Leadership diaries: A charity CEO on transitioning away from Zoom

Chris Boulton, chief executive of Greenham Trust, details a week in his life as plans for Greenham Trust’s 25th Anniversary are made and the transition away from Zoom back to in-person meetings begins.

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Monday

My week began with the quarterly board meeting of the Trust. It was our first one in-person for 18 months, so everyone was quite excited and pleased to be back together in a distanced setting at The Base with all the windows open. We had lots to talk about with activity on the Business Park and an exciting new acquisition plus discussion and approval of some significant grants for local organisations. We also used this time to start to put together some plans for the Trust’s 25th anniversary next year. How time flies!

We have embarked on a programme to talk to local councils and voluntary groups to brief them on our 25th anniversary and other up to date information on the Trust. This afternoon was the first of those and I was given 15 minutes to present. I stuck to my time but the questions went on for a long time which was great. It’s always good fun to engage with other people locally and tell them more about what we are up to.

Tuesday

I had a meeting with the managing partner of a large accountancy practice on the Business Park. We are planning a new Tenant’s Distribution Committee to give them an involvement in some of our minor grant giving so I am in “recruitment” mode. Suffice to say they are delighted to have been invited and more than happy to be involved. This will be a new Committee who will award up to £100,000 in small grants to local voluntary and charitable organisations under the guidance of our trustees.

I then had a meeting at The Base with a local charity who needs to find temporary premises while a new building is being completed and has some challenges on funding their running costs due to the increase in demand brought about by Covid. Finding temporary premises could be a challenge but we gave them a few ideas – the funding will be a little easier with the help of other local charitable trusts too.

Since I was there already, I took the opportunity to have a quick look around the gallery at The Base. I have a charity art exhibition of my own work there in December this year (18th/19th) in aid of two local cancer charities and needed to refresh my memory of the details. I have over 120 paintings to exhibit and sell for charity – it’s going to be a tight squeeze!

Wednesday

Today I had a meeting with the Distribution Committee of the Peter Baker Foundation, a charity we took over a couple of years ago that disburses up to £200,000 a year from a small property portfolio we manage on their behalf. We awarded just over £90,000 in small grants averaging £2,000 to a large number of local organisations.

Thursday

As part of the Trust’s 25th anniversary and linking with the Queen’s Green Canopy campaign we are planning to help fund the planting of 25,000 trees in West Berkshire and north Hampshire. We have now ordered our first 2,500 trees and are working with a local nursery the Newbury Community Resource Centre to help provide trees free of charge for local community and voluntary groups form sports clubs to parish councils and schools.

In the evening I had a rare supper in the garden (for this summer at least) with my wife, Jennifer, our youngest son, Arthur, and his girlfriend. It was a lovely chance to unwind and enjoy the late summer sun. We also decided to take the plunge and arrange a last-minute holiday to France. It is so good to be going away albeit only for a few days after a challenging 18 months or so. We also chatted about my charity art exhibition and help I’ll need on the weekend as well as helping my son with a bike race he’s organising in October.

Friday

I had a Zoom call – luckily becoming rarer these days - to understand the likely charitable needs from the plans to place some Afghan families in West Berkshire. It was good to get an insight into the great work being done locally for those who have had to flee their home country. We committed to setting up a public campaign on our local charitable giving platform The Good Exchange to raise money for things that won’t be paid for by the UK government, for example additional clothes and toys for children.

Then I had a brainstorming session with representatives of the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire. We set up a strategic alliance with them in the summer to offer a one-stop shop for those looking to set up and fund charitable ventures and plan regular liaison meetings and some exciting events/seminars.

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