The Big Hire - Will Jones

The Brainstrust appointed Jones as its first chief executive this year in order to develop the charity

Will Jones
Will Jones

Brainstrust was founded in 2006 by the family of Megan Hill, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, aged 19. Although she had surgery and recovered, her family were shocked by the lack of support for people in their position and decided to do something about it.

Ten years on, the organisation has grown significantly and, in the past two years, has increased its income by almost 60 per cent, raising almost £750,000 in the financial year to March 2016. Throughout this time the charity chose not to have a dedicated chief executive and instead relied on the trustees to oversee paid staff. But the trustees realised this year that, if it was to develop, it was necessary to employ a chief executive, and appointed Will Jones, Hill's brother, who at the time was serving as director of development. Jones had left a career in marketing to join the charity full time in 2009.

Many charities, Jones points out, bring in a chief executive because they are looking for a change of direction or fresh ideas. But Jones says Brainstrust simply wants to do more of the same.

The charity is based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight and employs 11 people. It has regional hubs in Scotland, the north of England and the central south coast, but some of the 60,000 people in the UK who have brain tumours will be in Wales, northern Scotland and the south west, with much less access to support, and it is here the charity hopes to expand.

"The board and management are not typical of the sector," Jones says. "Many of them are from the private sector and are commercially astute. They recognised the importance of the investment in a chief executive. We have some real challenges around the pace of change, and it can be a culture shock to restructure significantly and quickly. So we need to make sure the role is set up for success.

"The role of chief executive will be different in every organisation, and with it comes preconceptions. So, for me, it's about taking ownership of what a chief executive of Brainstrust looks like and communicating that back to trustees and to the team."

To achieve that, Jones is putting to use the communications skills he developed in his marketing roles. He's been travelling to meet the charity's teams around the country. "I hope through these conversations that people will feel better supported and culture becomes an important word," he says. "As a result, I hope that people feel more autonomous and more purposeful, and they will have the training in place to become masters of what there are doing."

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