We saved local and national government £360 million in one year

Date: 02 Mar 2016

Bumblebee Design

Gillian Guy, CEO, Citizens Advice says a recent impact report showed that every £1 spent on Citizens Advice services delivers benefits for their clients equivalent to nearly £11

What are the basics that need to be in place to run a charity well?

For Citizens Advice it comes down to what’s best for our clients. Whether it is sharing their experiences with Government or expanding our digital services so more people find it easier to access our advice, our clients are at the heart of everything we do. Also as a charity we have a responsibility to be accountable, to demonstrate our value and show we are making an impact. This helps you to secure funding and help people understand how your services can help them. That’s why at Citizens Advice we have thorough processes to measure our impact, with our most recent report showing that we saved local and national government £360 million in one year.

What are your tips for leadership success?

Every charity and every leader is different. For me it’s about asking the right questions and listening to the answers.

Do you review your services for effectiveness, if so, how often and what methods are used?

We pride ourselves on offering high quality, free and impartial advice. To maintain these standards we have  quality assurance systems in place. We also seek feedback from our clients to make sure they are happy with the service they receive, and follow up a few months later to check if the advice we gave helped them solve their problem. Our research shows that four out of five of our clients say our service has improved their lives.

Is fundraising the biggest issue?

The current financial climate means funding is certainly a challenge for the voluntary sector.  By diversifying our funding and demonstrating our value, the Citizens Advice service has proved to be resilient but we can’t rest on our laurels. Many local authorities have continued to invest in local Citizens Advice but there are some areas of the country where funding is difficult. To continue providing free, impartial advice it is important we demonstrate how we help people solve their problems and, in turn, the savings this can deliver for government and other public services through, for example, reduced pressure on health services. We also have to identify new opportunities. At a local level this can mean sharing facilities with other local services, or it can mean taking on new national services which fit with our core offer, such as the work we do providing pensions guidance and the support we offer to court witnesses.

Which matters most? A good brand, creating impact with your charity’s work or ethics?

All three are essential and they support each other. For example, making an impact and achieving recognition for it are essential to building a strong brand that people trust. We work hard to measure our impact to show how our advice delivers outcomes and that we are value for money. Our most recent impact report not only showed we solve people’s problems but also that every £1 spent on Citizens Advice services delivers benefits for our clients equivalent to nearly £11. In terms of our brand, people say they recognise us as an organisation they can turn to for advice and trust us with their problems.  Recently we have worked to strengthen to our brand to reflect how we are a modern service offering advice across different channels. This includes web chat and online advice, which complement traditional, face-to-face advice.


Citywealth top ten charity CEO’s 2016

Chosen for their gravitas, impact, leadership, fiscal competence, brand and ethics.

Paul Breckell, CEO, Action on Hearing Loss

Henny Braund, CEO, Anthony Nolan

Claire Horton, CEO, Battersea Cats and Dogs

Gillian Guy, CEO, Citizens’ Advice

Rob Williamson, CEO, Community Foundation, Tyne and Wear 

Debra Allcock Tyler, CEO, DSC -Directory of Social Change

Petra Ingram, CEO, The Brooke

Robert Robson, CEO, The Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity

Simon Hopkins, CEO, Turn2us

David Nussbaum, CEO, WWF UK

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Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind