Should white men step aside?

There was a section at the end of  this response to the recent NCVO appointment that really hit home.  “Should white men be stepping aside?”

It is a question that needs further consideration and one that I’ve been thinking about for a while – as someone who benefits from all the privileges society has to offer.  Whilst the (white, female) CEO of the Charity Commission responded to this question saying she didn’t think it was necessary, I would like to offer an explanation as to why I think it is an action white men need to consider.

If we are to create a sector that is more diverse and representative of the communities, and causes, we represent, perhaps the best thing we can sometimes do as allies is to do…. nothing.

This is not an easy piece to write. I appreciate not all will agree with me. I write with no specific case in mind. These are thoughts I have had for a while and this is a timely opportunity to contribute to a discussion to get us to make changes we all want to see.  I absolutely don’t have all the answers, but I think this should be part of the conversation, uncomfortable as it is.

One of my learnings recently was the difference between equality and equity.  Its easy to create a level playing field, in fact the law requires it.  But we know that there are many factors that don’t make things “equal” and that more effort is required to ensure we have equity.  Essentially, equality doesn’t consider systematic and subconscious biases, or the ability to correct historical wrongs.


Which is why, despite our sector often leading on the front-line of creating a more equal society, it is embarrassing that our workforce remains mostly as having privileged characteristics, more so as you reach senior positions.  As a result, the Institute of Fundraising launched the Change Collective to find solutions to the issue and create an excellent manifesto for change which will no doubt make significant improvements in this area over the long-term.

So those of us with the greatest privileges can support, encourage and implement the manifesto for change – be a good ally of these under-represented groups.  But perhaps we could, and should, go further.

For their 2019 Convention, the Institute of Fundraising encouraged more speakers from different backgrounds to apply to speak.  After a few years of speaking there, I decided the best way I could support this drive was to step aside and expect my place to be taken up by someone from a different background to me.

Maybe I am a better speaker than others who want to speak and this doesn’t give good value to those attending.  Perhaps I could have used the platform to speak up on these issues.  I’m sure there are many better speakers than me from different backgrounds, but what has helped me be a confident, competent speaker?

I had an excellent education, supported by my parents. It helped me get into a good university.  This helped me get my first job in fundraising straight after university.  This first job helped me get a head start on a career, landing me a managerial job after a few years.  And now I manage a team at a large charity.  Throughout school, university and work, I have received presentation skills training and had the opportunity to present to a range of audiences to practice my skills.

Am I better presenter than other people, or have my privileges given me the skills and practice to be accepted as a speaker at convention?  I realised that in such circumstances, I could best contribute to the Change Collective by stepping aside and allowing others to take my place.

Which brings us to recruitment.

There is an understandable desire to create an equal playing field.  To encourage people from different backgrounds to get into the sector, to apply for roles, to have recruitment panels that reflect the candidates.  The law also has an influence in making sure things are ‘equal’ or ‘even’.  So, the focus is on getting more diverse candidates applying, shortlisted and being interviewed.

But is equal, fair?  Will those of us with the greatest privileges often be ‘the best candidate’ precisely because of our privileges throughout our lives – education, getting first jobs, getting promotions and other societal benefits we have been given – sometimes just because we have a ‘native’ sounding name.  This puts us in the best position to get jobs, no matter how many widely roles are advertised, no matter what the selection process, no matter who we interview and no matter who sits on the recruitment panel.

So how do we truly break the cycle? 

It’s a tough question, but needs to be asked.  We are in strange times and, let’s be honest, we are struggling to stop the reverse of the advances our sector has achieved for non-privileged groups as hate crime increases across almost all groups.  And depressingly, the current UK political trajectory shows no great balancing up in society for those with protected characteristics.  We’re not about to see the fundamental changes needed to education, housing. welfare, justice and all the other systematic barriers people face throughout their lives to create that “level playing field”.

We need drastic action in many areas in society: ensuring nationalism and fascist ideas are left at the margins; defeating the threat of climate destruction; reducing the vast inequalities that are growing in society; ensuring the internet is a force for good, not evil.  And if we truly want a more diverse sector, then perhaps one drastic action we can do as privileged individuals is step aside.

People without privileges have been forced to live without an even playing field throughout history.  Levelling it up is equal, but not fair.  Perhaps it’s time those of us with privileges to create an unequal playing field the other way if we want to achieve true equity in our sector – and in wider society.


This blog was written by a white, male fundraiser. We are not sharing his identity.  The purpose of the platform continues to be to increase female thought-leadership in the charity sector. We are publishing the blog’s content as we believe that the opinions within it present one element of a debate that we should all be having.


What does fundraising ethically even mean?

by Ruby Bayley-Pratt

The recent Game of Thrones petition to have a disappointing ending re-written by “competent writers” is a beautiful, if frivolous, example of how our relationship with the things we consume has changed. We feel we have not only a personal stake, but a right to challenge and question. And we have the means to do it…

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how supporters would react if, as a sector, we were totally transparent about where our money comes from – particularly when it comes to major donors and corporate partnerships. Whilst there is some research and guidance out there, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent approach to ethics across fundraising and I fear this could cause problems down the road.

In a world where trust in charities continues to decline, ethical consumption is on the rise, and our fundraising thought leaders are stressing the need to move away from transactional fundraising products to values-led supporter engagement, I don’t think we can leave this out of our conversations about the future of fundraising.

