work we are going to deliver over the next 6 months and the investments we are going to make in partnerships will give us access to people who will pledge finances. But, lack of permissions i.e.: 12A, 80G, FCRA will become an obstacle in access to those funds. ECF is a registered trust but we do not have the other permissions.
12 A and FCRA applications were made almost a year ago. We have heard no news regarding FCRA prior permission. However, there seems to be some progress made on 12A application and we expect to hear the decision anytime now. It takes up a lot of my personal time and also of our team members. It is frustrating as there is very little in our control. Also, time taken to get these permissions can be better focussed on some organisational and programme development.
We continue to follow up on a consistent basis and are seeking advice from the experts.