The importance of understanding your charity’s culture

There is a lot being written about culture these days – how corporate culture has let us down, how it contributed to the financial crisis of 2008-09, how it continues to impact some of our largest corporates and not-for-profits, etc. Many well-known organisations have made headline news as a result and it hasn’t always been comfortable reading.

Culture is also coming into focus on both a local and global scale as we try to understand recent political and economic events – the gig economy, gender pay gap equality, Brexit and immigration policy, and #MeToo and #TimesUp to name a few.

When you put it all together, it paints a stark picture. Fundamentally, culture is the driver of how people interact with each other, how we behave and how we treat one another. When considered within an organisational context this means how employers engage with employees, how the board engages with its leadership team, how management treat staff, how staff behave with peers, how suppliers are managed and how beneficiaries are treated. Culture also sits behind how we take decisions, deal with risks and how any organisation is led. Does your charity have an inclusive and nurturing leadership style or does it continue to operate under a traditional top down style of leadership?

These things become even more important when you’re undergoing change or a major transformation. Whether you succeed or fail will, in large part, come down to how you behave, how you communicate with staff, beneficiaries and other stakeholders, and how you manage risk – it all comes back to culture.

Given the importance of culture it’s ironic that in most organisations ‘how we do things around here‘ has developed as a by-product of other work on organisational design and HR practices – culture by the back door, if you like.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. You can actively determine your culture by making it deliberate, embedded and integrated within your systems, processes and ways of working. Indeed, given culture’s importance, it should be top of the Board’s agenda when thinking about how to implement strategy and how to ensure success.

You can read more about the role of culture in implementing strategy here. To discuss how culture can support success in your charity, contact Kami Nuttall or your usual Moore Stephens contact.

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Philip Atkinson

Very well written piece written by someone with the knowledge, skills and experience