Getting the organisational basics right is a goal for every charity, as a foundation for future success.

Tools for success guides: doing the right things and doing them right

Our Tools for success series of guides cover seven fundamental areas of organisational capacity that are key to your charity's success and long-term sustainability. The related self-assessment toolkit helps you identify the areas you need to prioritise for action, and the impact assessment guide will help you gauge the effect created by your organisation.

Aimed particularly at smaller nonprofit organisations, each Tools for success guide:

  • Provides up-to-date guidance on a key area of organisational capacity
  • Gives the advice you need to ensure that the basics are in place for your charity's long-term sustainability and impact
  • Shows you how to build on what works well and how to identify and improve things that could work better.

Using Tools for success

The Tools for success self-assessment toolkit is the best place to start. It helps you identify those areas where you already meet the basics, and those where you need to do more work. The self-assessment includes questions for your charity to consider, pointers to the relevant Tools for success guides for further advice, an approach to prioritising what happens next, and guidance on how to draw up an action plan. Go to the self-assessment toolkit.

Each Tools for success guide includes:

  • Links to suggested reference sources and useful materials. These are provided as embedded links throughout the pages of each guide and in every Signposts section. Wherever a link is provided, when you hover your cursor over the text you'll see the link URL show up - click on it to go straight to that source material or website.
  • Tips, tools and templates - you'll see common symbols used throughout the guides to highlight different elements including:
    • Notes and tips
    • Checklists of things to do
    • Simple to use tools, templates and sample activities to work on together and help you develop your capacity in that area.
    • Signposts to sources of more information, for when you're ready to build on the basics

    See the Contents page in each guide for more details of the common symbols to look out for.

  • A Glossary of common terms used throughout the series of guides. Some terms included in the Glossary may not appear in the content of every guide.

Tools for success covers the basics – the minimum a nonprofit needs to ensure sustained effectiveness. Once you have fully developed the basics you can then build on this and further develop your organisation, and the links provided in the Signposts section at the end of each guide will help you do this.

More about Tools for Success

These guides and related tools will support nonprofit organisations to:

  • Identify their areas of strength: areas where they already have the basics in place
  • Identify capacity gaps
  • Work on building capacity, to get all the basics right: make sure they are consistently doing the right things and doing them right.

The tools, templates and checklists provided within the guides have been designed for use by both staff and trustees (management committee members) of charities. In designing Tools for success we have assumed that users of the toolkit have little time, but know that investment now will save time later.

Our principles in developing the Tools for success series are to:

  • Focus on the basics – that is the minimum needed for your charity's long- term sustainability and impact
  • Encourage a clear focus on those for whom the organisation exists
  • Value diversity, equity and inclusion, and have practical approaches to stitch these crucial drivers of success as a thread running across the entire resource
  • Encourage the collection of evidence to demonstrate accountability and success
  • Avoid duplication.


City Bridge Trust (CBT) funded the Centre for Charity Effectiveness (CCE) to produce the original ‘Tools for success’ series in 2008, to provide small organisations with the basic guidelines to help run an effective charity. We are very grateful to the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) for providing the funding for this revised 2021 edition.

Caroline Copeman, Adah Kay and Ruth Lesirge were responsible for the original concept and design, much of which still forms the core of this resource. Members of CCE’s consultancy team and others have contributed to keeping the material and tools updated and relevant.

Authors and contributors: Fiona Ash, Jim Clifford, Caroline Copeman, Denise Fellows, Andrew Hind, Julia Lever MBE, Ernie Messer, Atul Patel, Nicola Robert, Stella Smith, Nick Wilkie, Fiona Young Priest.

Editor (revised 2021 edition): Lucy Joseph, CCE.