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Member case studies

Read below about the positive impact an ACEVO membership has had on leadership journeys.

Jamie’s nephew asked him, “What’s your job?”

Jamie’s response would typically be “Well that’s a silly question; you’re aware that I’m a chief executive.”

However, this response really didn’t provide the level of detail Jamie’s nephew expected!

In that instant, numerous potential explanations raced through Jamie’s thoughts,

“I keep all the plates spinning”

“I’m there to be the jack of all trades and the master of all trades”

“I’m there to provide the vision and operationally lead the entire organisation”

“I empty the bins and clean the toilets when the cleaner is off”

Yet none of them truly describe the role.

The reality of the breadth of what a chief executive role means in a third sector organisation is almost impossible to describe accurately, eloquently and succinctly. Early in Jamie’s career CEO vacancies were described as a figurehead, only there to network and externally represent the organisation.

Fast forward 25 years and CEOs are expected to have the most extensive set of skills and competencies in the world. They need commercial acumen for when they are tasked by trustees to increase unrestricted income by 100% in a week! They are expected to be magicians to treble the number of new volunteers overnight in response to capacity pressures! To have NATO level negotiation skills to navigate the relationships and tensions between volunteers, staff, trustees, commissioners, funders, clients, and the public. Chief executives are still getting used to switching the unmute button on in virtual meetings whilst understanding and developing a future-proof strategy for AI-driven business efficiency. Not forgetting to be experts in environmentally sustainability and driving the organisation to net zero.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While some of this is said flippantly, the message is clear, when things are going well being a leader of a third sector organisation is rewarding and inspiring. However, the current environment is extremely volatile and things are constantly changing and emerging. This means that when things start to become challenging it can be incredibly easy to start losing ourselves. A recent post on LinkedIn resonated with Jamie, it featured several CEOs being exceptionally candid and forthright regarding their experiences with compassion fatigue.

The true value of ACEVO membership

It’s lonely at the top is a phrase that probably only truly makes sense when you’ve been there and experienced it, for Jamie that is where the true value of ACEVO membership comes in.

Here is what he told new ACEVO members at a recent online event.

“For me ACEVO is about a sense of belonging to a wider community of sector leaders.

It gives me the reassurance that there is somewhere to turn when I’ve exhausted my own internal Wikipedia or when a google search is no longer giving me answers I need.

It’s a safe space where it’s okay to go to learning events and start learning about something from scratch – because the rest of the room is there learning from scratch as well!

The fact that ACEVO has such a clear purpose keeps its work so relevant for each one of us.

Recently, after reading the weekly e-bulletin from ACEVO, I found myself greatly inspired by the words of Jane Ide, ACEVO’s CEO. Her message resonated so strongly with me that I felt compelled to reach out and commend ACEVO for its remarkable ability to stay so in touch with its members.

I had a challenging issue and as a last resort devised a final plan to try and resolve the conflict, but I panicked that I had become so entrenched in the issue and was going about it incorrectly. Upon contacting ACEVO, I received a response within an hour and I found myself engaged in a valuable two-hour coaching session. My initial approach was indeed the correct one, but what significantly transformed was the level of confidence I possessed as I entered the session.

I also love the fact that ACEVO is also not London-centric – proactively trying to reach out to its membership in different localities.

For me personally, my ACEVO membership is a two-way process. It’s about giving and receiving. I’ve given my time to be part of the annual ACEVOFest conference by speaking in a session about imposter syndrome, not because I feel that I am the leading authority on imposter syndrome, nor do I feel that I am the best third sector leader in the world. I have also volunteered as a mentor and I believe these experiences enhance my own leadership. I learn just as much from my mentees as hopefully they do from me.

ACEVO is a person-centred membership body. My advice about getting the most of your membership would be, get to know the team. The team is exceptionally friendly and highly knowledgeable. However, it’s equally crucial that their work is grounded in a thorough understanding of the membership’s needs. Make sure you are getting the weekly Monday bulletin and set aside 10 mins to read it – it’s worthwhile. Attend the online events, they are easy to fit and much more cost effective then attending face to face ones. They are designed for us as an audience, and they are informative and thought provoking. Also, familiarise yourself with the website resources. Reach out when you need something and see ACEVO as an extension of your leadership toolkit! Successful leaders keep learning and ACEVO is your one stop shop. You won’t be disappointed.”

How ACEVO helped a member develop and support their leadership skills  

Situation 

Katie first joined ACEVO in 2019 as an Associate Member when she was a senior manager at Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services (ADSS). Katie felt this was offered as a consolation prize for an unsuccessful application for the chief executive officer position and was told it would support her development. 

Katie wanted to make the most out of every developmental opportunity ACEVO membership offered. 

What happened next…. 

Fast forward to spring 2020 and Katie is in a new role as the joint interim CEO at ADSS, the world is in the middle of a pandemic and the first UK’s lockdown happens.  

This is compounded with some big governance changes at ADSS that needed to be made. 

Support with governance 

Katie used the Governance Advice Line and was relieved to hear that the advisor at ACEVO loved governance!  

“I remember thinking ‘hmm how odd’ (that someone likes governance!), but I can honestly say with all the webinars and support I now love the feeling that good governance enables” 

Building a professional network

“The online members events are fantastic, I learnt so much so quickly, it really helped me build up my support network with people I still work with closely outside of my ACEVO membership” 

Getting professional support

“During the first lockdown, I felt ACEVO was there giving us a warm hug. On other days I felt ACEVO challenged us to become the best leaders we could be during unprecedented times” 

Katie says all this support strengthened her relationship with the board, gave her confidence in her decision making and empowered her on the journey from joint CEO to CEO. 

