Apprenticeship Levy

Meet our Professional Development Experts – Louise Clarke

Louise Clarke, Professional Development Expert at Corndel and Interim CEO of children’s charity Challengers, shares her insights into being a leader, following a career which involves over a decade in the charitable sector and extensive experience in the private sector.

Since December 2020, Louise has been Interim Chief Executive Officer at Challengers. Challengers works with children aged 4-18 years old and offers holiday schemes and after school clubs for disabled young people. 50 per cent of disabled children are still excluded from mainstream play which means they are prevented from the same developmental prospects as other young people their age. Challengers offers the opportunity for them to play, make friends and develop vital skills in communication and collaboration.

When becoming CEO of Challengers, Louise explains that the biggest task at hand was to assess the charity’s situation and to create strong foundations so that the next CEO could sail the ship smoothly. The organisation’s vision, mission and motivations were at the heart of this – to deliver high quality services to young people.


Challenges of running a not-for-profit organisation

Louise describes the financial risk involved in running a charity.

“As Local Authority budgets are shrinking, and the pandemic has resulted in fewer donations, it is fundamental for employees to have a commercial awareness to help the organisation prosper amid an increasingly competitive market. A large part of this challenge comes from hiring the right candidates. Being able to attract the right kind of employees who are motivated by the cause, as well as having the skillset and understanding that allows them to get both the quality and the financial elements right is integral.”

Leadership training 

Louise explains that “the majority of people in senior positions have gone through the ranks and climbed the ladder to achieve the top jobs.” The issue is that this reflects cross-sector trends of four out of five managers being ‘accidental managers.’ This phenomenon is where a highly skilled employee has excelled at their job and as a result gets promoted but lacks the knowledge to lead due to a lack of training.

Across the third sector, there are few training and development opportunities for leaders to progress to the next stage of their career. A deficiency of funds often means that training is not a practical choice for most charities.


How The Imperial College & Corndel Executive Development Programme enhances leaders in the industry

Louise sees Corndel’s Level 7 Senior Leadership Apprenticeship with Imperial College as a valuable solution to the gap in the market for leadership training in the charity sector. Through using the Apprenticeship Levy, it supplies tools for senior leaders to think about and explore the best ways of leading.

Leaders across the sector who undertake this course are given the space to look ahead and think differently.

A large part of the programme involves networking and meeting with people from other charities to reinforce or challenge positions they might currently hold. By sharing and widening knowledge streams, it reinforces some of the challenges you might face within your own organisation, but also highlights the commonalities faced across different charities. Rather than the third sector being a competitive space, it becomes about collaboration; a mindset shift which fosters better leadership.


Louise’s top tips for success of being a senior leader in the charity sector:

Listen to people
When employees feel that a leader listens to them and their concerns, they feel valued and that their voice matters.

Know your numbers
You need to measure the impact of the service that you are delivering.

Engage with your employees
Get everyone involved in developing the charities strategy and in solving the bigger issues.

Communicate the good and bad
Be honest both when things are going well and during the times when difficult conversations are required.

Help everyone understand their contribution
This is achieved through having a strong and clear connection to the organisation’s vision.