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Supporting your staff and volunteers through closure

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When closing an organisation, your duty of care to staff, volunteers and beneficiaries should be at the top of any closure plans.

Closing an organisation is as much an emotional process as a legal one. Most people working in voluntary organisations believe in the value of their work. This means the decision to close an organisation can often surface strong emotions and may result in stress for those involved.

Look after your team’s wellbeing

It’s important to remember that staff and volunteers will have to cope with feelings of loss and uncertainty about their future.

At the start of any closure process, you should set up and share specific channels that offer support. These may include:

  • regular team catch-ups
  • line management support and supervision
  • one-to-one peer support
  • support offered by an employee assisted programme such as counselling
  • support offered by a relevant Trade Union (if your organisation has one)
  • signposting and support to other pro-bono advice for example employment advice. You may want to look at our HR trusted suppliers.

During times of stress, people may behave differently than normal and this can impact how your team works together. For example, individuals may become irritable, indecisive or inflexible.

Mental Health Foundation has tips on reducing the impact of stress.

We also have guidance on supporting your team’s mental health and wellbeing.

Look after your own mental health and wellbeing

During a stressful time it can be easy to neglect your own needs. But being a good leader means also prioritising your own mental health and wellbeing.

Read our guidance on how to support yourself at work.

Communicate clearly and consistently

You need to clearly communicate to staff and volunteers why you’ve decided to close. You should be able to provide evidence to support your decision if asked. If you’ve chosen to close, be clear about why you feel it’s in the best interest of your organisation’s purpose.

It can be helpful to remind staff and volunteers that those leading the process have a duty to act in the best interest of the organisation’s purpose, not the institution itself. It’s best to stick to the facts and actively listen to and engage with any feedback.

Be clear about:

  • what decisions have been made
  • what decisions still need to be made
  • if, when and how staff and volunteers will be consulted on future decisions.

Be prepared to manage different reactions to the news of closure. For example, some staff or volunteers may be angry, some may be shocked, and some may feel responsible.

Acknowledge the emotional impact of the news and provide staff and volunteers with opportunities to talk about their feelings either in a one-to-one or group meeting.

Staff and volunteers will inevitably have questions and want reassurance about what this means for them and their future. Where possible, provide reassurance but don’t pretend to have all the answers.

Read our planning for closure guidance for ideas on communicating with other stakeholders, including beneficiaries.

Prepare for difficult conversations

Trustees, staff and volunteers should be prepared for difficult conversations with other stakeholders and feel able to manage these. Avoiding these conversations will only make the closure process harder to manage.

It’s important to give your team the tools to be able to manage these conversations. They aren’t easy. Share tips and guidance with your team, for example ACAS’s guidance on handling challenging conversations.

Give staff and volunteers the opportunity to debrief on their experiences of handling difficult conversations. Individual responses to the news of closure, such as indifference, may be difficult for staff and volunteers to experience. Urge staff and volunteers not to take feedback personally.

Plan your team’s time

Closing a voluntary organisation can be a time consuming task. Even a small organisation may have lots of final tasks to complete before closing. The more diverse your activities, services and relationships are, the more time you’ll need.

Don’t underestimate the time closure tasks can take, especially when staff and volunteers may be feeling demotivated.

When planning for redundancies, consider what input you’ll need on closure tasks from different staff members. For example, if a staff member is one of the signatories for the organisation's bank account, you should factor this into your closure plan. You should also build in time for staff to attend job interviews or a contingency plan should they seek an earlier exit.

Some volunteers may drift from the organisation or not be willing to carry out closure tasks. While it may feel counter-intuitive, you may want to consider seeking additional volunteer support for the closure process. You might find you require individuals with more availability or different skills.

Learn more about the volunteer recruitment process.

Help staff through redundancies

Redundancies may be an inevitable part of closing your organisation.

Providing staff with the appropriate support and information about the process and their rights can help to manage feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

Last reviewed: 06 July 2023

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 06 July 2023

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