Robin Boles worked in both the private and public sectors as a tax lawyer and operations director prior to setting up In Kind Direct in 1996. Since then she has seen In Kind Direct be awarded ‘Fastest growing charity’ which has now worked with 900 companies to provide new donated products to its network of charities. 6,300 charities have benefited so far receiving products and equipment to use in their operations or give for free to the millions of people in need they serve.
What professional achievement are you particularly proud of?
Reaching the milestone of £100 million in value of goods distributed to charities and voluntary organisations back in 2010, and seeing the impact that has had on the charities and their beneficiaries. In particular, I am proud to see how much we have grown from first offering 20 products a month, to today, offering constantly online, over 800 products donated for charities in our network to use in the provision of their services. Independent research revealed that not only does In Kind Direct save charities a tremendous amount of money, but we help charities improve and extend their services, relieving hardship, building confidence and self esteem in their beneficiaries.
What are the biggest challenges the sector currently faces?
Around 120 additional charities join our network every month and we see that they are ever more business-minded in their approach to income generation, which remains the biggest challenge for the sector. However, another challenge we continue to face is improving how we communicate the professionalism and requirement for it in the sector without losing public support. The public still seems to have little understanding of how the sector works and does not appreciate that the problems we face are just as complex as those present in the commercial sector. In order to address these issues we need talented leaders and teams.
What are the biggest opportunities for the sector?
Over the past 17 years in the sector, I have been privileged to meet some fantastic entrepreneurial leaders, but I am constantly surprised to learn how poorly connected so many third sector organisations are to any others, and are really struggling on their own. I think there is a fantastic opportunity to share skills and be much more collaborative in our approach to spreading knowledge and skills and solving problems. A wonderful example is the work of eight of the Prince’s Charities working together to help regenerate Burnley over the last five years. How exciting then to hear that Burnley won the accolade of most innovative city last week and to know we all played a part in that. Lastly, we have a wonderful voluntary sector and I think we should take the opportunity to spread our knowledge and skills more internationally.
What do you think the sector will look like in five years time?
I think the sector will be as diverse, dynamic and creative in its response to social problems as it is today hopefully with more connectivity between communities, businesses and the public creating an ever growing virtuous circle at home and abroad.
How can ACEVO help organisations achieve their ambitions?
Ensure that the conferences are practical and relevant, providing organisations with the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences. Continue working to identify and connect those with skills to those without that experience or for whom those skills don’t come so naturally and continue to be an important representative of sector leaders, developing members and their enterprising networks.
Robin Boles will be speaking at the ACEVO Annual Conference on Thursday 21 November.
To book your place go to www.acevo.org.uk/events