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National property consultancy, Bruton Knowles, works with a growing number of national charity and extended third sector organisations. The business has a team of specialists expert in advising charitable trusts and groups on how a portfolio of property and land assets can be best managed for best return, in what is expected to be another challenging year for the sector.

Although arguably now past the austerity years, the leave or remain debate and with a government with a majority and a mandate to deliver Brexit, there is still no wide expectation that growth in the UK is set to pick up dramatically in 2020. And an uncertain economic landscape will continue to present challenges for the third sector.

Amanda Briggs, Partner at Bruton Knowles, is finding that those organisations that proactively look to review existing assets and explore investment options otherwise not considered, are tending to face the new decade with a more positive outlook. 

Some charities that have not formally reviewed their full property portfolio for quite some time tend to be taken aback by the assets that can be unlocked. Some portfolios can be quite daunting and very complex, particularly in the case of our church and diocese clients, and can take a team of experts to unpick and examine but as an exercise is it is well worth doing. In some cases, it can make all the difference to the financial stability of a charity hard-hit by economic forces and some daunting operational challenges.

We have seen with our clients that increased competition for donations and funding remains an issue, particularly as the number of new charities launched surprisingly continues to rise. Currently 168,000 charities appear on the Charity Commissions’ register with 5,000 added in 2018. Positively engaging with fundraisers, volunteers and supporters in new and innovative ways in a crowded environment takes some considerable time and effort and is a major investment for most.

And the sector has still to contend with reputational issues affecting a number of organisations last year, with the average ‘level of trust’ from members of the public plummeting to 5.5 out of 10, the lowest figure seen since regulator Trust in Charities first started recording figures back in 2005.  

Fundraising Fatigue has become a real debate as there are reports of some feeling over loaded by charity broadcast advertising, phone calls and street collections. Similarly, the tabloids have taken a critical view of how some charities disclose their expenditure.  

So, finding a positive boost amongst this negative melee can offer some real respite from the challenges of the day.

In short, we would advise our third sector clients to take a strategic approach to property portfolios and always source professional advice to have substantial property portfolios assessed, to review planned purchases and look at how to make assets work that much harder. To that end, diversification has to be on the agenda. Looking at different ways in which property assets can work harder as an income stream or as a multi-functional centre and in some cases partnering with other organisations to share operational services and spaces.

Contact details for Amanda Briggs and The Charity Team at Bruton Knowles can be found at the website www.brutonknowles.co.uk. 

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