Youth Arts and Health Trust
The journey so far
Youth Arts and Health Trust (YAHT) had sold their services on a small and local scale when starting on the Enterprise Development Programme, but felt they had potential to increase their sales significantly with the right support and focused attention. Through a collaborative diagnostic proess, the priority areas for development were recognised as achieving greater clarity on target customers and how to access the decision makers within those organisations. Additionally and importantly there was an intelligent keenness to create a more professional external presence to give a sense of credibility and increased confidence in selling scenarios - for example when presenting to Local Authorities and Schools.
In a first year on the programme YAHT benefitted from a combination of grant, access to a peer networking group and learning workshops, plus some financial management expertise.The grant was utilised to support additional staff capacity, and also buy in website and branding consultancy services and business mentoring services. Laura Blatherwick, Charity Director of YAHT reflected that “The grant has enabled us to “protect" time for me to work on developing our trading offer, rebranding and also selling to potential customers. This has enabled us to review what we provide, how we provide it and how we communicate it. I've also really enjoyed working with my business coach, helping me to feel more optimistic about what we can achieve."
The other aspects of the programme have proven to be really valuable too, as Laura reflected: “Through the peer networking and learning sessions I’m learning about the importance of being non-apologetic when talking about pricing and valuing our service and amazing staff confidently by choosing and standing by our pricing which provides margin - and also how very important this is for growth.”
The organisation are also in the process of working with one of the programme’s Financial Management experts, who have worked alongside Development Director, Pete Smith, to develop new approaches to sharing financial information with the Board as well as setting up new systems to review profitability of trading opportunities. Pete reflected that “I’ve really appreciated getting this external perspective and has led to me spending really useful time with our treasurer developing our planning processes and discussing how our ‘business’ operates.”
At the outset of the programme, YAHT targeted making £30,000 of sales in the proceeding 12 months. In the previous year it had generated c. £6,000 in sales.Although the original target has not yet been met, sales of over £19k have been achieved, more than tripling sales income from the previous 12 months.
And importantly, trading activity now covers a higher proportion of core costs (34%), and based on income projections it is felt this can increase to 40% in the following 6 months.
What would you do differently?
On reflection of the journey travelled to date Laura commented: “...if I could travel back in time to when we were first beginning our trading activities I would have liked to have fully-costed out every aspect of what it takes to provide our service and been braver at charging more (unapologetically!) for our programmes to those who could afford it. This could have allowed us to grow sooner and is also an important contribution to public understanding of the true value of arts psychotherapies and the professional field we are part of.”
YAHT’s ambitions have grown in regard to how their continuing efforts to trade can further support their charity as a whole. They would like to become financially sustainable enough to offer more permanent contracts to staff and also to be able to provide more funded learning and development opportunities for their amazing team of arts therapists who are currently on freelance contracts with the organisation. “I’ve realised that embracing trading is the key to not only securing our organisation’s ability to fulfil our charitable aims but also to be able to afford to look after and retain our fantastic staff. It’s hard to raise grant funds for things like additional training for staff and so it’s down to us to make enough profit to ensure we can provide this.”
To find out more about how Youth Arts and Health Trust deliver their crucial services visit their website.