Charity is like business but there is a crucial emotional engagement with the cause

Date: 02 Mar 2016


Robert Robson, CEO, Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity says charities need a great cause, solid teamwork and making a difference to strengthen the brand but if he had to choose he says it’s more about getting behaviours right.

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

It’s very like business, but different as there is a crucial emotional engagement with the cause. You need great people around you who really believe in what we are trying to do, absolute focus on beneficiaries, clear direction from a committed trustee board, solid governance and lots of positive energy.

What are your tips for leadership success?

Be honest, share a vision, aim high, admit failures, celebrate successes, have fun, help people develop. One I was given recently is ‘never raise your voice’ which is helpful in a number of ways.

Do you review your services for effectiveness, if so, how often and what methods are used?

Yes we do. We keep providers under regular review and always look for efficiencies through cost reductions or synergies for our group of charities. Peer recommendations, beauty parading and an eye for a deal are all helpful. We also encourage the whole team to have this front of mind. It’s not just a finance responsibility to get the best out of every pound.

Is fundraising the biggest issue?

It’s a team game. We must meet the needs of sailors, marines and their families, serving and veterans through the grants that we make. To do that we have to work out what we need to spend and where, create the stories and then go and find it. In a competitive sector raising every pound is hard work so fundraising gets a laser focus.

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

There is no right order. They all hang together. A great cause, solid teamwork and making a difference will strengthen the brand, generate impact and demonstrate the value of our existence. But if I had to choose I’d say that it’s getting behaviours right.

Who are your role models?

I was warned once by a very wise boss that setting one’s sights too high risked unfair comparisons. But General “Uncle Bill” Slim for his strength of character and resilience in gaining victory with the 14th Army in Burma, and Nelson for his flair, are the public names. Closer to home I look to those who deliver every day with determination and humour and there are lots of those in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

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

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