Trees are twinkling under lights and tinsel. Turkey dinners are being planned and prepped. Family and friends are gathering for the holiday festivities.
Unfortunately, Christmas may not be as wonderful if you are one of the estimated 1.3 million women affected by domestic abuse in the last twelve months. Domestic abuse doesn’t stop just because it is Christmas. For those recovering from the trauma of abuse, it can be a dark and difficult time.
Women staying at The Haven often worry about how they will buy gifts for their child, having fled their own homes with nothing, and children can often feel sad that their Christmas looks very different to that of their classmates at school. For many of the families at The Haven, it is the first Christmas they have spent away from their home and family; making it even more difficult.
At The Haven we try to provide an authentic Christmas experience for the women and children we support. At each of our refuges we create a magical grotto, where Mum’s and children can come to choose gifts to take away and wrap for one another. We encourage lots of festive activities too; from Santa visits, to cookie making.
We also like to provide Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. The most important part is that Mum’s and children have the opportunity to spend quality time together, making happy memories over the festive period as they move forward into a life free from abuse.
On most women’s Christmas list are the common things like perfume or pyjamas but for the women we support their list is often very different; they hope for safety and a new start. It’s something that many are looking for as we start a new decade, but it is particularly important for women and children who have been affected by domestic abuse. The Haven every year tries to make Christmas feel special and magical to every woman and child that asks us for help.
This Christmas is even more poignant; as we move into a new decade, we start to think about what we want from the future. Women and children in The Haven want a future free from domestic abuse and the trauma they have experienced. So, this Christmas as you tuck into your dinner and pull crackers laughing at the terrible jokes with your family and friends – please take a moment to think about the women and children settling in for a Christmas in refuge.
The Haven takes over 1000 helpline calls every month. Just £2 cover the cost of each call from a woman and her children in dire need. This Christmas, can you spare £2 to help ensure support is available for those who’s festive period may not look as bright?
So, politics has gone mad. Injustices are multiplying. Poverty is on the rise and the funds to fight it are tighter than ever. And to cap it all, the reputation of the charity sector has taken some big knocks recently with a string of scandals. All this, and Boris too…
So, how should the serious, responsible charity respond to the challenge?
How about having a bit more fun? Yes, fun. And no, I’m not being flippant.
There’s a growing body of evidence that fun not only makes for happier, healthier employees (obvs!) – and more productive ones too, less likely to get stressed into sickness or look for another job (slightly less obvious) – but, and this is crucial, fun helps charities fulfil their mission even more effectively.
Within reason, the more fun you’re having, the more you’re able to help those causes and people you exist for.
That’s why some of the most effective charities in their field have embraced fun as a core organisational value – alongside more familiar ones such as respect, equality and accountability.
Sean McCallion, head of fundraising at The Back Up Trust, shared with me that he remembers arguing passionately for fun as a value in a heated staff debate some years ago. He won; it’s still there, and, says Sean, has become core to everything Back Up does to support those with life-altering spinal cord injury.
Sustainability NGO, Forum for the Future, was an early pioneer in adopting fun; it’s since changed it to ‘Playful’, but the message is the same – “Fun is good” – as Dr Seuss famously said.
SO WHY DOES FUN WORK?
Fun at work has a whole host of benefits which come together in a beautiful virtuous circle. Here are some:
Top of the list is that fun allows staff to have a laugh and let off steam. This is important for everyone, but even more so when the issues they may be working with are deeply upsetting or difficult. This doesn’t mean taking those issues lightly. Quite the opposite; by lifting staff spirits, it acts as a refresher, helping them tackle those challenges with renewed vigour and optimism. Staff with a smile are a lot more pleasant for clients and colleagues alike than ones with a frown.
When people are having fun, they experience less stress and tend to be happier with a greater sense of well being. Better for them, better for the outfit as a whole.
There’s strong evidence that happier people are more productive people, more engaged with work, more capable of simply getting stuff done. It’s obvious really. If work drains the life out of you, you’re not going to be doing a great job, are you?
