Spotlight on: Ben Fletcher, Chair of Trustees at St John’s Foundation

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  • Spotlight on: Ben Fletcher, Chair of Trustees at St John’s Foundation

At St John’s Foundation, our trustees form an integral part of our team and are pivotal in leading our charity to support as many people in our community as possible, and in the most effective way.

Ben Fletcher, our Chair of Trustees, joined St John’s in 2019 and played a vital role in spearheading and developing our current funding strategy to significantly reduce the educational attainment gap at Key Stage 2 in the Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES) region. Passionate about education, he is also a Trustee of the National Literacy Trust, which supports children’s literacy skills, and through this connection Ben brings invaluable expertise to support St John’s ambitious goals.  The re-focusing of St John’s funding strategy complements the support the charity continues to provide to older adults, including the provision of high quality almshouse accommodation and community outreach support.

Aside from his trustee work, Ben is Chief Finance and Transformation Officer at The Very Group, and for 10 years served on the board of the British Retail Consortium.

Ben says he was first drawn to becoming a trustee of St John’s by the charity’s impressive history and the positive impact it has in BaNES. He explains:

“When I think about the 850 years that St John’s has existed, I often reflect on the canny management and considerable amount of luck it has taken to reach this milestone. It also puts a weight of responsibility on our shoulders to continue and build on this legacy, creating a balance between having a short- and medium-term impact without putting the charity’s longevity at risk, so that the next generation can continue our crucial work.

“Many charities are having to think very carefully about how they can continue to support their beneficiaries, given current financial difficulties and, in this respect, we are extremely lucky to have the assets and financial buffer that we do. But we need to use them wisely, for when much is given, much is expected.”

Despite the burden of St John’s legacy, Ben feels very proud to play a part in the charity’s journey and current strategy, which he was instrumental in bringing to life. He says:

“We spent 2019 meticulously developing and planning our strategy, which was a new direction for St John’s, and were excited to launch it in 2020. Measuring our progress is key to demonstrating that our work is having the intended impact, allowing us to change course where it is not and to learn from our failures.

“Constant innovation is necessary to solve many of the problems we are facing. We can then share what we’ve learned with other charities, both within and outside of our region. We, in turn, can also learn from others and test their methods to see if they have a positive impact in BaNES.

“Our mission is to be effective, not just busy and, in this way, we can keep learning from our experiences and develop the key skills and knowledge needed to deliver our strategy, building collaborative networks across the community.”

St John’s Foundation has recently released its latest Impact Report sharing the results of the strategy so far, which can be found here.

Ben’s previous experience as a trustee and non-executive has supported him in his role at St John’s. He has noticed strategic similarities in his roles and the need to collaborate with many stakeholders to reach a common view. While working as a trustee instead of an executive at St John’s took some getting used to, he has enjoyed forming and leading the Board of Trustees, creating a high-calibre group with diverse viewpoints committed to the same goal – improving the lives of under-served people in BaNES.

“I would encourage anyone to become a trustee, especially whilst still working in the corporate world”, he says. “You get to spend time with people from many walks of life with a diverse range of skills, knowledge, and experiences, which you don’t always get in a large company. Being a charity trustee also grants perspective and connects you with the community in a very profound way. It’s very grounding and has been one of the most valuable developmental experiences for me.”

Reflecting on the charity’s milestone year and momentous celebration in February, during which Ben welcomed Queen Camilla, he adds:

“Our recent 850 Anniversary Service at Bath Abbey was terrific. It was a great atmosphere, and we were extremely grateful to be able to welcome our Patron, Queen Camilla. Walking from our almshouse to the Abbey alongside Her Majesty was my highlight of the day and will stay with me for a very long time.

“The day was so wonderful because it offered us a chance to reintroduce ourselves to the community and remind people we are here to support them, if they need us. We hope the people of Bath will get to know St John’s better over the coming year through increased visibility and that we can therefore have an even greater positive impact in our community.”

To find out more about St John’s Board of Trustees, click here.