FD in Five Minutes: Laurie Smith of Family for Every Child

Third Sector speaks to the finance director and chief operating officer for the vulnerable children's charity

Laurie Smith
Laurie Smith

Why did you choose finance as a career? I didn't. My first jobs after graduating were in organisational development and strategy. Over time, I oriented towards finance, operations and governance. My choice to work in the sector was driven by values, but my place in the sector has been driven by personality and skills.

What made you work in the charity sector? The desire to help improve people's lives. All sectors can play an important role in delivering social impact, but it's the DNA of the charity sector. In my gap year, I worked in a voluntary capacity with adults with learning disabilities. This had a big impact on me and got me thinking about a career in the sector. It wasn't a common choice for engineering graduates, but I got a place on the Charityworks graduate programme and this was a great way in.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far? Helping to set up Family for Every Child, a global network of children’s organisations that are working together to improve the lives of vulnerable children around the world. Family supports local organisations that are experts in what needs to change on the ground. We work with them to turn locally grown ideas into world-changing actions. We're really excited about our first global campaign, United for Boys, which tackles the difficult subject of sexual violence and boys.

What do you do outside work? The charity has recently gone 100 per cent remote, with staff employed around the world and no physical office space. This has many upsides, including cost efficiencies and no office politics, but it makes the concept of "outside" work harder to define. Most of my downtime is enjoyed with my wife and young daughter in Cambridge, where we’re involved in running a local church youth group.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far? The honest answer is my mother, who also spent her career in the charity sector. At work, my inspiration comes from our incredible member organisations, which do amazing work around the world. Our chair, James Kofi Annan, runs an anti-trafficking charity in Ghana. James was trafficked at the age of six and has a powerful story.

If you were charities minister for the day, what one thing would you do? As a trustee of Charityworks, I’m aware that the sector isn’t as strong as it needs to be in attracting and developing talent. I would try to position the sector better as a career of choice, appeal to a more diverse cross-section of society and create better points of entry into the sector and pathways for career development.  

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