The Charity CEO Podcast
Featuring candid, meaningful discussions that get beneath the surface of issues, this podcast aims to inspire, inform and deliver practical insights on the challenges affecting charity and nonprofit leaders today. For the benefit of leaders across the sector and for people who care about the important work of charities. Tackling a different theme each episode, Dhivya O’Connor, a charity CEO herself, invites top CEOs to share their unique insights, expert knowledge, and lessons learned running successful charities. The Charity CEO Podcast is produced and hosted by Dhivya O’Connor. For more details visit
Ep 21. Alice Dearing & Danielle Obe, Co-Founders & Chair, Black Swimming Association: Representation and creating Olympic history!
September 13, 2021 • 38 MIN
“The BSA (Black Swimming Association) is set up as a bridge… building bridges into disenfranchised and disengaged communities.” Alice Dearing made history at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as the first black female swimmer to represent Team GB at an Olympic Games. Danielle Obe is Chair of the Black Swimming Association, a charity that she co-founded along with Alice. The Black Swimming Association (BSA) is a non-profit organisation set up to diversify the world of aquatics through education, advocacy, support and research. In England currently 95% of black adults and 80% of black children don’t swim. Furthermore, black children are 3 times more likely to drown than white children (Source: Swim England) The BSA is on a mission to change this. To break down barriers that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities face in aquatics and to highlight the importance of learning to swim, as an essential and invaluable life saving skill. Alice and Danielle, through the BSA, are determined to make aquatics safer and more accessible to their communities, by inspiring and facilitating participation and inclusion for all. Recorded Sept 2021.
Ep 20. Frank Fletcher, CEO Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust: Sailing through the Pandemic
June 21, 2021 • 51 MIN
“The partnership puts young people at the centre and not brand … we should all be working together to achieve Mission, rather than brand awareness or the size of our turnover or how many staff we employ.” Frank Fletcher is CEO of The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. The Trust supports young people with cancer, engaging them in outdoor activities, to help re-build their confidence and their lives, after cancer. We talk about how the Trust pivoted to a Virtual Summer during 2020 and what it has learnt during the pandemic in order to better support young people recovering from cancer. We discuss the Trust’s newly formed partnership with Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent (now Young Lives vs Cancer) - a fantastic example of leaving brand differences at the door to truly focus on what is best for young people. Frank shares his learnings on establishing this formal partnership and strongly encourages other charity leaders to follow suit. Recorded May 2021.
Ep 19. Baroness Delyth Morgan, CEO Breast Cancer Now: Achieving more through Collaboration
June 7, 2021 • 49 MIN
“Providing support for today and hope for tomorrow.” Baroness Delyth Morgan is the CEO of Breast Cancer Now. Delyth has been leading the charge in the breast cancer space for many years. She is widely credited with achieving consolidation in the sector, having presided over the merger of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer in 2015 and the more recent merger of Breast Cancer Now and Breast Cancer Care in 2019. We discuss the significant progress that has been made in research, treatment and care for breast cancer patients. However, there is still a way to go before Breast Cancer Now can achieve its vision of a future where everyone with breast cancer lives. We talk about the impact of Brexit on the medical research sector in the UK; and how pandemic-induced delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, is costing lives. This conversation is full of Delyth’s wisdom and insights, as she shares her experiences and advice on leadership, on influencing, on collaborating and most important of all, on not giving up hope. Recorded April 2021.
Ep 18. Helen Moulinos, CEO POhWER: What are our Human Rights?
May 24, 2021 • 43 MIN
“Being your authentic self makes you a happier person and a better leader.” Helen Moulinos is the Chief Executive of POhWER, Britain’s largest human rights advocacy charity. POhWER was established in 1996 by a group of people with disabilities who were fighting social injustice and challenges in their lives. Today POhWER still operates with these roots at the heart of everything it does: supporting marginalised, vulnerable and socially excluded people through its charitable work. In 2020, POhWER reached over 400,000 people nationally, ensuring their rights were upheld and they were empowered to make independent choices. In this episode we talk about rights-led empowerment, as well as advocacy and rights in the particular context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss the controversial ‘vaccine passports’ (or COVID Status Certification) and how during lockdown a number of groups have seen their human rights eroded. Helen also shares the story of her own leadership journey and insights on transitioning in to the charity sector from investment banking. Recorded April 2021.