The fact that our approach to ethical fundraising across the sector is inconsistent has been acknowledged time and time again. At best, we have a list of industries we won’t work with and a screening process to mitigate against any reputational risk. At worst, we have nothing in place at all and rely on the judgement and, often, politics of individual members of staff.

In my experience, I have found that there tend to be two camps of fundraisers when it comes to this issue: those that believe we shouldn’t take funds which could compromise our mission and our responsibility to wider societal good (assuming we have one) and those who believe that what matters most is that we do good for our beneficiaries* with that money regardless of where it comes from or how we get it (‘robbing the rich to feed the poor’).  There is, of course, nuance in all of this and pragmatically, I think charities should probably position themselves somewhere on a spectrum between the two. That said, if you were to ask me what I truly believe, I struggle to swallow the latter.

Firstly, I think taking money from an industry or individual which undermines your mission – whether that’s through the work they do or the behaviours they demonstrate – does as much, if not more, of a disservice to your beneficiaries in the long-term than taking the money in the first place. For example, at Bloody Good Period, large period product companies are desperate to partner with us and we could make a healthy sum accepting their offers. But these companies play a huge role in perpetuating the stigma and shame which contributes to menstrual inequity – the very social issue we are trying to solve – in the first place. By taking their money, we enable them to continue doing that and make them look good in the process. So, we don’t. And we’re doing alright.

Secondly, I would like to see us questioning how our decisions about how and where we source our funds from are linked to things like climate crisis, gender inequality, and racism. We are increasingly being asked and asking others not to separate themselves from these issues as individuals; should we not be asking the same of our organisations?

Finally, there’s the question of poverty porn – a subject which I could write a whole separate blog about. Time and time again I am told “yeah, but it works”. And I know that’s what the research tells us. But what it ‘works’ at is bringing in cash and the starting point for that is a focus on growth rather than what’s best for our beneficiaries. Much like my first point, my fundamental belief is that the long-term damage of using tactics like this far outweighs the short-term good we can achieve as organisations. Again, at Bloody Good we refuse to use images or stories from the people we work with in our communications or fundraising…

All of the above is my personal opinion. What I would love to know is how charity supporters feel. Do they care if we respond to natural disasters over here but take money from extractive industries over there? Or if we campaign for women’s rights but take money from a reported sexual harasser? I don’t know and I think we might be a little bit afraid to ask them…


*I have used the word beneficiaries throughout for ease of understanding but I’d like to categorically document that I hate it. At Bloody Good Period we refer to “the people we work with” instead.


It’s time to re-connect

by Emily Petty

Humans have a basic need to connect – to be loved. Maslow’s hierarchy of need places love and belonging as the third human need after basic physiological needs and safety. However, studies on infants have shown that if you leave an infant with no physical contact but make sure they are fed and clean they fail to thrive, develop or grow.

Like infants we need to feel connected to those around us if we are going to succeed and thrive at work.

Sadly, we are feeling more disconnected than ever. Take the open plan office, the theory is that by having everyone working in one space you are instantly connected with your colleagues. And yet studies have shown that the open plan office decreases connection and increases stress. An article in Arch Daily ‘Why open plan offices don’t work and some alternatives that do’ said of a test of open plan working “The employees suffered according to every measure, the new space was disruptive, stressful, and cumbersome, and instead of feeling closer, co-workers felt distant, dissatisfied and resentful.”

Remote working is on the rise – which is a good thing. But having managed a remote team, I know the challenges and opportunities this brings. When teams creating connection is all the more important. Often really small things can become big barriers. For example, if you have regular conference calls it is important to notice if someone isn’t contributing and ask if there is a problem. It might be that they feel un prepared, perhaps they don’t have the agenda or they don’t know who else is in the room. Small things that often get overlooked can increase the sense of isolation and loneliness.


Loneliness is directly related to stress, anxiety and exhaustion. In ‘Dare to Lead’ Brené Brown shares the story of Colonel DeDe Halfhill who is Director of innovation, analysis and leadership development for Air Force Global Strike Command made up of 33,000 officers and enlisted and civilian airmen. At a presentation she opened the floor to questions, an airman asked if the work was going to slow down because everyone was really tired. As she explored the issue with the group it soon became clear that the group were actually lonely – they had no connection and that was causing them to become burnt out.

If staff do not feel connected, they do not feel safe or able to speak up when things are going wrong, no one wants to be the dissenting voice. Trust breaks down and there is a lack of psychological safety.


Here are a few thoughts and ideas. I’ve tried some of these sometimes they have worked sometimes they haven’t. But if we don’t try, we will never really open ourselves up to those around us.

Starts with the leader – You can’t expect your team to build connection if you do not model the behaviour in the daily life of your team. Creating connection is about building trust. Building trust takes time and is about the small, seemingly insignificant actions that complied together make a strong bond. John Gottman from University of California says. “Trust is built in very small moments, which I call ‘Sliding doors’ moments.” That might be the opportunity to quickly thank someone for their contribution in a meeting as you walk back to your desks or being available for people to feedback or mention a new idea to you – it is the compounding effect of those moments that build connection.

