How relevant is innovation for charities?

Revolutionary change!

The world is changing at a rapid pace. The expectations of customers are higher than ever and trying to keep up with ever changing demands can feel overwhelming. Never has there been a greater need to think differently, approach things with a fresh mind and be open to change. 

Within Aviva we’ve recognised that standing still is not an option.  We can see all around us new entrants to the market who wish to disrupt the industry – over the last decade over $16bn1 has been invested in insurance start-up businesses.  We’ve realised that to compete we must focus first and foremost on our customers’ needs.  We’ve therefore introduced digital products and services that address the ‘pain points’ that they tell us they feel.  Recognising the threat and reacting to it was the start of our innovation journey – we’ll share some tips below on getting started.

If we consider the charity sector, the days of bucket shakers has been coming to an end for a long time and may soon become a thing of the past.  What has happened? In a nutshell, the emergence of online platforms like JustGiving and similar platforms allow individuals to reach out to thousands of people and raise more through sponsorship than shaking a tin on the street.  This innovation has revolutionised charitable giving for ever. JustGiving has raised billions of pounds demonstrating the success of this approach.   

Naturally we can’t all have ideas and deliver them on the scale of JustGiving.  What it does mean, is that technology is speeding up change and driving new threats and opportunities across all sectors and for all organisations.  This new economy is characterized by:  

  • Enhanced frequency of innovations 
  • Shortening of product, technology, and economic life cycles
  • Rapid generation and commercialization of new technologies
  • Globalization not only large but also small businesses 
  • Enhanced emphasis on business partnerships and strategic alliances. 

Thinking innovatively and being prepared to adapt are the key to an organisation’s ability survive, thrive and grow.  Innovation is all about creating value and increasing efficiency.  

That said, we fully appreciate how difficult it can be for charitable organisations to dedicate any of their precious resources to what may appear to be additional activity.  This article is about working smarter, not working harder. Making an organisation more innovative does not have to be an all-consuming and costly exercise.  

Six steps to get your charity ‘innovation ready’! 

  • Assess the current situation your organisation finds itself.  A simple PESTLE exercise can be used to consider the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental & Legal aspects of the current state.
  • Prioritise opportunities/ problems you want to solve.   Consider this against a simple axis of impact and effort to determine what is realistic. 
  • Document your vision for innovation initiatives a clear sense of direction and purpose for innovation are essential. This avoids disappointment in the results that innovation delivers by clearly matching expectations, scope and investment.  Using a lean canvas may help you capture your thoughts.
See the source image
  • Select your team wisely. The truth is, not everyone is cut out to work on innovation initiatives.  You need some early adopters to champion the cause. Pick people who are curious, not afraid of change, prepared to try new things and don’t feel constrained by any pre-existing processes or systems.   
  • Evaluate your processes. Being innovative doesn’t always have to involve inventing a new technology. Or developing a new product. It could mean just doing things faster than the next charity or reducing costs that can then be passed on beneficiaries.
  • Start small. It’s easy to think big. But much harder to execute.  Showing short-term results is one way to demonstrate success. For instance, many innovation initiatives start with a research initiative.  Surveying your donors or recipients, attending relevant conferences, or even buying white papers, are all good ways to quickly, and efficiently, head down the path of solving problems you’ve identified.  

By undertaking these steps you should have a good idea as to where your charity is and where to focus your efforts to ensure your organisation is ready to innovate.

  1. Venture Scanner data, with Deloitte Center for Financial Services analysis, through the first half of 2019

The importance of strategy

With constant funding challenges and a never-ending to-do list, it can be hard to take a moment to step back and think about the bigger picture. Pressure to deliver leaves little time for reflection – and even less time to establish a long-term strategy for your organisation. 

Why bother with strategy?

Strategy is important to make decisions, conduct operations, and attract funding and service users in order to successfully achieve goals. A good strategy helps create a foundation for ensuring growth and success because it helps everyone understand the immediate environment, and what’s needed to succeed.  

Understanding the main goals or objectives of your organisation helps volunteers and employees work productively. And having a clear, confident mission is engaging and more likely to attract funding or volunteers to support the cause.