Ep 17. Kate Lee, CEO Alzheimer’s Society: Care Deeply and Be Honest
May 10, 2021 • 48 MIN
“(As a leader) if your head isn’t above the parapet, it’s in the sand” Kate Lee is CEO of Alzheimer’s Society. In this interview we talk about how the organisation supports people with dementia and her own experience of dementia with her mother, who has been living with the disease for over 16 years. We also explore the principle of Radical Candor, as introduced in the book of the same name by Kim Scott, and that in order to be effective as leaders, we need to care deeply and be honest. Giving honest and constructive feedback is key to achieving this. Kate reflects on her own emotional resilience and ability to recharge. She also shares her belief that given the enormous emotional toll of the past year, what is needed now is for everyone to embrace kindness and compassion. Recorded April 2021.
Ep 16. Catharine Brown, CEO Designability: Doing Important Work!
April 26, 2021 • 48 MIN
“Despite all the discrimination legislation that exists and despite the equality, diversity and inclusion that we are (all) talking about, the needs of disabled people are not routinely met...” From using augmented reality to help dementia patients make a cup of tea, to building electric powered wheelchairs (the Wizzybug!) for physically disabled children, Designability creates practical products to enable disabled people live with greater independence. Catharine Brown, CEO of Designability, shares with us her charity’s work to improve the lives of the UK’s 14 million disabled people. Creating products based on principles of Design Thinking, the organisation puts the needs of disabled people at the centre of the user experience. Designability’s vision is to ensure that every disabled person has the products they want, to live the life that they choose. We talk about the leadership challenges and benefits of flexible working in a post-COVID world. Catharine shares her personal experiences encountering in-flexible working practices as a young mother and how even today the ‘motherhood penalty’ still affects women and their career choices. However, that certainly did not deter Catharine in her pursuit of doing ‘important work’. Recorded March 2021.
Ep 15. Angela McConville, CEO National Childbirth Trust: Creating a Movement for Change
April 12, 2021 • 46 MIN
“Great Chief Executives... they are not (necessarily) the innovators; they might be the change-makers... its about creating the conditions for the team to thrive and for the movement to thrive...” Angela McConville is the CEO of the National Childbirth Trust, also known as the NCT Charity. In this episode we explore how NCT has created a grass-roots, volunteer-led movement providing services for expectant and new parents. Angela describes how embracing the power of digital during the pandemic actually led to a huge increase in the organisation’s reach and in the uptake of its services. NCT campaigns for change and we discuss some key campaigns the charity has led, including mental health support and provision for new mothers (#HiddenHalf). We also spotlight the important work carried out by MBRRACE-UK on improving maternal mortality rates and outcomes for Black mothers. We discuss community organising and how NCT has seen a paradigm shift in the way it empowers and engages its volunteers, as a result of the pandemic. Angela holds that organisations need to do more to remove barriers to volunteering and to really harness the power of ‘hyper-local’ community engagement. Angela also shares personal stories juggling leadership and motherhood and life. Recorded March 2021.
Ep 14. Kirsty Schneeberger MBE, CEO Synchronicity Earth: Going forward to Better
March 29, 2021 • 51 MIN
“COVID-19 has been this reset moment... it has really forced us to pause, to take a breath and to re-evaluate... what do we want to leave behind after the pandemic and what do we want to take forward.” Kirsty Schneeberger was CEO of Synchronicity Earth between December 2019 and March 2021, helping to steer the organisation through some of the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Synchronicity Earth is a biodiversity and conservation funder. Its vision is to create a world where all life is valued, celebrated and flourishing. In this episode we explore how planetary health and human health are interconnected and how the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a great ‘re-set’. We talk about climate change, climate leadership and bio-cultural diversity. Kirsty reveals her personal experiences as a youth activist, determined to save the planet. We discuss the importance of carving out space and time to focus on our personal well-being and the role nature plays in this. Kirsty holds that emotional resilience and nourishing oneself is the key to effective leadership. Recorded February 2021.