Fun builds trust and encourages positive relationships between colleagues, vital for the successful collaboration and problem solving the sector needs.
Creativity and innovative thinking, so important for tackling the tough challenges we face right now, thrive in an atmosphere of play and fun, where people are allowed to experiment rather than be constrained by the idea that there are institutional right and wrong answers.
Having fun helps people to learn more effectively (just think about young children learning through play – it’s true for grown-ups too!)
What’s not to like?
FUN FOR ALL?
‘Fun’ as a core value isn’t right for all charities, I know. It can be seen as frivolous and trite. And most charity workers don’t exactly have fun in their job title. But bringing fun into work doesn’t have to be a big cringe. As a coach and trainer, I support leaders experimenting with new approaches to bring out the best in their staff, and I’ve found that bringing an element of fun into work can often be a surprisingly effective means of doing so.
Here’s how some are going about it:
First up, creating a culture where fun is acceptable, has got to come from the top. Leaders need to be on board. Staff will find their own fun (which is actually the best way to let it develop) but only if there is trust that they won’t be judged or made to feel silly or bad. And a leader who can relax and enjoy some fun – when appropriate – from time to time can do wonders in putting staff at ease.
That said, lowering the barriers to fun, such as tackling poor working conditions and staff conflict, is also key. As Louise Wright, CEO of Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis told me,
“Fun comes out when people are able to get on, when they’re not grappling with silly issues such as office politics, and there is a fair and equitable workplace which allows them to be empowered and facilitated. It’s my job to make sure that happens.”
Planned fun (sports day, bake-offs, ‘bring your dog to work day’) is good. Organic fun that bubbles up from happy, supported staff is even better. Warm chats with colleagues, spontaneous lunches out and birthday celebrations all add up to a ‘fun-positive’ culture.
Fun doesn’t want to feel overly scheduled or formal. You can’t force feed fun! And, please, don’t make anything obligatory. That really gives fun at work a bad name. I still remember Christmas lunches in my early working days at a big non-profit which were hosted by a team leader I couldn’t bear. I can tell you, that was extremely unfun. (Needless to say, I didn’t last long there!)
Make sure fun is inclusive. Gender, cultural and age-related differences mean that what constitutes fun can vary hugely. Lena Staafgard, Chief Operating Officer at Better Cotton Initiative, told me she’d love to start a spoof newsletter, which worked so successfully in her previous workplace, but fears it will fall flat at the more international organisation where the jokes won’t necessarily translate.
Make sure you bring fun into your learning. No boring blah, blah-ing in front of a PowerPoint. When I was invited to run management training at Aspire Charity recently, the brief was very much about making the learning fun so it would stick, but also to encourage participants to see that management itself could be fun. I didn’t go in there banging a drum shouting ‘let’s have fun!” (that would have put some people right off) but through the use of games, funny graphics, and a squeaky green frog, plus warm, honest conversation, we all had a very fun time.
Having said all that, fun really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Fun at work isn’t necessarily complicated or expensive. Look for the tiny things – taking it in turns to join in with #FridayFunDay on Twitter. Breaking for communal tea-time. Small informal celebrations for everyone’s birthday. You name it – small can be very beautiful when it comes to fun.
So, despite the doom and gloom. Despite, or maybe, because of Boris, I shall carry on encouraging fun in the sector and celebrating all that’s playful and light-hearted. I may get some flak for it, but I truly believe that however tough our tasks, however difficult the issues we face, there is always time, and very good reason, to have fun.
Want to play?
At The Royal Star and Garter Homes, fun is highly valued inside its three Homes for veterans and their partners. Caley Eldred, Director of Supporter Engagement, loves that when she goes into one of the Homes she gets to express her fun side.
“Fun makes us who we are. If you aren’t prepared to go into one of our Homes and jump about in a tropical shirt or do the conga then working here is probably not for you. It’s not just in the Homes, where fun is part of the service, that staff have fun.” – Caley Eldred
Encouraged by leadership with a strong understanding of how to nurture a happy, engaged team, there’s lots going on at head office too, both organised and spontaneous, from cake sales to sports days.
