Career profile: Chief Executive of a charity

Ever considered becoming a CEO? Here’s what to expect and how much you could earn.

Sian Broughton is CEO of East Riding Voluntary Action Services (ERVAS), supporting charitable, voluntary and community sector organisations across the East Riding of Yorkshire. As many of these organisations are small, they don’t have the resources to pay for staff teams with all the skills required – ERVAS offers infrastructure support.

What does your role entail?

I have a very wide remit. As well as day-to-day financial management responsibilities, I handle legislation compliance, sustainability, funding and contracts, information governance and quality review. I’m also Company Secretary, so I prepare annual returns and Annual Reports. So I’m busy, and there is no slowdown!

How did you develop your career?

Actually, when I left school I had no idea about what I wanted to do. I did a BTEC Travel and Tourism diploma but soon decided it wasn’t for me so I went onto an HND in business studies – both times, finance was my strongest subject. After I had my daughter at 20, I worked part-time for a small charity where I had responsibility for admin and finance. Whilst there I decided to study AAT as it was a great way to progress in finance, and I started at Level 3 [Advanced Diploma in Accounting] because of the experience I already had. After being made redundant, I became finance and payroll officer for another charity, continued AAT to Level 4 [Professional Diploma in Accounting] and then full membership.

How does being qualified help with your salary?

In the first place, being qualified enabled me to get the job – I wouldn’t be here without qualifications. I was very conscious that I was in a highly responsible position at the age of 26 and the salary is appropriate. However, the charity sector is not as well-paid as the private sector or even the statutory sector – for all the responsibilities I have, it would be higher elsewhere. I work here because it gives me immense job satisfaction, freedom and flexibility – I can juggle home, work and life.

Any fears or concerns that you’ve overcome as you’ve built your career?

People have always thought me older than I am; I was CEO at 32 so considered very young. I knew I had the skills but worried about being taken seriously because of my age. Also, a lot of high-powered people tend to be male and I did encounter stereotyping around women – especially young women – that I had to get past. But, I got there. More recently, with austerity cuts a new level of tension has come in. Financially we are very reliant on grants; and when there was a big change in local authority policy, we were left struggling financially. However, we are working on turning that around by diversifying income streams.

What else have you experienced on your journey?

I’m extremely proud to work in the voluntary sector and love the work that I do. At any time, a person can be touched by an act of charity; when you are feeling at your lowest point it can be a great support blanket. My son was born nine weeks premature and had many problems including a perforated bowel which required life-saving surgery. I had to prepare for him not making it; and I wasn’t in control of what could happen. My life was touched by Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity, Tommy’s, Bliss and Steps – they do amazing work and I am so thankful. So it feels very rewarding to work in the charity field where you really feel your work makes a difference.

Any other tips for professionals wanting to develop their accountancy career?

Accountancy is a career choice – it isn’t just for people from an affluent background. As a child I was brought up by a single parent on a low income, we had to flee domestic violence and I had to work from a young age in order to do the things I wanted. I was even homeless for a short time prior to becoming qualified. My attitude has been that these things have made me stronger but vitally, they’ve given me the skills to talk to people with a non-judgemental attitude and explain difficult concepts in straightforward ways. Many people from my background have struggled. Working in accountancy has given me security.

Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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