Ep 13. Girish Menon, CEO STiR Education: Transforming the lives of 60 million children
March 15, 2021 • 48 MIN
“Education systems are failing (to prepare) children to face a world of unknown unknowns.” 53% of children coming out of world education systems are ‘learning poor’. STiR Education is striving to create a world where every child develops a love for life-long learning, through reigniting intrinsic motivation in teachers and building supportive education eco-systems. It’s goal is to reach 60 million children in public education systems worldwide by 2025. STiR Education (Schools and Teachers Innovating for Results) was started in 2012, and in just 8 years has reached an incredible 6 million children and 200k teachers across India and Uganda. In this episode I speak with Girish Menon, the CEO of STiR Education, about STiR’s programmes, aiming to create more effective public education systems where teachers love teaching and children love learning. We explore the colossal impact the pandemic has had on children’s education and stalled progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal for Education - “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all”. Over a billion children and young people worldwide have had their education disrupted this past year, over 500 million of whom have no effective access to remote learning. With over 24 million children at serious risk of not going back to school, it is vital that governments of the world prioritise investment in education and education systems. Girish also shares his leadership wisdom gained over 30 years working in the international development sector. Recorded February 2021.
Ep 12. Susan Daniels OBE, CEO National Deaf Children’s Society: Driving Change and Dreaming Big!
March 1, 2021 • 40 MIN
“Our vision is a world without barriers for every deaf child... Our job as an organisation is to challenge the culture of low expectations (for deaf children)” There are over 50,000 deaf children in the UK and more than 34 million deaf children worldwide. It is important to encourage them – and their families – to dream big. Susan Daniels is the CEO of the National Deaf Children’s Society, the UK’s largest charity for deaf children. The organisation raises awareness and provides expert support to families on childhood deafness, and campaigns for deaf children’s rights, so they have the same opportunities as everyone else. As someone who sees herself as a leader, who just happens to be deaf, Susan is steadfast in her belief that a deaf child can do and achieve anything that a child with hearing can. What holds deaf and disabled children back are the inherent structures and expectations in society and education systems. Getting rid of such social, educational and cultural barriers is the first step towards meaningful equality. We explore the ACEVO report, “Hidden Leaders: Disability Leadership in Civil Society”; and Susan shares her views on what leaders and organisations in civil society and beyond, need to consider in order to be truly disability-inclusive. Susan also reflects on her own leadership journey. Over 28 years, Susan has overseen the National Deaf Children’s Society growing from £1m to £24m annual income, influencing policy-makers and delivering real change for deaf children. Her advice to leaders is to always focus on the Big Picture, choose your battles and when in doubt or stuck, ask others for help. Recorded February 2021.
Ep 11. Debra Allcock Tyler, CEO Directory of Social Change: Leadership of Courage and Hope
February 15, 2021 • 57 MIN
“You learn to be courageous by stepping out of your comfort zone; being absolutely terrified and doing it anyway… courage is about being beaten back but then taking a step forward.” Debra Allcock Tyler is the CEO of the Directory of Social Change, an organisation that provides resources, training and support to enable all charities to be successful. In this episode we discuss the key opportunities and risks ahead for the charity sector in 2021. Debra provides some practical advice for leaders to thrive through the ongoing crisis; as well as lessons learned from the pandemic that we should carry forward. Debra reflects on her own career journey and shares the fundamental skills that she thinks are vital to being a good leader: courage, resilience and vision. A passionate advocate for the voluntary sector, Debra affirms that if you are connected to the Vision and Mission of an organisation, then anything is possible. Recorded January 2021.
Ep 10. Mark Longbottom, CEO Heart Kids New Zealand: People, Purpose and Podcasting!
February 1, 2021 • 41 MIN
“Less about egos and logos and let’s think more about mission and (those) whose lives we are trying to help and change... People first, Mission always.” With 12 babies every week born with Congenital Heart Defects in New Zealand and just one specialist hospital in the entire country that can provide treatment, Heart Kids New Zealand provides a lifeline of vital care and support for children, young people and families affected by these incurable conditions. Mark Longbottom is CEO of Heart Kids New Zealand by day and podcast host of the Purposely Podcast by night. Mark lived in the UK and worked in the UK voluntary sector for nearly 20 years before moving back to his home country of New Zealand in 2019. In this episode we talk about the differences between the charity sectors in New Zealand and the UK, the work of Heart Kids, and of course Jacinda Arden! We share our experiences podcasting and why we think its a good idea for charities to consider launching their own podcasts. Recorded Decemeber 2020.
