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GENERAL SECRETARY JUNE 2018 Appointment Brief | June 2018



LETTER FROM THE CHAIR Dear Prospective Candidate,


hank you for your interest in the post of General Secretary to the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

With its roots in rural and agricultural communities, the WI now embraces the interests of women in both rural and urban communities. The WI is non-party political and non-sectarian and was established as an educational charity for women. It seeks to provide opportunities for members to work together in their communities and to put into practice the ideals of the WI. Above all, WI members enjoy meeting together to learn new skills and broaden their horizons - and have fun! The WI is a place where women can be themselves, surrounded by other supportive women, and many members tell us it’s the only chance they get to mix with women of different generations.


It’s these friendships which make the WI unique: age is left at the door, along with anything else that might define us in our everyday life – like background, culture, race, religion, politics, or even work or marital status. All women, and anyone living as a woman, are not only accepted into the WI, but welcomed and celebrated. We have built on the success of our Centenary in 2015 and recently held a very successful Annual Meeting in Cardiff, attended by over 4,000 members and guests, where our guest speakers were Dame Stella Rimington and Huw Edwards. At that meeting we debated a resolution calling for parity between mental and physical health, action against the stigma surrounding mental illness and more support for those suffering from mental health issues. This was passed with an overwhelming 98% majority and will be an important part of our future public affairs work.

NFWI | General Secretary

The WI as an organisation is evolving - just as it always has over the last 103 years and always will do in the future. Many of our members are working women - and will be working later in life - while others have childcare or caring commitments, and we are committed to look at ways we can adapt our working practices to encourage these members to get involved in governance in all parts of the WI. The General Secretary will play an important role in implementing any necessary changes and in making those changes as seamless as possible. As Chair of the largest and most influential women’s organisation in the country, I’m extremely proud of our membership and of our dedicated staff team. Everywhere I go I see how legislators, decision-makers and campaign partners respect and value us. Our members take ownership of the organisation and care about how it’s perceived by the general public, and they look to the Board of Trustees and the General Secretary for leadership.

Appointment Brief | June 2018

Our present General Secretary has decided to retire after many years in the role. Jana has been instrumental in fostering a feeling of pride in the organisation amongst our staff team and we are therefore looking for someone who can take up the baton, help us grow the organisation to meet the needs of today’s women and move the WI forward towards our next 100 years! We look forward to receiving your application.

Lynne Stubbings Chair, NFWI



NFWI | General Secretary

ABOUT THE WI With nearly 220,000 members we are the largest women’s charity in the UK, and in the top 15 largest membership charities of any kind in the UK. In the last year alone 30,000 women joined us.


ith nearly 220,000 members the WI is the largest women’s charitable organisation in the UK, and in the top 15 largest membership charities of any kind in the UK. In the last year alone 30,000 women joined. The WI brings together women of all backgrounds, religions and political beliefs under the values of fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice. Our aim is for the WI to be an organisation of choice – one that inspires and enriches the lives of all women who wish to play an active role in their communities, widen their horizons and learn new skills. Diversity and inclusion are key to the ongoing success of the organisation, and a key priority for everyone. Just looking at the tremendous energy, attention and support the WI received for its 2015 centenary year helps us to understand the WI’s role in today’s society. The national press reported on a number of the celebratory activities and events and the Centenary Annual Meeting was held at the Royal Albert Hall. The meeting was enjoyed by over 5,000 members in the Hall, as well as thousands of members across the country as they tuned into the live broadcast. Viewers were eager to hear from the diverse range of high profile guests who commented on what the WI meant to them personally and to their communities.

Appointment Brief | June 2018

The meeting was addressed by HM The Queen (who is President of Sandringham WI), and who was accompanied by HRH The Princess Royal and HRH The Countess of Wessex. Other guest speakers were Lucy Worsley (English historian, curator and television presenter), Dame Helena Morrissey (founder of the 30% Club) and Tanni Grey-Thompson (British former Paralympian, parliamentarian and television presenter). During the centenary year it was estimated that media coverage reached well over 1 billion people. From the very first WI meeting in September 1915, in a small village on Anglesey in North Wales, the WI has brought women together, nurtured their voices and provided educational opportunities and spaces for the seeds of friendship to flourish.



he WI has a three-tier structure: the National Federation, the county or island federations and the WIs themselves. There are 69 federations and over 6,300 WIs across England, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Each individual WI and federation is a self-governing charity, and operates in accordance with the terms of the WI Constitution, but retains flexibility and freedom to make decisions on how it operates. This gives the individual WIs the ability to input into how their WI is run and ensure that all their members’ voices are heard.


