We recently took advantage of a seven-hour road trip to ask our CEO, Niall Fay to reflect on his first 12 months in the role and tell us what’s next for the Fay Fuller Foundation…

Niall joined the Foundation from outside of philanthropy bringing a diverse professional background and experience working in multi-disciplinary teams. This background has given him an appreciation for the insights people with broad expertise can contribute towards a shared vision. The focus on forming strong partnerships with a horizontal power structure is something he wants to bring to the philanthropy sector. The goal is not to “fund and forget”, but to invest in understanding where the need is, as identified by the community and to fund the best people and organisations to work collectively in finding a solution.

This past year Niall has dedicated time to building his understanding of the nuances and intricacies of philanthropy. He described philanthropic organisations as the “custodians of public money” and identified the potential to move beyond the constraints of traditional philanthropy such as short-term, discreet investments and to instead broaden impact by evolving granting practices, deepening relationships, and innovating funding models. “We are already beginning to see some of the ideas, processes and concepts at play in initiatives like Our Town be picked up by government departments and other philanthropic organisations”.

It has also been a year of internal change for the Foundation as it grows both in terms of giving, with a corpus that has nearly doubled in size, and staffing as it grows to a team of three. “In 2021 we’ll be implementing some of the big ideas from the past 12 months, including opening up a new funding area from July next year”. New additions to the team bring with them a range of experience in the non-profit granting space and the international development sector and are dedicated to creating change and impact within the community.

With this growth comes a responsibility to ensure our practices across all areas mature – this includes reflecting on past funding practices and the composition of our board and team. “It’s important that we reflect on the Foundation’s previous work and use our learnings to inform our future practices across everything we do”. Part of beginning this process has been to establish a set of values central to who we are and where we as a foundation came from. We are now in the process of taking the values and translating them into principles to use as a measure of how closely our work aligns with the goals of the Foundation and to which we can be held accountable. By next year we intend to have these available, both as an internal charter and as a social contract accessible to the public via our website.

Niall praised the work of the Foundation’s previous CEO Stacey Thomas, now CEO of the Wyatt Trust. “Stacey laid down a great foundation for me to come in and continue to evolve our practice informed by my own experience and background”. He finished by saying “When it gets to a point where I feel I’ve given everything I can, I too hope to have been able to create the conditions within the Foundation for someone else to come in and take it even further”.