“We try to make a positive, fun environment. We do a job that’s centred on difficult things and challenging issues, but we do what we can to always make that pleasant.” – Caley Eldred
Katie Duckworth is a coach, trainer, speaker and writer helping leaders with purpose and their teams to change the world and have fun at the same time. She is the founder of informal networking and support group #LeadersWhoBrunch.
The Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention is the largest fundraising conference in Europe and the biggest outside the US, regularly attracting over 2,500 attendees. It’s been a dream of mine to speak there for many years. But for a long time, I thought I didn’t have anything to say. Turns out I was wrong.
AM I REALLY GOOD ENOUGH?
I have had lots of experience of public speaking. From media interviews to golf days to black tie galas, I have no fear of getting up in front of people and talking. But I’ve always had a bit of impostor syndrome about speaking somewhere as prestigious as the National Convention, thinking I didn’t have a big enough project to speak about or didn’t have that undefinable “guru” factor. In addition to that, the charity I work for is quite small and new compared to some of the organisations represented at the National Convention. Target Ovarian Cancer was founded eleven years ago and we turnover just over £2.5million a year.
But we are an organisation with huge ambitions – our vision is to double ovarian cancer survival by 2050.
INSPIRED BY WOMEN WITH CANCER
Last year I had the privilege of working on Target Ovarian Cancer’s first-ever integrated campaign. “It’s time to TAKE OVAR” centred on women with ovarian cancer, researchers and GPs – making them more visible and giving them space to have their voices heard. Every image and came quote came from someone the charity has a direct relationship with. It helped me to see the importance of women taking up space, asserting themselves, being heard, and ultimately using their voice to help change the future for others. It was the obvious choice for us to present on…especially as it achieved such great results.
IT WAS A GAME-CHANGER
The campaign has been a game-changer for Target Ovarian Cancer, bringing in thousands of engaged new supporters. GDPR came in halfway through the campaign and since then we’ve more than doubled the number of people we can contact. The campaign has unlocked hundreds of thousands in pro bono support, and we’ve seen a 30 per cent increase in our digital reach.
SHAKING OFF IMPOSTOR SYNDROME
So, this year I really felt I had a reason to take over the stage – I’m really proud of the “TAKE OVAR” campaign and everything it’s doing to change the future for women with ovarian cancer. But really I should have felt that all along. That’s part of what impostor syndrome does. Shaking it off means becoming more self-assured, more confident in your assertions and in the work you’re doing. I want to encourage all women and non-binary people who may be thinking, as I did, that they have nothing to share. You do. Here are some of my tales of preparing for this speech to help you stage your own “TAKE OVAR”.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
My colleague, Alexandra Holden, co-presented with me. We supported each other through the whole process. Having another woman and incredible charity leader alongside me gave me the boost I needed.
PREPARATION IS KEY
We spent days preparing the slides, organising our thinking and practising our delivery. Preparation is key – it will help keep your nerves under control. People notice if you haven’t practised, and it made me feel more confident too. We were lucky to be offered some speaker training with the Tony Elischer Foundation, and followed that up by practising in front of members of our teams to get their feedback.
KEEPING NERVES UNDER CONTROL
I barely slept the night before and on the day struggled to concentrate before our session. We had 45 minutes to present and answer questions, so our script was prepped and ready to go in large font so we could refer to it easily. We also made sure to visit the room before our session – things felt more comfortable once we knew the lay of the land.
WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE ON STAGE
All the things you think you’ll be conscious of, you’re really not, when you get going. Although we had the notes in front of us I hardly read them. This gave me time to focus on my breathing, body language and intonation. I tried to stand tall with my shoulders back and I caught the eyes of people as I was speaking. Having practised, I knew it didn’t matter if I lost my place in the notes, because I knew by heart where I would be on the page. Everyone in the room looked interested and there were faces I recognised, which definitely helped.
ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE
After we had done a final Q&A session, plenty of people came over for a chat, which was a huge boost. We’ve been asked to speak again by other organisations and we had the most amazing feedback on social media. But my favourite moment was the enthusiastic Convention Volunteer who came to say ours was by far the best presentation they had seen.
BREATHE IT ALL IN
The chance to celebrate and share successes, learning and knowledge whilst practising your presentation skills is important for our core motivation and personal development. When I looked at all the tweets of photos of our presentation I felt proud of what we had achieved, and that all the energy that went into the TAKE OVAR campaign is now having a ripple effect, inspiring other fundraisers to raise more for the causes they’re passionate about. It’s also given us a new network of contacts, leading to new conversations and new inspiration.
Speaking in public is a time to grow your personal brand, talk about something you know and love, and share what motivates you with your peers. Remember everyone in the room will be willing you on. It’s your time to stand up, TAKE OVAR and be heard.
Susan Booth is the director of development at Target Ovarian Cancer. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Hearing feedback is hard. It’s challenging to hear what other people think about our work, the way we operate or our ideas. But feedback fuels change. It super powers creativity and speeds up impact. Yes, it can be uncomfortable at times. But it keeps us accountable to the people we serve.
The third sector already knows transparency is important, particularly for building donor confidence. Organisations can use transparency to improve trust with staff. They can also use it to create more inclusive organisations. But this only works with a commitment to openness.
It’s time for charity leaders to harness this superpower for all aspects of charity business. To do it successfully, charities should aim to create an open and transparent culture that embraces giving feedback, receiving feedback, and making it part of the organisation’s culture.
Listening is our only option
We now live in a world that simply won’t tolerate products that don’t suit our specific needs.
Tales of Blockbusters and Kodak are frequently used to remind us that even household names cannot rely on their legacy. They must deliver products customers want.
There are also indications younger people expect to be able to see what’s going on inside organisations before joining. In a survey by PwC of millennials in the workplace, 76% of those in the financial services sector said they considered the employer’s record on equality and diversity when accepting their current role.
The technology is there. It’s only a matter of time before users, supporters, staff and volunteers give up on established charities to set up their own campaigns, movements and networks. If charities don’t become more inclusive, they risk becoming redundant.
How to do it: lessons from a bank
Like a conversation, open cultures need someone to listen and ideally act on the feedback. One way to show you’re listening to be honest about what you’ve heard.
The fastest growing companies are putting transparency at the heart of their business. Take the digital challenger bank Monzo which has seen phenomenal growth recently. In 2016, it set the record for quickest crowd-funding campaign in history when it raised £1m in 96 seconds on Crowdcube.
Monzo differs from traditional banks because it openly expresses the relationship it has with its users. It prides itself on transparency and community, aiming to meet the needs of the Monzo tribe in ways traditional banks have failed to do for so long. Referencing its community, Monzo, says:
Monzo has published a lot on its internal culture. The bank regularly publishes data on how representative and diverse it is internally, looking at things like gender identity, ethnicity, age, disability, caring responsibilities, education, religion, sexual orientation and more. It has also shown its progress over the years and laid out an action plan.
The bank also uses lots of techniques to prioritise transparency. For example, meetings are open to everyone, even if you just want to listen. The organisation also has email transparency, which means by default, every email that is sent can be read by anyone in the company. They also give everyone access to documents and encourage everyone to question the decisions made in governance meetings with the board of directors and the executive committee.
The result: Monzo isn’t just telling you it’s open and honest, it’s being open and honest. Its rapid growth is testament to the faith the community place in it. But ultimately, Monzo is a bank, not a campaign or movement. So if a bank can create a culture of openness and honesty, a charity certainly can.
Tips for building feedback-friendly organisations
There are a lot of examples of how to make your organisation more open. Here are some easy reads:
FUD: The company also uses “all hands” meetings to discuss FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). As Alex puts it,
“The idea behind this, is that it prevents problems from staying hidden in one small part of the company, and makes sure everyone’s thinking about how to solve the problems we have.”