It is the Constitution itself, and the policies formulated within its framework, that binds the three levels together and is the real backbone of the WI. These policies are created by the NFWI Board of Trustees, rather than staff members, but staff do have an important role in providing the professional information from which the Trustees will make their informed decisions. It is often said that the relationship between staff members and the Trustees is similar to that of the civil service and government ministers.

NFWI | General Secretary

Appointment Brief | June 2018





he NFWI’s purpose is to ensure that WI members have as many different opportunities as possible to learn, develop and raise important issues so that everyone can make the most out of their membership. To achieve this the NFWI plays a critical role in supporting, assisting and advising each of the federations, and WIs, who in turn provide opportunities for their members. It provides information, training and education services as well as acting as a central support function which can answer questions and give advice. Importantly, as the national forum for the WI, the NFWI is the vehicle for promoting the members’ concerns and interests on a national scale. The NFWI collates, documents, disseminates and communicates information from its members. It can then represent the concerns and interests of its members to a diverse group of stakeholders including national and local governments, other partner organisations and the wider community. It therefore plays a critical role in getting voices heard and action taken. The NFWI is always aiming to get the best outcome for members. Recent achievements have included building a strong digital footprint, and this has included the creation of the WI members’ portal “My WI”.


The site provides everything that WI members need: information on how to best plan meetings and events and get involved with public affairs work and campaigns, as well as inspirational projects for members to try, with videos and step-by-step guides covering the whole range of WI activities. Also, the NFWI recently compiled the results to the Our WI, Our Future questionnaire which was completed by 15,000 members. The questionnaire was designed to identify not only areas that members love but also areas that are in need of a change or refresh. The results of this survey have been used to form the basis of a strategic change plan which has included areas for modernisation. To oversee the implementation of this strategy, and to ensure that membership experience remains at the heart of the WI, a new Membership Development Committee was formed by the Board of Trustees. This Committee also aims to strengthen support to federations and WIs regarding membership recruitment. The NFWI plays a key role in the success of the WI’s many wide-ranging campaigns which is borne out by its successful history of raising awareness of issues and impacting change at a national and local level. For instance the WI has been instrumental in campaigning for equal pay and breast screening for women, and was one of the first organisations to educate people about the true facts about Aids. In the 1950s it passed a resolution on litter in the countryside, which led to the formation of the Keep Britain Tidy movement. More recently it has campaigned on such diverse issues as the inappropriate detention of people with mental health issues,

NFWI | General Secretary

plastic waste in our oceans, library closures, and the health of the honey bee, and only a few weeks ago a resolution was passed at the Annual Meeting on ‘mental health matters’, which will be a major focus going forward. The campaign topics are determined by members through an annual process of debate and consultation. However, once a resolution is passed and becomes a mandate, it becomes the basis for educational, campaigning and awareness activities for the next year. One example of a recent, successful campaign was Food Matters, which was created to reduce food waste. The NFWI compiled the Wasted Opportunities report, with input from more than 5,000 members, which set out a range of actions that supermarkets could take to help consumers tackle food waste at home. WI Enterprises Ltd. (WIE) is the NFWI’s commercial trading arm which generates important income every year. Products include WI Life, the membership magazine, as well as a range of merchandise. WIE is entrepreneurial and always looking for new ways to create income opportunities. All commercial activities have to fit in with the overall ethos and public affairs mandates of the NFWI. WIE has a separate Board of Directors, made up of 7 NFWI Trustees and 2 external Directors. Denman is the WI’s own residential college near Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Established in 1948, Denman offers day schools and residential courses in the fields of lifestyle, craft and cookery to both members and nonmembers.

