Skip to main content

Nick Lawson


Bobby Goldsmith Foundation 

Have you always worked in the NFP/ForPurpose sector? What inspired you to join the sector, and what do you find most rewarding about it?  

Other than my early freelance travel/hospitality days I have always worked in the NFP/For Purpose sector. I’m not sure my path is so orthodox however. I started in NFP through Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders and to be honest, alongside a non-specific sense of doing something “good”, a lot of my motivation at the time was driven by a sense of adventure. I spent 17 years with MSF which were incredibly formative in my NFP understanding and education. I am inspired by the knowledge that whilst there is always a financial bottom line that influences the potential of any organisation, the organisations are there due to a fundamental belief in the potential improvement of people’s lives through a shared humanity. I am ever rewarded by my daily interactions with committed staff and the shared outcomes we can experience with clients. 


What is the greatest challenge you have experienced as a leader in the NFP sector?  

In a word, finance. We have all the ambition, direction, intellectual and physical capacity, and will to do more. Limited funding is the only thing holding us back. Having funders understanding the value of operational support and respecting longer-term value service and the funding of that, rather than individual short term projects would be helpful.  


What do you see as critical to leadership and the future of the sector?  

I value the shared collaborative debate inherent in NPA. The NFP sector is broad and diverse, and one size fits all philosophies or approaches are unlikely to be relevant. The ability for many to come together and reflect, allows for creativity and experientially-based concept, policy and practice building. Transparent, nuanced and readily available accountability benchmarks and metrics can also be helpful to measure success in outcomes and performance. 


If you could mentor someone who is just starting out in your field, what advice would you give them?  

It very much depends on what the person envisages for their career. In the event that management may appear on their horizon, an early understanding of the back-office components (finance, budgets, HR etc) of the activities you are engaged in will be incredibly helpful in seeing the whole of an organisation. And think about what two concepts mean to them: high ambiguity tolerance, and emotional intelligence. Investigating what they are and how to develop them will be time well spent.     

Olivia Mitchell