Bubb looks forward to exciting and ‘slightly daunting’ challenge

Sir Stephen Bubb is planning to have some downtime to get over the “trauma of separation” as he steps down from the helm of Acevo after 15 years.

Bubb hands over the reins in June to lead the Charity Futures Programme, a new project aimed at securing strong governance and leadership across the charity sector.

The project has been funded by unnamed philanthropists to run over two years, and Bubb has considerable flexibility in the avenues he will pursue.

“It’s going to be quite a challenge for me but an exciting one,” Bubb said. “This has just happened because of someone’s initiative in thinking I can make a difference and putting their faith in me to deliver. Essentially it’s on my shoulders over the next two years, which is very exciting but also slightly daunting.”

Leadership

Bubb’s early career included working in the Trade Union movement as a speechwriter for the TGWU’s Jack Jones and as a London local government councillor.

He also took on roles with the NUT and later the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. In 1995, he was a founding director of the National Lottery Charities Board.

Bubb was appointed chief executive of Acevo in 2000. He is a trustee at Helen and Douglas House Hospice, and recently stepped down as chair of the Social Investment Business.

Acevo’s campaign for full cost recovery stands out as a highlight for the outgoing chief executive, along with leading work on strengthening safeguards in the wake of the abuses that took place at Winterbourne View hospital.

Addressing the British Cabinet to talk about choice and competition in the health service and the role of the third sector was another special moment, Bubb said.

“And I’ve been really proud of the fact I’ve nurtured and mentored five chief executives for the charity sector amongst my staff. Any chief executive should be recruiting talented people who are potentially much better than themselves and then mentoring them into strong positions.”

Unsurprisingly given Bubb’s reputation as an outspoken figure, he is also proud of standing in defence of the charity sector when it has come under media and political attack over issues such as remuneration and commercial arrangements.

However, this also represents a frustration, he said.

“I wish more sector leaders had been more robust themselves; in the chief executive pay debate, the dearth of chairs of charities prepared to defend their decisions. A big, big issue still unresolved is the promotion of charity more publicly. Acevo and NCVO have just started on a campaign to do that – promoting a modern professional charity sector.”

Charity Futures Programme

Bubb, with his 64th birthday approaching this year, had been thinking of what the next steps in his career might be. But he was clear that it was not time to step aside completely.

“I wasn’t in the mood for retiring, that was for sure,” Bubb said. “I’ve frankly got far too much to offer. I also felt, given where the sector is at the moment, just retiring and wasting those years of experience at the top of the sector would not have been a good thing to do.”

The CFP, launched partly in response to the issues exposed by the collapse of Kids Company and last year’s fundraising scandals, came at the right time. With its focus on effective leadership, it is a good fit within Acevo and with Bubb’s experience.

Acevo is seeking a new chief executive. The association’s director of public policy Asheem Singh will take up the role on an interim basis.

“I think it’s absolutely a win/win for Acevo and myself, which is why it’s nice. It’s a slightly unusual arrangement to recruit a new chief executive when you’ve still got the old chief executive on the books. But I’m not intending to interfere. They’re going to start the appointment process relatively soon and when they appoint someone I’ll give them every support.”

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