‘The greatest risk in life, is to risk nothing at all’ - In the company of Steve Duncan

As Steve Duncan, DL celebrates 20 years at the Community Foundation for Calderdale (CFFC), we wanted to find out more about the man at the helm of the Foundation to help make Calderdale a nicer place to live.
Steve Duncan.Steve Duncan.
Steve Duncan.

Why did you join the Community Foundation for Calderdale in business in the first place?: I first came across the Foundation when I was a Youth Community Worker and I applied for a grant from the Foundation to take young people from Lee Mount away on a camping trip. We received the grant and when I found out more about the Foundation at a grant celebration event, I was blown away with the work they did and vowed that someday I was going to work for them.

What is your personal motto?: We make very careful and calculated decisions at work, especially when it comes to our investments. However, in my personal life I’m not afraid to get out of my comfort zone and the quote “The greatest risk in life, is to risk nothing at all” has inspired me to complete challenges such as cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats (raising over £100,000), canoeing the Caledonian Canal in Scotland, and completing the South Pennine 50 mile endurance walk (raising £70,000).

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What advice would you give to anyone leading a team?: It’s amazing how much you can learn from listening to your team, so listen. I think it is important to develop your team members. Not only is it great to see them flourish but maximising on people’s potential makes good business sense too.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in this role?: You’d be forgiven if you expected me to say the floods were my biggest challenge, but in the long term they ended up being a catalyst for people to find out about the Foundation and all of the other fantastic, life changing projects we are involved with. However, I’m not a fan of public speaking and addressing large audiences (I’d much prefer to have a chat with people in small groups and find out about them as an individual), but have had to conquer this in order to spread the word about the work we do.

What do you enjoy most about working for the CFFC?: I’m lucky in that I absolutely love my job and jump out of bed in a morning, raring to go! It is a huge privilege being able to meet generous people and connect people who care with local causes that matter. People in Calderdale don’t shout enough about the brilliant work that they do, they just work hard without want for reward or recognition. I particularly look forward to the annual Calderdale Community Spirit Awards that celebrate unsung heroes.

What do you enjoy least about working for the CFFC?: I don’t enjoy seeing local businesses and voluntary organisations doing incredible work changing thousands of peoples’ lives without celebrating or getting any reward or recognition. There is so much amazing high calibre work is happening in Calderdale and we don’t shout about it enough. That’s why I am championing the Queens Award for Enterprise and the Queens Award for Voluntary Service. The Lord Lieutenant will be meeting businesses and organisations in May, but in the meantime, I’d like to speak with people who would be interested in receiving a Queen’s Award.

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Which business figure do you most admire and why?: I admire Lord Alan Sugar for seeing the potential in young people, putting his money where his mouth is and investing in them. Giving that support and belief to people to help them achieve their dreams is inspirational.

What achievement in your career are you most proud of?: Professionally, taking over the role as CEO at the Foundation was a challenge as I had some big shoes to fill. Leading the team that rallied round and raised £3.6 million when we were hit with the floods was an achievement that I’m proud of and it was great that our work was also recognised with national and local awards. Looking back over the last 20 years though, I think the achievement that I’m most proud of is building our endowment fund from £2m to £11m.

Where do you see the Foundation going in the next five years?: The Foundation has an endowment fund that we invest to make money which we then give as grants to local community organisations so that they can continue their work changing peoples’ lives. We want to be able to give more grants to more organisations so that they can make even more difference so our plan is to increase donations from businesses and generous people living in Calderdale who want their money to make a positive impact locally.