Building confidence in a natural leader
Middle East Media
“Chemistry is very important with consultants. David is very professional, competent, confident and easy to get on with. We felt strongly, as a team, that we really like working with Action Planning. They create a very good vibe.”
Jolita Paton, European Director, Middle East Media
Middle East Media (MEM) is a Christian charity that uses creative media to share God’s love with the people of the Middle East. In 2019, Jolita Paton, who had been with MEM since 2013, was appointed European Director, responsible for operations in Europe and the UK, which is one of the main providers of funding for projects in the Middle East. She found herself in a very fast-moving situation requiring a degree of crisis management, with only one full-time and three part-time members of staff in her team. She had seen David Saint speaking at a fundraising event and when an opportunity arose to receive a free consultancy session with David – offered in connection with EUConsult’s London conference that year – she knew exactly what she wanted to ask.
Jolita recognised that there was a need for a strategy to build the UK and Europe operation long-term and grow through the staff, the Board and major donors. What she wanted from David was guidance and support.
On the strength of that first, free session, Jolita booked six further hours of consultancy with David, delivered over three sessions in April, July and December. She used these sessions to discuss a range of topics, including governance, funding and staff structure.
“This is a 46-year-old organisation. I needed someone neutral to guide me through a myriad questions,” she says.
Her main challenge was how to build capacity, and David was able to offer his objective viewpoint as well as helping Jolita to process her ideas and actions between meetings and specify what she had achieved.
After the consultancy period, Jolita managed to grow her team to three full-time and three part-time members of staff, almost doubling capacity. She drew on this team, as well as David’s experience, to produce a new five-year strategy. “This was quite a different process to previous strategies; the whole team was involved,” she says. “David helped me to update our policies and processes and we produced Trustee and Staff handbooks, which have been very useful. And we did some research into trust funding.”
A further chapter in our relationship with MEM came from our Pearls of Wisdom giveaway, when MEM won a survey of its supporters, carried out by Andrew Johnson. And from this, we were commissioned to carry out a large rebranding project.
“We had been considering who should do our rebranding and were very impressed with Action Planning,” says Jolita. We loved the quality of their work. They’re very responsive; we’ve never had to chase them, and that really encouraged us. They have the breadth of experience to do the whole job, from A to Z.”
Sometimes consultants only have to provide the lightest of light touches, to help a client along the way. This was a good case in point. Jolita knew her organisation inside out and had excellent skills to take it forward. What she lacked was a sounding board and organisational capacity. So what started out as a free consultation, in the context of EUConsult’s pro bono offer, extended into a small series of ‘staging posts’ along the journey, to refuel, refresh, reflect and recalibrate.