a photo of Rosie Ferguson talking

Looking back, moving forward

ACEVO’s chair, Rosie Ferguson, reflects on the achievements of the past year and the challenges ahead

Today we publish our trustees’ report and accounts for the year which ended on 31 March 2019. The report shows that 2018 was a good year for ACEVO, with a growing membership base, increased engagement, financial stability and valued services. I joined as chair three-quarters of the way through the year, so while I can’t take any of the credit, I can express my pride in the achievements of the staff team and board!

ACEVO published a new three-year strategy in July 2018 based on our vision and purpose; for civil society leaders to make the biggest possible difference. Our annual report reflects our progress and plans against each of the five strands of the strategy (inspiration, support, connection, advocacy and skills) and the financial performance and governance which support our ability to deliver our strategic objectives and maintain our financial sustainability.

It’s great to see our membership grow by 8% to 1,195 at year-end. I know from my own experience as a charity CEO, as well as through talking to peers, that ACEVO is a valued network by many, and it’s satisfying to watch it grow and embrace more chief execs from charities and social enterprises of all shapes, sizes and cause areas. But just as important as growing the network is making sure we deliver value to those within it. Our retention rate of 82% of members is good evidence that we’re doing so, but we’d still like to improve on our engagement. Our data shows that 70% of our members engaged with our services over the year – we’d like to increase that percentage in the year ahead to make sure we’re delivering what all our members need. I’d like to thank all of our members who have shared their insight and experience through ACEVO in the last year, whether as a blog, a podcast, speaking at our conference or events or sharing your challenges over a coffee or glass of wine. You are what makes ACEVO such a powerful source of inspiration and support.

We’ve been able to help more members at the time of real need through our CEO in Crisis and Governance Advice Line services. We saw demand for these services grow by 28% over the year, and that demand has ratcheted up even further so far this year. We recognise that this trend reflects the increasing pressure that our members are under and, where possible, we want to support CEOs to avoid reaching that crisis point. We’re currently reviewing our member support services to ensure we can maximise the resources and support available to members dealing with challenging circumstances.

But as well as championing and supporting our members, we’ve not been afraid to lay down some challenges to sector leaders. Civil society often reflects the very best of individuals, communities and society: compassion, empathy, problem-solving, innovation and creativity. But our sector is not immune to behaviours and actions that cause inequality and harm. In order to create stronger leaders and a stronger civil society, we cannot just talk about the positive parts of our sector. Our ongoing work on racial equality and safer cultures demonstrates our willingness to face the hard conversations we need to have as sector leaders. I would like to thank all our members who’ve encouraged and embraced these initiatives and we look forward to working with you to ensure the words turn into action and real change.

We’re already a third of the way into the next financial year and moving forward with new plans – lookout for our brand refresh and new website landing in early autumn. Our brilliant trustees and staff team are committed to achieving more and better with and for our members. I know the sector and its leaders will continue to face challenging times ahead, but with a strong, energised ACEVO we can face those challenges together.

You can download ACEVO’s annual report and accounts for 2018-19 here

Rosie Ferguson, ACEVO’s treasurer Jill Halford and CEO Vicky Browning will be available online on 25 September between 12-2pm to answer any questions members may have about the report or any aspect of our governance. Details of how to access this meeting will be sent to members in advance.

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