Appointment Brief | June 2018

In summary, the strategic objectives of the NFWI are: • to promote membership of the WI and a positive, modern image of the WI organisation; • to increase the WI’s influence on legislators, decision makers, opinionformers and the public with regard to local, national and international issues of political and social importance, and to maintain the position of the WI as a respected voice of reason, integrity and intelligence; • to continue to offer a wide range of learning opportunities in a variety of settings, make training in the widest sense available, encourage personal development and promote lifelong learning, and to ensure traditional skills are promoted, and • to encourage WI members to learn new skills in all aspects of science, the combined arts, leisure activities and cookery, preserves, floral art and gardening, and to adopt healthier and more sustainable lifestyles for themselves, their families and their communities.


GOVERNANCE THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES The NFWI Board of Trustees is made up of WI members who volunteer their time and who are elected bi-annually by federations and WIs. The Board members are the public face of the organisation and the Chair, the Treasurer and the two Vice-Chairs make up the Officer Team, who act as a steering group. The NFWI Board meets at least five times a year. The Board members, and in particular the Chair, regularly speak at federation and WI events and meet and engage with members.

THE ROLE OF THE GENERAL SECRETARY AND THE NFWI STAFF TEAMS The NFWI staff teams span a number of core disciplines including communications, finance, public affairs, membership development, IT and human resources. The overall responsibility for leading the 90-strong staff teams lies with the General Secretary who has responsibility for staff performance including training and development, as well as managing the risk and compliance of the organisation from a financial and legal perspective.

Enterprises. The Board of Trustees delegates this work to its sub-committees, which are chaired by Board members and made up of a mixture of Board members and other WI members. The sub-committees are supported by specialist and administrative staff. The General Secretary is also responsible for NFWI Wales. The office in Cardiff provides a bi-lingual service to members, organises the Annual Wales Conference, works on mandates within Wales and supports the Federations of Wales Committee. The present General Secretary has supported the Board of Trustees on its ambitious and forward thinking path. After many years in the role, she is now retiring and the organisation is now therefore looking for a new General Secretary to continue to build on this momentum and energy, and work closely with the Board of Trustees to support the WI as it goes forward into the next decade and beyond.

Staff teams also focus on running the lifeblood WI activities reflecting members’ interests, as well as Denman, the WI’s residential educational college in Oxfordshire, and WI


NFWI | General Secretary


Advertising Advertising Manager, Display Sales Executive, Classified Sales Executive

Editorial Staff Writer, Editorial Assistant

WI Life

Senior Finance Officer, Finance Officers, Departmental Administrator

Group Managers Assistant, Marketing Executive

IT and Volunteer Manager, Administration and Reception Manager, Marketing and Communications Manager


WI Enterprises

Denman Management Team

Head of Finance

Group Manager WIE

Head of Denman

Appointment Brief | June 2018


HR Adviser, HR Administrator

Wales Office Public Affairs Officer, PA to Head of Wales, Administrative Assistant

PR Manager, PR Assistant

Online Content Editor

Head of NFWI Wales

Public Relations

Head of Public Relations

Digital Services

Head of Digital Services

Head of Human Resources Human Resources

Department and Committee Officer

Board Secretary

General Secretary

Accreditation Officer, Food and Cookery Adviser, Administrative Secretaries: Science and Leisure Committee, Craft Committee, Food and Garden Committee


Head of NFWI Unit



Job Title:

This pivotal role is the most senior remunerated position at the WI and is critical to its success at remaining relevant for its members.

General Secretary

Reporting to:

Board of Trustees and works closely with the Chair

Direct Reports:

Head of Finance Group Manager WIE Head of Denman Head of Human Resources Head of Public Affairs Head of NFWI Wales Office Head of NFWI Unit Head of Digital Services Head of PR Central Secretariat


Candidate will be based at the NFWI’s London headquarters, near Parsons Green. Regular visits to Denman and NFWI Wales will be necessary.

To achieve this, the General Secretary’s role covers three key areas:

1. Preparing and providing the information the Board of Trustees requires for making key decisions. The General Secretary works closely with the Trustees to ensure that they receive appropriate advice and information on all key matters. From this information policy decisions are made. This information must be delivered in a timely manner.