Create physical or virtual space for teams to connect – I don’t have the answer to the open plan office and working from home challenges but it is really important to be conscious of making space for people to both interact and get deep work done. Have a think about

  • The space in your office for staff to relax and spend time together.
  • Where is the kettle or water cooler? Could they be in a place that helps different teams interact in new ways?
  • How are you using virtual tools? Why not create a quick and simple virtual check in system with your remote team so each day you are asking how people are and if they have any challenges?

Create moments to connect – some of these ideas might seem cheesy but it is also true that sometimes we have to deliberately encourage connection.

  • Start a meeting with success sharing – encourage people to share what they are pleased about and why.
  • Play the sit-down game – see my previous blog
  • Try a classic team building game like the marshmallow and spaghetti game. Make sure you allow time for the group to reflect on what it felt like, what they learnt etc.
  • Lego Model Game – Sometimes it is a big ask to ask people to share how they are feeling. The Lego Model game gives the group lots of broken up Lego people. Ask the group to create their Lego model to reflect how they feel today. It gives people the space to have a cow girl head and a surfer body and explain why.
  • Have regular feedback sessions – regularly asking the team to simply reflect on What Went Well and what could have been Even Better If opens dialogue and encourages a culture of feedback and learning from failure.

I challenge you to try at least one of these ideas and see how things change – then keep going. Building any relationship takes time, connecting is made due to a series of small actions.


Emily Petty, is a culture and fundraising consultant. She is passionate about helping charities build a relationship led approach to fundraising and supporting them to unlock potential and manage change. You can find her on Twitter @EmilyPetty1 and on LinkedIn.

So…they hired another white man.

by Mandy Johnson

This Thursday was one of those complicated days for me. In the morning I took part in a panel discussion at the “Women in Civil Society Leadership Conference”, hosted by Inclusive Boards. It was an inspiring morning full of speakers who had an interest in inclusion and diversity. I wanted to stay all day to soak up the wisdom of the people in the room. Sadly, I was not afforded that luxury.


I snuck out of the conference early so that I could take my son to an appointment. I scoffed down a sandwich on the train and went from “Mandy Johnson” back to “Mummy”. Later that evening I received a message from a friend of mine,

So NCVO has announced its new CEO… Lots of gushing tweets but also some surprise behind the scenes and talk about missed opportunities.”

I turned straight to Twitter to see what they were talking about and there it was…

NCVO announcement

Karl Wilding has been appointed as the new CEO of NCVO. The sector’s largest infrastructure body has chosen another white man as its leader. I couldn’t ignore the irony; I had missed the announcement because I’d been tied up with “mummy duties” and a conference about increasing female leadership in the sector.


Over the last two days I’ve had more messages from more people questioning NCVO’s choice. One friend wrote the following to me,

“…with all due respect to Karl Wilding, it’s incredibly disappointing that the largest support body in the UK did not place diversity at the heart of the CEO search. While they have published their process in order to claim transparency, Karl was hired by white male institution in 1998 and was virtually groomed to take Stuart’s place. What an incredible waste of resources and opportunities. Am I nuts to think this??”

 Of course, I reassured her that I didn’t think she was nuts… yet there was something stopping me from outrightly agreeing with her.


Part of my dilemma was that, from my limited experience of Karl, whilst he lacks some of the characteristics some of us are so desperate to see represented in his sort of job, I think he’ll make an excellent CEO in many ways. He’s a man who cares deeply about the sector, is an active volunteer for local charities and keeps himself very well-informed. He’s also a nice bloke, without any airs and graces. He does his best to champion diversity and inclusion and he’s got twenty years of experience in navigating the complex world of NCVO – and doing it well. What if he really is the best person for the job?


A question from the conference earlier that morning has been reverberating round my head. A woman of colour asked the white, female CEO of the Charity Commission whether we should be encouraging white men to step aside to leave space for a different type of leader to be given a chance. Stephenson (the CEO) responded by saying that she didn’t think this was necessary. She suggested that, now the conversation about equality, diversity and inclusion in the charity sector has started, change would happen naturally over time.


As we were hearing that change is coming, on the notepad in front of me, were some of the stats that showed little evidence to support this:

  • 92% of all charity trustees in the UK are white[i]
  • 91% of charity sector employees are white[ii]
  • 3% of people in senior leadership teams are BAME[iii]
  • 64% of charity trustees are male [i]
  • 25% of senior leadership teams are female [iv].

With Karl’s appointment failing to contribute a change to those statistics, we remain the worst sector in the country in terms of racial diversity.


The second interview panel (who recommended Karl’s appointment to the Board) was an all-white panel. The charity’s Board didn’t recognise what they would miss out on by not have a more diverse range of people making recommendations to them at this point. So, if Karl had stepped aside, would it have really made any difference to the statistics above?

The reality is we will never know. But the chances are that, if Karl hadn’t put himself forward, another white man probably would…and he may have been less qualified. Perhaps an organisation that has twenty-five years’ experience of employing a white, male CEOs may need just one more, with an understanding of diversity and inclusion, in order for it to drive the change required to become a truly diverse and inclusive organisation.

I hope that Karl will be that man – and I believe he might be. But in order to truly to deliver on this goal, perhaps he should be willing to move on when he’s delivered the changes that will make it possible for a different type of leader to take the reins?