Embracing feedback could radically change your organisation. It could mean you recruit more diversely, get closer to your audience’s needs and build trust with all aspects of your organisation. Or you could wait for something like Monzo to swoop in and leave you obsolete.
Susheila Juggapah is a digital professional and former editor at CharityComms, the membership network for charity communicators. She writes about diversity and representation in the third sector.
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:
CHALLENGE ONE: STORY TELLING
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.
CHALLENGE TWO: GROWING THEIR FUNDRAISING INCOME
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.
CHALLENGE THREE: THANKING DONORS
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!
One of my proudest moments as a fundraiser is a partnership I account managed with a large house-building company. They had made a £10,000 donation and chosen my charity as one of six partners. 18-months later they had raised nearly £200,000 and made a £113,000 donation towards a strategic partnership.
STEP ONE: HAVE
I knew this partnership had the makings of something transformational
for my organisation. My key contact shared this belief but recognised that the
company was not ready to embrace it. Together, we had to maintain business as
usual whilst drip-feeding the potential we both saw. I kept my vision for the
partnership at the forefront and developed my comms around this.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Before starting a conversation with partner have a vision for what it could look like. Ask yourself, “Where are we now? Where do I want to be?”
UNDERSTAND THEIR PREFERRENCES
Early on I made sure I got to know my key contact within the
company. She was based up in Scotland; face to face meetings were difficult. She
would always call me, rather than email. I learnt that if I wanted her backing,
I should first pick up the phone and follow up discussion points in writing.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Your counterpart’s preferred method of contact is a vital feature of stewardship. Often it’ll become clear to you and you can follow their lead.
STEP THREE: COMMUNICATION
If there was a new edition of our supporter magazine, an article
in the news about our work, or something from the wider sector that was
relevant, I would share this with the CSR committee.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Partners should be made to feel like activists, not cash cows. Keep your partner up to date with your charity’s news.
STEP FOUR: MAKE
During winter, teams from the company participated in a “sock
drive”. I responded to each office coordinator with a handwritten thank you
card. It took about 90 minutes and gave me a cramped hand but I received lots
of positive responses – I had engaged more staff across the organisation.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Never underestimate the value of a handwritten letter. Never be too busy to send a heartfelt, handwritten note.
STEP FIVE: REWARD
I invited my key contact along to a prestigious event as a thank you for her hard work. She told me it genuinely made her feel valued as a major component in the success of the partnership.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Understanding what recognition your contact wants is vital to a fruitful relationship.
STEP SIX: BE HONEST
During the partnership my organisation had some high-profile bad
press. Despite my nervousness, I picked up the phone to inform my key contact
of the news. She thanked me for my honesty and advance warning and reassured me
that, as a large company, they were not unfamiliar with bad press. She confirmed
their continued support and belief in our work. Yes, it was a difficult
conversation to have, but people don’t like to be caught unawares and if they
had found out another way, I could have lost her trust.
KEY TAKEAWAY: What do you do when the challenge is against your organisation and is resulting in bad press? Tell the truth.
STEP SEVEN: THINK
We were given the opportunity to present an organisational
challenge to a team of graduates for a project. I offered support and ideas to
their project on topics that were not the focus of my role. You may wonder why
I supported this with such gusto, here’s why…
Within six months I had a group of passionate advocates spread
across the company. They were raising money, volunteering their time, and encouraging
colleagues to engage with the partnership. I had also forged a relationship
with the Group Director of HR – a vital decision maker on the CSR committee.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Consider long-term return on investment. Something that may seem like unnecessary work for you could secure further opportunities for success.
STEP EIGHT: DON’T
The company wanted to encourage challenge events for employee
fundraising. This seemed cumbersome and resource heavy…it also wouldn’t sit
within my budget…but I could see the bigger picture. Yes, that employee’s
abseil fundraising will fall into the “Events Team’s pot” rather than Corporate,
but they also became more engaged in partnership activity and influenced their
colleagues to do the same. It created better outcomes for my target as well as
for our beneficiaries.
