Meet the team

Our Trustees

The Trust is governed by a Board of Trustees who volunteer their time and bring a wealth of experience of the needs of the Armed Forces community and charity governance.

Helen Helliwell (Chair)

Major General David Eastman

Wendy Cartwright

Professor David Rose

John Mooney

Captain Chris Shepherd RN

Lieutenant General Sir Nicholas Pope KCB CBE

Steven Squire-Law

Rear Admiral Rex Cox

Maria Lyle

Gerald Oppenheim

John Pitt-Brooke CB

Cerys Gage

Jessie Owen

The Trust

Meet the Team - Anna Wright

Anna Wright – Chief Executive

Anna joins the Trust as Chief Executive as of January 2022. Anna is responsible for delivering grant funding programmes that make a real difference to Armed Forces communities in the UK. 

Anna takes up the role of Chief Executive after serving as the Chief Executive of the Naval Families Federation for over six years. 

Anna has served in the Royal Navy, and as a reservist. She also served in the Territorial Army as an officer cadet whilst at university. 

As a naval wife, and having enjoyed a naval career herself, Anna has a deep understanding of the challenges and joys of the military lifestyle.

Meet the team – Grant making

Members of the grants team bring a wealth and breadth of experience of grant making in government, welfare, the arts, education, National Lottery, community and international funding arenas.

The Trust’s continuing aim to innovate and demonstrate best practice in grant making draws on this, as well as the staff members’ lived experiences in the voluntary and public sectors and the Armed Forces community. Grants staff are responsible for the management of specific funding programmes, whilst collaborating on continually improving its efficiency and its support for applicants and grant holders.

Carol Stone – Director, Grants

Meet the Team - Carol

Carol has been with the Covenant Fund since 2016.  She has worked in charities and grant making throughout her career to date, including in management roles at the Arts Council and Big Lottery Fund, as Chief Executive of the London Bombings Relief Fund and the Responsible Gambling Fund, and as an interim manager and freelance grants consultant to many independent trusts and foundations and to government departments. 

She has been a trustee of various charities including a pensions fund, arts organisations and a local foodbank and is also involved in making short films for not-for-profit organisations. She has an MBA and the ACCA CDipAF.

Steven Inman – Head of Strategic Grants and Relationships

Meet the Team - Steven Inman – Head of Strategic Grants and Relationships

Steven initially qualified as a social worker, specialising in family and elder abuse, and worked in a variety of London hospitals and social service departments for over 10 years. 

For the past 20 years, Steven has worked in a variety of domestic and international charities in both fundraising and grant management roles. Steven comes from an Armed Forces family and is excited to be working with the Trust to help develop and deliver programmes which have real impacts in people’s lives.

Rachel Dawkins – Grants Manager

Meet the Team - Rachel Dawkins – Grants Manager

Rachel has been working to support the Armed Forces Community for the past seven years, starting as an MOD civil servant and then moving across to the Trust.

Rachel began her career in the MOD as PA and moved to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund as a grants officer in 2015 when the Fund was created. She progressed to Grants Manager and was part of the move from the MOD to become the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust in 2018.

She works with a wide range of organisations and key stakeholders for the Trust, and is responsible for the oversight and smooth delivery of a variety of multi-million-pound grant programmes that cover a range of projects supporting both serving personnel, veterans and their families.

Rachel is also a trained SSAFA Caseworker and has volunteered for the organisation in her spare time.

Leigh Urban – Grants Operations Officer

Meet the Team - Leigh Urban – Grants Operations Officer

Leigh joined the Trust in 2020 as our Grants Operations Officer, supporting the Grants Managers with the day-to-day running of the Trust’s grant programmes.

Leigh has worked for many years in the voluntary sector with several charities and trusts, both military and civilian. Most recently advising charity leaders on good governance, her other previous roles have included project management, contract management and grants administration in Scotland and England.

Martin Dyson – Grants Officer

Meet the Team - Martin Dyson – Grants Officer

Martin joined the Trust at the beginning of 2021. He began his career in the NHS and Local Government as an Internal Auditor and Counter-Fraud Specialist. 

More recently, he moved into a Policy role, within which he had a lot of interaction with the Armed Forces, delivering a number of projects as well as supporting the organisation in achieving the Gold Award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. As part of this role he also managed a £1m priority fund afforded to councillors to support local causes.

Martin is excited to build on this experience and work alongside a wide range of stakeholders to aid them in delivering their projects to benefit the Armed Forces community throughout the country. 

Christian de Bruin – Grants Data Officer

Meet the Team - Christian de Bruin – Grants Data Officer

Christian joined the Trust in 2019 and, in his role, supports the Trust’s grant management processes with a particular focus on the grants database. 

Christian was born in South Africa and initially trained as a singer in Opera and Musical Theatre, taking him on touring productions around Asia and Europe. Since arriving in the UK in 2007, he has worked with a couple of international development charities in an IT, facilities management and events support role, as well as supporting the front of house and events function for a large international corporate agency.