Ep 9. Julie Bentley, CEO Samaritans: Learning, Leadership and Listening
January 18, 2021 • 40 MIN
“You don't need to have all the answers, you don't need to have solutions... you just need to be able to listen.” Julie Bentley is CEO of Samaritans, the suicide prevention charity. In this episode Julie shares life and leadership lessons, from being a post-lady early in her career, to how she grappled with the gremlins of Imposter Syndrome. She highlights key qualities of leadership: emotional intelligence, authenticity, resilience, humility, vulnerability and humour! - all of which she believes have been important through her own leadership journey. We talk about the work of Samaritans: providing a place where someone is always available to listen, without judgement. The Samaritans’ service delivery model is unique, as it is entirely volunteer run. With a vision of ensuring that fewer people die by suicide, Samaritans has over 17,000 trained ‘listening volunteers’ who respond to calls for help. Currently 1 in 5 callers to Samaritans are voicing concerns about the impact of COVID-19, indicating a significant risk to mental health from the pandemic. We discuss Brew Monday, turning the third Monday in January (traditionally known as Blue Monday) into a campaign aimed at encouraging people to stay connected with a virtual cup of tea; particularly important as the UK is now in its 3rd full lockdown nationwide. #BrewMonday Julie also opens her heart about her brother Roy’s, death and talks about co-curating the book ‘Sisters and Brothers’, breaking taboos around talking about death, dying and bereavement. This is a poignant, moving and inspirational start to our second Season. Recorded December 2020.
Ep 8. Paul Evans, CEO Leadership Through Sport & Business: Youth unemployment and the risky business of changing the world
November 16, 2020 • 38 MIN
“Our core purpose as charities isn’t to manage risk assessment and excel sheets ... our core purpose is to change the world, is to make change happen. That’s what we’re here for.” Paul Evans is CEO of Leadership Through Sport & Business, a social mobility charity that prepares and supports bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into roles with major firms. In this episode Paul delves into the situation for young people in Britain today and their ‘stolen future’, arising from the current crisis in youth unemployment. He highlights how the pandemic has laid bare social inequalities and how his organisation is creating meaningful opportunities for disadvantaged young people - ensuring that those at risk of under-employment find careers equal to their ambition and ability. We talk about the habits of discipline as key to a successful and happy life. We also discuss attitudes to risk in the charity sector; and Paul reflects on how in an increasingly risky world, charities need to remain true to their core purpose: which isn’t just to manage risk, but to change the world.
Ep 7. Sophie Livingstone MBE, Managing Director, Trustees Unlimited: Making Governance sexy!
November 2, 2020 • 42 MIN
“Your job as a Trustee is to be a custodian of the higher purpose of the mission and vision of the organisation.” ‘Sexy’ is not normally a word one associates with charity governance. This conversation is about how the function of governance can be truly inspirational and what organisations can do to attract more diverse talent to their Trustee Boards. My guest Sophie Livingstone has extensive experience on both sides of the charity boardroom table. Over the past 20 years she has served on Boards of numerous organisations and was the founding CEO of City Year UK. Sophie was recently recognised with an MBE for ‘services to charity’ in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours. In this episode we highlight the importance of representation and role models in leadership. Sophie talks about the development of an ‘Inspire List’; a list curated to celebrate and showcase Trustees of diverse backgrounds and from different walks of life. We also discuss the dynamics of power in Boardrooms and different structures for effective governance.
Ep 6. Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, CEO The Akshaya Patra Foundation UK: The Indian disrupter tackling food poverty in schools
October 19, 2020 • 40 MIN
“We are all born geniuses and the purpose of human life is to find an interface for that genius... and food can truly be the catalyst for that interface.” 3.5 BILLION meals and counting... Bhawani Singh Shekhawat is the Chief Executive of The Akshaya Patra Foundation UK. The Foundation started 20 years ago in India, to tackle the dual issues of classroom hunger and access to education for disadvantaged children. The Foundation’s guiding vision is that no child should be deprived of an education because of hunger. This is the remarkable story of how The Akshaya Patra Foundation grew from serving meals to 1,500 students, to serving over 3.5 billion meals to date, through the creation of an internationally award-winning Food for Education Programme. The Akshaya Patra Foundation is today, highly acclaimed as the world’s largest non-profit run Mid-day Meal Programme, serving about 2 million meals daily. Its work has been recognised by the World Economic Forum, it has been formulated as a Case Study at Harvard Business School and in 2019 the Foundation received the BBC Global Food Champion Award. The Akshaya Patra Foundation is now expanding its work in the UK, serving free, nutritious food to the homeless and to children vulnerable to food poverty, during school holidays. In this episode Bhawani talks about the importance of food and how it plays a key role in creating a better society. He demonstrates how through the power of great questions, organisations and individuals can access more of their genius. And he highlights powerful lessons in leadership along the way.
