I’m Meredith Niles from Marie Curie and this is #MYCHARITY

The WeGiveIt #MYCHARITY series asks heroes, experts, and leaders to share their ambitions, routines and more. It’s published monthly at www.wegiveit.co.uk/blog

This week on the #MYCHARITY series, we speak to Meredith Niles, Executive Director of Fundraising and Engagement at Marie Curie.

Meredith began her career in investment banking, working in New York, Frankfurt and London for Goldman Sachs, where she was latterly an Executive Director covering the Consumer and Retail industry. Meredith moved into the voluntary sector, working as an Investment Director at venture philanthropy funder Impetus-Private Equity Foundation, where she co-led the development of its first sector-specific fund, dedicated to helping charities working to reduce re-offending scale their impact. After the fund was successfully closed, Meredith joined the terminal illness charity Marie Curie, initially to set up a Fundraising Innovation department, before assuming her current role as Executive Director of Fundraising and Engagement. We talked to her about her daily schedule, how she discovers innovation in the sector and how she measures success.

Location: London

Current job: Executive Director of Fundraising and Engagement at Marie Curie UK

One word that best describes how you work: Late (I am a natural night owl!)

Current mobile device: iPhone 6

Favourite website: The Atlantic Magazine website

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

My parents were always very engaged in our community, and I was tagging along and volunteering alongside them for as long as I can remember.  From an early age, I knew I wanted to have a career that allowed me to make a social impact, but initially, I wasn’t sure how best to go about it.  My university career office suggested that I get some “business experience” before moving into the social sector, so I went to Wall Street.  Eventually, I made the transition to the voluntary sector, and I haven’t looked back!

Take us through a recent workday.

I usually arrive by 8:30 after dropping one of my children off at school.  I try to spend the first 30 minutes of the day focussing on what I want to achieve rather than diving straight into email and being governed by my inbox (which is full of what other people want me to focus on!). Most days are full of meetings, but I try to carve out some space for reflection every day; some days, that is harder than others.  I also try to find time to praise and/or thank at least 3 people every day – whether that is through a private note, a quick chat, or a social media post. I typically finish up at the office between 5 and 6:30, and about two days a week, I head from there to an evening function – whether that’s a non-profit board meeting or a Marie Curie donor event.  The rest of the week, I head home to spend time with my family, then I do a bit of reading before bed.

How do you discover new ways to innovate in your working day?

I read a lot and am always seeking insight into how I can be more productive and effective.  I have been very impressed with Daniel Pink’s body of work in this area: Drive and more recently When have both impacted how I think about my work.

What is the next big thing in the charity sector?

I think there is an ongoing trend towards charities diversifying away from a pure reliance on voluntary donations.  Donations (and donors!) will continue to be vitally important, but I think as the scale of demand for charities’ services continues to increase faster than the rate of increase in voluntary donations, charities are increasingly going to look for further ways to grow their income.  I think the concept of “value exchange” will become increasingly important in charity income generation. 

How do you measure success?

Professionally, I measure success in terms of results: have my teams and I accomplished the goals (financial and non-financial) that we’ve set ourselves?  Personally, I measure success in more qualitative terms: do I still feel like I’m learning/making progress?  Am I (and are the people closest to me) happy?   

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?

I love to go for long walks.  I’m also a big fan of theatre and live music, and I try to get to as many shows as I can.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend?

I’m really into behavioural science and what charity leaders can learn from this area.  The best book on behavioural economics is definitely Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and I am looking forward to Bernard Ross’s forthcoming book on applying behavioural insights to the social sector.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.

A charity donor

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

You can’t do everything so focus on what you are uniquely positioned to do that will make the greatest difference.   

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?

You can follow Meredith on Twitter, LinkedIn and find out more about her charity, Marie Curie here

The WeGiveIt #MYCHARITY series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their ambitions, routines and more. Have someone you want to see featured or questions you think we should ask? Email Sara