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A message from our CEO, Sonal Shah

It is with real sadness, yet excitement for the future that I am writing to let you know that I will be leaving The London Community Foundation in early February 2016 to seek a new challenge. This has been the most wonderful organisation I could have hoped to have worked for and I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities it has given me as well as the friends, colleagues and supporters who have been there on the journey.

As I have approached my 12th year here and 7th as Chief Executive, I have reflected on the question of ‘what next?’ Whilst I continue to love what we do and be challenged and enthused by the opportunities ahead, I have felt personally that it is time to move on. I am so proud however of what we have achieved and I know it will be difficult to let go!

Since our inception in 1995, our annual grant awards have grown from £ 60,000 to £ 5.2 million – growth of 25 % annually – and over the whole 20 year period our grant awards now total  £50 million. Endowment funds, which provide sustainable funding for communities have grown more recently, rising from under £ 50,000 in 2007 to a current figure of £18 million. If I look back to the organisation I joined (South East London Community Foundation) in January 2005, the story of our development has been remarkable. Significant diversification of income from a largely public sector base, the consolidation of 4 Community Foundations into one that acts for all of London, development of our grantmaking that enables us to flex from the hyper local to the pan London and rapid growth in our promotion of private sector philanthropy – these are all things I would name as successes.

But for me the ultimate success lies in the stories of our grantees and the lives that have changed through their work, our grants and the generosity of our donors. Since day one I was inspired by them and that feeling continues in full force. A few weeks back, I was sat in the offices of a small charity that works with young refugees. I listened to stories of harrowing loss and unbelievable pain and heard how this group had helped so many young people find a way through. And once again I was reminded of why I got involved in the Community Foundation … and incidentally why I’ve stayed this long.

I have no doubt that the organisation will continue to go from strength to strength and we are starting now the search for a new Chief Executive to lead us forward, with the aim of having someone in place by the time I leave. Should there be any gap between appointments, we have a strong team and senior team and an established Board, led by our Chairman, Francis Salway. I am confident they will hold the reigns superbly in the interim.

As for me, what next? Well, I am taking a bit of time initially to spend with family – and will then be searching for new opportunities and challenges as I decide on future career steps. My absolute priority until I leave however, will be to ensure a smooth transition and a successful future  for The London Community Foundation – I have said to my team that as far as I am concerned, it’s business as usual!

Whilst there will be plenty of time for goodbyes over the coming months, I must take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and friendship over the years, whether you have been with us a long time or have come to us more recently. I really could not have wished for a better job! 

Published on 26 October 2015

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