When Partnership for Children started in 2002, our Zippy's Friends programme, which promotes the mental health of young children, was running in two countries. It has since spread to 30, and in 2014 we enrolled our one-millionth child at a school in Brazil.
That was something to celebrate, but it also set me thinking. Organisations need to be refreshed. We require trustees to step down after two three-year terms, so why was the director still here after 12? I realised that, having set up and led the charity, it was also my job to make a succession plan and then to leave. So I am retiring early. The charity will flourish without me, strengthened by a different perspective and developing in new directions.
Back in 2006, out of the blue, our biggest sponsor reneged on a grant agreement and left a gaping hole in our budget. Those were desperate times. We came within two weeks of closing. I remember feeling a failure, despairing, not sleeping. Eventually we pulled through and resolved never again to be so dependent on one funder. We had learned the hard way, but have been financially stable for years now. What didn't kill us made us stronger.
Fundraising can be a grind, but it does bring wonderful rewards. One sunny afternoon in Denmark, a group of teenagers told me that, though 10 years had passed since they went through Zippy's Friends, they were still using the skills they had learned. One girl said it helped her to cope with her mother's cancer; a boy said it helped him to resolve disputes with his friends.
Results like that are worth a few sleepless nights.