Cracking Charity Chat Ep. 20. Nathan Sparling, CEO HIV Scotland

Nathan Sparling AKA Nancy Clench, on being a charity CEO under 30, and the benefits of being a drag artist on leadership.

This episode was recorded in Edinburgh in late February 2020 before the sector and all our worlds were rocked by Coronavirus. It has nothing to do with the current crisis and everything to do with how Nathan Sparling was inspired as a teenager to forge a career in politics though a local campaign about a telephone mast, and has gone on to be a young charity CEO and turned around an organisation on the brink of closure.

Nathan clearly has a knack for campaigning – and charity management. We chat about being a young chief executive, developing a strategic plan, turning round an organisation that was about to close, and how being a drag artist for 10 years has influenced his work. We also talk about being a millennial and breaking down generational barriers, as well as some of HIV Scotland’s brilliant campaigns including the first HIV-positive pilot – which quickly became a global issue. Punching well above its weight as a small charity is something that HIV Scotland is really good at and it’s great to hear Nathan talk about how the team achieves this. Nathan also has some really interesting chat about imposter syndrome too.

I may have also put a couple of agony aunt questions forward for Nancy Clench.

My key learnings from the chat are:

  1. Nathan’s reflection that the organisation didn’t need to be bigger or better at certain things, but that collaboration is key to success is really important for all of us to keep in mind – especially in this current crisis and beyond, where social need is greater and competition for funding will be at an all-time high.
  2. I liked Nathan’s chat about normalising HIV in Scotland by putting faces against the issue wherever possible. That this approach was inspired by Panti Bliss is just an added bonus.
  3. The importance and value on Nathan’s work, of having a creative outlet came through really strongly. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at what your outlet to downtime is and make sure you are making time for it.

Thanks so much for listening.

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