Passing control from a founder to a board

renewal north west

"David brought a level of wisdom and common sense to the day, which was very welcome. He hit the nail on the head in terms of where the charity was and where the trustees were going into the process and he had the appropriate style to bring people on board and get their buy-in. His experience was very valued."


Renewal North West is a Christian charity, based in Stockport, Cheshire, which helps vulnerable people find the support and stability they need to turn their lives around. It was founded in 2006 by Wesley Downs, who had continued to be the driving force as the charity grew and took on more responsibility. At the time Wesley contacted Action Planning, he had relinquished his own trusteeship to become CEO and had built a board of very proficient trustees. He now wanted the trustees to start taking a more active role in the running of the charity.

Wesley asked us for help with passing the executive baton from himself to the board and preparing the trustees to assume responsibility in accordance with a clear, agreed strategy and set of values.

The focal point of our work for Renewal North West was a governance and strategy training day, run by David Saint. Prior to this he spoke individually to the trustees, which enabled him to go into the training day with an understanding of each delegate’s abilities and views. Any transition process will inevitably stir up conflicting opinions and it’s always helpful to be aware of these in advance, so that the process can be managed tactfully and every delegate feels their voice is being heard. The training day agenda worked through the development of a strategic plan for the charity, with roles and responsibilities assigned to appropriate individuals, and built on its mission statement – which had been written but not worked through at board level – to establish the charity’s values and vision.

There were practical and cultural benefits coming out of the training day. The delegates were able to define the charity’s values and consider their strategic approach, including what would be needed in terms of people, funding etc. The trustees went away with a clearer understanding of their individual roles and responsibilities and, significantly, were brought much closer to the day-to-day operation of the charity, with an eye to ways in which they could become more involved. They are now considering an awayday to continue the process and come up with a firm plan they can present to funding organisations.

Consultant’s insight:
The transition from ‘founder-led’ to ‘Board-led’ is always a challenging one – but it is a transition that every charity has to go through if it is to survive. Wesley’s openness and humility (not always present in founders!) was matched by the trustees’ willingness to ‘step up to the plate’ in a way that hadn’t really been called for before. The involvement of external facilitation meant that potentially awkward conversations could be managed with respect and good humour, and always with an eye to the long term sustainability of the charity.

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