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Charity Leaders Podcast - Sarah Mortiboys

Week 4 of our charity leaders podcast see’s us chatting to Sarah Mortiboys, the former MD of Dallaglio Rugby Works and new lead for sport for development at UK Coaching. Dallaglio Rugby Works offers life-changing support to young people so they are equipped to get into sustained education, employment or training.

Sarah is a lifelong supporter of young people, dedicating her working life to helping them through her involvement in charities and even getting on the front line as a PE teacher. She trusts young people to make good decisions, deciding to empower them rather than patronise or dictate to them.

She believes in the power of telling stories and how marketing can make a difference in raising funds that help young people. Learn why collaboration is key and how marketing should NEVER be considered a dirty word in a charity.

Passion for Helping Young People

Sarah began her career by training as a PE teacher and has pretty much been involved in helping young people ever since. It was through things like Camp America that she noticed the power of physical exercise to help young people and moved into local authorities and eventually Sport England, supporting their youth strategy.

But she decided to really help long term, she needed to get involved at the coal face and went back to her original career choice and became a head of PE, including a lot of involvement in Ofsted.

Ultimately she returned to charity work with this experience behind her and working with Comic Relief she was responsible for helping sports development - she was even lucky enough to be a torchbearer at the 2012 Olympic Games!

Sarah’s decision to be a head of PE for a period was embedded with her belief that your ability to connect with people and lead a charity is improved by having been on the front line. She believes this is even more important within a smaller charity, where you need to get more involved in the day to day.

“I think authenticity is really important. We are in the business of changing young people’s lives and I’m in the business of convincing people to give us cash to do that”

This passion for young people and believing in the mission of the charity is critical when it comes to making difficult decisions. The pandemic cost Dallaglio Rugby Works nearly £1M in funds overnight because they relied so much on events that could no longer happen.

This meant that a full restructure of the organisation was needed and 50% of roles were lost. That is a horrible job for any leader to do, but with a focus on those they try to help, Sarah was able to make it happen - but she also made sure every single one of those staff members was able to find employment elsewhere because it is about caring.

They Are Young People Led

Sarah talks about the young people they support as the people that ‘they work for’ and it’s a way of thinking we have heard a lot in our podcast series so far, the ultimate responsibility for a charity leader is to the people they look to help.

But she is clear they are there to help them, but not to tell them what to do. They give them the tools and support, but ultimately they need to make the decisions and show the action to change their lives.

Because they are beneficiary led, i.e. young people, they have made a conscious effort to have a youthful feel to the organisation and make sure young people are involved in the decision making. There is no better proof of this than the rebranding they have been through after consultation with the young people they help and who work for them.

It was felt at the time they were not accessible enough to the youth of the day, so they needed to focus more on channels that appealed to their target audience, meaning a big change in focus towards social media.

The Business Of A Charity Needs Sales and Marketing

A theme throughout our interviews has been the insistence from charity leaders on how important sales and marketing are. In fact, many have wanted to be clear that marketing is not at odds with the values of a charity. Sarah puts it better than most…

"Marketing for us is not necessarily a dirty word but something we don't know too much about"

She actually describes herself as a salesperson, firmly believing that is a critical skill within a charity, where you are continuously working on getting funding and interesting people in what you are looking to achieve and who you help.

According to Sarah, they are in the business of getting people to donate and you have to do that through stories, which are at the heart of any good marketing strategy. For charities, it is making sure those stories are authentic, that’s when charity marketing works and you are staying true to your beliefs.

One tactic Sarah believes strongly in, is showing what your donations get you. People respond to seeing what their donations are leading to and it is more likely to capture the imagination of new donors.

Three Big Takeaways

Throughout this podcast series, we have asked our leaders to supply their top three tips for aspiring leaders. We have three more great examples from Sarah.

  1. Take a breath and listen to people. The pandemic has reminded us that it is good to take a moment and think about the bigger picture

  2. Don't bite off more than you can chew. In a charity, you are always trying to do everything, but it’s better to do fewer things really well than to spread yourself too thin and deliver poor quality

  3. Collaboration within the sector. The charity world is incredibly competitive, but the best return on investment has come when they have worked with others

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