Sharon Daley joined Homeless Link as Director of Finance and Resources last month. This is a new role created on our senior management team as Homeless Link expands. In this interview Sharon tells us of her hopes for the new role.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I have spent 27 years, predominantly in the charity sector in senior finance positions. I have worked across health, social care and inequalities so the move to Homeless Link was a natural one. Actually I applied for a job at Homeless Link 20 years ago, so I have been aware of the organisation for a long time. I have always been passionate about inequality, health and social care so the leap to homelessness is not difficult.
Most recently I have been Director of Finance at the Centre for Ageing Better who work to build a social movement to improve the quality for life for people as they age. Before that I was at the People’s Health Trust – which is a grant funder of community health projects.
What are your first impressions of Homeless Link?
Before I joined people told me what a great organisation Homeless Link was – and I haven’t been disappointed. All the people I have met through my induction programme have been really passionate and have great expertise and knowledge. So far there haven’t really been any nasty surprises!
When is the right time for a third sector organisation to invest in leadership?
I am clearly joining Homeless Link after it has been on a period of growth. It's always difficult to keep systems and administration proportionate in a growing organisation, but now it definitely feels like the right time in Homeless Link’s maturity to be formalising procedures like staff development, financial management and EDI strategy. It’s part of “growing up”, there are areas we can make sharper and get us on to the next level.
Different organisations find different routes to growth. It depends largely on funding. My recent employers have been start ups, but one had an endowment to fund it. Different funding sources lead to different levels of complexity which can require changes in the way that leadership is delivered.
What do you think are the challenges facing the sector?
A key challenge for us all will be how we manage our costs in the face of inflation and the cost of living increases. How can we ensure our staff can continue to cope, and how can we maximise their health and wellbeing in the face of this crisis? This will be particularly true for organisations that have long standing funding agreements where current inflation levels probably weren't built in.
Also on the horizon is a potential change in government for the first time in a long time. Whoever wins the next general election, it is likely to bring in a raft of new policies and changes that will affect the way that charities work. Whilst change may be needed, it always reminds us of how short term government thinking can be.
And of course for the homeless sector specifically we are seeing an increase in the number of people who need services, while the funding is diminishing in real terms.
Homeless Link is just starting to plan its new strategy. What would you like to see in it?
The key to the strategy for all organisations must be around financial sustainability. At Homeless Link we must continue to embrace the entrepreneurial elements of our work. Around 50% of our income now comes from social enterprise. But as we go forwards, if that grows it might bring discussions about the structure of the organisation and we need to ensure that we stay true to our purpose.
Any final thoughts?
I am really excited to be here at Homeless Link and part of the movement. I am looking forwards to making a contribution and helping to achieve the vision of ending homelessness for good.