Pick of the Month – March 2024

4 March 2024 | By Lucy Pratt

March's Pick of the Month sees individuals from a diverse range of charitable areas – from youth engagement to regional theatre! We're delighted to be able to learn from their varied experience... there are some brilliant pearls of wisdom to be found in this month's piece!


Trustee of the Month – Jonathan Mayes, National Children’s Orchestra

The National Children's Orchestra (NCO) is a prestigious organisation dedicated to nurturing and developing young musical talent in the United Kingdom. It provides orchestral training and performance opportunities for children aged 7 to 14 who demonstrate exceptional musical ability and potential. Through its activities, the NCO aims to inspire and empower young musicians, fostering a lifelong love of music and supporting the next generation of orchestral performers.

Jonathan began by reflecting on his trustee journey:

“Having worked in the orchestral sector for most of my career, I was keen to find a trustee role that linked to my professional experience but that also took me into slightly new territory (in my case, working with young people).  I have now been a trustee for the National Children’s Orchestra (NCO) for five years!”


 Jonathan went on to tell us about what he finds inspiring about NCO:

“At its core, the NCO is a charity that gives a creative voice to children and this is massively inspiring to see in action. The team plan every experience carefully, making sure each child can grow their musicianship and creativity and, as trustees, we are driven to support the organisation in prompting sector change. Although there is a long way to go until the music sector accomplishes meaningful societal representation, I can confidently say the work of NCO is positively contributing to this progress. This includes work we have done internally, diversifying our board of trustees to make sure we are more representative of society.”


When discussing some of his favourite aspects of the role, Jonathan said:

“Given that I’ve been with the NCO for a while now, the real joy comes from seeing the realisation of long-term plans, based on decisions made at board meetings, sometimes years in advance. That long-range overview of an organisation’s operations feels like a unique part of being a trustee.  I’m also very lucky to have got to know some amazing and inspiring people throughout my time with the NCO.”


However, the role is not without challenges. On this, Jonathan said:

“Finding time to do justice to the great work that the NCO team do is always a challenge. Taking on the responsibility of trusteeship means sometimes choosing to sit and read (and really digest) board papers and publications when there are other pressures, priorities, or opportunities.  For me, the reading often takes place relatively late in the day after the kids are in bed and I’d rather be watching a boxset on tv. I therefore have to remind myself of just how important it is that I build a really solid understanding of the organisation and the implications of the decisions we make as a board. It’s not hard to stay motivated when I remember just how impactful the work is.”


To end, Jonathan offered some advice to aspiring trustees:

“The most critical thing is to find a charity about which you’re passionate: you’ll be much more motivated to read the board papers and show up for meetings if you care deeply about what the organisation does. Also, if you’re thinking that you’re not experienced enough, confident enough or ‘important’ enough to be a trustee, then you’re probably an ideal candidate! Being a trustee is also one of the best things you can do in terms of career development as you’ll be learning ‘on the job’, particularly from your fellow board members who will bring a wealth of insight and perspectives.”


Keep up to date with NCO’s work on Twitter @ncogb or visit their website.


Social Entrepreneur of the Month – Zakia Moulaoui Guery, Invisible Cities

Zakia Moulaoui Guery is the Founder and CEO of Invisible Cities, a social enterprise which works with people affected by homelessness and trains them to give walking tours of their cities. The high-quality training provided empowers the guides, allowing them to create and deliver tours which highlight monuments, people and places they have chosen themselves. Through the tours, Invisible Cities raises awareness of homelessness and aims to tackle the stigmas and perceptions that exist around it. Originally founded in Edinburgh, Invisible Cities has since spread across the UK, establishing itself in Manchester, Glasgow, and York.


Zakia began by talking to us about the Inspiration for Invisible Cities:

“My previous work with the Homeless World Cup took me around the world and taught me a lot about homelessness and its root causes. The inspiration for Invisible Cities came from this work and, in particular, a visit to Shedia in Greece to work with a street newspaper. Whilst I was there, the team and I discussed the possibility of the vendors giving walking tours of the city and I immediately saw how this model could be brought to Scotland, where I am now based. This experience marked the birth of Invisible Cities.”


When asked about the challenges she has faced, Zakia replied that: 

“The biggest challenge is supporting and working with people who have complex challenges. Our trainees and guides are eager to work but still experience things like addiction and struggles with their mental health, so trying to provide a work environment that is supportive but also professional can be challenging. 

Ultimately people who experience homelessness are more likely to be ill, to experience extreme/violent situations or to die prematurely and sometimes this applies to our guides too, which can be difficult to handle.” 


Despite the challenges, Zakia says that her role and work is hugely rewarding:

“The best part is always to see trainees and guides thrive and move forward with their lives. We have had people go back to university, reunite with family, or find employment in other organisations. It is hugely satisfying to see someone transform their own life.”


The conversation finished with some advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs:

“My advice would be to take challenges one at a time and one day at a time and believe in the small things!”


