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16 January 2019
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Charities FM Group – Seminar 2010

6 May 2010

by Natalie Li

While sustainable working dominated last year’s charity conference, the fifth conference was a dark reminder that the UK is slowly but surely emerging from the recession.
As the country claws its our way out of the economic doom and gloom, more than 80 FMs in the charity sector gathered at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre in London to draw much-needed knowledge from expert speakers. Led by Annette McGill, director of Upkeep and chair of the Charities FM Group, this year’s theme – Better Procurement – was specially designed for members across the charity FM sector looking to gain practical advice on saving money in these austere times.

Prior to the conference, a survey revealed concerns within the charity FM arena and it is no surprise getting better value for money – in terms of property, running costs of buildings, and the services purchased featured high on their list of priorities.

Expect the unexpected
But with the Icelandic volcanic ash causing air travel disruption across Europe, it was a timely session which opened up the conference. Tom Hunt, head of facilities at Citizens Advice presented his experience of how his charity dealt with their business continuity work and how an action plan was crucial to the successful running of business in times of crisis.
Already believing his plan to be effective it wasn’t until an internal audit was carried out that he discovered a number of holes. Issues were soon ironed out after Citizens Advice rewrote the organisation’s plans to meet the BS 25999 standard on business continuity.
“Business continuity is always seen as a dry subject but is more and more relevant”, he told delegates in an attempt to open their eyes to the importance of a full-proof plan. “It’s not a magical process and I can’t over emphasise the importance of getting your executive/trustee board to take your plan forward.”

Highlighting the challenging winter weather plus the recent swine flu scare, Hunt revealed the communication obstacles they overcame. His presentation was followed by a discussion led by Annette McGill, who, with the Charities FM Group has been running a survey of its 250 members about how they manage their business continuity arrangements.

The findings revealed (of those who responded so far) that a mere quarter have a business continuity plan which is reviewed annually. Meanwhile only 31 per cent said they have a business continuity plan which has been reviewed during the last five years, while a worrying 5 per cent said “we’ve talked about it”.

The survey found over 60 per cent purchased business continuity support of some kind and 30 per cent spent between £2,000 and £10,000 per year on this support.
The conference members discussed a range of possibilities, including sharing business continuity plans, workshops, scenario planning, and even joint procurement or a register of available facilities. McGill said the survey showed that many charities still had work to do on their business continuity arrangements and that there was a big interest in joint working or joint procurement.

The conference members discussed a range of possibilities, including sharing business continuity plans, workshops, scenario planning, and even joint procurement or a register of available facilities. The conference agreed to continue the discussions at the next quarterly meeting of the Charities FM Group.

As delegates digested how to lay down firm continuity plans, Derek Arden’s lively, light-hearted negotiating masterclass proved a success. The exuberant consultant and author who helped Oxfam re-negotiate their finance charges, saving them a staggering £200,000 a year, bounced on stage to advise FMs on how to become fantastic negotiators.

“Is that the lowest price you can give us?” should be a key question in negotiating, advised Arden and listening is core too, he added: “How many people did Moses take to the ark?”, he asked a perplexed audience. 

As FMs in charities seemed quick to shake off any preconceived ideas that they might be a soft touch in negotiation, a few lessons came from Gordon Ludlow’s informative session on “greening your supplier”. The founder of soft FM provider ErgoPlus and chair of the BIFM’s Sustainability Sig advised delegates of core things to consider when talking to suppliers, drawing their attention to green claims, green labels and pointing them to Environwise’s guide to green procurement GG921.

As ever sustainability became the driving force behind many of the sessions from Morgan Lovell’s transformation of their old office building to a fully working energy efficient building, to developing a robust estate strategy, discussed in detail by senior consultants Kate Terriere and Chris Rowe from Driver Jonas Deloitte.

With innumerable ways of reducing costs, ways of opening up better communication and learning the art of negotiation, many FMs left with a list of positive actions to drive forward their own cost effective strategy.

Charities Facilities Management Group

The Charities Facilities Management Group is the network for people who look after buildings and facilities management issues in the voluntary sector. It was set up by the director of the charity Upkeep 10 years ago and now has over 250 member charities around England. The Group promotes best practice by sharing information on good practice, resources and skills. Members range from the facilities managers of some of the UK’s largest charities to office managers of small voluntary organisations. Membership of the Charities Facilities Management Group is free.