Whilst we came into this financial year with nearly 50% of our budget secured, the knock-backs in Q1 foretold a difficult second quarter and a fodmap-style spending diet that no scale-up charity wants to face.
So let's hit the top lines:
👍 We doubled our rate of growth, with 1207 new carers signing up this quarter
👍 Quick improvements to user journey flows from issues identified in our live feedback loops are really working. 87% of new users in June went on to book a break
👍 96% of carers that made a break request have had a break confirmed
👎 Our actual no. of breaks delivered dropped from 326 in Q1 to 290 in Q2 (more on that below)
👎 We're reeling from the departure of two staff, bringing our team down from 7 to 5
👎 8 key funding applications were unsuccessful (leaving us in a very tight spot)
There's no way to sugarcoat a hard quarter but somehow the team keep shining brightly 👇
Our costs came to £116,000, which is twice as much as the rate-card value of the gifted accommodation we were able to mobilise through the 290 breaks delivered, valued at £58,000 (each stay is worth an av. of £200). I'm pretty sure we'll be getting this down to deliver pound-for-pound value for donors within 4-6 months and creating a multiplier effect for every pound spent on us within a year.
Why did our break number drop from 326 in Q1 to 290 in Q2?
Seasonality of supply is a real curveball for us. Most unsold hotel supply occurs between Oct to March each year, with occupancy rates picking up from Easter and into the summer. In other words, if we don't get inventory out to the most amount of people that we can in the early and late months of the year, we won't hit our annual targets.
We sound like we've been doing this forever but the new Breaks Hub has only been live since Nov, so Peter's teed up this new KPIs channel on slack to track our week-by-week progress against goals 🏆
It will be harder to get our delivery numbers up over the summer (when there's less hotel availability) and if we're going to stimulate more booking requests, we'll need to improve the ratio of carers signed-up to accommodation available in certain regions.
How many gaps can you plaster over?
We've just been shortlisted for the Small Charity, Big Achiever Third Sector Award, which is nice but painful in equal measure on the 'doing a lot with too little' front.
At this stage of development - now servicing 5000 carers, 100 community referral partners and 130 hotel sites, we'd placed resource requirements at 10 roles but we're missing 5, including a second person on our one-man-band tech team, a customer support manager, a communications manager (to reach more carers), an operations manager and a fundraiser.
Without them, we're firefighting on service delivery, unable to build any real resilience into the organisation and no one is doing the job they are supposed to be doing. I just hope that the current pipeline of funding applications finally gives us the room to grow that we so desperately need.
What have we learned?
Rules vs. Exceptions
Two principles that underpin our carer support work are 'nothing falls through the cracks' for help requests and 'no carer left behind' for engaging the database of those registered with us to get them matched to breaks. We're proud of how much we endeavour to be present for every user but we need to mastermind how to spend less time and emotional energy on individual cases. We need to be stronger in getting people to comply with our eligibility criteria and have more protocols for enforcing our terms of service. With so many of our users in crisis we're finding this really hard, so any advice for us from peers at the frontline of service delivery would be welcomed.
Fundraising solutions for small charities on tiny budgets are rare but we've been bowled over by the Fair Development consultants Kate Woode and Lucy Roberts, whom we've been working with to get our pipeline of grant applications up. We can't afford to hire a fundraising person but they've turned around in days what would have taken me months and will hopefully get us back to an even keel on the money front in a way that I couldn't have done alone. Thank you Vic Hancock Fell for coming up with such a great initiative!
Lessons in stoicism
Despite being a former philosophy student, stoicism isn't a quality I was ever able to achieve alone but at Carefree it's the virtue of each person involved that's fuelling our collective ability to keep our balance. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime team, on a once-in-a-lifetime mission. We may or may not succeed but nothing can take away our grace in how we ride these waves. Thank you Joey, Michele, Peter, Sarine and Stella. You're just amazing!
Finally, if you fancy a philosophy hit, this podcast intro to The Ethics of Care by Stephen West is brilliant 💞