To find out more about Invisible Cities, follow the organisation on Twitter or visit their website


Charity Leader of the Month – Jordan Ignatius, Reaching Higher

Croydon-based charity Reaching Higher has been running formally since 2010. Reaching Higher is a community-led organisation with a goal to “challenge young people to be leaders of their own lives.” The charity’s programme of activities engages young people in South Norwood (where levels of social deprivation far exceed national averages) through mentoring programmes (group & individual); sports and wellbeing activities; performing arts groups; life skills and employability workshops; and residential youth camps and summer schemes. Jordan Ignatius, a former beneficiary of the charity, is now Reaching Higher’s Managing Director. 


Jordan explained his role and responsibilities at Reaching Higher: 

“Before I was appointed Managing Director, my role in operations was really about trying to hone in on the ‘how’. Now, it’s about leadership and steering the vision of the charity. I think about what we’re doing well, improvement areas and opportunities for growth – short-term and long-term. I’m always considering how we can bring the vision that we’re aspiring for to life, and embed that in our day-to-day work. It’s important to me to secure the future sustainability of the charity, so that whatever we’re doing now has a life beyond the next six months or year, for example, and really build a legacy.”


He offered advice for prospective leaders: 

“Ensure that within your team, you have systems that can constructively critique you and your work. It’s how we learn, so it’s crucial to create pathways for ongoing feedback. I don’t think I can only learn from our executive or senior management team; I can also learn from our youth board or any young person who walks through the door. I really mean that! I go out of my way to collect feedback – good, bad and ugly! Primarily, I want the bad and ugly, because it’s the only way we can get better. Seeking feedback in this way provides us with a wider lens of options and possible solutions. Use the power of the collective.”


Considering the voluntary and community sector (VCS), Jordan outlined some of the main challenges we currently face: 

“The VCS sector needs to improve its level of professionalism; there’s a call for VCS to raise its standards, not cut corners and do things properly. We must believe in the value and quality of our services and be resilient. 

Additionally, some of our societal systems inadvertently place young people into difficulty, it’s a huge issue. The recent campaign ‘Don’t Stop Your Future’ with Idris Elba was powerful, but it shouldn’t take a well-recognised celebrity to kick up a fuss for these kinds of things to change. We have to work towards systemic change and consider how we can improve these systems.”


Learn more about Reaching Higher’s work on Twitter and online.



Fellow of the Month – Laura Winson, Derby Theatre

Laura Winson is Head of Development at Derby Theatre, leading the organisation’s fundraising strategy & delivery as part of the Senior Management Team. Derby Theatre operates a unique Learning Theatre model and delivers strongly against civic agenda, with strategic cultural partnerships across the city.  Previously, she was part of the fundraising team at Sheffield Theatres, leading on corporate fundraising, campaigns and the annual gala. 


Laura told us about her current position at Derby Theatres:

“I joined Derby Theatre as Head of Development in September 2022, as I felt ready to take on a more senior role and I have fully embraced the opportunities and challenges! 

 Derby Theatre is a leading producing venue and operates a unique learning theatre model; this means that fundraising is embedded across the organisation, supporting specific projects and core activities. I am responsible for developing and delivering the organisation's fundraising strategy, working with an ambitious budget and fundraising across all key disciplines.  A key aim is diversifying our fundraising income which is currently focused on trusts and foundations.” 


Laura highlighted the importance of diversified income streams and the opportunities for Derby Theatres to develop in this area: 

“It is important to recognise the new and extreme challenges of the last few years, both for the sector and for people in general. We saw a huge shift to reactive fundraising, which is difficult to move away from given the cost-of-living crisis and rising costs faced by everyone.  

An opportunity for Derby Theatre is to look at ways to diversify funding and develop fresh messages and new approaches. Currently, the organisation has a focus on trusts and foundations and whilst this is still vital, there is scope to develop a corporate offer.  Derby has a thriving business community and we have the opportunity to align our fundraising messaging with the Learning Theatre model, knowing that wellbeing, CSR and giving that ‘makes a difference’ are higher on corporate agendas.” 


Laura explained what she hopes to gain from being an Arts Fundraising Professional Fellow:

“I am really excited about building a network of peers and sharing experiences and support. Since taking on a senior role, I have struggled with my self-confidence, and I need to find a way to build my own validation. I think being part of the cohort will help me with this in terms of shared experience and understanding that the same issues are affecting organisations across the sector.  

Since being in the Head of Development role, I have recognised the value of making time for strategic thinking and the fellowship offers an opportunity to take time away from the day-to-day, develop skills and a wider understanding of the fundraising landscape that will help me to develop Derby Theatre’s fundraising more strategically.”  


She expressed optimism at the changes beginning to occur across the arts and culture sector:

“I think change is already happening in terms of what people and organisations want to fund, and placing the communities and people who will benefit directly from the funds raised at the forefront is important. Giving a platform to those voices and enabling communities to experience the arts in a way that is timely and relevant to them will allow the sector to grow, attitudes to shift and perceptions to change.”


Explore the work of Derby Theatre online and on Twitter

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30th April, 2024 | By Lucy Pratt

Welcome back. In May's Pick of the Month, we had the pleasure of learning about work in areas including the arts; health and wellbeing; heritage and woman's empowerment. They're a diverse range of leaders, each with a unique prespective – read on to learn from their expertise and experience! 

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