KEY TAKEAWAY: The biggest mistake we can make as fundraisers is to work in silos. All donors, including corporates, are not giving to your team, they’re giving to your beneficiaries.
STEP NINE: COLLABORATE
I arranged charity site visits and invited frontline colleagues to
meetings, pitches and events. It was a vital part of bringing my vision for the
partnership alive. Without the support of my colleagues I would not have been
able to demonstrate the impact the company could have. I relied on them to get
the information I needed for reports and proposals. Similarly, the finance team
were a vital component when I needed to show the expenditure of our partner’s
KEY TAKEAWAY: Recognise that internal
stakeholders are as important as your external ones. It will build trust and
respect with your external stakeholders.
THE HAPPY ENDING
When the time came, I pitched the idea for the company to support
us by expanding a service that could have a positive impact in one of their own
challenges. I took along the head of the service and a client who shared his
experience (the real hero of this story). They agreed to fund the expansion and
support the project in its existing form. It was a massive win for the partnership, but
also confirmed my belief of what was possible. I also believe that, if you
follow the steps above, you could do it too.
morning I woke up to the news that fewer
than half the UK’s biggest employers have succeeded in narrowing
their gender pay gap. This is deeply worrying. Meanwhile Ruby
Bayley-Pratt, fundraising policy and research manager at the British
Red Cross, wrote an
excellent piece recently for Civil Society about sexual
harassment in the sector, leading to the Institute of Fundraising
setting up a taskforce to tackle the issue. These stories show that
initiatives such as Mandy Johnson’s wonderful Great Charity
Speakers are needed now more than ever.
Being a woman in 2019
comes with many challenges. But I’m very proud to be a female
leader in the sector.
Like every woman who
finds herself in a leadership position, it hasn’t been an easy
journey. I’ve worked with many women and men who’ve been
supportive. They have encouraged, supported, and challenged me along
the way. However, I’ve had moments when it’s been tough.
Thankfully this has happened rarely, but earlier in my career I’ve
been talked over in meetings and had reports I’d written explained
to me. I’ve spent over a decade as a charity trustee and I remember
coming home from a meeting some years ago feeling disheartened as the
only woman on the board I then sat on. I could name many more times
when I felt that it was harder to be a woman than a man.
As I progressed up the
career ladder, I spoke to many female leaders I admired in and
outside of the sector. And what I realised is that I had to celebrate
what set me apart, which was particularly important to me as a BAME
woman. In short, I had to change my mindset.
Soon after I started my
first job many years ago, I asked a colleague how I could develop my
gravitas and presence. My colleague gave me one of the best pieces of
advice I’ve ever had. She said, “They will listen to you because
you are different.” I really do believe that if you are different
it can be powerful and disarming when you speak up. It’s authentic
and makes people stop and listen.
Part of my job now is
to go in and have difficult conversations with senior leaders about
the future of their organisations, and what is and isn’t working.
If I looked like the people I spoke to they might bristle at a tough
message. As a BAME woman I have an alternative perspective on things
and that can help charities think differently about what they do, but
also gives me a licence to challenge and to speak truth to power.
Once I started to think like that I felt liberated.
As a woman, there are
always going to be people who judge you, including how you look. But
you can choose how much time you give to other people’s opinions.
In the early years of my career I wore navy pinstriped trouser suits
to my job working in a City law firm, worrying a lot about whether I
fitted in. The rules have changed now, and so have I. I’ve always
loved colourful clothes, bold prints and dresses and high heels.
That’s just who I am. If it makes you feel confident and
comfortable, wear it.
At the social
enterprise I run, I’m very proud that 92% of my team are women. I
look out for other women in the sector because it’s the women who
came before me who helped me achieve what I have today.
That’s why we need to see more women speaking at conferences and represented in leadership roles. And it’s exactly why we must keep challenging the sector and ourselves if we don’t see the change we want. Because if we don’t, who will?