5 things I learned from the Culturevist ‘Org Culture in Charities’ meet-up

Thanks to a chance meeting at Emma Sexton‘s 2nd A Heard to Run With meet-up (also about organisational culture and new ways of working), I found out about a great network called Culturevist and having mentioned my trustee role, their founder suggested I come along to their event the following week on organisational culture specifically in charities.  It was an evening event hosted by Macmillan and I was really impressed by the range of charities represented there.  There were some really smart ideas shared and challenges discussed. Here were my main 5 takeaways:

  1. A lot of orgs experienced (and summarized better than I’d managed to before) the challenge where people have organic passion for a cause or charity, often because of personal links (i.e. someone volunteers for Macmillan because a relative suffered from cancer), but then it’s difficult to channel that passion to make most efficient use of it without risking a challenge to or compromise of that initial motivation.  No one had a straight solution for this unfortunately (though rough consensus was that it’s about constantly keeping a balance and tweaking that) but it was more just interesting that a lot of other orgs saw this challenge too.
  2. A common problem is that while there are fairly straight forward ways to foster a great culture in an immediate team in a single location, it becomes a lot harder to do when your team is more disparate. This is something charities have had to deal with for years with individual volunteers across the country and they have made great strides though still don’t have all the answers. I think we may see more businesses looking to charities for their learnings here, as more people start to work remotely.
  3. There are always smart people, you sometimes have to work a bit to find them. Every person in that room was so super smart, and more importantly they were motivated to come out of work hours to discuss ways of making businesses better.  I sometimes find it hard to find people on my level who are driven to do that, and it is more than a relief to find that there are people who care. I could completely relate to Culurevist founder Matthew Partovi when he said he started the network when he realised his friends were getting bored of him going on about business culture and he wanted to find people who did want to talk.
  4. Most of the attendees from what I could tell were paid staff of charities. I was one of the few people there in a board trustee capacity. And I realised (I think) that a lot of work needs to be done to improve the relationships between charity boards and staff members. I heard quite a few grumbles, eye rolls and knowing laughs about demanding boards. And while I know there will sometimes be disagreements, I think it’s such a shame that it can’t be a more symbiotic relationship. I just think this is something I will bear in mind as being an area that could be improved, as I delve more into organisational culture.
  5. The Macmillan offices, located in Vauxhall, have the most killer views I have seen in London. They have an incredible team to develop organisational culture who’ve done an impressive job, but I’m pretty sure the view out of the window helps… 😉

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