What is life really like for a Charity CEO?

I once saw a quote from the Directory of Social Change which I could completely identify with as the CEO of RAFT.

“Charity Sector CEOs face one of the most challenging jobs in the country. Not only do they have to be able to competently run “the…

View Post

Research and Delivery – a perfect partnership for the benefit of patients

RAFT and The Lindsay Leg Club Foundation have just celebrated the 2nd anniversary of their Charity Partnership. When I tell our supporters about this Partnership, the usual reaction is a look of confusion with a mix of eagerness to find out more. So….. they know about RAFT and they know that our surgeons and  scientists have developed the Smart Matrix - an artificial skin scaffold which aims to heal a deep wound in the quickest possible time.  But the Partnership is still in question. So I continue by giving a little background on the Lindsay leg Club Foundation – I explain that the Foundation introduced the concept of community-based leg ulcer care, which has grown into a network of evidence-based leg ulcer clinics, known as Leg Clubs.  Leg Clubs provide community-based treatment, health promotion, education and ongoing care for people of all ages who are experiencing leg-related problems, including ulcers which RAFT is hoping will be healed by the Smart Matrix™. I can see that things are starting to fall into place. It is a partnership of support – our 2 charities share a responsibility to improve the lives of people suffering with leg ulcers. Indeed this is a HUGE responsibility.  So what have we achieved in the past two years?

We were keen to tell the LLCF more about our innovative work and so arranged 2 Open Days at our laboratories in Northwood, Middlesex – one for the LLCF Trustees and the other for its Industry Partners. The RAFT team was delighted to showcase the Smart Matrix – guests had the opportunity to tour the labs, meet the team, ask plenty of questions (apparently scientists thrive on questions) and give closer inspection to the Smart Matrix™ scaffold which has the potential to revolutionise the world of wound healing.

By return, the LLCF invited members of the RAFT team to its last two annual wound healing conferences.  Our staff were fascinated by the workshops which were run by nursing staff and patients. Yes, we have contact with medics on a regular basis.  In fact, our relationship with the surgical community has been vital – we needed to understand what is needed to provide a truly effective treatment for non-healing wounds. Yes, there are scaffolds available to surgeons at the moment, but it seems they are not good enough. Speed is of the essence and is critical to successful healing, before infection has a chance to set in.  However, we now had the opportunity to talk to patients too – a true privilege. How did they feel? What was it like living with a leg ulcer?  We had no idea of the extent of the social stigma attached to leg ulcers…….the immobility, the leakage, the odour….the list goes on.  We had entered a whole new world and have learnt that we must continue to talk to patients as they are the reason for RAFT’s existence.

In November 2012, we held our first joint event – a reception at the House of Commons. What a treat to hold our first event in such auspicious surroundings.  Both charities show-cased their work to supporters and MPs. Guests heard speeches from our Chief Executives as well as patients. Mary-Rose, a patient and patron of the LLCF gave an insight as to what is like living with a leg ulcer and recalled the benefits of attending a Leg Club – she wished that the Smart Matrix™ was around when she so badly needed it. Ferrial, a Patron of RAFT, bravely shared her story too – she was badly burned as a small child when she was left playing with matches and managed to set fire to herself. Now, 20 years on, she is doing brilliantly but people don’t realise that she still needs surgery on a regular basis. Likewise, if only Smart Matrix™ was available to her when she and her family were in such desperate need. But she is not looking back, only forward.  We are thrilled that she has chosen to be such a fantastic Ambassador for RAFT.

Our Partnership has been formally recognized too:


Wound Healing Research from Grass Roots

Two Charities : One Goal

RAFT/Lindsay Leg Club Foundation

3rd Prize

The support that RAFT and the Lindsay Leg Club gives each other is truly valuable and we look forward to a long and productive relationship. 

Further information on both Charities can be found on our websites:

www.raft.ac.uk                      www.legclub.org 


Amanda Bailey

RAFT Director of Fundraising & Administration

We welcome another new trustee!

