Posts

One of our mentors, Grant Phillips, shares some practical thoughts on how to approach the coming months….

If there’s one certainty in life right now it’s that the future appears full of uncertainty.

So where do we go from here?Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown  on Unsplash

Just before the summer break as we emerged from lockdown, our attention has been focused on the sheer scale of the unforeseen and unwelcome repercussions of the pandemic. The negative implications for cashflow, employee/volunteer safety and wellbeing and numerous other tactical issues have rightly been front of mind for us all in the charitable sector.

With that work well in hand, and as many people return from holidays and children return to school, my concern for us now is to pause and reflect upon the potential impact on our charitable enterprises of not just the pandemic but also the implications of a serious pending recession and the arrival of the economic consequences of Brexit. As leaders and trustees of charities in Oxfordshire, such a “triple whammy” demands our attention.

So, where do we go from here? A few points for us to dwell on:

  1. The magnitude of this change means we need to adopt a mindset that does not seek to reinstate the norms of the past, but to “reimagine the future”. This becomes a positive mindset of invention rather than a daunting task of negativity. “Why not?” rather than “yes but…!” becomes the frame of mind that drives that invention.
  2. With the mindset firmly set, “reimagining the future” of the charity becomes about strategic direction:
    • What is our strategic “direction of travel”?
    • What are other charities doing that needs to be evaluated as part of our strategic deliberations?
    • Does our strategy deliver resilience in the likely event of further “shock”?
    • Do we have a compelling proposition that demonstrates outcomes that add value to those we seek to help?
    • Do we have the right human resources and operational design to deliver that value?
    • Does this differentiate us and thereby attract loyal and sustainable funding?

Whatever the specific strategic deliberations, the starting point is the need for all of us in the Oxfordshire charitable sector to make sure that we build our “reimagined future” as a team who collectively own, energise and commit to that game plan for the betterment of all those that we seek to support in these challenging times.

If you and your team would like some support in doing this with someone who can energise the process, help you to clarify your thoughts and bring some focus to your deliberations so that they can be transformed into a practical way forward, please do get in touch with Charity Mentors Oxfordshire. We are here to help!

You can email us at: info@charitymentors.co.uk

To receive more articles like this to your in-box once every 4 months, register here for the Charity Mentors newsletter:

At the start of lockdown there was a lot of information about mental health and the necessity to look after ourselves. The coming months are likely to be tough but that advice is still relevant and important. We asked a practitioner of yoga and myofascial health and training based in Oxford, Stephanie Ross-Russell, to devise a short ‘at your desk’ workout to help us unwind. No special equipment needed, just enjoy!

To receive the next issue of the Charity Mentors tri-annual newsletter straight to your inbox, register below:

In each issue, we introduce you to one of our mentors by telling you about their experience and giving you their answers to 3 questions, to include their own ‘top time-saving tip’.

Jeremy Swainson

Jeremy Swainson

Initially with Oxfam, for the past 25 years, Jeremy has been an owner and senior executive of a range of consultancy businesses working in the international development aid sector. He has held primary responsibility for a range of functions including human resources, sales, quality assurance and finance. Throughout his career, Jeremy has designed and managed grant making facilities ranging from the provision of Oxfam funding to poor communities through grants to NGOs to support their work to risk sharing funding to the private sector. In recent years, as he has stepped back from management, he has devoted time to mentoring colleagues at all levels in the business. Jeremy’s particular expertise is in strategic leadership and organizational development.


1. What do you feel has given you most satisfaction in your career?
The many opportunities to enable colleagues to learn and grow in an atmosphere that encourages their personal and professional development and not be afraid of failure or lose confidence through disappointment.

2. What do you like to do outside of work?
I play lots of tennis, some golf, spend time in the vegetable patch and try to see the family and friends as much as possible. During lockdown, I have also rediscovered the pleasure of long walks exploring the countryside around Oxford, listening to the birdsong amid the silence and watching the natural world getting on with life regardless.

3. What are your ‘top tips’ to balance competing demands on your time?

I keep an old fashioned handwritten To Do List at my elbow, with the important tasks underlined; and continually add to it. At the beginning of each day, I read through the list to remind myself of what needs to be done. I rewrite and update the list every few days.

Another tip is dealing with emails. We often feel compelled to reply instantly, and perhaps moreso now that we are not meeting face-to-face as often. Yet there are times when hasty replies, especially to emails which annoy me or propose something I disagree with, are not the best idea. I have learned not to respond immediately; hasty replies are often misinterpreted, lead to endless back and forth messages and waste a lot of your valuable time.