[i] Charity Commission Taken on trust: awareness and effectiveness of charity trustees in England and Wales (2017)

[ii] NCVO Civil Society Almanac (2018)

[iii] Inclusive boards, Charities: Inclusive Governance (2018)

[iv] Inclusive boards, Charities: Inclusive Governance (2018)

Goals Gone Wild – Women Strategically Helping Women Succeed

You’re strategic about your fundraising. You’re committed to your cause. But are you deeply invested in your career advancement?

If you answered yes, we applaud your dedication. But if the answer to the last question is no, why not? What is holding you back?

For most women discussions around gender equality and pay equity in our sector are difficult ones to have. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Women’s Impact Initiative (WII) recently highlighted a 2017 study demonstrating that gender accounts for a 10% pay gap between male and female fundraisers.   The source of this gap? It’s long been thought it’s because women don’t ask, but a 2018 McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace study is tracking a different reality: women negotiate for raises and promotions as often as men, but they do not always get the same outcomes.

The reason we started Goals Gone Wild was as provocative as the title. As the famous feminist writer Roxanne Gay once wrote, “If you and your friends are in the same field and you can collaborate or help each other, do this without shame. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s okay for women to do it too.”  So that’s exactly what we did.

The group started socially. We were four women who without close ties who came together to teach a fundraising course. What started out as regular meetings to discuss course instruction slowly evolved into an informal networking group. What we came to realize is that we were at varying stages of professional development and had ambitions to grow in our careers. We wondered if other women in our sector felt the same way we did, and if so, how were they planning the next stages of their career advancement? It became an opportunity to lift one-another up and to see more women leading organizations in the non-profit sector in our region.

The model is simple. You spend some time considering the questions of fit and what’s important personally before you set your next three career goals. One that you could achieve right now, one that is slightly out of reach right now and a final goal that would be where you see yourself in 5-10 years. With those three goals in mind, you set out to build a plan that would position you for those changes. You consider the current gaps in your education, experience and relationships to decide what opportunities you need to embrace to be successful. The three-stage process is done independently with check-ins with your group to raise new ideas and solutions.

The process itself is simple and the goal is to push it out beyond our current community by helping other small groups embrace the Goals Gone Wild approach to career planning. We’ve learned along the path that there is some magic that you work to create. If you’re ready to give it a try you need the following:

  • a small group of four (4) to six (6) like-minded women with distinct networks.
  • to create an atmosphere of trust and compassion.
  • to make a commitment to move through the process and support each other in a timely method.

We want this model – or any model – that moves women upward on the career ladder in fundraising and non-profit. It’s important that we see gender equality at the most senior levels of our profession, on our boards, as the speakers at our conferences and the lead consultants in our industry. It’s time.

As stated by feminist G.D. Anderson: “feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”  Help lift each other up and give each other a voice.

Are you interested in learning more about the Goals Gone Wild model?  Reach out and we will help you set up a similar network in your community!


Authors and Goals Gone Wild Founders:

Liz LeClair

In January 2019, Liz LeClair wrote an op-ed for CBC News about the MeToo crisis in the non-profit sector.  Liz brings more than 15 years of experience to her role as the Senior Development Officer at Dalhousie University. She has had the privilege of working and living coast-to-coast in Canada.  She has worked with a variety of non-profits, helping to build strong fundraising programs and extensive experience in managing and leading teams, the development of strategic plans, and a genuine passion for raising funds for important causes in her community.

Twitter: @liz_hallett


Sarah Lyon

Sarah was hired on the spot for the fundraising department at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. Her previous fundraising experience being door to door cookie sales for Girl Guides. Since then she has studied the fundraising greats and earned a CFRE, became the ASNS Director of Philanthropy, spoken at the AFP Congress in Toronto and currently sits on the Association of Fundraising Professionals Canada Foundation for Philanthropy Board.

She is the founder of the Giving Tuesday Canada Civic Movement, Nova Scotia Gives More, just celebrated her ninth year at ASNS and, she continues to this day to sell Girl Guide cookies.

Twitter: @SAPL


Marni Tuttle

Marni Tuttle is invested in non-profit success. She believes philanthropy makes the impossible possible. Marni is a strategic fundraising professional skilled at partnering philanthropists and visionary ideas to make our world a better place. She has what a volunteer once described as 20-year ‘gold-plated’ fundraising resume with leadership roles in education, health care and environmental philanthropy.  She has built a career around progressive roles in annual giving, community engagement, major gift, campaign strategy, planned giving, prospect management and now focuses on helping charities grow. Marni is currently the Director of External Relations for the Nova Scotia SPCA.

Twitter: @marnituttle


Lisa Weatherhead

Lisa is the Regional Executive Director for the Atlantic Region of Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Based in Dartmouth, she and her team work with eight remarkable volunteer chapters and partners across the Region. Her career has led her from corporate sales and sales training to a career in the charitable sector, including roles at Xerox and Dalhousie University Faculties of Dentistry and Health Professions external relations team. She is also one of three Dale Carnegie Business Coaches in Nova Scotia. Lisa graduated from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce. In addition to board roles with Big Brothers Big Sisters and AFP NS, she has been an active volunteer for many years working with various events and organizations in the Halifax area including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Halifax Relay for Life as well as a facilitator for the Fundamentals of Fundraising.

