How long have you been in your role?
I started the charity in 2001 and have been fundraising for it ever since. I resumed my role as chair in 2011 after a short break. Voyage Youth was launched as a response to the rise in knife crime I was witnessing on the streets of London during my time as a police officer. It was prevalent even as early at 1998, but today the victims and suspects of knife crime are much younger and the number of cases is on the increase. I took retirement in 2012 and since then have been able to offer more time to the charity.
What is the best thing about your role?
For me it’s seeing young people achieve their true potential. I watch them excel away from a life of violence and negative peer groups, buy in to their communities and realise they can change their neighbourhoods for the better, rather than become victims.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Like everything, keeping afloat funding wise. We could help even more young people if more funding was available, it would make a real difference. We have no end of young people coming onto the Voyage Youth scheme, but we have limited capacity as a direct result of the restrictions in funding. For a number of years funding was made available through a number of channels, including the Metropolitan Police and the London Mayor. Since 2015 funding has reduced significantly, which is causing huge challenges. It limits the work we can do and the number of lives we can transform.
Do you think fundraising has changed since you have been involved with it, and how?
The funding system tends to be to the advantage of the major charities, which can be frustrating. With a narrow window in which to submit applications and having a constant balancing act between delivery and fundraising, applications aren’t always to the standard that we would ideally like them to be. Bigger charities have departments just for fundraising, allowing them time to submit well thought-out applications even in a small timeframe. We simply don’t always have this capacity.
What advice would you give to a new fundraiser just starting out?
You need to understand how the demands of project delivery can limit your capacity and thus limit your opportunities to apply for funding. This can overshadow the true potential of smaller charities. Get up to speed on how to sell and promote yourself the best you can. Bigger is not necessarily better.
What do you do to switch off from work?
Play music. Listen to music. I love Leee John’s latest track, Police and Thieves. It’s very relevant for us today despite being a cover of a 1970s hit. I also play trumpet and go jogging, and other more outward-bound activities. Walking my dog was a regular pastime until recently, but that all changed with his sudden demise.
What’s your favourite book and why?
Convicted or Condemned by Dez Brown. This is an inspiring read that’s relevant and provides a real message: make the right choices in life from the get go. The author is a remarkable guy who is using his message from the past for his impactive message of the future.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
To read minds.