FD in Five Minutes: Sam Sharpe

Third Sector speaks to the chief financial officer of Save the Children UK

Sam Sharpe
Sam Sharpe

What made you work in the charity sector?

I love working in international development. There’s just so much opportunity for people to work together to make such a big difference. It’s amazing to look back to the 1980s and see how much has improved – the halving of under-five deaths for a start. I spent a long time working for the Department for International Development. Stepping across to Save the Children UK was an easy move to make. I love the clarity of Save the Children’s mission: to help all children survive, learn and be protected during conflicts and humanitarian disasters. It’s quite a change to be working to such a defined focus; in DfID, so many different development issues were jostling for priority and there were no easy metrics for the finance team to optimise resource allocation across them.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

I’ve worked on some fantastic projects for both DfID and Save the Children, and I love it when we can demonstrate to our funders the impact their money has made, especially when it comes to unlocking the power and potential of children. I feel hugely proud every day that 400,000 people want to support Save the Children with monthly payments of their hard-earned cash. They’re helping us to make sure millions of children survive, learn and thrive.

What do you do outside work?

Commute to London from Hampshire: it’s a lovely place to spend the weekends. I’ve really enjoyed being a trustee at the Overseas Development Institute and on the board at the University of Bath. I’d encourage any charity FD to take on a trustee role as well. I’m sure I’ve become a better FD from seeing how things look from the trustee side of the table, and a better trustee from knowing what the FD is wrestling with behind the calm facade they present to the board.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far?

I first caught the bug for international development when doing a bit of volunteering in India. I guess that getting stuck into something is always the best way to be influenced by it.

Are you optimistic for the future of the charity sector?

Definitely. People will always want to get together to support great causes and deliver practical help. But the sector will have to keep up with rising expectations from donors, beneficiaries, regulators and the public. If today’s charities don’t modernise fast enough, a new generation of charities will take their place.

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