Twitter: @officiallisaw

An anonymous letter from a charity CEO to the Board…

Foreword written by Mandy Johnson

I was recently contacted by the CEO of a small charity. Like so many other small charities, her organisation has been struggling financially – they have not been awarded grants they were expecting and contracts have been cut over time. To address these issues, she requested an extraordinary board meeting.

After the meeting she felt even more concerned than when she went into it. Her Board had interrogated her, rather than helped her find solutions. She stopped feeling part of a team and started feeling like a naughty school girl who needed to be reprimanded. I have heard similar stories so many times from other small charity CEOs.

This week, the same woman was kind enough to share the follow up letter that she wrote to her Board. I have changed a few of the details in order to anonymise the charity (and the CEO) but the bulk of the original letter is included below.

Her words articulate so well things that I know many of us have experienced at a Board meeting. I hope you find the letter therapeutic in the way that I did – it made me feel that I was not alone. It also left me with questions – Why does this happen? How can we change this? I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts…

“Dear Trustees

 First, I want to say thank you. I approached all of you individually and asked you to join the board of this organisation, and without hesitation, you all agreed and that for me was very humbling. You all joined because you strongly believe in the work we are trying to do. It doesn’t matter whether it affects you directly or indirectly; you connect with the people we serve and you gave your time and expertise to want to make a change. For that I will forever be indebted to everyone single person on the board, past and present.

 The journey of this charity has not been easy. It has been a struggle from day one and, with the support from the board, we have been able to weather the storm. We heard things, we have been called out on many things, some justifiable and others out of sheer pettiness, but we stayed focused on why we are here. As an organisation, we have operated on very small budget but have achieved things beyond our wildest dreams. We have capitalised on the passion of both the board and staff to drive a dream that sometimes is even scary for us, but we have also come out strong and determined.

 This is why the event of this week shocked me. I came to the board meeting last week expecting us to find a solution to the financial challenge that we have. I call it a “challenge” because I see it as just another hurdle that we need to find a way of jumping over.

 At last week’s Board meeting, what I needed was support, what I got was reproach.

 There was no acknowledgement of the work the staff and I have put into the charity. There were no words of encouragement whatsoever about where the organisation is currently. There was no concrete plan from the board on how to solve the challenges that we are faced with.

What I heard were people trying to save themselves as fast as possible.

 I have no objection to this, as I think it is important, but I felt I was being thrown under the bus.

 For two weeks, my mental health has taken a deep toll. Leading up to this meeting, I was having severe panic attacks. But I kept working. I kept the staff working.

 To be so unappreciated, was a big slap in the face. I have sacrificed good jobs for this organisation, because I don’t want what happened to me to happen to someone else. I always have the interest of this charity at heart. I strongly believe in the principles upon which it was founded. I will always be passionate about this issue.

Yesterday I sent an email to you all from an expert. I was expecting a response from the board but not a single person replied.

As the CEO of this charity, I face lot of struggles every day. I wish that, once in a while, someone from the board would touch base to ask how we are doing and coping. This rarely happens – some of you have never done it.

This email is not sent to lay blame, far from it. I will never do that. I know none of you have to serve on this board; you do it because you care. The intention of this email is to say that last week’s board meeting should not have gone the way it did. It has achieved very little and put all of us under stress. We are left with a challenge and no solutions. I just feel it should have been better.

I have learnt a lot from this experience and from working with the organisation. I now think it would be better for someone else to take charge. Someone who can do the work even better than I am doing but without the deep, emotional connection that I have.

I will be writing to the board officially to tender my resignation letter.

Once again, thank you for your support, your love, your service and your passion.

 Yours sincerely

A small charity CEO

My sister, my anxiety

by Kate Carroll

On Monday 13th May, Day 1 of Mental Health Awareness Week, my friend Deb Broddle and I launched Nisa’s week-long programme of activities to mark the week and to fundraise for the local Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) inpatient unit being built in Hull to support families in the wider Hull area.

We’ve both recently had quite a tough time, and without discussing it with each other, we both decided to speak very openly to our colleagues about our own mental health challenges. My beloved sister was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in August 2018. After many panics and hospital visits on this rollercoaster in Hell, she is now close to the end of life. 

Living with a loved one with a terminal illness has had a huge impact on my mental health.  As soon as you receive a terminal diagnosis, you begin to grieve. You feel sad for all the things you won’t be able to do. Then the worry sets in. What will happen to… (fill in the blank yourself, many words fit here).

Jayne started a gruelling course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in September 2018. She was so determined to overcome it, and I was so determined to support her every step of the way.  Ever since her diagnosis we’ve both struggled with insomnia. Falling asleep was no problem; staying asleep was a different matter. We had regular text conversations at 2am. One morning she replied from Castle Hill’s cancer ward. She’d been admitted because she ‘didn’t feel right’.

Yet another MRI later, the consultant confirmed our worst fear; the tumour had spread to the other hemisphere of her brain and was now inoperable. Watching her receive this news was awful. She took it with strength and dignity whilst we all fell apart. That’s when I started taking anti-depressants. I know they’re not for everybody, but they’ve certainly helped me. They help me feel like I can cope so that’s a good thing. 

