jgjg logoWe asked Joanna Gordon, ella Member and Director of Daniel’s Den, a parent and toddler organisation in Brent to share in her own words how she has benefited from being a member of ella.

“In October 2013 I came along to a taster day at Cinnamon ella and have never looked back.

I found out about ella through Matt Bird, the chair of The Cinnamon Network, and he put me in touch with Charles McLachlan, the chair of Cinnamon ella. In our initial talk over the telephone, Charles asked lots of questions and listened well. I shared how I’d set up a parent and toddler group called Daniel’s Den when my son was 4 months old and had seen its subsequent development over the years. It had become a registered company and was now a registered charity, working with 250 families from 45+ different nationalities each year in Brent, North West London. I was in the classic founder position – started with a small inspired idea and through my passion to make a difference in the lives of families in my local community, was still doing this 17 years later. I am a teacher by profession and never imagined I would end up leading a charity. Things had evolved and I’d gone on various training courses etc. to help me run the charity legally! ella was the next step.

At that first meeting, the morning session was all about personality types and identifying key people you need in your teams. I loved it and began to start thinking about our teams differently. Then came the afternoon session when we shared our ‘issue’. I will never forget that day and it was a wake up call in more ways than one.

The issue I brought to the afternoon session was ‘I’ve been told that Daniel’s Den needs a couple of bolshie men on its trustee board’ – funnily enough everyone seemed to want to vote for my issue to be one of the topics. The barrage of questions took me by surprise and I was shocked how hard I found it to answer the questions. I was challenged from every angle and having entered the room feeling quite self-assured that I knew who I was and what our charity did, I suddenly had huge doubts. People challenged my communication skills and our annual turnover! Never mind two bolshie men, it was a room of amazing women and men who had the courage and care to stir my thoughts. The advice they gave was massive – I took notes, quivering. However I knew I’d entered a group of people who were giants in the voluntary sector and were people who I could learn a lot from. Their main conclusion at the end of that afternoon was – you haven’t got a board of trustees! I was flabbergasted! I realised that our board was a group of local friends who wanted to support me in any way they could. Their kindness was actually hindering the progress of our charity. I came away with severally action points and set to work.

I affirmed many of our team in their different roles. I was definitely the yellow personality, warm, enthusiastic type whereas others were green – kind and supportive. My admin volunteer was definitely blue, diligent and ordered (and a good balance to me) whereas we had our red feisty ones. The fun began when I had to tell the chair of trustees (a red character type and my best friend) that changes had to be made. We went through a long process of looking at what we are doing and in the end I had to tell 2 trustees to resign (they were never going to do it as their loyalty was so strong). It was the best thing for them and for Daniel’s Den and in the process I’ve been able to reaffirm my friendships.

I love the ella days and my volunteer team often roll their eyes and ask ‘what’s ella saying now’. Over time we have rewritten our mission/purpose statement and now have 5 very clear objectives. As the founder of a charity your identity is often very closely linked with what you do – many times I was challenged about this. The one to one sessions with my coach Agnes helped me identify ‘who I was’ and this has helped enormously.

We’ve engaged new trustees with skills that we need and have recently appointed a chair! In one of our meetings we were looking at finances (which are still an issue) and I said I didn’t think we may be needed to spend all that money on ella. The response of the treasurer was classic – ‘that’s not your decision! Never mind affording it, maybe we can’t afford not to have another years membership’

In 2016 we are celebrating 20 years and thanks to ella, various plans are coming together to not only celebrate what we have done but also to promote what we do and look to the next 20 years.”

The Cinnamon ella group is for Christian leaders of charities and social impact businesses. It is a partnership between ella forums and the Cinnamon Network. To find out more about this individual group please visit http://www.cinnamonnetwork.co.uk/cinnamon-ella-group/  or call us on 07703 291737.

To find out more about Daniel’s Den please visit www.danielsden.org.uk

jg3 jg 4 jg 2

More about Joanna…

A Yorkshire woman by birth, Jo has pioneered Daniel’s Den, a parent and toddler organisation based in Brent. Jo works with over 250 families from 45 nationalities. She is now devoting more of her time into bringing about her vision for a parent and toddler group to be available within walking distance of every family.

We would like to say a huge thank you to Joanna for sharing your experience with us, we are inspired by your story and are delighted that ella has been a support to you over the years. We look forward to celebrating the incredible achievement of your 20th anniversary with you next year.

Would like like to share your ella journey? Email ellie@ella-forums.org today…