Making an impact: Matthew’s story

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Part of 120 years of The King's Fund

The King’s Fund is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year and, as part of our celebrations, we are asking people whose lives have been touched by the Fund to share their stories with us.

Matthew Lanham

For the fourth story in our series, we talk to Matthew Lanham, Chief Executive of the Neuromuscular Centre in Cheshire, which supports people affected by muscular dystrophy.

In 2015, the charity won a GSK IMPACT Award in recognition of its excellent work to improve people's health. The awards are funded by GSK and managed in partnership with The King's Fund, and winners receive up to £40,000 of funding as well as access to free training and development.

Recognition and confidence

For Matthew, the money wasn’t the main motivator for applying: ‘What we were primarily looking for was recognition, on the national stage, for what we do; we knew that this could be an amazing badge of honour.’ And that honour has brought all kinds of benefits for the charity. ‘We thought winning the award would be quite handy. It’s been rather more than that.’ Matthew explains how it has brought recognition and respect in areas ranging from funding to recruitment: ‘People know that you’re a well-run organisation, you’re financially sound, you’ve got good governance, and have solid plans for the future.’

The Neuromuscular Centre provides physiotherapy, training and employment opportunities for those with degenerative neuromuscular conditions, as well as assistance for their carers. Since winning the award two years ago, the charity has expanded its building, nearly doubling the size of its centre, increasing the range of services and helping more people. ‘If we hadn’t won the award, we wouldn’t have had the confidence to do this as quickly as we have. And raising the capital was so much easier – all that was unlocked because we were winners…and honestly, we’ve breezed through it because of the award.’

Sharing knowledge

For many winners, while the money is welcome, it’s the access to the GSK IMPACT Awards Development Network that is most valued. Building on the Fund’s history of developing leaders, the network gives winners a chance to come together to share learning and develop leadership skills with a network of more than 70 award-winning charities. ‘We always come away with way more than we imagined, and the rest of the team see the value too,’ says Matthew. ‘It’s helped me to fulfil my job as a leader, rather than simply “a manager” of the centre.’

With the aim of extending this support and knowledge deeper into the community and voluntary sector, The King’s Fund, GSK and Comic Relief piloted the Cascading Leadership programme in 2016. This free programme matched high-performing GSK IMPACT Award winners with others in the sector to share their knowledge and provide peer support. ‘It was an absolute bonus to have an opportunity to be involved in the Cascading Leadership programme,’ says Matthew. ‘Alongside building a trusting relationship with another chief executive facing parallel challenges to our own, it’s had great spin-offs for my own personal development. I’ve learnt a new discipline: stepping back rather than jumping to solutions, asking open questions, hearing what’s really going on and helping to frame responses to guide and support other people.’

A stimulating culture

As Matthew describes his experience of working with The King’s Fund and its partners, his comments about learning and support reflect those of others we’ve talked to for our series of articles to celebrate 120 years of the Fund. Matthew describes the Fund’s culture as one that supports leaders and enables people to learn, share knowledge and debate. ‘It blends a wonderfully warm and welcoming culture with one that is immensely stimulating, lively, energetic. It’s a place where there’s always lots going on and I know I’ll meet plenty of interesting people and access lots of exciting ideas.’