Christian’s father served in the RAF in South Africa and he is proud to be a member of the team.

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Meet the team – Policy and Communications

Our policy and communications team work to explore the impact of our grants through research and the Impact Hub. They also help develop new funding programmes, publish reports and make sure it is easy to find out about the Trust, our funding programmes and the projects we support, through our website and digital communications. We have an app that helps people find the projects that are closest to them, and we want to make it even easier in future to access learning and insights from the programmes we have funded.

Our small team brings their experiences of the charity sector, impact and digital skills; and most of the team have lived-experience of being part of the Armed Forces community.

Sonia Howe – Director, Policy and Communications

Meet the Team - Sonia Howe – Director, Policy and Communications

Sonia is the Director of Policy at the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, where she has strategic responsibility for policy, communications and research. Sonia has previously worked at the MOD, in the charity sector and for Lottery distributors in policy and corporate management roles. Sonia has always had a strong interest in grant making and has a Masters in Grant Making Management from the Centre of Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School and a post graduate business administration qualification from the Open University. She is a Clore Social Fellow.

She spent a few years outside of grant making in the Helplines Sector, working on approaches to support helplines to measure their impact, corporate and social responsibility contributions from the telecoms industry and staff and volunteer mental wellbeing across the sector. She has interests in grant impact and in how charities use technology as a transformative tool while managing data governance and ethical risks. Sonia is a former Paralympic Athlete and competed in wheelchair basketball at two Paralympic Games.

Nicci Shayler – Communications Officer

Meet the Team - Nicci Shayler – Communications Officer

Nicci joined the Trust in May 2019. She manages the Trust’s website and social media platforms, as well as designing and producing the Trust’s publications.

Before coming to the Trust, Nicci worked for the Army Families Federation for six years as their Copy Editor and later their Communications and Marketing Editor. Her passion is for writing and graphic design – she enjoys the chance to show her creative flair through designing graphics and short videos to showcase the Trust’s work.

Nicci has been a military wife for over 10 years and is pleased to be able to bring her experience of the Force’s community to the work she does.

Lorna Stannard – Communications Officer

Meet the Team - Lorna Stannard - Communications Officer

Lorna joined the Trust’s Policy and Communications team in August 2021. Lorna has worked in a range of communications and media roles which have covered broadcasting, radio and publications. Her background is in web design, graphic design and illustration.

Whilst being a military spouse and mum, Lorna has lived abroad in Germany and the USA and in this time she has played an active part in working and volunteering in the military community.

Rachel Smith – Policy and Impact Analyst

Meet the Team - Rachel Smith – Policy and Impact Analyst

Rachel is our Policy and Impact Analyst and works with the Policy and Communications Team in researching and evaluating the impact of our grantmaking programmes. She also works closely with our grant holders and system developers on The Impact Hub, which is our own impact measurement tool for holders of Trust grants.

Rachel is a former Charity Trustee of the Army Widows Association and is a volunteer fundraiser for an Armed Forces charity that provides support to bereaved Service children. As a War Widow, Rachel has also been a grateful beneficiary of charitable support for herself and her two children. This has given her a valuable insight into the world of Armed Forces charities and the unique issues that they and the communities they serve face.

Professionally, Rachel has spent the last 10 years working as a PA, so has industry experience in project management, administration, training and procurement/contract management.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys running and is a qualified England Athletics Association Run Leader. She and her family have recently renovated a derelict smallholding, so are now adding to their menagerie of animals, which include sheep, dogs and a flock of rescue chickens!

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Meet the team – Finance and Operations

Our finance team manage hundreds of grant payments a year, making sure that grant payments get swiftly to our grant holders once their paperwork has been checked. Our small team are continually refining and improving our processes to help us be as streamlined and as effective as possible.

Liz Rankin – Director, Finance and Operations

Meet the Team - Liz Rankin - Director of Finance and Operations

Liz joined the Covenant Fund in 2021 and is responsible for financial strategy and oversight of our finance team. She trained at the National Audit Office, where she gained her ACA, and has extensive experience in public sector finance and audit, from small arms’ length bodies to government departments.

Liz is excited to bring her wider public sector knowledge to the Trust and to contribute to ensuring that we continue to be as efficient and effective in our grant making as possible.

In her spare time, Liz enjoys year round sea swimming and has recently started to teach herself to play piano.

Sebastian Hare – Finance Manager

Joe Marlow – Finance and Operations Assistant

Meet the Team - Joe Marlow – Finance and Operations Assistant

Joe joined the Trust in May 2019 as our Finance and Operations Assistant, supporting the Finance Manager with the day-to-day financial administration of the Trust. 

She has approximately 20 years experience working in a financial role and completed her AAT level 3 diploma in 2016.

Her previous role of nine years was as Accounts Assistant for a worldwide construction company, where she developed her understanding of financial and operational procedures.

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