Think Tanks
Printable version

The King’s Fund and GSK, partnering with Comic Relief, launch new programme to improve charity leadership

A unique programme to develop the skills and knowledge of charity leaders is jointly launched today by The King’s Fund and GSK, in partnership with Comic Relief, at a parliamentary reception.

Good leadership is key to the success of charities but there are still few leadership development opportunities for charities, and funding for development support is hard to come by. The Cascading Leadership Programme, launched today, enables charity leaders to share their extensive and varied expertise to help leaders of other charities develop their skills and abilities through peer-led consultations. The Dame Mary Marsh review in 2013 recognised that leadership skills and abilities needed to be developed in the sector to ensure its sustainability.

The Cascading Leadership Programme builds on the success of the GSK IMPACT Awards, where winning health and wellbeing charities receive free training and leadership development as part of their prize and can join a network of 66 winning organisations, with more than 100 individual members, where they learn from experts as well as from each other. Feedback from the winning charities highlights the huge value these development opportunities provide to their organisations. The Cascading Leadership Programme supports these award winners to act as peer-consultants to develop leaders in a wider pool of charities selected by Comic Relief, according to Comic Relief’s independent evaluation processes. This launch follows a very successful pilot of this peer-led approach that provides benefits for both those giving and receiving support, helping them to think in new ways about their organisations, their skills and their network. Those taking part in the pilot also found that guidance from another charity was particularly helpful because they understand the needs and requirements of the sector.

Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair, The King's Fund, said: ‘We are delighted to be launching this innovative leadership programme. Leadership is key to charities’ success and the quality of the services provided to service users. But when charities are facing increasing financial pressures, providing the space and time to develop leaders can seem like a luxury. We hope this programme brings leadership development into the mainstream and makes it accessible to many more charities.’

Phil Thomson, Senior Vice President, Communication & Government Affairs at GSK, said: ‘Having partnered with The King’s Fund for almost 20 years, together we have seen the GSK IMPACT Awards go from strength to strength, working alongside our Award winners helping them to develop their leadership and training skills. The Cascading Leadership programme is a real investment in leaders of charities and we hope will benefit all those who rely on the inspirational work of these organisations.’

Gilly Green, Head of UK Grants at Comic Relief, said: ‘Comic Relief is proud to partner with The King’s Fund and GSK for the Cascading Leadership Programme. Strong leadership is crucial to any organisation to help ensure efficiency and effectiveness, and this programme enables leaders to share their skills and knowledge, which will ultimately work to strengthen the wider charity sector. We look forward to seeing how the programme develops so that learnings can be applied to deliver even greater impact in the future.’

During 2016, 15 pairs of consultants and clients will work on this project, and a final evaluation will be published at the end of the year.

The programme is being launched at a parliamentary reception where Phil Thomson, GSK; Sir Christopher Kelly, The King’s Fund; Annabel Hodgson, No Limits; Sarah Swindley, Lancashire Women’s Centres and Greg Ussher, Metro Charity will give their thoughts about the programme.

Notes to editors: 

For interviews, more quotes, photos or further information please contact Saskia Kendall on or 020 7307 2603.

The GSK IMPACT Awards have been running since 1997 and are designed to recognise and reward charities that are doing excellent work to improve people’s health. They are funded by GSK and managed in partnership with The King’s Fund.

Each winner is given the opportunity to take part in leadership development and training, and afterwards they are able to join the GSK IMPACT Award Network of winning charities. Year after year, charities who win GSK IMPACT Awards say joining this network has been of huge benefit to their charity and its leaders. The Network is a unique learning programme that supports charities to continually develop their leaders and share experiences and expertise. The programme is run by The King’s Fund, which has been developing leaders for more than 60 years.

The Cascading Leadership Programme, organised in partnership between The King’s Fund, Comic Relief and GSK, enables high-performing GSK IMPACT Award winners to share their learning and skills with the wider voluntary and community sector, to further develop leadership within the sector. The programme follows on from a very successful pilot in Scotland where six award winners were paired with six other charities. In 2016 a further 15 award winners will provide support to 15 wider charities. At the end of the year a review will be carried out.

To read more about the Dame Mary Marsh, click here.

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.

GSK – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. For further information please visit

Comic Relief is a UK charity, which aims to create a just world, free from poverty. Since 1985, Comic Relief has raised over £1 billion. That money has helped, and is helping, people living incredibly tough lives, both at home in the UK and across the world.

Share this article

Latest News from
Think Tanks

ICS.AI On-Demand Webinar 3rd March 2021