Having sold their businesses many entrepreneurs seek a new challenge and often feel it’s time to put the skills they’ve developed to work for a good cause. And that could mean using their expertise and knowledge to help charities raise money.
Entrepreneur Simon Lande went down that path after exiting ActiveStandards, the international software tech company he founded and led for more than 20 years, eventually selling to a US private equity firm in 2015.
In May 2017 he became Director of Fundraising and Engagement for the child protection charity the NSPCC.
Simon had been volunteering for the NSPCC for several years and provided free services for the charity through his company, which developed the first Childline website in the late 1990s.
He says: “I was interested in applying my business and technology expertise to the challenges facing the charity. When the job was advertised I felt there were many crossovers and synergies with my background and admired the NSPCC’s work, so I threw my hat in the ring.”
He adds: “They weren’t specifically looking for an entrepreneur but wanted a different perspective on addressing the challenges of generating income in the increasingly competitive fundraising arena.
“The shared thinking was that an entrepreneur with tech expertise looking at things from a business perspective, supported by a strong team of experienced fundraising professionals, is a winning combination.”
Commercialise the brand
Simon initially headed the relationship fundraising operation, seeking ways to incrementally improve income generation and then switched to a more strategic role looking at income generation across the organisation.
More than 90% of the NSPCC’s income is from donations but the charity wanted to look at diversifying revenue by increasing the commercialisation of its strong brand and wealth of intellectual property.
Simon also helped define an innovation framework to give a clear path for new ideas and to encourage people to be more agile and flexible and less risk averse, while ensuring continued best practice in governance and compliance.
“The programme underway will explore ways of generating additional revenue from the charity’s e-commerce shop, and e-learning platforms plus other products and services aligned to NSPCC objectives, such as a therapeutic product that provides income.”
Having put strategic changes in motion, Simon recently stood down from his formal executive role, enabling others to execute the ideas, but continues to advise on specific strategic projects.
“I felt it best to hand over operational implementation of the recommendations and return to a volunteer advisory role – the next phase of my evolving 20-year relationship”
Does he have tips for entrepreneurs looking to make the shift into a philanthropic environment?
“It’s very rewarding but, if you’re going into an operational role, it’s important to be aware of the change in mindset required, especially when you’ve been your own boss in a fast-moving, agile environment.
“No matter how supportive your CEO and executive team, it’s a very different operating environment from an entrepreneurial venture. You need to adapt and follow all the processes, which can take some getting used to.”
He points out his own path into the NSPCC, taking up an operational executive position, was relatively unusual.
“More typical roles for former entrepreneurs involve sitting on a corporate advisory board on how to win new business or develop partnerships for example. Another obvious route is to become a trustee.”
He concludes: “Charities undoubtedly welcome, and benefit from, the input of entrepreneurs. Realistically though, you’ll need to make the first approaches, sell yourself and show how you can help them.”
Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.