Buckinghamshire Women in Charity Awards – Outstanding Leadership in the Charity Sector Award

The Outstanding Leadership Award recognises women who have made an outstanding contribution and demonstrated inspiring leadership - read the stories of the winner and highly commended below

The Women in Charity Awards were established in 2021 to raise awareness of and celebrate the many inspirational initiatives led by and involving women in the county. Announced on International Women’s Day (8th March 2021), the Awards recognise the outstanding work and effort in four categories: Outstanding Leadership, Trailblazer, Outstanding Volunteer and Young Charity Woman of the Year.

Winner of the Outstanding Leadership in the Charity Sector Award: April Benson, Director of Services, Aylesbury Women’s Aid

April has led the development and delivery of innovative programmes for women and girls, raising awareness of domestic abuse and leading Aylesbury Women’s Aid as CEO since 2019. She has continued to inspire in this role, leading the charity through the pandemic and lockdowns with determination and expertise.

April has shown outstanding personal leadership on two successful programmes for women and girls. Firstly, she established and delivered Women’s Aid’s Freedom Programme locally, a 12-week course helping women to make sense of domestic abuse and recognise the warning signs and tactics used by perpetrators. She also trains others to deliver this important programme which has helped hundreds of women. Secondly, April developed the Aylesbury Women’s Aid Relationship Empowerment (AWAre) Programme for teenage girls and took this out to local schools, an interactive 5-week course helping girls to identify abusive relationships and behaviours.

April developed, delivered and led on these excellent programmes, helping to empower many local women and girls to avoid unhealthy and abusive relationships. She led the charity through the pandemic and lockdowns with determination and expertise, and also ensured the Refuge stayed open for women and their families needing a place of safety.

“April is a great example of a woman in the charity sector leading from the front, who sets out to make a positive difference to the lives of local women and girls and has clearly achieved that aim” – Joanna Swift, the Club Secretary, Soroptimist International Aylesbury & District.

Highly commended: Caroline Bennett, Director of Fundraising and Communications, Pace

In an extraordinarily challenging year for charities, Caroline has led her team to a net fundraising result 36% over their (pre-pandemic) budget. In the days preceding the first lock-down, Caroline gathered her team together and worked with them to develop an exceptional plan (across every part of our fundraising activity) that has enabled Pace to weather the storm far better than most charities. At a time when many charities furloughed their fundraising team entirely, Caroline took the opposite tack – establishing where the opportunities existed for Pace to sustain and even grow income. She motivated and inspired the team to be bold and creative and set the tone for a remarkable fundraising result.

Caroline has achieved all that despite home schooling two primary age children; being creative in balancing the needs of Pace and the needs of her family, she has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to both. And she has done all that with the most positive of attitudes, a spring in her step and a smile on her face.

Photo of Caroline Bennett - PACE

Highly commended: Charlie Powell, Co-Founder & General Manager, Lindengate Mental Health Charity

As Co-Founder and General Manager of Lindengate Mental Health Charity, Charlie has spent the past seven years building what is now a multi-award winning charity, offering an all age, fully integrated services to anyone with low to medium mental health needs.

Lindengate is a mental health charity located on a five-acre site near Wendover, offering therapeutic gardens and a wildlife haven. During the first lockdown in 2020, Lindengate had to focus on the immediate needs of the Community and respond to the worsening mental health needs that arose as a result of Covid-19. Lindengate had to consider its immediate financial sustainability, whilst also planning for the future.

Charlie Powell led her team to respond to the pandemic, by launching the Rest & Reflect programme, initially designed to support the NHS, Key and Essential workers but later opened up to anyone struggling with their wellbeing. The weekly visitor numbers continue to rise, with over 1500 since the programme launch. Charlie was also part of the Mental Health Voluntary Response group helping to design an appropriate response across the county and, through her relentless energy and passion, the charity has seen its reputation grow and new partner opportunities being presented on a regular basis.

Further reading:

Photo of Charlie Powell - Lindengate

Updated on December 6, 2021

Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society