Graham Hodgkin’s ‘parting shot’ to the charity sector

Graham has spent four years as Chief Executive of London’s Air Ambulance, the charity that delivers life-saving trauma care to the capital. Previously he was a Managing Director at Deutsche Bank and the UK Country Head for Global Transaction Banking. He also created and implemented DB’s ground-breaking Social Impact Fund. Graham is also a non-executive director for Resonance Ltd, a leading provider of aligned capital to social enterprises. As he was preparing to leave London’s Air Ambulance, Third Sector magazine asked him to compose a ‘Parting Shot’ for the charity sector…

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The social sector continues to play a pivotal role in delivering critical services for public benefit. Indeed, charities exist because of market failure and the absence of State funded solutions. In these austere and uncertain times, charities are an increasingly important component of our social fabric and service infrastructure.

To continue to thrive, charities need to retain a relentless focus on the delivery of their mission and to ensure that provision of public benefit remains at the very core of everything they do. The ongoing ‘professionalization’ of the sector remains a subject for debate and conjecture but I believe it to be an important component of a charity’s evolution. This does not mean that they become faceless, dispassionate and remote ‘corporate-style’ entities, but the demands and expectations on the sector does require them to value strong and effective leadership; to attract and invest in emerging talent; to be financially astute and appropriately transparent with their stakeholders. Being more ‘business like’ is a positive thing; to be operationally efficient; commercially aware and professionally excellent is something that every charity should aspire to be, particularly those looking to deliver sustained benefit at scale. Descriptors such as ‘voluntary’ or ‘not-for-profit’ organisations do the sector an injustice; charities are for profit but it’s how those financial surpluses are reinvested for public good that defines them.

Whilst Corporates remain agnostic about what they could learn from charities, social sector organisations can continue to leverage best-practise from their commercial peers. Cross-sector partnerships, collaboration and joint-ventures all need to be higher up the agenda of charity CEOs. Ultimately, it’s the alignment of entrepreneurial flair and financial nous to an all-purveying sense of purpose and social justice that creates sustainable social impact.

I’ve been privileged to lead London’s Air Ambulance and I’m proud in equal measure of our compelling mission, our financial success and the heightened awareness of our brand.

Written by Graham Hodgkin
Graham – a Connect Alumnus – is formerly CEO of London’s Air Ambulance.

Watch Graham and London’s Air Ambulance in action below, and to support this great charity, please click here

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