Critically, strategy can also help articulate what not to do. Being able to say no to things which don’t fit with your organisation’s aims and ambitions is crucial for success, as it helps maintain focus and prevents resources being diverted into non-strategic activities.

The benefits of a clear strategy

There are many advantages to establishing a defined strategic direction for your organisation. Crucially, a clear strategy will:

  • Articulate the organisation’s mission – why do we do what we do?
  • Outline the target market – both the users of the service, the volunteers who help run it, and potential funders
  • Provide an understanding of where the organisation can add value, both today and in the future
  • Set out what makes the organisation different – why would people choose to support you over other organisations?

Draw on experience

Spending time on strategy doesn’t have to be costly. Your organisation’s trustees or charity board usually have the responsibility of setting the strategic direction and can often bring valuable capabilities and experience from the business world. Over the next few months we’ll be sharing some articles to help you formulate your strategy.

With charities facing sustained pressure and uncertainty, thinking strategically about the future – even in the short-term – is hard. But making time to understand your organisation’s strategic direction can help you develop plans to deal with uncertainties, putting you and your cause in a good position for the years ahead. 

Need to make a start?

Look at our article on using the PEST tool as way of getting started.

Understanding Health and Safety

Health and Safety isn’t just about preventing accidents – it’s also about making sure your employees and volunteers have the right training, and that key information is communicated to everyone who needs it.

What’s required under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and its subsidiary regulations require employers to reduce the likelihood of accident or injury by: 

  • identifying hazards
  • assessing risks
  • supplying information, instruction and training.

You’ll need to create a Health and Safety policy and communicate it to all your members and volunteers. If your charity has more than five employees, the policy must be provided in writing. Please see a guide for Health & Safety Policy Templates

How do I create a Health and Safety policy?

An ideal Health and Safety policy has three main parts:

1. Statement of policy 

This should outline your charity’s approach to Health and Safety and the management of risk. 

2. Organisation 

This details the people who take responsibility for Health and Safety within your charity (for example, who organises training and carries out risk assessments?).

3. Arrangements

These are the specific Health and Safety rules, regulations and procedures documented for your charity. This might include things like safe working, training requirements or the supply of protective equipment.

Additional Health and Safety issues for charities

Everything we’ve covered so far applies to workplaces just as much as charities. But here are some additional things you might need to consider that other employers don’t:

  • the use of volunteer workers in addition to, or instead of, employed staff 
  • the huge diversity of your different work activities 
  • the unique nature of some areas of your work, like public fundraising events.

Risk assessments

Risk assessments are essential to help prevent Health and Safety issues before they arise. They’re a very important job, and usually the responsibility of a trustee.

Read more in our guide: How to create a risk assessment.


Even if it seems like common sense, you can’t assume employees and volunteers will know the right way to undertake tasks, which equipment to use, or even the right way to use it. Please see a guide for Fire Safety

So whenever someone new does work on behalf of your cause, they’ll need general induction training about: 

  • fire alarms, including what they sound like and when they’re tested
  • how to leave the building in an emergency
  • what to do if they have an accident
  • where to go to get first aid, and who to inform
  • the procedures for issuing and using personal protective equipment.

Don’t forget to keep a copy of all this information in your employees’ and volunteers’ training records.


For a sample accident report template and a checklist on what to do after an accident, see our guide.

Please see useful guides which may help you.

Accident Recording , Accident Reporting, Induction Training , Lone Working , Slips & Trips Prevention,

Manual Handling, Hazardous Substances

Knowing your responsibilities to employees and third parties

The duties towards volunteers, employees and third parties are very similar. While obeying the relevant laws is important, trustees have a wider obligation to protect their organisation and anyone who works inside it, as well as anyone who has contact with it. 

Do we need to think about health and safety regulations? 

The simple answer is yes. All charities and businesses fall under the scope of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and it applies to everyone who is present in the organisation, including paid employees, unpaid workers and volunteers. In fact, charities can be legally liable for injury or damage caused by employees or volunteers to others while working on behalf of the organisation. 

What can you do to avoid problems? 

