Charity leaders need “independence and a degree of bloody mindedness”

Date: 02 Mar 2016

Bumblebee Design

Henny Braund, CEO, Anthony Nolan, a charity that saves the lives of people with blood cancer, says fundraising is key to every charity’s survival but it needs a modern approach which includes an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative use of digital technology. 

What are the basics that need to be in place to run a charity well?

Firstly, the beneficiary must be at the heart of everything that a charity does. At Anthony Nolan, our vision is to save and improve the lives of everyone in need of a stem cell transplant. Everything we do is driven by that, and comes down to the impact it will have on patients’ lives. Secondly, to get it right for beneficiaries, you also have to get it right for staff and volunteers, by engaging them in the narrative of the charity, celebrating their successes, recruiting outstanding individuals and inspiring them to deliver the best possible impact.

What are your tips for leadership success?

A leader must have a clear vision of where they want the organisation to get to, and the ability to engage people to share this vision. That requires emotional intelligence and a strong sense of self-awareness, so that you can get your message across effectively, know your strengths, learn from mistakes and recognise when you will need support. “I also think a good leader must be naturally curious. It’s not enough just to be able to talk about the lives of your beneficiaries, you need to understand the causes of why they are in the place they are in, whether those causes are scientific, social or economic. That will inspire a culture of curiosity within the organisation so that staff always seek to improve their knowledge and understanding of the cause.“Finally I think a leader needs to be slightly independent in their personality, with a degree of bloody-mindedness. As a leader, there will always be lots of people telling you what to do and how to do it. The challenge is to genuinely listen to feedback but also to know when to stand your ground.

Is fundraising the biggest issue?

Fundraising is key to every charity’s survival, and to me the most interesting issue in fundraising is to look at how it is evolving. Fundraising is changing – it is moving away from transactional processes, and becoming very much about building longer term, personal relationships with those who support your charity. These relationships are central to our approach at Anthony Nolan. As well as relationships, an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative use of digital technology will define the successful fundraising charities in the future.

Which matters most? A good brand, creating impact with your charities work or ethics?

Brand, impact and ethics are intrinsically linked.  As a charity, we are here to make impact but it has to be done ethically – how we do things is as important as what we do. To make an impact through raising funds and awareness, a charity needs a strong and trusted brand, and it can only create that trust by acting in an ethical way.

Who are your role models?

My role model is Sheila McKechnie OBE, the former chief executive of Shelter and of the Consumers’ Association, who died from breast cancer in 2004. “She described herself as a ‘fully paid up member of the awkward squad’ and was brave, principled and was never afraid to speak out on issues and injustices. So many people lose their principles when they get to power, but Sheila unfailingly stuck to her values and never lost her integrity. She combined this authenticity with a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve, and to me that is incredibly inspiring.

Citywealth top ten charity CEO’s 2016

Chosen for their gravitas, impact, leadership, fiscal competence, brand and ethics.

Paul Breckell, CEO, Action on Hearing Loss

Henny Braund, CEO, Anthony Nolan

Claire Horton, CEO, Battersea Cats and Dogs

Gillian Guy, CEO, Citizens’ Advice

Rob Williamson, CEO, Community Foundation, Tyne and Wear 

Debra Allcock Tyler, CEO, DSC -Directory of Social Change

Petra Ingram, CEO, The Brooke

Robert Robson, CEO, The Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity

Simon Hopkins, CEO, Turn2us

David Nussbaum, CEO, WWF UK

Also recommended…

Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind