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Nonprofit Heroes: Mandy Johnson, CEO of the Small Charities Coalition

Nonprofit Hero Mandy Johnson is CEO of the Small Charities Coalition. 

Nonprofit Heroes is our series of interviews with industry experts, successfully proven fundraisers, and nonprofit heroes with stories and tips to inspire your charity to use technology to your advantage and do good, better.

Donorfy's nonprofit heroes


Let’s start with some background information – who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Mandy Johnson, I am the Chief Executive at the Small Charities Coalition.

Nonprofit Hero Mandy Johnson is CEO of the Small Charities Coalition. 

What was your first job?

I was a silver service waitress at Manchester United.

How did you get into the charity sector?

Ten years ago I was working at Deloitte as a Tax Consultant. I liked my job and found it very intellectually rewarding… until my husband got a job in a charity. He came home with a different sense of satisfaction - his work improved people’s lives. 

I started volunteering with a variety of charities and then eventually had to take the plunge (and the pay cut) and work for a charity myself. I have worked for, or with, charities ever since.

It would be a lie to say I have never looked back. I know that I could earn more and work less in the for-profit sector but I also know I would never feel the same sense of satisfaction that I get knowing that my work helps others.

Tell us about the Small Charities Coalition and your journey there so far

I joined the Small Charities Coalition in August 2017 so I still consider myself to be relatively new but I have already fallen in love with the charity and so many of the small charities that we support.

The Small Charities Coalition was started by a small charity CEO (Patrick Cox) who felt that real change could be achieved for and by small charities if we all helped and supported each other.  I have the letter that he wrote to the Tudor Trust (our founding donor) pinned to the noticeboard next to my desk.

“The Small Charities Coalition is set up to represent and be the voice of the small charity, encouraging the public, business and government to support small charities. One lone voice is hardly ever heard in the charity world but with 1,000, 5,000 10,000 small charities working together, our voice will be big and loud and will be heard. Doors that have never opened will open. Key people we could never meet will be waiting for our questions.”

His vision was incredible and it is exciting to see that so much of it has become a reality. We are now a firmly established organisation, with nearly 10,000 members. We offer mentoring, training, resources and helpline support to small charities. We also speak on their behalf to politicians, journalists and royalty. I am at the start of my journey with the charity but I hope that we will continue to have greater impact for the small charities we exist to serve.

What are the biggest challenges that small charities face right now?

Funding is decreasing whilst the complexity of the needs small charities are dealing with is increasing. At the same time we are faced with increased media and public scrutiny and more regulation; both things that take time and resource to manage. In short, small charities are constantly expected to do more with less.

If you could change one thing to improve anything in small charities, what (or who) would you change, and how?

I would make it a legal requirement for those who fund small charities (trusts, foundations, CSR departments, local authorities, etc) to have a single, shared application form and reporting requirements. So much time is wasted sharing the same information in different formats because those that give out the money fail to collaborate more with others in their position.

How do you think small charities will change in the years to come?

I really hope that they will embrace the efficiency and cost-saving opportunities provided to them by digital technology. The Small Charities Coalition will be doing as much as we can to support them with this process.

Do any tech innovations come to mind that has made your life easier and saved you time or money?

The “If this then that" app. I haven’t scratched the surface of the ways that this app could save me time and make my life easier yet but it is a definite must for me.

A few quickfire questions:

  • Your Desert Island disc, if you had to choose one?

Anything by Billie Holiday

  • PC or a Mac?


  • The most used app on your smartphone?

Podcast Player (closely followed by Google Maps as I have no sense of direction at all)

Finally - do you have a nonprofit hero or heroine? If so, who and why?

Bisi Alimi is my non-profit hero.  He is a gay , Nigerian activist who has channelled his adversity into something good and is creating positive change for others. Everyone should watch his Ted Talk.

Thanks Mandy for being our nonprofit hero! 

If you’d like to nominate an industry expert or nonprofit hero, contact us or tweet us @Donorfy. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter so you don’t miss the next interview.