Charities and not-for-profit organisations have a duty to use risk assessments to identify, assess and manage risk. When done correctly, these can help avoid many problems, for example, some of the typical duties include:

  • Minimising and managing the risk of accidents resulting from slips and trips in premises, e.g. customers and staff in charity shops
  • reducing the risk of injury from products supplied
  • managing the many risks associated with organised events, e.g. fundraising activities.

Broadly, the duty towards third parties, such as visitors, customers and people attending organised events, are similar to those relating to employees and volunteers. Make sure you have the correct policies and risk assessment to correctly manage these risks. 

You can find more information about your Health and Safety duties by reading our Knowledge Library factsheet, Understanding Health and Safety.

Keeping your organisation protected if something goes wrong

You’re legally required to have Employers’ Liability Insurance if you have paid employees, but even if you only have volunteers, Employers’ Liability insurance is recommended as it protects your organisation if an unpaid worker or volunteer suffered an accident and sued for damages (if found negligent and up to the limit of liability).

The same goes for Public and Products Liability insurance. It’s not compulsory for charities but is highly recommended as it will protect your organisation against negligence up to the limit of liability.  

You can learn more by reading our Knowledge Library factsheet, Do you need employers’ liability insurance for your volunteers?

Need some free risk management guidance?

Here’s how to access a wide range of services through Aviva Risk Management Solutions, completely free of charge:

Risk Helpline 

Get in touch for advice by calling 0345 366 6666 or emailing   

Online resources

Access our online industry-specific risk management guidelines, and discover all our tips, tools and templates related to risk management.

Specialist Partner Network

We can offer Aviva customers risk management products and services at discounted prices through our trusted partners. With areas of expertise ranging from escape of water to health and safety, all our partners are well established with a pedigree in risk management.

And, of course, you can find more information on how to reduce the risks to your charity in our Knowledge Library. 

Protecting your assets

As a charity or not-for-profit organisation, it’s important that you take whatever steps are necessary to protect your assets. Let’s look at what assets you might have, why they might be at risk and what should you consider doing to protect them…

Employee dishonesty 

As a community-minded and no doubt trusting person, you’re more likely than most to underestimate the risk posed by employee or volunteer fraud. Yet workplace theft in the UK presents a serious threat to organisations – including, sadly, those in the charity sector – costing billions of pounds every year.

A solid reference procedure is your first line of defence. All new employees should be subject to reference checks, as well as any volunteers who are involved with cash handling, supervisory and management responsibilities or access to sensitive systems (like stock, IT or accounts). You should look for written references from employers, schools or a professional person, covering at least the previous two-year period (with no gaps), in order to confirm the honesty of the person. Please see a guide to handling cash safely.

It’s also vital that your organisation has a system of internal controls and checks that will minimise risk and help detect employee fraud. These include measures surrounding audit, cheque issuing, banking, stock control and computer security, among others. 

Fundraising activity 

A risk assessment should be carried out for any fundraising event, taking into account cash handling arrangements, security measures and safety of the fund collector. An example might be regularly removing takings during the event and finding a secure place to count takings before banking.

And don’t forget, if your fundraising activity includes collecting in the street or door-to-door, a licence is required from your local authority.


Do you own or rent a building space? Have you considered what protection you need against loss from fire, flood or general building maintenance? Please see a link to helping with Maintenance Regimes  and Managing Contractors

Insurance isn’t an alternative to good risk management. Although it might seem obvious, remember general wear and tear is excluded from all insurance contracts and claims can be rejected on the basis that damage was caused by poor maintenance. So, it’s important to make time for regular and systematic building inspections to help identify any problems promptly. Look for weak spots in your building’s security, check for signs of water leaks and ensure the servicing of heating, gas and electrical items are maintained. 

One of the most significant causes of fires in the workplace is faulty electrical wiring – Don’t forget you may be responsible for the safety of the wiring and electrical installations in your charity’s offices or premises. We offer a range of detailed guidance on fire risk, electrical safety and electrical testing here. Please see a guide for Tree Management

Computer equipment 

Computer security measures should always be determined by considering the impact of possible computer crime – how would your everyday activities be affected by a loss of data? Would your fundraising potential be reduced? Would safety and security issues arise if your records are accessed? 