Ep 5. Charlotte Hill OBE (Part 2), Founding CEO of Step Up To Serve: Leadership, babies and the intricacies of Maternity Leave!
October 5, 2020 • 31 MIN
“The Chief Execs who I really admire are those who wear their heart on their sleeve and are open and honest and themselves.... they are their authentic selves... no matter where you see them and no matter who they are talking to, they are themselves.” In this episode, Part 2, of my conversation with Charlotte Hill, we talk about the joys and the challenges of having babies whilst being busy Chief Executives. We discuss issues surrounding Maternity Leave, Shared Parental Leave and around women transitioning back in to the workplace; and explore perceived barriers to leadership for women. We reflect on how lockdown has shown everyone in a much more human light, having to juggle work, children, self-care and in Charlotte’s case, even breast-feeding! Charlotte reveals her personal struggle with fertility and how being vulnerable can actually make us stronger and more respected as leaders.
Ep 4. Charlotte Hill OBE (Part 1), Executive Director, BBC Children in Need: Pandemic impact on young people and the power of collective action - #iwill Campaign
September 21, 2020 • 32 MIN
“If we can get young people becoming Trustees and volunteers as young people, that’s when they form habits, and so they will then be volunteers and fundraisers and Trustees ... for the rest of their lives ... So it’s a great investment in our society more broadly and in civil society if we can get them engaged at a young age.” My guest this episode is Charlotte Hill, the founding CEO of Step Up To Serve. In Part 1 of our conversation, Charlotte and I talk about her current role, on secondment, as Executive Director for Children and Young People with the BBC’s Children in Need. There she is co-ordinating the COVID-19 funding response and developing a longer term strategy for collaboration, in the children and young people funding space. Charlotte reflects on her journey with Step Up To Serve, its achievements and the intricacies of running a time-limited collective impact project. We discuss the particular challenges for young people in the current crisis, and how we must engage young people, in helping to think through what the ‘new normal’ should be, in order to build back a stronger civil society.
Ep 3. Sarah Mitchell, CEO Heart of the City: Corporate Social Responsibility and the future of charity partnerships
September 7, 2020 • 31 MIN
“There is a move away from the more traditional charity partnerships... (towards) a kind of main-streaming of responsible business.” In this episode I speak with Sarah Mitchell, CEO of Heart of the City, a charity working with small to medium sized companies to help them to develop a purpose beyond profit. We discuss the changing face of corporate partnerships; Scenario Planning amidst uncertainty; and reflect on the positive aspects of working through the pandemic. Sarah also highlights some key leadership learnings and the importance of taking time for reflection and self-care as a Chief Executive.
Ep 2. Gemma Peters, CEO Blood Cancer UK (Part 2): Implications of Black Lives Matter - What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion really mean?
August 24, 2020 • 29 MIN
“It cannot possibly be true that we have the best scientists working on blood cancer, if that scientific community only represents one bit of the population.” In Part 2 of our conversation with Gemma Peters, CEO of Blood Cancer UK, we delve in to what Diversity, Equity and Inclusion really means for the charity sector. Gemma shares the responsibility she feels being a white leader, with an all-white Board, Executive Team and with predominantly white scientific researchers. We look at specific initiatives that Blood Cancer UK are pursuing to address this and how, as a sector, we can look to disestablish racist structures and precedents. Gemma reveals that the true inspiration and drive for the work comes from the people she and her organisation are striving to help.
Ep 1. Gemma Peters, CEO Blood Cancer UK (Part 1): Leading through the pandemic - Impact on cancer communities and the charity sector
August 24, 2020 • 56 MIN
“We do really need the government to acknowledge that this (research) investment is critical. It’s critical to patients, but it’s also critical to the UK as an entity. The UK’s strength in medical research is something that we are all so proud of.” In this very first episode of The Charity CEO Podcast we speak with Gemma Peters, CEO of Blood Cancer UK. In Part 1 of our conversation, we talk about leading through the current crisis; the impact of delayed healthcare and medical research for cancer patients; discuss the tough decisions behind redundancy consultations at Blood Cancer UK; collaboration in the charity sector; and even outline a proposal for setting up a Charity Mergers and Partnerships hub! Gemma reflects on what she has learnt as a leader and on decision making with imperfect data. She also shares how being open and vulnerable has actually helped bring her closer to her team and made them collectively more effective.