Why charities sometimes need to do less

Saying goodbye to long-standing and valued colleagues is always hard and there was sadness last month when NCT said goodbye to the small MIDIRS (Midwives Information and Resource Service) team who transferred over to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

Along with the card, cake and speeches, there was the inevitable sense of loss – but I was also optimistic about the new arrangement.

MIDIRS was born 34 years ago when a group of midwives recognised the need to provide information, research and guidance in order to support others in their profession.

It began life as an independent charity and within a short time grew to be a stalwart of the midwifery community. Having worked well together for a number of years, MIDIRS approached NCT with a proposition and in 2011 the two charities officially merged.

Today, MIDIRS has a world-class reputation for excellence, high quality, accessible information and is well loved. It also has strong leadership, generates income and lives within its means. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

During the first few months of working at NCT, when learning more about our services for parents, I was struck by the significant difference of the MIDIRS portfolio. Its core audience is healthcare professions, who in turn serve parents, whereas the vast majority of NCT’s work is directly with new mums and dads.

While supporting healthcare professionals is well within our charitable mission, MIDIRS within NCT had to work really hard to reach midwives and midwifery students. MIDIRS was an important adjunct to the work of NCT but rarely featured in our discussions around future strategy or areas where we recognized the need to develop.

In short, it didn’t take long to see that MIDIRS appeared to be sitting in the wrong chair. It was taking NCT cost and effort to reach MIDIRS’ core audience of midwives, maternity assistants and midwifery students which the RCM already has.

It’s easy for charities to focus on growth and continually do more in order to deliver on their charitable objectives, but this situation showed that there can be benefits to questioning this approach. In certain situations, a charity stopping parts of its work can be the best way forward.

Negotiations between RCM and NCT’s Board have taken time and effort, but the result is an arrangement that works better for all three organisations. MIDIRS has a new home with the RCM and is much closer it is audience. RCM it has the chance to ensure all its members benefit from MIDIRS.

NCT is proud of how we’ve helped MIDIRS on its way, secure in the knowledge that better informed midwives serve parents better. We also have the added benefit of more headspace to focus on our core business: improving support for parents through the first thousand days.

Sometimes in order to do more to support their beneficiaries, charities need to think about doing less.

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