To protect against loss of data, backups should be undertaken daily with discs stored off-site. Other steps to take include periodic testing of your backup to ensure viability, while computers should not be left unattended and encryption and secure passwords should always be used. Read more in our article on cyber fraud and crime.

Motor vehicles

If any employees drive for your charity or organisation, don’t forget that you as an employer are legally responsible for them while they’re driving for work. In addition, trustees, employees and volunteers who use their own vehicles must make sure that their insurance covers them while they are on business for your charity or organisation. 

Free risk management guidance

While you’ll find lots of tips on how to reduce your risks within the Knowledge Library, you can also access a wide range of services, through Aviva Risk Management Solutions, completely free of charge.

Risk Helpline – a source of qualified advice that can help with all your risk management needs.

Call 0345 366 6666  


Aviva Risk Management Solutions online service

Instant access to industry-specific risk management guidelines, including Loss Prevention Standards, tools and templates:

Specialist Partner Network

We also have access to a range of products and services – available at discounted prices for Aviva customers – helping to create an environment with reduced risk. From fire to escape of water, security to motor, health and safety to business resilience – all our partners are well established with a pedigree in the risk management sector. 

Good financial practice for trustees

Trustees are there to act in the best interests of a charity, its aims and its service users. Managing the charity’s resources responsibly and keeping it in good financial health is at the heart of this. So, trustees should be aware of their potential liability if things did go wrong and must be clear on the limits and restrictions of any indemnity insurance. 

As a trustee you should be regularly reviewing and agreeing the charity’s plan for achieving its goals, including how money is managed. It’s good to remind yourself that without a sound financial base it will be almost impossible for the charity to succeed in its aims. Financial management includes the money coming in and going out, as well as how resources are used. 

A good starting point for any trustee is to understand the filings requirements applicable to your charity’s size and structure. These can be quite different, although your overall duty to act in your charity’s best interest and take reasonable care remains unchanged. It’s best practice for trustees to: 

  1. Agree a clear reserves policy as part of its overall strategy. These reserves should come from unrestricted funds and are important to give your charity financial security and resilience.
  2. Understand whether and when it is possible for you to pay trustees and connected parties, and when Charity Commission permission will be required. Some circumstances, like struggling to recruit trustees, permit you with permission from the Charity Commission to pay a trustee for being a trustee or to compensate trustees for loss of earnings. When making payments to trustees or those connected to trustees, you must be mindful of conflicts and ensure decisions are taken in accordance with your governing document.
  3. Be aware of your charity’s solvency and make sure that, as a trustee, you ask probing questions as required. Trustees must be sufficiently informed regarding the charity’s finances to spot issues and manage risks early – appropriate financial management and controls will assist with this. If your charity is at risk of insolvency you should seek professional advice.
  4. Be aware of financial crime such as fraud, as well as anti-bribery and corruption laws – trustees must protect the assets of the charity. All charities should have robust procedures in place based on a risk-based approach. 
  5. Adapt your governance procedures to match requirements. For example, if the charity is experiencing significant growth or financial hardship, trustees may need to meet more often to deal with associated issues.
  6. Understand the Charity Commission’s ‘Serious Incident Reporting’. Trustees must decide when an incident requires reporting to the Charity Commission and provide sufficient information without delay – if you fail to report a serious incident the Charity Commission may take regulatory action.
  7. Ensure you have legal and financial advice where required – throughout the life of your charity you may need to seek professional advice on financial matters. It is important that trustees understand when professional advice should be sought. Trustees should be aware of their potential liability if things did go wrong, and must be clear on the limits and restrictions of any indemnity insurance.

You can find out more about managing a charity’s finances at the Charity Commission website 

This article was kindly contributed by Aviva’s international law firm partner DAC Beachcroft’s Charities & Not-for-Profit practice.

DAC Beachcroft publications are created on a general basis for information only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. No liability is accepted to users or third parties for the use of the contents or any errors or inaccuracies therein. Professional advice should always be obtained before applying the information to particular circumstances. By reading this publication you confirm that you have read, understood and agree to the terms of this disclaimer. 