2. Disseminating, communicating and implementing policy and other key decisions across the WI network and externally. The General Secretary will communicate the Board of Trustees’ decisions to the federations, who in turn will communicate these to the WIs.

3. Leading and supporting the NFWI staff teams in their day-to-day activities. The General Secretary has overall responsibility for leading, developing and motivating the staff teams so that they perform to the best of their abilities. The staff teams span a number of core disciplines including communications, finance, public affairs, membership development, IT and human resources.


NFWI | General Secretary


To support and assist the NFWI Chair and the Board of Trustees in the fulfilling of their functions, and to ensure that they receive appropriate advice and information in all relevant matters. This will also include ensuring that the Board of Trustees receives appropriate training.

To support the Board of Trustees developing relationships with external organisations.

To ensure that action is taken on Board of Trustees’ decisions and to report on the progress of implementation of these decisions. This will include attending Board and other committee meetings.

To assist in the initiation of policy proposals for submission to the Board of Trustees and to contribute to the overall strategy and practice of the Wl as a national organisation.

To assist County/Island Federations in their interpretation of the Board of Trustees’ decisions and policy. This includes being the focal point for answering queries (the General Secretary will frequently be contacted by members, WIs and federations for advice on matters of policy, charity law and procedures).

To foster good communications throughout the WI, and in particular between staff at both national and federation level in order to coordinate the work of all parts of the organisation.

Appointment Brief | June 2018

To manage the resources at all three sites of the WI: NFWI headquarters in London, Denman in Oxfordshire and the NFWI Wales office in Cardiff.

To ensure that the NFWI meets its legal obligations in relation to employment, health and safety, and company and charity law, confirming regularly, at least annually, to the Board of Trustees to this effect.

To ensure that an annual budget is prepared and that the finances of the NFWI are controlled within it.

To ensure that everything that the WI does is operating within the framework of the constitution.




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Educated to degree level or equivalent. Substantial experience and an excellent track record of good governance and organisational leadership. Experience of working with a Board of Trustees. Excellent communication skills and the ability to work with a wide range of people including volunteers. Experience of creating significant new initiatives and managing change across a large, disparate organisation. Ability to work and lead an organisation remotely, or virtually, whilst maintaining close stakeholder relationships. Relevant leadership experience across multiple disciplines including finance, HR, IT and communications and getting the most out of them. Experience of managing risk and compliance across an organisation by bringing energy and discipline to implementing policies and guidelines. Financial management, including Budgetary and business development experience including developing partnerships for mutual gain.



Knowledge of charity governance. Knowledge of appropriate legislation, including charity and employment law. Financial awareness and good business acumen.

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Ability to prioritise, delegate and get things done in a timely and effective manner. Ability to see the bigger picture but also have a brilliant eye for detail and facts. Excellent communicator. The General Secretary will need to be approachable, supportive and empathetic, but be able to make difficult decisions when required. Strong problem-solving and negotiating skills and ability to think ahead and anticipate problems before they arise. High levels of personal credibility and seen as a leader throughout the organisation. Creative and dynamic, able to embrace change and drive innovation. Strong team worker with the ability to foster a culture of collaboration. Flexible and responsive, able to produce high quality outputs under pressure and to deadlines. Technical and digital understanding.


Belief and passion for the empowerment and education of women. Very strong personal integrity and commitment to upholding the highest professional standards. Resilient with a positive attitude. General enjoyment and skill in leadership and people management. A natural motivator of others.

NFWI | General Secretary



Please forward a CV together with a supporting statement (maximum two pages of A4). Please ensure that you have included mobile, work and home telephone numbers, as well as any dates when you will not be available or might have difficulty with the recruitment timetable.

Deadline for applications:

Applications should be made via the Prospectus website at: HQ00XXXXXX

Interviews with Prospectus: Interviews with NFWI:

QUERIES If you wish to have an informal discussion about the opportunity, please contact our retained advisors Thea Robson or Eva Farina at Prospectus on 020 7691 1920, or email:

Appointment Brief | June 2018


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NFWI | General Secretary

National Federation of Women's Institutions  
National Federation of Women's Institutions