Confidence building 

Katie says that she often doubts her ability, the monthly review meetings and the support and advice calls that ACEVO provides its members have been invaluable. 

“I have received some beautifully calm and kind coaching conversations with ACEVO, this helped me realise what deep down I knew I needed to do. When I have felt totally out of my depth during a statutory tendering process ACEVO suggested mentoring and this helped me write successful bids 

Giving something back 

Katie is such an advocate she has even joined the new members’ calls to talk about her positive membership experience. 

She was also so inspired by the mentoring she received and she has now put herself forward to be a mentor herself. 

“I did this to give something back and totally understimated how fantastic this would be for my own development. It’s very valdating to be able to see and communicate how people can make small changes to get to where they want to go.

What’s happening now? 

Katie is now a CEO at ADSS and the charity has doubled in size in the last nine months (thanks to all those successful bids!) and she now needs help with the growing pains, once again she turned to ACEVO. 

“The support and learning opportunities I get from ACEVO have been a huge part of my journey from senior manager, to joint CEO, to CEO. ACEVO has given me the courage, knowledge, kindness, confidence and a respect for governance that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else. ADSS has had a successful, but tough few years and there have been so many times when we have benefitted from the advice and support ACEVO membership provides. I wouldn’t be the CEO I am, without an ACEVO membership 

Find out how an ACEVO membership helps new CEOs 

Situation  

Jay is CEO of Survivors’ Network – the rape crisis centre for Sussex for 4 years, this is Jay’s first role at this level.  

Jay joined ACEVO in 2020. At first she found the benefits that membership provided overwhelming and didn’t know where to start. 

Which ACEVO features helped Jay the most when she first joined 

All new members are offered a call when they join ACEVO.

“I really benefited from the new member call that I had with ACEVO. I also would really recommend attending the online new members’ meeting that really helped me to identify where to start” 

Jay also found the various one-hour online member meetings a good starting point and very helpful to help prioritise her own developmental needs. 

“The meetings are a unique opportunity to network with other chief executives and allowed me to have honest conversations with people outside of my current network. Also, through these networks I have made connections with other CEOs, that I still am in contact with” 

Jay has also attended the paid-for workshops and has found this investment very worthwhile. 

“I also attended the Dynamic Duo workshop and this really helped us improve our (chief executive and chair) working relationship” 

Jay also used the ACEVO mentoring resource. 

“I was matched with a CEO of a much larger charity, with a lot more experience and outside of the sector I am in and I felt the ACEVO team carefully considered who was the right match for me. The sessions have been very valuable, I talked to my mentor about my plan on how to approach an issue in a certain way and my mentor shared their experiences and provided some very useful tips”  

However, the service that Jay found the most useful was the CEO in Crisis.

“ACEVO was so helpful when dealing with my issue. They found someone from one of the larger charities who had experienced a very similar issue and arranged a 121 call with them. I would never have made this contact if it wasn’t for ACEVO, they were very generous and also offered their chair to meet with my chair, the whole experience was very reassuring” 

And to sum up her membership experience, 

“Whenever I have contacted ACEVO, the response has always been reassuring. They have always made me feel valued and in a role were sometimes it’s hard to feel valued, it’s always good to know that ACEVO are there and you will always feel supported” 

Giving something back 

Jay is now such an advocate of ACEVO she has even joined the new members’ meetings to talk about her positive membership experience. 

How ACEVO helped a member develop and support their leadership skills  

Situation 

Laura first joined ACEVO in 2019, she has always been committed to her own  professional development after finishing her MBA in 2013. Now, as a CEO working three days a week for the charity Ancient Tree Forum, Laura realised that she needed specific and targeted development that also helped her to build her network of peers. ACEVO membership met these needs and more. 

What benefits did Laura find most useful? 

“I started to attend the digital member meetings relevant to me at the time. Once I became more familiar with the ACEVO membership offer, I started to attend the member networking events, a brilliant long series of sessions of peer mentoring – carefully matched after conversations with ACEVO and 121 advice and support, all of which have been exceptionally useful.”

“The online community also deserves a special mention. It is my go to place for asking my peers their thoughts and experiences” 

Laura now tries to attend an event once a month and considers it part of her wellbeing.  

“This is even more important for me as I work from home, connecting with my peers in this way has been vital to my spirit through some difficult times professional and even personally” 

Laura says she would probably would not have stayed in her role so happily through such challenging times without the support of an ACEVO membership.  

“At critical times ACEVO have been there, I know if I ever need help again, no matter how big or small, ACEVO will be there to help my wellbeing and resilience, as well as my charity, as it has allowed me to be the best CEO I can be” 

ACEVO membership has meant that the Ancient Tree Forum has a clearer strategy – Laura found a great strategy consultant via an ACEVO member’s recommendation, a brilliant new trustee – advertised on ACEVO jobs. 

Laura also says The Ancient Tree Forum now has better governance, via the many conversations she has had with ACEVO members, including better financial management, better practices around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, the environment and strategy. 

For me ACEVO is about a sense of belonging to a wider community of sector leaders. It gives me the reassurance that there is somewhere to turn when I've exhausted my own internal Wikipedia or when a google search is no longer giving me answers I need........The fact that ACEVO has such a clear purpose keeps its work so relevant for each one of us.

I would probably not have stayed in my job so happily through such difficult times without the support of ACEVO staff, members and services

ACEVO has given me courage, knowledge, kindness, confidence, and a respect for governance that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else

Whenever I have contacted ACEVO, the response has always been reassuring. They have always made me feel valued and in a role were sometimes it’s hard to feel valued, it’s always good to know that ACEVO are there and you will always feel supported

Not an ACEVO member?

If you have any queries please email info@acevo.org.uk or call 020 7014 4600.

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