The copyright in this communication is retained by DAC Beachcroft © DAC Beachcroft

Making sure your building is adequately insured

Have you ever checked your charity’s building has the right level of insurance? If not, it’s time to speak to your insurance broker or a valuation expert to get professional advice on the amount of cover you need.

Our specialist valuer, Barrett Corp & Harrington, says that on average 77% of the commercial properties they survey are underinsured by 45% of the correct insurance. If the amount you’re insured for is wrong, it’s likely to impact the amount you’re paid for any claim you need to make.

Here’s a checklist to reduce the risk of that happening to your charity.

Top tips

  • Make sure that within the last three years your building has been professionally valued ‘for insurance purposes’.
  • If you’ve altered or extended the building, get the valuation done again.
  • Make sure your cover is based on the cost to rebuild the property, not the market value.
  • Check you’ve factored in the cost of any gates, fences or car parking areas into your calculations.
  • Consider increasing the amount of insurance you have if your charity uses a listed building – because repairs and rebuilding work are likely to be more expensive and take longer.
  • Don’t forget to factor in the cost of professional fees. For example, you might need an architect or surveyor in the event of a claim.
  • If your building would need a crane or heavy machinery to carry out work, make sure you factor in the cost of things like site clearance and special access.
  • The valuation will also need to consider VAT if your charity is VAT registered.

Free risk management guidance

Here’s how to access a wide range of services through Aviva Risk Management Solutions, completely free of charge:

Risk Helpline 

Get in touch for advice by calling 0345 366 6666 or emailing   

Online resources

Access our online industry-specific risk management guidelines, and discover all our tips, tools and templates related to risk management.

Specialist Partner Network

We can offer Aviva customers risk management products and services at discounted prices through our trusted partners. With areas of expertise ranging from escape of water to health and safety, all our partners are well established with a pedigree in risk management.

And, of course, you can find more information on how to reduce the risks to your charity in our Knowledge Library. 

*Source: Barrett, Corp & Harrington

Key Person cover

Whether you work for a large charity with paid employees, or a small community group made up of volunteers, there will be certain people that you can’t imagine life without. The ones who keep the show on the road. So, have you ever thought how your cause would carry on if they couldn’t do their normal duties?

What is Key Person cover?

If a key person within your organisation dies or suffers a serious illness, it could have a devastating financial effect. So Key Person cover is simply a life insurance – or life and critical illness insurance – policy for that person vital to your organisation.

Does my charity need it?

A policy pay-out could help cover:

  • a loss of funds or profit
  • expensive recruitment costs
  • any penalties for the non-delivery of goods or services.

Which key person needs covering?

When assessing the risks and deciding who to cover, it’s important to consider these questions:

  • What’s the person’s impact on the profitability or fundraising abilities of your charity?
  • What’s the person’s job history and qualifications?
  • What are the person’s key skills?
  • Would it be difficult or expensive to replace them?
  • What’s their level of seniority within your organisation?
  • Are there other key people within your organisation you need to cover?

How much cover do we need?

Cover requirements will vary from one key person to another, depending on the impact of losing that person. Revisiting the questions above and trying to add a value to them will help with working this out.

You’ll also need to decide whether you need life insurance only (to cover the key person passing away unexpectedly) or critical illness cover too (for if the key person is diagnosed with a defined illness that affects their day-to-day duties).

Critical illness cover

Critical illness cover pays out on your insurer’s defined list of illnesses, often offering a primary level of cover and then an additional list. This varies from one insurance provider to another, and usually only covers the most serious and disabling illnesses and injuries.

What next?

If you’d like to know more about Key Person cover from Aviva or get a quote, please speak to your financial advisor.

How to create a risk assessment

Risk is an everyday part of running a charity or good cause. And although risk can never be eliminated completely, being prepared can help protect everything from your people and property, to your reputation and assets.

Which charities or not for profit organisations need risk assessments?

The simple answer is all of them. 

If you’re a smaller charity with a gross income of less than £250,000, you don’t have to report on risk management. But it’s still highly recommended you establish a documented risk assessment so you can demonstrate your accountability – for example to stakeholders, fund providers, those using your services or the general public.

