Interview with Chair of the Month: David Robinson

By 01/11/2021Chair Blogs
We caught up with North East chair, David Robinson who has been nominated our ‘Chair of The Month’ for November.


David, please introduce yourself

I’ve worked in leadership roles non profit organisations for over 20 years, mostly in charities. Most of my work has been about developing and delivering projects and contracts covering areas such as employment support, corporate social responsibility, business support, mental health, learning disabilities and autism, homelessness and support for young people. I’m a huge supporter of our sector and have served trusteeships for a local Healthwatch organisation and the North East’s Voluntary and Community Sector infrastructure organisation. I’m currently Chief Executive at Tees Valley YMCA, based in Darlington, joining just after the start of the pandemic in May 2020. After getting to know Danny Kalman, ella Forum’s CEO, we talked about setting up a new forum in the North East and launched it earlier in the year.  

What influenced you to become a chair for ella Forums?

Being a leader in the charity sector isn’t easy. I guess most sectors could say the same, but in my experience and talking to peers in our sector, it can sometimes feel like we are carrying a huge weight on our shoulders at times. This became even more apparent to me when the pandemic began back in March 2020. People enter our sector for a whole host of reasons. Sometimes these are personal, sometimes altruistic, but more often than not, people just want a job which has a feeling of purpose. This can be a real challenge for leaders, when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract and keep people working in our sector with the lure of higher wages and new ways of working in other sectors. With rising costs and limited flexibility with pay and conditions, it’s no surprise that some people quite understandably seek jobs that will provide better incomes for their families. This is just one example of leadership challenges we all face on a daily basis. It can be difficult to think some of these leadership challenges through and although it’s easy enough to get opinions and support from our trustees or colleagues at work, I find a huge amount of value in being able to have open and safe conversations with people who want to share and learn with each other. 

I’ve been lucky enough in my career to have had the opportunity to take part in leadership training and development. Every time any of this has involved any form of action learning, where I can bring a real challenge to a peer group, present the issue, take questions and listen to how others might approach the challenge, I’ve benefitted hugely. This was a real driver in my decision to become chair of the North East ella Forum earlier in the year. Since then, I’ve witnessed first hand how members have benefitted and, in some cases, gone on to tackle some significant challenges positively. It’s great to hear feedback at a meeting from someone who has previously presented a challenge. One of the great things about it is that we all learn something from every challenge we take part in, even if we are just listening and offering support and encouragement. It’s also a chance, every month, to take that little bit of time out and connect with likeminded people who you just know are going to be supportive and helpful. We also have a bit of fun too.

What can charity leaders expect from becoming an ella Forums member?

As leaders, we can allow ourselves sometimes to feel a little isolated as we try to tackle some of the issues we face. As an ella Forums member, not only will you really get to know likeminded people in your local forum, you can tap into a wealth of experience and knowledge across the national membership, with the option to also attend monthly expert speaker events and an annual conference. It really is great value and most importantly, you’ll make new and trusted connections with people you’ll feel comfortable with. Some of these connections you may connect with outside of meetings, as has been the case in the North East. You’ll feel part of a team. You’ll feel supported and listened to. You’ll feel the passion and pain of others and you’ll contribute to their wellbeing and their leadership journey. You’ll learn more about you.

How can someone find out more about joining your forum?

To find out more visit or email Phil Thompson at