We are delighted and pleased to welcome Col. Chris Scott to the RAFT team, another new RAFT trustee!

Chris has spent his career in the Armed Forces. As well as many operational deployments, he has extensive experience of working on strategy and policy in the Ministry of Defence and the Northwood Headquarters, near to RAFT’s laboratories.

For the past 3 years he has worked on the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Along with all RAFT’s inspiring work, Chris has a particularly keen interest in its potential benefits for many of his service colleagues.

We hope he enjoys his time as a trustee for RAFT! :)

Richard Williams joins the RAFT team!

We are delighted and pleased to welcome Richard Williams to the RAFT team another newRAFT trustee!

Richard is the Director of Enterprise & Development at NCVO, responsible for Consultancy & Innovation, Support & Advice, Membership & Enterprise including, fundraising, marketing, events, business development and the development of new products and services that benefit the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS).

In his previous interim role as the Director of Capacity Building and Business Development, he was responsible for governance & leadership, strategy & impact, sustainable funding, workforce and collaboration, ICT and campaign effectiveness, business development and the development of new products and services that benefit the VCS.

Up until 1st July 2010 Richard was Director of Enterprise with responsibility for Marketing and Membership and Information and Publishing as well as business development.

Richard was Group Development Director for BTCV a leading UK based environmental volunteering charity where he was responsible for business development, fundraising, public relations, customer relations, and the management of cross sector partnerships. Richard has a background in production management and formal management training.

He has worked in the Voluntary and Community Sector for 30 years focusing on youth enterprise, unemployment measures, environmental issues, social enterprise, partnership development and diversity.

Richard is the founder of the Wandsworth Youth Enterprise Centre (WYEC), and an ambassador for BTCV.

He is a council member of the Social Enterprise Coalition and is a non-executive director of Trustees Unlimited LLP an NCVO joint venture, a non-executive member representative in CaSE Insurance an NCVO collaborative venture and a Management Committee member of Big Society Cooperative.

 We hope he enjoys his time as a trustee for RAFT! :)

Dafydd Wright joins the RAFT team!

We are pleased and delighted to annouce that Dafydd Wright has joined the RAFT team as a trustee.

Dafydd is a highly regarded Interim Management specialist in the pharmaceuticals and life science sector.

With a degree in Applied Microbiology, Dafydd practiced this knowledge in the field of diagnostics working as a Research Scientist for VTT in Finland on behalf of the wider brewing industry.

Interested in people, and wishing to utilise his knowledge and passion  for science in a different field, Dafydd transitioned into pharmaceutical recruitment. His first position  was with a start up company where he played a key role in helping establish the company’s services and building goodwill across the customer base. His efforts helped the company towards rapid growth which enabled rapid expansion of its operations . Following this success, he assumed a number of increasingly high profile roles before deciding that his primary interest lay in executive interim management and has since dedicated himself to growing the understanding of this service across the life science industry and beyond.

As a result of his focus and dedication to the cause of Interim Management, Dafydd is recognised across the industry for his innovative working methods and his commitment to finding the right people to make organisations better. In 2009, Dafydd was a finalist in the IRP Recruiter Awards and in 2010 he was the first pharmaceutical industry specialist to be awarded Interim Management Recruiter of the Year.

Women Talking!

RAFT’s CEO, Leonor Stjepic was delighted to be interviewed by Poppy Watts for Women Talking, an on-line site for women of all ages featuring online shopping, fashion, beauty, health, body and soul, parenting, business, careers, money, diet and relationships.

In this interview Leonor speaks about her personal reasons for working within the charity sector, the influences in her life and why being the CEO of a small organisation like RAFT is like running a business.

The full interview can be viewed here.

Our Skydive

(Matt Edwards, Lucy Carter & Dan Blackwell all kitted up for their skydive)

After a slightly apprehensive 2 hour wait it was our turn to go to the training hangar for our briefing. Down we sat, crossed legged, like school children in our first ever PE lesson. The instructor soon made us all at ease with a little light hearted banter, most of which was at the expense of the young guy he had chosen to be his model for the super trendy boiler suit!

