I’m Lindsay Boswell from FareShare and this is #MYCHARITY

The WeGiveIt #MYCHARITY series asks heroes, experts, and leaders to share their ambitions, routines and more. It’s published monthly at www.wegiveit.co.uk/blog

This week on the #MYCHARITY series, we speak to Linsday Boswell, CEO of FareShare.

FareShare is a network of amazing people, volunteers and staff, who work hard to source surplus food from the food industry and redistribute it to charities. Since 2010 they have gone from 3,600 tonnes passed to 700 charities feeding 35,500 people per day and saving the charities nearly £8 million to now 13,552 tonnes to 7,000 charities, feeding 500,000 people per week and providing more than 28.6 million meals a year.

All done with in date, fit to retail food that is surplus in the food industries supply chain.

Location: Deptford, London

Current job: CEO, FareShare

One word that best describes how you work: Passionately!

Current mobile device: Samsung S5

Favourite website: Fareshare.org.uk of course!

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I’ve worked in the voluntary sector for about 30 years as doing something I really believe in has always been really important to me. My first CEO role was to take the small, underperforming Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers and transform it into The Institute of Fundraising. In my 11 years there, I was totally seduced by the feeling when you create a “win” for literally thousands of charities across all causes and areas. For example, one change to gift aid was estimated to be worth £500 million a year. I’ve always been passionate about waste and recycling and when I was asked to Chair a conference in the Cabinet office looking at charities and businesses working together, and heared about FareShare. I was desperate to work for them. That was on a Thursday and that Sunday I saw the advert for the CEO post.

FareShare at the start of 2011 was under £1 million turnover, supported less than 600 charities and had 13 staff. We now support nearly 10,000 charities and community groups across the whole of the UK and saves those causes more than £30 million a year.    

Take us through a recent workday.

Work at the moment is a mix of intense excitement and anxiety. We have massive plans to really scale up in an intense three year growth spurt. We have secured the foundation support to make this happen but need to really focus if we are to achieve our goals. The number we most focus on is 5%. That’s because we are only redistributing 5% of the food that is in-date and fit to be eaten yet this is enough to feed 500,000 people a week. So my day is part recruitment and getting excited by the amazingly talented and clever people who are coming into join us, partly reassurance, encouraging our 21 Regional Centers that we are right to think big and be ambitious and park boring stuff as I always want to spend any budget we have on feeding more people, so I have no admin support and even type up our board meeting minutes myself.

How do you discover new ways to innovate in your working day?

Instead of getting more set in my ways I find that the older I get the more “out the box” I am prepared to think. As a result I read a lot and this sparks great ideas. In particular, I love SOFII, a free website where fundraisers share ideas and their imaginations. I also love the weekly email called Friday 5, from Good Business.

What is the next big thing in the charity sector?

Fighting isolation in the elderly. It’s high time someone comes along and does a “Help For Heroes” to the traditional old age charities. There are millions of elderly people being starved of company, companionship and compassion sitting alone in bedsits or just in their minds. The solution isn’t a few big slow moving, risk adverse charities.

The other big thing is not in the charity sector at all. We are seeing more and more businesses take on social outcomes and do it much better than charities. In an ideal world I don’t think we should have any charities but all parts of society and especially business, can and will deliver using their scale, clout and professionalism. We need to stop thinking business is bad and charity is good. Life simply isn’t like that.

How do you measure success?

At FareShare it is how much food we get to how many frontline organisations feeding people who are vulnerable and how much that saves these organisations so they don’t just survive but thrive.

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?

I am very lucky and have no difficulty switching off…ignorance is bliss! My favourite pastime is gardening and growing as much food as I can.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend?

Uttermost Part of the Earth” by E Lucas Bridges. It’s the autobiography of a man born in the Falkland Islands in 1874 on his way to Tierra Del Fuego with his missionary parents, who grows up with the local Indians speaking only their language, who then becomes a multimillionaire sheep farmer having cleared hundreds of thousands of hectares and still feels the need to fight in the trenches at Passchendaele for a country he does not know. The only reason it has never been made into a film is there is no one suitable to play Lucas Bridges. Extraordinary life.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.

Tanya Steele at WWF

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Lindsay, in life there are easy solutions and there are tough solutions……the easy ones are almost always wrong.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?

I think I have bored them enough already!

You can follow Lindsay on twitter, linkedin and find out more about his charity, FareShare here


The WeGiveIt #MYCHARITY series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their ambitions, routines and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Sara