Our brilliant Chair of Trustees, Sarah Mullen, is coming to the end of her 8-year tenure, which means we're looking for a dynamic, committed new Chair. To give applicants a sense of the role, we spoke to Sarah about her time at Respect, as well as the Board's current priorities and challenges.
What made you want to join Respect’s board as our Chair?
My first Chair role was for a baby charity called Bliss. I really enjoyed being the Chair and so I decided to look for another role with a social justice purpose. I was immediately attracted to Respect because I was becoming more and more aware of the devastating impact that domestic abuse has on victims, and on their children and families. And as someone who worked in public policy, I was also aware of the very large social and economic cost of domestic abuse, not only to individual families, but to society as a whole. I was interested that Respect focused on perpetrators - the cause of the problem - which felt like the right approach if you wanted to stop domestic abuse altogether.
What I discovered when I joined was that the whole social justice system is biased towards holding the victim rather than the perpetrator to account and I'm really proud that our mission at Respect is to change that and to focus firmly on the perpetrator.
What’s it like to be on Respect’s board?
It's very enjoyable! The board are friendly and really engaged, but they also recognise their role as a critical friend to the senior team. They will challenge when they have concerns or see things differently, and I have encouraged that, but they will also abide by a decision when we reach an agreed way forward. I have a strong Treasurer and Vice Chair, and all members of the board will step in and help when their expertise - or even just their presence - is needed.
I also really love working with Jo and her senior team, they are very committed and incredibly knowledgeable, but they also recognise the range of expertise on the board, and are willing learners and listeners.
What are some of the Board’s key priorities right now?
Our main focus recently has been developing Respect’s new strategy; building the right capacity, systems and processes for the growth we have experienced; and ensuring our finances are sound.
Over the next year, we will be looking to ensure we make good progress on implementing the strategy and associated organisational change programme. We will need to continue to build on the work we have been doing to increase and diversify our funding for our core functions so that we can build a stable and sustainable budget for the next few years.
We also have a strong commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and will want to make sure the work we and the team have been doing to challenge ourselves on this continues, as well as making sure EDI is marbled through all our work.
What has been a highlight of your time as Respect’s Chair?
There are so many!
I always enjoy recruiting new trustees. Every time we have done a recruitment round, we have brought interesting people onto the board with different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, who add so much value to the team. We always end up recruiting more people than we originally plan for!
I love attending Respect events, like Respect’s belated 20th anniversary in 2022, where I met lots of experts working in the field, and we took the opportunity to reflect on how far Respect has come in two decades. There was such a positive energy in the room.
There is also the sense of achievement when I help the board steer through a complex or tricky issue, and we find a way forward that reflects the collective wisdom and experience of the board and senior team.
What are the strategic challenges facing the domestic abuse perpetrator sector right now, and how is Respect’s board working with the team to address them?
The biggest one is money. Funding for the sector doesn't match the scale of the problem - the estimated cost to society of domestic abuse is about £78 billion a year. Whilst the government has announced a Perpetrator Fund of £75 million, we know that this barely scratches the surface of what is needed. So the board needs to ensure that we are prioritising where we put our resources to have the biggest impact - and this is where our new strategy should help us.
We also have to support the team to maximise emerging fundraising opportunities, seeking funding from a wider range of sources that give us more freedom to use money where we need it most; and to ensure that our core costs - things like finance, public affairs and communications, which we need to expand as the organisation grows - are properly funded.
What would you say to people thinking of applying for the Chair position?
If you are passionate about ending domestic abuse and you think you have the expertise we are looking for, then please do apply!
Respect is a fabulous organisation, and we welcome people from many different and diverse backgrounds. In my time we’ve grown from 10 to over 50 staff, but the same values and culture remain. Respect staff and trustees are committed, thoughtful, collaborative, caring, inclusive and passionate for change. They are wonderful to work with, and I am constantly learning from them. Being Chair is a great way to continue to develop and grow personally.
And don’t be put off from applying if you don’t know the charity sector, or if you haven’t ever been a trustee: all of those things can be learnt. We are holding an open meeting for people with an interest in the post on Tuesday 5th September at 9am, so join us then to find out more!