After the short briefing it was over to meet our instructor, to whom we would be strapped to VERY closely for the adventure. So off we went, looking like Ghostbusters from the 1980’s over to the plane.

The ascent took just over 12 minutes with a brief stop at 5,000ft to let 2 extremely experienced skydivers out. They were practicing for an upcoming Team GB competition ;)   (might well be in a year or two’s time).

Whilst ascending my instructor Stuart was constantly reassuring me and explaining the dive in more detail. Then we hit the 12,500ft and the door was open, first four jumpers out were experienced formation divers, no sooner was the shutter door opened and they were gone. Disappeared in to the clouds below.

We shuffled down the benches towards the door, first out was Dan, looking a little nervous he edged to the door and WHOOSH he was gone! Now my turn, heart beating faster and faster by the second as I edged nearer and nearer. Stuart pulled my head back onto his right shoulder and told me to bend my lower legs up back to the plane and away we went. We spent the first few seconds upside down looking back up towards the plane, not at all what I was expecting and I must admit it did make me think for a second we were a little out of control. No sooner had that thought passed through my mind and we were flipped over with the ground getting closer and closer. This was one of the strangest feeling I have ever experienced, floating in the sky not a care in the world! It was amazing.


Then came time to pull the parachute, all of a sudden we just stopped falling and were floating through the sky, it was so quiet and peaceful. Stuart released the straps a little which made the extremely tight fitting straps a little more bearable. He was pointing out particular landmarks in the distance and even let me steer the parachute for a short time. We were floating like a bird!       


Then came the landing, we seemed to be coming in extremely quickly and then all of a sudden we slowed down to a walking pace and we dropped back down to land. It seemed like the last few minutes had just flown by. It was good to hear all our supporters on the side lines clapping and cheering.


I cannot explain how much I enjoyed the skydive and could not recommend it to anyone enough. 


You can watch my sky diving video here: 

Matt Edwards 

A ‘typical’ week for a Community Fundraiser

Since taking up the position of Community Fundraiser back in 2010 (having worked at RAFT for three year prior as a Secretary/PA), I didn’t quite realise what a varied and exciting role this would be for me.

No two days at RAFT are the same, there’s no such thing as a typical week, and that’s what makes getting up for work each day so easy.

Take just this week for example…. on Monday evening I went and presented locally to Harefield Tenant’s and Resident’s Association’s AGM meeting. Having lived in Harefield for five years (only having recently moved to Buckinghamshire), not only did I enjoy presenting to those present about RAFT, but I also found their AGM meeting very interesting and informative about the various going’s on in the local area.

At this meeting I was the guest speaker and was kindly invited to make a 15 minute talk about the research work at RAFT, which was well received by all, including two community support officers who were in attendance… that was a new one for me, having never presented to our police force.

Tuesday saw the deadline for applications for the position of Fundraiser – Maternity Cover (yes I am going on maternity leave at the end of June, but will be returning to RAFT next year). Time was spent looking through the various applications and creating a short list with my colleague on candidates to interview.

My day also included speaking at length to Kate at our new PR company, Wavelength about a post press release for our wonderful team at Parachute IT who finally managed to complete their skydives in aid of RAFT about having to cancel the event three times due to bad weather.

Mid week saw me involved in a meeting regarding our website and the various ideas that we have around updating it. I am responsible for making most of the updates to our website and so this meeting was most productive.

Last night I was delighted to have the opportunity to present to another local group, this time the Rotary Club of Elthorne-Hillingdon at Uxbridge Cricket Club.

I had a most enjoyable time, starting with a drinks reception (only Lemonade for me at the moment though!) and then a dinner with all the members of this Rotary group. A 40 minute presentation about RAFT then followed with the use of visual aids from my PowerPoint presentation.

I was thrilled at the response, with lots of questions being asked and lots of interest being shown to our work. Many are as a result keen to attend our Open Evening in May to learn even more from our scientists.

