How can charities manage priorities?

How can charities manage priorities?

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Welcome to month five of our publication, Using Conflict as a Catalyst for Change - A Guide for Embracing, Managing and Mitigating Conflict Within Your Charity. This month we focus on priority management; the conflict between beneficiary needs and finite resources.

Whether you’re on the board of trustees or the senior management team, doubtless at some point you’ll face a difficult decision about how to make resources stretch to meet demands. Perhaps an example springs to mind? Was it a negative process, leaving a bitter taste, or were you able to embrace the conflict, manage priorities and end up in a better place?

As the demand for services increases, there’s often a resource constraint – usually in terms of finance or people.

The challenge of managing priorities

With finite resources, the challenge is how to measure the contribution of one activity compared to that of another. The financial cost (or contribution) of an activity is clearly not the only consideration. The impact on beneficiaries, consumption of people’s time, and how else the resources could be deployed must all be considered.  

The governance structure of charities encourages clear and balanced thinking, with a mix of people involved in decision making. Often the management team and staff bring front line experience, and trustees a more strategic and subjective view of priority management, as they may be more detached from the day-to-day activities. This balance should stimulate good decision making regarding priority management.

What to do when faced with a conflict

The most important thing is, don’t make an uninformed decision. Get all the relevant facts and weigh up the scenarios. Make sure you consider: 

  • What impact does the service have?
  • How many service users does it have?
  • What is the financial cost (or contribution)?
  • What staff resources does it require?

You’ll then need to reflect on which is the limited resource. If you release resource from one area, will this add value to other areas?

How do I find out more?

To read more about priority management, including case studies of good and bad conflict, please click here.

Need help?

If you have any questions or if you’d like to discuss priority management with us in more detail, please speak to your usual Larking Gowen contact. Call 0330 024 0888 or email


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