Scholar Profile - Lisa Grinham PDF Print E-mail
Lisa Grinham


CEO at Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)

Awarded a scholarship for AICD's Not-for-profit Board Course in 2010 and Meikle Files Black Leadership Program in 2013

What sort of work does your organisation do?

CAF is an independent not-for-profit that works with companies, government and charities to develop effective charitable giving strategies and manage donor funds, helping to transform lives and communities around the world.

CAF has provided donor consultancy and support in Australia since 1999 and New Zealand since 2005, granting over $110 million to more than 3000 local and international charities and community organisations.

CAF brings donors and the community together for mutual benefit, assisting to deliver effective corporate community investment programs for companies and government that assist in building the capacity of the not-for-profit sector, ensuring its long term sustainability.

Describe a typical day's work.

No two days are ever the same!

On a daily basis, I provide guidance to staff and have responsibility across strategic planning, financial management, new business development, client management, product development, marketing planning, legal matters, fundraising for CAF’s activities, Board liaison.

Our operation spans many different service areas, servicing a broad range of clients which adds to the variation in activities that I experience each day. With a team of 15 people, and a flat management structure, it’s a very hands-on role.

What were some of the key learnings from the Not-for-Profit Board course?

Reinforcing the understanding that Board directors on not-for-profit Boards should take their governance responsibilities just as seriously as they do on for-profit Boards. Compliance and risk controls need to be adequately funded by the organisation, although such ‘administration costs’ are often seen as unimportant by many; as NFP Board directors we need to educate the market around this, and not apologise for investing in our organisations to ensure best practice in all areas of our operations.

What were some of the key learnings from the Meikle Files Black Leadership program?

Limited resources are a constant struggle in the not-for-profit sector. Looking at it from a positive perspective, limited resources enable a not-for-profit leader to stay focused on the organisation’s mission and not become distracted. Limiting distractions was a vital learning from this first day of this course – although easier said than done!

Another learning was that leaders must be prepared to take calculated risks in order to grow their operation. Again resource restrictions can often mean that evidence-based decision making is a luxury; however carefully planned calculated risks are critical to success.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

Both courses provided me with time to stop and think about the many varying requirements of CAF as well as Daystar Foundation of which I am a Board director. Ensuring good governance in all aspects of the operation is a fundamental requirement from the Board through to the staff – at CAF, we have reviewed every aspect of our operation over the last few years and improved business and process flows to ensure best practice governance and audit trails are in place.

The charitable sector can be highly competitive, which is certainly the case in both of the not-for-profits I am involved with. Thus we must continue to innovate and improve our service propositions to ensure sustainability for the future. The Meikle Files Black Leadership Program reinforced that a leader must be prepared to take calculated risks, even when there may not be the opportunity to do as much research as you may like to due to limited resources.

As a CEO and a Board director, the people I surround myself with are critical to ensure we can continue to develop the organisations whist staying true to our Mission; and the Meikle Files Black Leadership Program certainly reinforced being surround by the right people is critical to success.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

After a longish career in the corporate sector, followed by nine years of running my own strategic consulting business, where I worked with a number of corporates around their community investment strategies, and having become a Director and then Chair of Daystar Foundation, CAF approached me to work for them. Being an intermediary organisation that works to encourage greater corporate giving into the charitable sector, it was a very good fit for my skills set.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

A greater appreciation that not-for-profits leaders need to invest in their organisation for long term sustainability, and that this investment will force up administration costs which is acceptable when improved outcomes can be demonstrated. In the case of CAF, we are measured on increasing donations into the charitable sector.

I also believe that the sector is such a significant contributor to the Australian economy that it should have a greater voice at Government level.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I enjoy discovering new countries and cultures; I have visited 30+ countries with plenty more to go!

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"The [NFP] sector is such a significant contributor to the Australian economy that it should have a greater voice at Government level."


Lisa worked in marketing and general management roles in the corporate sector for nearly 15 years before deciding to put her skills to use in the not-for-profit sector. In 2010 she was appointed CEO at Charities Aid Foundation, where she manages the organisation’s Australian and New Zealand operations. She is also Chairperson at Daystar Foundation, a charity delivering in-school education programs in South West Sydney.

ASF awarded Lisa a scholarship to attend the AICD’s Not-for-Profit Board course in 2010, as well as a Meikle Files Black Leadership Program scholarship in 2013.


Annual revenue / size:

Medium - $250,000 - $5m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Philanthropic Intermediaries and Volunteerism Promotion

Operating in: