10 Dec 2021
The Community Foundation has been on a journey and it has been a pleasure to be along for the ride. When I took up post 6 years ago I saw an opportunity for me to develop an ambitious strategy, build the Foundation’s brand and make it the ‘go-to’ organisation for philanthropy whilst ensuring we never wavered from facing the edgier work and continued to support people on the edges.
The Foundation is such a well-respected organisation and I have felt like a custodian as well as a Chair but the common spine running through everything I have been involved in with the Foundation, has been good people with amazing knowledge, and a heart for the hard work that’s needed to make sure the money in our society touched the sides.
There are too many inspiring stories of projects and visits to detail here but my parting sense will be of the small volunteer-led organisations in villages I had never heard of before, who told me that they felt heard and appreciated by the Foundation and its wonderful staff team. As someone who comes from one of those towns it has been great to be involved in an organisaiton who works tirelessly to make sure their funds are dispersed across Northern Ireland and get to the people who need them with as little fuss as possible.
I often read reports from other Chairs extolling the virtues of their fellow board members but I mean every word of it with the Foundation. From my very first introduction to the Board, it has been a meeting of brilliant minds and strong hearts. Everyone brings their own experience, passion and expertise but there is a joined-up focus on driving the mission – connecting people who care with causes that matter. I have been changed by this experience and cannot move on without a special recognition of Joe Mc Knight (past Vice-Chair) and Fred Bass (past Chair of Grants Committee) who both sadly passed away during my term. I learned so much from both these men and feel that their legacy lives on in the Foundation. I suppose that’s all any of us can ask after our time with the Foundation or in life in general that we – touch the sides – and that our passion and time makes an impact.
As I step down as Chair I have the utmost confidence that I do so with an amazing new CEO, Roisin Wood and a new Chair, Adrian Johnston who are the very best people to lead the Foundation into the next stage of its growth. We have managed this succession process with care and attention and these two individuals will be a formidable team. We see big challenges ahead and emerging pressures on resources but the Foundation has positioned itself well to be able to support the sector and our communities to develop the tools and resources they need to be their own change agents. I worry about the level of need and any funder’s ability to meet the need and this has been seen most recently with the Mental Health Support Fund being heavily oversubscribed. That’s a strong indicator of the need for extra resources and funding to support those who need it most. But I will rest assured that the Foundation has the right people in the right seats and they are clear on their direction of travel and the areas that are most in need.
What I will miss most about the Foundation is the people and that feeling of leading an organisaiton with such integrity and care for people often forgotten in our communities. I am leaving it in safe hands and will always remain a friend and supporter of the Foundation, and I would encourage everyone to do the same.