Case Study

The client

The YMCA is one of the UK’s leading Christian charities and supports young people in times of need.  Forest YMCA is the largest direct access hostel in the UK, helping vulnerable young people to learn to live independently.


The challenge

Like many charities, Forest YMCA had focussed more on its services than its business model.  The result was that it was running out of money, with the sustainability of the services under threat.

My brief, as interim CEO was very straightforward:

“Move from deficit to profit, without cutting services, and simultaneously improve morale and raise standards”.


The solution

In my view, the real art of achieving systematic change is not so much in the detail.  It’s about the quality and directness of conversations with boards, managers and the team.  My approach was deliberately simple.

  • A turnaround plan that was enthusiastically accepted by the Board.
  • Restructuring, introducing separate divisions to focus respectively on services and business/operational management.
  • Changes to key roles, enabling client-facing staff to do more caring and less administration and managers to manage.
  • Investment in a new restaurant, gymnasium, reception areas and recreational and I.T. services for residents.  These facilities improved services, raised morale and enabled the YMCA to earn more money, and a lot of it.

The Results

I achieved a 213% turnaround in operating profit in one year, and at the end of the assignment, left them with well over £1m in reserves.  Charles Stokes, HR Director of Forest YMCA commented:

“Keith has brought a fresh direction and structure to the YMCA. He has focused on results and was able to assess our problems and fix them with remarkable speed. We are now looking like a modern charity with a long term future. Thanks to Keith, we are in a strong financial position to build on our charitable work and help more young people thrive in communities in the UK and around the world.”


Further reading

Read testimonials Click Here

The Guardian Newspaper story Click here

Russam-GMS case study on Forest YMCA turnaround Click Here