by Stuart Milliner
As a former Grants and Institutional Fundraiser myself, I really have a deep understanding of what makes a good Trusts and Foundations Manager. I also take time to get to know the organisations that I'm working with - learning about their ways of working and getting to know the teams to help find the right additional team members when needed.
When it came to recruiting Kev Mounce for the Starlight Children's Foundation, I already had a relationship with the charity and a great understanding of their work. At Charity People we believe our role doesn't end when we place a candidate. It's important for us to continue to be there to support charities and the people we have placed with them. We placed Kev in his new role in April 2020, I wrote a blog about the work of the Starlight Children's Foundation in September 2020 and recently had the pleasure of catching up with Kev to see how he's getting on. Here's what he had to share:
Tell us about Starlight Children’s Foundation, and your role there?
Starlight is an amazing charity that helps children experience the joy of childhood. Thanks to our brilliant supporters, we use the power of play to improve children’s experience of treatment in hospital. We do this through our hospital play and distraction services, wish-granting and Starlight Escapes programme. We help children and their families to escape the routine and reality of treatment.
I originally started in April 2020 in the role of Trusts and Foundations Manager, following some interim fundraisers who had done a brilliant job at keeping things ticking over. I was excited to build some long-term relationships and raise the ambition level. I’ve since been promoted to Head of Partnerships and Philanthropy, which encompasses Major Donors, Corporate Partnerships and Special Events.
How have you and the team found working remotely during this last year of being in and out of lockdown? Do you think this will change the way you work in the future?
I think, like most people, there are pros and cons. The organisation adapted brilliantly at the start of lockdown, as a charity that was predominantly office-based to go totally remote wasn’t without challenges. I think we have missed the natural “making a cuppa chat” – that moment when you run into a colleague in the kitchen and find out they’re working on something really exciting you otherwise wouldn’t know. Communication is a challenge and some people miss that social connection. But people have saved time and money on commutes, and lunches! I think things will change, in that most people won’t return to the office 5 days a week, and there will be increased flexibility.
We are approaching a year since you secured the role there, what has been the highlight during that time?
There have been a few! We have quadrupled Trust income from last year, largely due to covid-relief emergency funding, thanks to the strong case for support we have developed - being an organisation supporting seriously ill children. The real personal highlight has been being voted by colleagues as Most Collaborative at an awards ceremony that was part of our Christmas party. To be awarded something like that after only being here 8 months was lovely. To know your colleagues see you as collaborative, and on the whole enjoy working with you, is probably the best thing you can be told in your work life, isn't it? Or maybe I’m just biased!
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt along the way?
In a word… Empathy. Such an underrated quality in a leader, colleague, and person. You never know what is going on in a person’s life and how issues may be exacerbated during COVID. Working from home has allowed for more 1:1 conversations in private. It is, in some ways, it is a privileged position to be welcomed into a colleague’s home, even via camera. You have to respect that. I think (hope) I’ve done that, and built a level of rapport and trust with colleagues quickly. I would like to think my empathy has helped that. Intuitively knowing if a colleague needs some space. Or actually needs a call to check how they are. Doing so could be the best part of their day – and the best part of yours.
What has been the most challenging part of your role there? (and how have you overcome that?)
No one thing has been a major challenge. There have been a number of things concurrently that have proved challenging; a few new members of staff trying to embed into a new organisation remotely. The demand for our services during COVID has meant that we have all worked flat out. Communication is a challenge – the right people knowing plans at the right time. We have overcome that by being kind and respectful to one another; understanding we’re working in probably the most challenging circumstances we have faced in our working lives.
My new is role is vast, covering a lot of areas (and a lot of income!) whilst still having my own personal income target. I think that will be a challenge in the future. The best and most important decisions I make will probably be what I choose not to get involved in.
What are your plans for your team in the future?
To build long-term, strategic partnerships. We have such a strong cause. Our services are needed more than ever. We know people want to help. It’s important we recognise which relationships can have most impact for the children we support and that we’re a great partner for the people who choose to support us. Demonstrating the impact our incredible colleagues have. Every day.
I couldn't be happier for Kev and for the Starlight Children's Foundation. Kev is clearly inspired and motivated by his role and values his colleagues highly. His stand-out performance on income generation and collaboration have meant so much to Starlight through these difficult few months. I'm looking forward to continuing to support the Starlight Children's Foundation and keeping in touch with Kev to find out what he has in store for his second year with them. Congratulations Kev.