I was overwhelmed at the end of the evening to be presented with a cheque for £2,000 from the various fundraising efforts the Rotary club had been involved with which they had highlighted to be spent on RAFT’s research.

Thursday (today) is a day of catching up on emails, making funding applications and brainstorming some ideas around how we encourage younger people to get involved with RAFT.

I do know my plans for tomorrow; I’m off to visit the Just Giving offices in Paddington to help them with user testing on the charity account. RAFT is kindly being provided with a cash incentive to help them and I was only too pleased to oblige.

I’ll be back in the office in the afternoon to discuss brainstorming ideas with other staff members about the engagement of young people with RAFT and also to see one of our lovely volunteers Enora, who is kindly coming to RAFT to help envelope up our latest newsletter which will be sent out next week to our supporters.

As for next week……. I know already that one of our marathon runner’s is holding a quiz night to raise funds for us; I’ll be attending an awards ceremony with the hope that RAFT wins the National Council for Work Experience Awards 2012 and I will be on the interview panel for the Fundraiser vacancy.

Another busy week in the life of a Fundraiser!

Fundraising by the Fabulous Three!

RAFT is so delighted and touched that three of our wonderful supporters, Matt Edwards, Lucy Cater and Dan Blackwell have decided to take on the personal challenges of a tandem skydive in order to raise vital funds for our research.

We were thrilled to assist them in getting a feature in their local paper which you can see above.

The fabulous three have already raised £870 of their £2,500 target. They are doing incredibly well and we do hope that you might consider helping them reach their target by sponsorsing them on-line here.

Working with RAFT

I never had this problem before.

When I worked for the US Coast Guard, a newspaper in Hong Kong, the Thames Valley Police – even at a feng shui magazine - nobody ever gave me a completely blanked looked when I said where I worked.

But then I started writing for RAFT.

“RAFT? Is that some sort of lifeboat organisation?”

“No, it’s the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust, you know, RAFT.”

“Oh yeah…RAFT…Hey, I’d like to stay and talk about it but I need to find the cheese dip.”

No, it’s not always easy being a Rafter.

One of RAFT’s selling points is that it is unique when it comes to charities; unlike most research charities which then fund others to do their work, RAFT’s funds stay in-house and supports its own team of scientists.

Working for RAFT is unique as well.

The world of science and research is a very different world from most other jobs. There is no clock-in/ clock-out mentality, with someone on high dictating each day what you do. Work is project/grant driven and it is up to each to figure out what they do and where they fit in. As a writer, my job is similar.

Unlike working for a newspaper where you basically fill white space with ink every day, at RAFT it is up to me to figure out needed projects, get approval, and get writing. If I don’t, then I don’t work.

If you require constant supervision or a clear vision of your goals, then RAFT would not be your place. Scientists work in a world where everything is viewed through a murky glass; there are no clear, cut answers. It’s up to them to find the solutions and this philosophy is throughout RAFT.

For a writer, however, ‘murky’ is one of the best possible worlds to be in because one of the prime requirements of writing is to have a strong sense of curiosity.  If something is interesting to me, then that’s what I write about.

Oddly enough, working for RAFT reminds me very much of my Coast Guard days. Unlike the big services, the Coast Guard is small and so is its budget. While in the US Air Force $100 dollars screws are the norm, that could never happen in the Guard where a bag of gold-plated screws fit for a general would destroy its entire budget for the year. RAFT works under the same principal of frugality.

The Coast Guard is the smallest service in the States, with people working in small, close-knit teams; the same too is at RAFT. Everyone knows each other; their strengths and weakness and when the call goes out for ‘all hands on deck’; everyone responds.

What I find funny is that while RAFT is so small, it gets under your skin and seems to become a part of you. At times I’ve contacted plastic surgeons who did research here years ago; they still feel a part of the RAFT team.

Now let me go find that guy looking for the cheese dip. I’m sure he wants to hear more about RAFT.

Velo Mitrovich