Parting Shot: Neil Jones of Make-A-Wish

The outgoing chief executive of the charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses has seen its income triple during his tenure, and feels it is a good time to go

Neil Jones
Neil Jones

In the late 1980s I was working as a fund manager in the City and fellow commuters looked as miserable as sin. It made me re-evaluate what I wanted from my life. I decided to move into the third sector and got a job at the Charities Aid Foundation that used my investment skills. I was there for 13 years, eventually becoming director of communications.

I'd tell anyone thinking of working in this sector to go for it - there are emotional and ethical pressures, but it's wonderful to be a part of it. If you progress to running an organisation, it can be easy to get caught up in politics, but I always try to focus on the decent and honourable thing to do. Being honourable is why most of us come into the sector.

When I joined Make-A-Wish 10 years ago, there was only £10,000 in the bank and 350 children waiting for a wish. After four months I had to tell staff that they wouldn't be paid that month. The low points involve people, such as restructuring and telling colleagues they will lose their jobs; but granting wishes to children makes us all proud. I love this place, but now is a good time to leave. The charity's total income and the number of wishes granted have both tripled - this year income is expected to reach about £7.7m and 1,000 wishes - and I feel my successor can take the charity on to greater things.

We deal with such a serious subject, so it's important not to take life too seriously. There hasn't been a day in my career when I haven't laughed or grinned broadly with colleagues.

Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children and young people who are fighting life-threatening conditions

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