Some of our biggest successes are achieved only after years of persistence

Date: 02 Mar 2016


David Nussbaum, CEO, WWF UK says managing dominant founders can be an issue because charities are started by entrepreneurial people who don’t always take kindly to proper governance.

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

Inspiring mission; clear strategy; effective management; diverse income streams; stronggovernance and financial management; capable and committed staff;and the catalyst to get all those components to create impact.

What are your tips for leadership success?

Develop a top team of excellent individuals with a strong sense of shared purpose; keep focused on implementing the strategy; maintain good relationships across the range of key stakeholders; communicate more than you think you need toand get support to do so.

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

WWF’s vision is a world with a future where people and nature thrive, and we work to safeguard the natural world so that vision can be realised. We’re notprimarily a service provider, but we do review the specific outcomes or ‘big wins’ as we call them, which our strategy is designed to deliver. We use bespoke scorecards to track progress against milestones, but we also remember that some of our biggest successes are achieved only after many years of persistence, and are often a result of collaboration with others.

Is fund raising the biggest issue?

For a charity, funds are a means to deliver the mission, not a principal measure of performance or success. But without funding, the mission can’t be delivered. There are often tensions between maximising income this year, versus growing income for future years which might mean investing in legacy marketing, for example. Some recent behaviour in the sector has rightly put the spotlight on charity fundraising, and changes will be made. But those who benefit from charity fund-raising are primarily those whom the charity seeks to help. I hope the changes now being made won’t jeopardise the improvements in their lives which charities’ work makes possible.

What mistakes are made by charities that could easily be rectified?

Charities, like other organisations, make mistakes; some of them can be rectified; when it’s easy to do so, it often will already have been dealt with. But I’ll highlight a couple of issues which are perhaps more prevalent in the charity sector. Managing dominant founders: many charities are started by entrepreneurial people who don’t always take kindly to proper governance; and there are still cases where the easiest way to become a member of the trustee Board is to be a friend of the chairman.

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

The primary purpose of a charity is to create impact with its work. This should be done ethically and mostly, there’s no conflict between the two. Occasionally, unethical behaviour could, at least in the short term, create more impact than operating ethically; that’s when a seemingly real dilemma or perhaps we should call it a temptation, could arise. Good brands are enhanced by ethics being at their heart. Some charities, like WWF, have well-established and well-known public brands; others are more behind the scenes but do vital and excellent work. Developing a public brand should be a means to achieving the charity’s goals, over the long term, and if done successfully can help sustain the results.

Who are your role models?

Like my late Dad, most of the people I look to as examples are not publicly well-known, and though I’ve learned a lot from CEOs I’ve worked for and alongside, most are not CEOs.

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

back to news