That was a short hospital stay at just two days. A week later I received a teary phone call whilst at work; Jayne had had a seizure on her way to radiotherapy and was laid on a bed in a waiting room. It’s quite amazing how quickly you can get from Nisa HQ to Castle Hill. Nothing prepared me for what met me when I got there. She looked like she was dying, head rolling around, eyes rolling back in her head and didn’t have a clue who we were. I kept asking doctors if she was dying. Nobody said no, they just kept telling me she’s really ill. As if I didn’t know. That’s when my anxiety started, I could feel my chest getting tighter and tighter and the longer I sat there, the harder it was to breathe. 

Having seizures from radiotherapy for brain cancer is apparently common. She stayed in hospital for almost a week. I sat with her every day and went with her for the radiotherapy sessions. I helped her onto the bed, held her hand whilst her head was fastened to the table with the mask, then had to leave whilst they did the treatment. They let me watch on the monitors with them as they could see how anxious I was. It was half my own terror and claustrophobia, and half the terror of watching it being done to her.

After that I started noticing that other things were happening to me. I was getting really forgetful. The insomnia carried on, so I put my forgetfulness down to extreme tiredness. I started to struggle to make decisions, even quite simple ones, feeling I needed constant reassurance from either my team or my boss. Why? This wasn’t me at all.

I felt I had permanent butterflies, my insides were moving too fast, everything was going too fast, and I often felt dizzy. Then insult to injury when I couldn’t sleep anyway, I developed tinnitus. Lying awake hour after hour, night after night led to such panic. Feelings like ‘I have to sleep, I need to get up in three hours’, everything in the middle of the night is far, far worse – irrational in fact. Naturally I’d always drop off around 5am, so my 6.30 alarm woke me with such a panic that I couldn’t come down from. 

I went to see my doctor with a long list. He explained that my body had gone into permanent fight or flight mode. I’m preparing myself for something really awful that’s about to happen. I asked if I will ever be ‘normal’ again, will my memory ever come back? He said of course, once this very stressful period in my life is over. He gave me Beta Blockers to calm anxiety. Again, I know it’s not for everybody, but they really help me. They’re like a comfort blanket. I don’t even take them, but I know I can if I need to!

I have some really bad days at work. My affected memory being one of the worst things, especially in meetings. I have really tough (unkind even) conversations with myself in my own head. “Say something! Anything! People are looking at you!!! Speak!!!!  Anything, just speak!” Words completely leave me. But this brings on incredible panic, fear of looking so foolish and then a ridiculous hot flush. 

You wouldn’t speak to anybody else like that, yet I continually speak to myself like that. Why are we the hardest on ourselves? 

This then brings out the dreaded Impostor Syndrome *. How on earth did I reach this position?! I’m useless, how can my Trustees trust me to lead their charity?! I don’t know anything at all – about anything at all! How can my team expect me to make decisions?! I couldn’t lead my way out of the building sometimes and I can’t even decide what I want on Friday’s breakfast order! 

I decided to be completely honest at work; speaking out about my struggles is the best thing I’ve ever done. When I told my team I was struggling, their first reaction was to ask what they could do to help! They were so kind it instantly put me at ease. I told my boss and Nisa’s HR team. Honestly, what wonderful people I work with. I’ve had such tremendous support that’s made me feel more ‘normal’. 

I’m reassured that everything I’m experiencing is completely normal and usual for anybody affected by anxiety. After Deb and I spoke out on Monday, many colleagues have stopped me in corridors or emailed me to thank me for speaking out. It turns out I’m not alone – in fact, I’m far from it.

My advice to anybody else who is struggling is to confide in somebody. Not everybody will feel as comfortable about being as open as I have been, but I know that telling people has helped me. Now, when I have those overwhelming panics because I can’t remember a word, people understand! They know I’m having a hard time, and that’s ok. 

My colleagues and friends have been my cheerleaders. The days that I’ve driven into work in tears, I’m met with a cuddle and a brew.  Jayne will get poorlier, then die. I know my mental health will suffer more, but I also know that I have the support I need and I’d really encourage everybody else who is struggling to try to do the same.

A huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to my amazing squad of cheerleaders. You know who you are. 

I know it’s ok not to be ok. And I know I wouldn’t be ok without you. 

*Read my wonderful friend, Mandy Johnson’s, brilliant article on Impostor Syndrome.

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn on 17th May 2019 but has been published on with the author’s permission.

My thoughts on a white, male diversity manager

by Kizzy Wardle

I’m not going to lie. When I first heard the news, I rolled my eyes. I have seen some really positive things recently from the Institute of Fundraising (the IOF). I love the change collective stuff and the manifesto. I’m enthused by the increasing conversation in the sector about gender imbalance in senior roles and the lack of ethnic diversity across the board. I’ve been in the sector for a long time and have had many a conversation about diversity and it feels like things might, just might, be starting to move from conversation to action. And so yes, I did sigh and roll my eyes when I found out that the one paid role whose focus is to look at diversity was filled by yet another white male.

Now, for the sake of context here are a few things I’d like you to know about me. I am a mixed-race woman and was raised in the UK. I have fairly light skin and am married to a white guy. I grew up in a very wealthy area, in a council flat. Neither of my parents have any school qualifications, but my aunt did a PHD at Oxford and my brother trained in contemporary dance. I have a four-year-old, white looking, disabled daughter and my dad is bisexual. I’m mixed race, but I’m also mixed in so many other ways having experienced a melting pot of cultures, classes and races. So, I have lived experience of some of the protected characteristics other than race. I know that diversity is not all about race and that true inclusion is, and should be, much wider than that conversation*. But having laid all that out I still can’t help but wonder about the message being sent that what we need to drive the diversity agenda is another white male.

I don’t know the person in the role at all. From what little information I do have it looks like he’s super qualified. The IOF have said he was ‘the best candidate for the job’, which I’m sure is true (there’s a whole blog post in that statement alone; that’s for another day). But, did they try to recruit more diversely? How was the selection panel constituted? Where did they advertise? What qualifications were outlined? Basically: how hard did they try? The premise of the role is that these questions are important for our sector. If the areas in which we are particularly underrepresented at senior levels are disability, race and gender*, it is hardly surprising that this appointment has raised some questions about how hard the IOF are trying. Maybe this has all been discussed and thought about. I would say that now is the perfect time for the IOF to share some of that thinking and model what excellence looks like. And to share how they’re engaging with underrepresented communities. I know that a white man can certainly work in diversity and do an excellent job, but he just might have to try a little harder to overcome the optics and to prove himself. And to that I say: welcome to the club.

*I am also not the first to say that just because I am not white, it doesn’t make me an expert on diversity. But I do think the increasing awareness of the validity of lived experience is an important shift if we are to start including unrepresented communities in the narrative. Also, the reality remains that throughout my career I have been asked to provide opinions, thoughts, strategies and my non white face to represent the diversity angle, so I’m giving myself a pass to have an opinion here.

* The Equality Act covers age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage & civil partnership, and pregnancy & maternity. The IOF Manifesto for Change doesn’t cover anything in relation to age, religion or belief, marriage & civil partnership or pregnancy & maternity.  It addresses disability as follows: ‘The low overall employment rate for disabled people is a society-wide issue, but is one that we should be committed to address within the fundraising community. It covers sex in terms of wanting to ‘aim for a better gender balance between men and women in the fundraising community’ and also states that ‘Women make up 70% of the profession but this is not matched at senior level, and issues of gender discrimination remain’. With regards to gender reassignment and sexual orientation is states ‘In relation to LGBT+, we do not have definitive data, but there is an assumption that there are senior LGBT+ fundraisers, but the fact that they are LGBT+ may not be widely known’.

Charity leadership in the age of populism

by Lucy Caldicott

With populist politicians taking power around the globe in recent years and a rise of extremes in politics, I’ve been thinking a lot about what effective leadership could and should look like at this time.

The divisive and turbulent political backdrop combined with the voluntary sector’s own challenges coping with rising demand for our services, competition for funds, issues of safeguarding, and a critical media landscape can feel overwhelming. But, whilst we can’t control what goes on around us, we do all have choices about how we behave and how we respond. We’re all leaders in our own spheres. Whether we’re young or old, black or white, we are all leaders. Just look at Greta Thunberg, leading the world’s conversation on climate change.

The choices we make are even more important in these fractious times so here are some thoughts.

Firstly, it’s important to be aware that against this challenging backdrop, it’s the more vulnerable among us who will feel even more vulnerable. The very people charities exist to serve. Whether we work in human rights, poverty alleviation, climate change, refugee support, humanitarian relief, we all know that it’s those people already living precarious existences or already facing discrimination who will suffer most from the policies implemented by the Trumps and Bolsanaros of this world.

Populist parties claim to represent the “people” not only against the establishment or elites, but also against immigrants, ethnic, sexual or religious minorities. So look out for the people around you who might need support, ask them what they need, and make sure they know they can count on you.

This requires us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and to remember that while we might feel uncertain and worried about the future, there are always going to be people who feel more uncertain and more worried. Populism undermines the establishment but maybe that gives civil society a unique opportunity to occupy an important role during this time of vacuum of political leadership. Our colleagues in programme teams and service delivery roles can act as positive authority figures and offer alternative support structures. This is what we do every day anyway.

Our organisations are going to continue to be needed more than ever to solve problems and save lives. We must therefore ensure our organisations are fit for the future. Populism, however, beguiles people with easy solutions to difficult problems. Inconvenient facts are dismissed as “Project Fear” by people who say “we’ve had enough of experts”.

It’s important that charities mustn’t pander to this and think very carefully about our messaging so we’re not hoodwinking our supporters by making them believe change is simple, cheap, or quick. This means not relying on short term, narrow thinking but building relationships for the long term and adapting all the time. I would argue it’s worth considering radical transformations in our organisations to ensure they’re as effective as they can be.

In order to help us adapt I am absolutely convinced that we need to be brave enough to hear a wide range of points of view, including those we might not agree with and to do this we need different types of staff working at every level of our organisations. As organisations that exist to serve society, we need to represent society. Over recent years, I’ve done a lot of work on equality, diversity and inclusion in the charity sector, and every piece of evidence shows just how far we’ve got to go before we can claim to be representative.

We also need to ensure that we’re grounded in the reality of the issues that we’re working on. Ideally we should also be aiming for people with personal experience of those issues working at every level of our organisations, including at trustee level, to ensure the solutions we’re providing are the right ones.  