And remember, any organisation that employs people or is responsible for non-domestic premises (like your charity’s office or headquarters), is legally required to carry out fire risk assessments. 

How do risk assessments work?

A risk assessment is an ongoing process that needs to be reviewed regularly and updated as things change. Here’s an overview of the steps involved: 

  1. Identify hazards 
  2. Assess the risks 
  3. Take suitable action to reduce the risks
  4. Record the risk assessment
  5. Continue to use the risk management process you’ve established on a regular basis – monitoring and updating it as you go

All areas of your charity’s workplace, inside and out, should be considered in your risk assessment. This includes any activities you take part in and equipment you use. 

And activities carried out away from your charity’s usual premises should also be risk assessed – like fundraising events, outings or overseas trips. 

Example – overseas trips

Here are some example considerations that would go in to a risk assessment if your employees or volunteers need to work overseas:

The people who are travelling must also be trained and prepared before they leave the UK. 

Your risk assessments should be specific to each individual trip, and consider any health risks associated with visiting certain parts of the world (for example, the need for vaccinations).

Before each trip, it would be important to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the most up-to-date guidelines, and then discuss your plans with your insurance provider.

Ready to get started?

Here are some handy resources to help you create your own risk assessments:

Charity Commission for England and Wales – Charities and Risk Management 

Sayer Vincent LLP Risk Assessment Guide

We also have many specific risk assessment templates ready for you to use on Risk Services Knowledge Store

Free risk management guidance

While you’ll find lots of tips on how to reduce your risks within the Knowledge Library, you can also contact our specialists:

Risk Helpline – a source of qualified advice that can help with all your risk management needs.

Call 0345 366 6666  


Specialist Partner Network

We also have access to a range of products and services – available at discounted prices for Aviva customers – helping to create an environment with reduced risk. From fire to escape of water, security to motor, health and safety to business resilience – all our partners are well established with a pedigree in the risk management sector. 

Cyber security guidance and resources

Cybercrime is a serious threat to any organisation – and charities are no exception. The good news is, there’s a wealth of websites, reports, training materials and other resources available to help small charities and community organisations be better informed about cyber security.

To help you know where to go for advice and guidance, we’ve signposted some of the best cyber security resources below. These will help you understand what steps your organisation needs to put in place to minimise the risk of – and exposure to – cybercrime. 

Top tips to stay cyber-safe:

  1. The National Cyber Security Centre is the UK’s independent authority on cyber security. Their Small Charity guide has been produced to help charities protect themselves from the most common cyberattacks. This easy-to-understand guide covers five topics that cost little (or nothing) to implement: backing up your data; malware protection; keeping smartphones/tablets safe; using passwords; and avoiding phishing attacks. 
  2. Register for the free Charity Fraud Awareness Hub. This offers a wealth of free digital resources, including help sheets, case studies, webinars and tutorials, to help you better understand the mindset of fraudsters and how to beat them. Compiled by the Fraud Advisory Panel, the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and UK Finance. 
  3. The Charity Commission for England and Wales has a whole host of regularly updated, useful information about fraud and cybercrime, how to spot it, and what you can do to protect against it. If you’re based in Scotland, take a look here.
  4. Get your employees and volunteers trained up so they understand the crucial role they have to play. The National Cyber Security Centre has created a free-to-access e-learning package: ‘Stay Safe Online: Top Tips for Staff’. It’s easy to understand, easy to use, and takes less than 30 minutes to complete. For other, more specific free e-learning resources, visit – and for face-to-face training options, the Foundation for Social Improvement and NCVO often offer low-cost, if not free, events.
  5. Does your trustee board understand the criticality of cyber security and what questions to ask? The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) board toolkit covers a range of cyber security topics, including: an introduction to cyber security (specifically written for board members); understanding the threat; collaborating with suppliers and partners; and planning a response to a cyber incident. This straightforward guidance offers helpful questions that board members can ask those running the organisation. It can also be adapted to fit your own charity’s culture and priorities, and has been created using insights from boards about what they would like to know.
  6. Finally, cyber security doesn’t need to be expensive. Visit for access to heavily discounted and donated software from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco and more.