Trustee talk: A new face for facial disfigurement

Nathalie Thomas interviews Anthony Cann, retired lawyer and chairman of Changing Faces.

My appointment as chairman of Changing Faces, the charity that supports people with facial disfigurements, is something completely new for me: I wasn't previously a trustee of the charity. It came about because I retired from the law firm Linklaters in September and I wanted a complete change. I had been at Linklaters for 37 years, during the last five of which I was the worldwide senior partner. I already had one non-executive directorship and two other charitable positions, and I wanted another position in the voluntary caring sector. My name was brought to the attention of Changing Faces through headhunters.

I had heard of the charity, but I can't say I knew a lot about it, so I did a lot of diligence: I spoke to Changing Faces' founder, James Partridge, and some of the other trustees, and I was very impressed.

My recruitment was a fairly detailed process: after I spoke to the headhunter, I had lunch with James. I then had about three different interviews with the trustees. There was then another session with James and a meeting with the staff.

I felt Changing Faces was a charity to which I could contribute something.

I had experience of leading a large, business with a billion-pound turnover and dealing with governance issues, people issues, motivation, strategic thinking and so on. That seemed to be what Changing Faces was looking for.

It's Changing Faces' 15th anniversary this year, and we want to mark it with a real step change in the charity's funding position. It is currently operating on about £1m of revenue a year. If it's really going to reach all the people it wants to, it needs a higher profile. For this we need more funding.

I'm working hard with James, the staff and the trustees to look at where we can identify more funds from various sources. This includes looking at whether we can render services to the public sector and get paid for them.

We're still a million miles away from developing the kind of close relationship with the state that some people are concerned about, but I don't see a problem with delivering statutory contracts. In fact, I'd like to increase disfigurement training for medics and perhaps also introduce training for corporates and other bodies. That said, it's obviously important that our central mission isn't changed by any particular fundraising area.

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