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13.11.2019

The Journey to Charity Director

By Christopher Graham, Vice Chair of Stepping Stones for Families & CEO of The Marketing Department

I write this at a time of change for the Stepping Stones for Families (SSfF) board. We are preparing for our AGM in a few weeks, the final one for our outgoing chair. And my fellow board members will not be surprised to hear that at our January board meeting I will be standing for chair.

I’ve been on the board for a few years and my journey to becoming a board member of this great organisation started, I suspect, a tad unusually.

For nearly thirty years, SSfF had worked alongside children, young people and families to give them support, opportunities and a voice in tackling the effects of poverty and disadvantage in their lives. Yet, despite nearly three decades spent transforming lives, the work of the organisation was practically invisible outside of the sector. With the 30th anniversary of the charity’s founding fast approaching, the staff wanted to mark the occasion and celebrate what they and countless people they had supported had achieved.

Inspiring Scotland was working with SSfF to deliver family play programmes and wanted to help it tell its story.

As well as running a creative agency full time, I had been working with Inspiring Scotland since 2016 offering my services to charities they worked with as a pro bono supporter.

I met with Isobel Lawson, SSfF Chief Executive, on this basis to work on some ideas for how the organisation could improve its website and social media to better tell its story.

That conversation rapidly evolved into a complete rebrand. The reason for this is what we could see the website wasn’t fit for the mobile era, and worse still, the organisation’s visual style wasn’t fit for the digital area and caused confusion about what the charity did.

My colleagues and I at The Marketing Department worked closely with Isobel and her team to execute the rebrand over six months. It was the largest we had ever executed at that time. As part of our process to understand the work of the charity, and how this new brand had to be deployed, we visited many of the charity’s centres and childcare centres.

What struck me at every site was how dedicated everyone was. Every single person from top to bottom. I’d ever encountered such an organisation, in the private, public or third sectors. During the rebrand process, Isobel had mentioned her desire to recruit board members.

As the process was drawing to a close, I realised I wasn’t looking forward to it. The launch of the new brand, website and social media strategy would mean an end to working together.… or would it? Isobel and I had developed a strong working relationship and I had learnt so much about the work of SSfF and the Scottish third sector from her. So, I approached Isobel about the possibility of joining the board. She was happy to say that she had was going to ask me to consider joining once the rebrand was complete anyway!

I wanted to join because I enjoyed the work and I wanted to keep helping once the rebrand was finished. It’s really important that boards of charities have a diverse skill set that meets the needs of the organisation. In this case, I contribute my marketing, communications and design expertise.

Volunteering on the board of a non-profit organisation ticks an important box for me and my ethos: I feel like I’m contributing and giving something back. I feel like the time I give to the charity is worth it because when I read our board papers, I am often blown away by how effective our various services have been in assisting our service users.

In the interest of full transparency, I have to admit that it has also helped my business: The Marketing Department has executed numerous projects for other charities and non-profit organisations since I joined the board of Stepping Stones for Families, and we use the case study often when bidding for new work.

I also continue to offer my services to other organisations through Inspiring Scotland’s pro bono network and have supported 23 charities with more £12,000 worth of work free of charge.

Currently, SSfF is looking for new board members who can help support and develop the organisation as it moves towards its vision of all children and young people having an enjoyable life in a healthy, fair and safe environment where they are respected and supported to achieve their full potential. Applications from all sectors welcomed, especially those with a financial, childcare or HR background.

Most important is a desire to help make the lives of young people and families in Scotland better.

If you’d like to discuss joining us, don’t hesitate to get in touch:

E: chris@tmd.scot
T: 0141 406 7478
Social: @tophergraham

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