Tackling poverty in Milton Keynes

I’m honoured to have been appointed a Trustee of Milton Keynes Community Foundation this year.  Our ‘Vital Signs‘ report highlights the strengths and challenges for Milton Keynes and a key issue for us is poverty.  On 28th March we held a workshop to explore how the voluntary and community sector in Milton Keynes can work together to address the challenge.  There was some really useful and innovative thinking and it was good to meet people from around the sector.  I am looking forward to seeing progress on the issue going forward.

Rewarding good governance

It was my very great pleasure and honour once again to present an award at the Charity Governance Awards on Wednesday, 24th May. The event was held in the imposing and beautiful Clothworkers Hall in the City. This year, my fellow judges and I judged one category: Managing Turnaround. The level of dedication and commitment of the Trustees in each of the entries was quite phenomenal. The winner was Off The Record from Bristol, a mental health service and movement for children and young people aged 11-25 who live in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.  You can read the story of their turnaround here.

Masterclass: Exec / Non-Exec relationships in the Third Sector


I was delighted recently to lead a governance masterclass at the three-day AMEX Leadership Academy hosted by Common Purpose.common-purpose-logo

Held at the wonderfully welcoming Wallacespace in London, the one hour masterclass session was informal and interactive. It provided an opportunity for future leaders in the Third Sector to come together and focus on governance, and in particular how to address the divide between Executive and Non-Executive board members.

All-in-all, a dynamic session which I thoroughly enjoyed.

It’s Good to Talk …Social Investment

Social InvestmentOn Tuesday 9th June I took part in an informative Round Table hosted by Big Society Capital in Fleet Street, London.


The topic for discussion was social investment and it offered a couple of very interesting case studies of non profits that had used social investment to generate growth.  It was a useful reminder for me of the effectiveness of the variety of social investment instruments, as we discovered at Scope during my Chairmanship, where we used loan finance, venture philanthropy and a Social Bond to serve our mission.


The different ways that non profits use social finance to deliver their goals and increase their impact was particularly inspiring – and that was one of the key themes coming out of the morning: focus on impact to get the best out of it.  For me, the role of the Chair is key.  Chairs need to keep their Boards focussed on the organisation’s vision and mission to ensure that risk is minimised and return maximised.


Rethinking an inclusive approach

Revitalise LogoOn the 24 March I was delighted to be able to facilitate a Board Strategy session for Revitalise. Revitalise is an established national charity that provides short breaks and holidays for disabled people and carers.

The board session was lively and provided a useful opportunity for board members to discuss and think through what makes for an inclusive Revitalise offering; what does inclusion really mean in the context of their vision, mission and values?

For me, it was rewarding seeing board members enthusiastically sharing ideas about how they could deliver more inclusive services in order to enhance the great work Revitalise does. I’m looking forward to hearing how their thinking develops in future.


Social Media a Game Changer for Charities

Companies Dont Tweet Organisations DoLast Wednesday I attended the Charities and Social Media Dinner hosted by Grant Thornton. It was an excellent evening. The keynote speaker, Euan Semple, was very engaging and challenged us to re-examine social media and the potential it has for charities.  This was followed by animated table discussions – and, of course, great food!


Though many charities are still playing catch-up as they try to get to grips with social media, the recent runaway success of campaigns like the ‘no make-up selfie’ and the ‘ice bucket challenge’ have inspired supporters and demonstrated its enormous potential when used well.  Scope’s own End the Awkward campaign was designed for a generation of ‘digital natives’ and has been hugely successful.


The power that social media has to engage directly with stakeholders and amplify messages quickly and cost effectively is really exciting. Boards of Charities would do well to recognise and embrace this power, developing robust governance to harness the opportunity whilst not holding it back.


Staff at Board Meetings

There has been a ripple of concern running through the sector following guidance from the Charity Commission that seemed to imply that staff – including the CEO – should only rarely attend Board meetings.


Whilst it’s important for Board members to recognise and faithfully fulfil their responsibility for making decisions independently, I cannot see how we could make effective decisions without concurrent input from staff, whose executive knowledge of operations will always be deeper than our non-executive understanding.


The original guidance was much too stringent and counter productive to the effective operation of a Board.  In my experience having staff present helps Board members acquire insight into all areas of the organisation and builds a sense of unity of purpose across the executive and non-executive leadership alike.  Likewise, being present as Board members debate and discuss gives staff – and the CEO in particular – a deep understanding of the ‘mind’ of the Board.  It gives a coherent approach to strategy and planning, and supports the elimination of silo working by functional leaders.


Fortunately, the Charity Commission has attempted to clarify the guidance.  In my view, though, it still doesn’t go far enough in acknowledging the benefits of shared understanding and insight amongst the leadership in fulfilling the organisation’s mission.

The Accountability of Finance Directors

‘Finance Directors wear many different hats and are often drivers for change. They also play an important role in accountability and transparency.’  CFG

This was my brief at last week’s CFG Annual Conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.  I was delighted to be able share my perspective on what I would expect from Finance professionals as Chair of a Board.

I and my co-presenters enjoyed a lively debate with the audience on the accountability of finance professionals in the charity sector in our morning workshop.


Charity Executive Pay Report

ncvo-logoAs a member of the Inquiry into executive pay set up by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NVCO) last year, I am pleased that the findings and subsequent publication of the report on 29 April 2014 have highlighted this important issue.

The report recommends that charities need to go further to embrace transparency and increase the public’s trust by publishing their executives’ full salary details. In following the Inquiry’s recommendations, Chairs and their Boards will need to think about the importance of the public’s perception in ways that perhaps they haven’t been thought about before.


A Night to Remember … the 2014 NED Award

I was delighted to be selected as a nominee in the ‘Not-For-Profit / Public Service aliceOrganisation’ category at the NED Awards 2014. So when it was announced I was the category winner at the awards ceremony at Claridge’s Hotel last week I was simply over the moon.

Winning this prestigious award validates what I’ve been doing at Scope for the past 6 years which is gratifying but I think that the work of a NED is always a team effort, so this is for the Board and Exec of Scope too.