A training regime for the healthy finance director

Getting your charity's finances in shape is like getting yourself in shape, says Helen Verney of Jewish Care

If I haven't already asked you by email or Facebook to sponsor me for my 5km run in May, please take this as your cue: www.justgiving.com/Helen-Verney.

For the novice runner, the plan you choose to follow is the key to being successful in your race. It takes about 12 weeks from scratch to gradually build up the endurance to run 5km, and it helps to gain wisdom from those who have attempted it before you.

Gone are the days when I could do the Crisis Square Mile Run - a 3.5-mile route through central London -with no preparation and a cigarette at the start line. Winging it when you are young is one thing, but there comes a time when success is more about building endurance and wisdom.

The same goes for novices in any field. This is my 12th year as a charity finance director. I have been wondering what I have learnt along the way and how I have built up stamina without getting distracted or disillusioned. It's not been unlike a 12-week training programme. So here's my advice for anyone embarking on the long and winding course of charity finance.

In week one, network with people who are more experienced than you and try to pinpoint the key factors in their success. Shoes, you will realise, are very important. In week two, experiment with three different methods for everything - tying your laces, for example. Accept that there will be some methods that just don't work.

In week three, realise you are the only one in the park without gloves on. Return to the start and check your equipment list: key staff, key performance indicators, spreadsheets.

In week four, change your route to add variety. In week five, join a forum on the ethical dilemma of enhanced performance possibility from using hayfever spray containing steroids. In week six, come off the forum when you realise it's just a talking shop.

In week seven, help others who have just started. In week eight, change your route for one that is more challenging and includes obstacles you might previously have avoided. In week nine, master the new route, get over-confident and fall flat on your face.

Humbled, in week 10, find new developmental and relevant forums and become a proactive member of them. Be brave. In week 11, review your progress and extend your targets: think about doing a 10km run next. And in week 12, try doing it dressed as a chicken.

Whatever week you are on in your programme, remember that every frustration is a learning opportunity, every route a new set of challenges and every target ultimately achievable if you approach it in the right way.

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