Essential Trustee – What do you expect from your charity leadership?


26 October 2020

The demands facing charities are high at the best of times, but in recent months the entire sector has been under considerable strain as a result of the pandemic and consequential lockdown measures.

Many charities have been severely restricted in fund raising efforts, have had to furlough staff and have found that volunteer numbers have fallen. At the same time the sector has had to adjust and adapt to the ever-changing landscape within which they operate, never sure of quite what is ‘around the corner’.

Now more than ever, an effective leader who can drive change, motivate a team and advance charitable activities is critical. The charity sector needs leaders who can be decisive, brilliant communicators and who are able to ‘sell their charity’ effectively to all stakeholders.

Earlier this year Oxfam announced a restructuring of its senior leadership team and at the same time announced a new post of Chief Finance Officer. Given the well-documented challenges that have faced Oxfam in recent years, these recent announcements have been somewhat in the spotlight. When looking to fill this new role, Oxfam’s Chief Executive commented: "We are looking for someone who can embody the values and aspirations that we stand for, someone who has technical skills but importantly is also an inclusive, accountable and empowering leader."

For Oxfam, there is no doubt that when interviewing and assessing candidates for the role, the prevailing political and social circumstances will have been very much in mind, with the successful candidate expected to demonstrate the necessary skills to be resilient and effective in the current challenging times. However, not all charities will have the opportunity to create new leadership roles in order to acquire the skills needed to ride out the storm. Instead, many charities need to look at how to invest in the leadership skills of their existing senior executive team.

Whether in the private, public or third sector leaders are often in a lonely place, especially in small organisations, as there are few people they can confide in to discuss challenging issues. Whilst workshops and development programmes are helpful, they are not the complete solution. We learn by doing, by listening to others who face similar issues and by being brave enough to make mistakes.

At Ella Forums we provide a safe learning environment where charity leaders can share their challenges and listen to the views and experiences of others who often have faced similar situations. In addition we offer brilliant speakers on a wide range of relevant topics every month. and mentoring from the Ella Forum chair on request.

For more information about Ella Forums and to join a complimentary speaker session please visit the Ella Forums website.

This guest article was written by Ella Forum's Danny Kalman and is from the winter 2020 issue of The Essential Trustee, our newsletter written for charity trustees and senior management. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact Liz Stevens or another member of Birketts' Employment Law team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at October 2020.