'Corporate to nonprofit leadership', Frances Benge
Frances Benge joins Purposely to share her journey from corporate to nonprofit leadership as CEO of Cure Kids.
Frances started her career as a nurse then worked for 30 years in the pharmaceutical sector before being appointed as CEO of Cure Kids in 2015.
‘It wasn't an easy transition, there was a perception that I was this big international bigwig that didn't have any fundraising experience, I had to really prove myself to the team before I think they gave me any credibility’.
Frances shares her experience moving from corporate to the charity sector and provides a candid account of the challenges she faced in her first months in the role.
‘Everybody believed in what we were doing, and they were passionate about the cause, but underneath the purpose, there was a lot of dysfunction.’
Did she have any doubts about what she had taken on? At first Frances worried that she may lack the necessary fundraising experience or skills to successfully run a charity. She found her lack of experience ended up being a positive and helped her develop a fresh strategy for the charity. She improved income generation and fundraising capacity and reviewed how the charity used their resources - taking this opportunity to cut costs.
‘We were able to carve at least half a million dollars’ worth of costs, which sounds incredibly mercenary, but at this stage, the balance between our income and our expenses needed urgent attention. I couldn't hand on heart go to donors and say this huge percentage of your donation is going towards operating costs.’
While the move was challenging at times, Frances was able to successfully make the changes and set the charity on a path to success. Despite those initial doubts, she always fundamentally believed that she was in the right role.
Established in 1971, Cure Kids is a registered charity that invests millions of dollars every year into child health research. They find cures and better treatments for serious illnesses and health conditions that are affecting children in New Zealand, and around the world.
Their work has positively impacted health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of people. These include cystic fibrosis at birth, maternal outcomes (like sleeping on your side in pregnancy), and the prevention of sudden unexpected death in infancy.
Cure Kids also advocate for children and children’s health, so that greater resources and focus is placed on services and health outcomes. Frances has developed a strong public voice when it comes to children’s health and regularly speaks to the media, to government and at key events.
A good example is how she shone a light on children’s health both during and after the global pandemic.
For more than a year, an extraordinary public spotlight has been cast upon the incredible work of health scientists, epidemiologists, and vaccinologists in the face of a global pandemic. While Cure Kids and Frances agreed that this level of focus has been necessary, she stressed that we were not doing enough for children and that this was reflected by poor health outcomes for children, especially in New Zealand where we have some of the worse statistics relating to mortality.
‘I would just love to see New Zealand child health stats be turned around so that we aren’t ashamed of the statistics that we've got. I think the only way that we can do that is by really addressing the core issues that prevent our children from having lived healthy lives with bright futures’
Frances is looking forward to leading Cure Kids into the future and she is determined to ensure better outcomes for children.