In extraordinary times, ordinary people, each one of us, need to be ready to step up and do extraordinary things. This really is no time to sit on the fence and this is why, as difficult as it has been, I applaud the women who’ve spoken out against wrongdoing in various parts of the charity sector so that we can all learn and do better for the future. It’s been difficult to hear these women’s truths without hearing them we can’t learn and do better.

In this era of populism, we’re going to be busy and we’re going to get tired and frustrated so we’re going to need to look after ourselves and each other. Self-care is hugely important, as is the care and support we can give and offer. Find your support networks. Find nourishing things to do. You’ll find me in the garden whenever I’ve got a spare moment.

Three challenges every charity faces

by Dana Kohava Segal (MInstF)

Big ones. Small ones. Local ones. International ones. Health, community, aid & arts ones. Ones with loads of Boards, and ones with no paid staff.

In all my experiences of working with charities of all shapes & sizes – from MSF to SSF – there are three challenges I’ve come across that each of them faces in one way or another:


You’re not alone in dealing with this challenge. Because the nature of storytelling is an evolutionary one. As a species, we constantly evolve the way we share and receive stories… although some of those evolutions look strikingly like things from our past (hieroglyphics and emojis??? Not that different…).

Every charity I have worked with has had to, at some point, question their story. So if I had to offer some top tips to tackle this challenge, that would be the same for all charities, they would be:

  • Are you actually articulating the problem? By that I mean not about you, the work you do, why you are important… but the story of the problem you are there to change and ultimately end. We’re often so absorbed in the thing we are doing that we forget to communicate why we are doing it. Make this the number one thing you do when you read copy about your charity – ask yourself: has this talked about the problem you are trying to solve?
  • Are you making it human? Big problems can be super abstract. Abstract means we have to engage our thinking brain, and you know what we don’t do when we are busy thinking? TAKE ACTION. If you want supporters to take action, don’t make them overthink about the problem. Make the problem as human as you can – by that I mean simple, and relatable as one story. This great example from Save the Children has applications to so many charities (this also applies to animal charities!!!).
  • Are you making it urgent? Stop reading this blog and take a look at the news. It’s kinda crazy, isn’t it? Global warming, refugee crisis, poverty… it just doesn’t stop. And the thing is, it all needs attention. This is where communicating urgency comes in – you have to explain why someone has to take action NOW, rather than later. Otherwise, as compelling as that grant application is, it will get moved to the next meeting. So make sure you communicate this urgency in relation to the reader – not just you (needing it before the end of the financial year won’t cut it!). It’s important to also say that urgency can also be positive – perhaps it’s an unmissable opportunity you need support for. This can also work well for the right cause.


Again – you’re not alone in this. Because the truth is, that income from individual giving has remained relatively stable for the last 10 years. Even in the USA, the largest fundraising market in the world, although it is growing in terms of cash donated, it actually has less people donating year on year. So the world isn’t getting more charitable, folks…

This means that competition increases to grow your income from those who are willing and able to give. So what can you do? Well – I have a few nuggets of advice:

  • Do less, but better: is more income the only way you’ll be able to solve the problem you need to solve? Or are there some internal changes and efficiencies that could save you money, thereby increasing your income in a different way? We often look outside for solutions, when sometimes, they’re actually inside the charity.
  • Start from where you are: this epic tweet from Rory Green says it all:
  • It’s easier to get someone who cares to give you money, than to get someone who has money to care. Start from the people who care. Your board, your volunteers, your service users – I’m not saying it will be all of them, all of the time… but start with the people who get it, rather than tying yourself in knots trying to attract the attention of Richard Branson.
  • If you’re already doing well at one thing, focus on it: charities often say they need to diversify their income because that’s what others say. Sometimes, they’ll do that at the expense of the thing they do really well, but stopped doing so well at because they took their eye of the ball and got distracted by a new, shiny thing. Don’t be that charity. Focus on your good thing. Do more of that.


If I hear one more person at a training session say “yeah, but what about the people who don’t want to be thanked?” I’m probably gonna turn into that little red swearing emoji. So many charities assume the best when it comes to fundraising, and the worst when it comes to thanking. WHY?! Thanking is the best part… so how do you make it count?

  • Be authentic: like my fellow Great Charity Speaker Nikki Bell articulates in this awesome tweet…

…the best voice to talk in is your own. That’s true for thanking too. Find a way that’s genuine beyond the standard ‘I’m writing to say thank you for your kind donation of….’. My favourite example of late is from the brilliant American political candidate, Beto O’Rourke who sent the most epic, person and genuine thank you email to his supporters for a race that he lost.

  • Roll your R’s: credit to my colleague Philly Graham here, who always reminds me to roll my R’s – Receiving (as in, actually saying you got the gift), Recognising (giving people a personal touch) and Reporting (making sure you explain the outcome / impact of their donation). This can’t be done in one hit, overnight. So plan it out and make sure you’re maintaining that contact over a period of time, to give it an extra boost of goodness.
  • You don’t have to spend loads of money, to make it feel good: My favourite thoughts on the quality of an effective thank you comes from this blog by David Burgess, who talks about making your thank you’s SUPER – Speedy,Unique, Passionate, Engaging and Repeated. We know this is the number one reason people don’t give again… so don’t do all that hard work to get them involved, and then let them slip away from you!