When Fiona Spellman approached us looking for a volunteer role, she brought a wealth of valuable skills such as teaching, project managing, impact measurement, planning and monitoring programme delivery. She is currently Senior Programme Manager with the SHINE Trust and previously taught in a secondary school through the Teach First programme. We connected her with TalentEd, a charity which brings together retired teachers with bright students from low income backgrounds. Fiona joined as a trustee in 2014.
TalentEd offers high-ability Year 10 students a year-long programme of weekly small group (1:6) sessions. Qualified, retired teachers and inspirational role models help to improve GCSE grades and academic and career options for the young people. Every young person should have the support, skills and aspirations to realise their potential. Sadly, this is not the case for young people from low income areas in the UK and educational inequality is highest amongst the brightest students.
When Fiona was appointed, TalentEd was working in 3 schools but with big potential to expand. In order to demonstrate success they needed a trustee who had a depth of experience in measuring impact in the education of bright but disadvantaged children.
Fiona Spellman said “Initially I wanted to volunteer to teach children but after registering with Reach, I quickly learnt of the trustee vacancy with TalentEd and thought the strategic role would be particularly suitable and where my skills could be put to good use.“
Fiona has helped the organisation to grow from working with 3 schools to 9, increase the central staff team and numbers of volunteers, and show that the charity can double the number of bright students from low income areas achieving A and A* grades. The impact data Fiona produced helped to articulate TalentEd’s offer to funders and schools. The charity has now started working outside of London in Kent and East Sussex where educational inequality is most acute.
TalentEd’s Director, Anood Al-Samerai, says “Fiona is a brilliantly intelligent and experienced trustee bringing a great balance of support and challenge to the board and the staff team. She has made a transformative difference to the organisation, way beyond her formal board responsibility for evaluation and impact measurement. As a trustee, Fiona does not directly work on the front line, but her energy and commitment to our governance and strategy means that we can achieve our vision of giving every young person the support, skills and aspirations to realise their potential.“
It’s great to hear stories like this and the difference a volunteer or trustee has made to an organisation. If you need to find a trustee, search our new website. The new features mean you can search the register of skilled volunteers and for the skills you need. You can also contact volunteers directly to ask them to apply for your opportunity. Search for a trustee now.
Reach’s focus on skills-based volunteering means we place highly-skilled volunteers into charities on a daily basis.
We ask about the impact our volunteers are making a few months into their role, but when we heard about the difference one has made nearly a decade after our initial introduction, we knew it was a story worth telling.
I spoke to Alison Butcher, the Founder of Agents of Change about her work and about May, the volunteer who joined in 2006 and the impact she has made.
The charity’s story – Agents of Change
Agents of Change is a small charity working with vulnerable people and those with special needs in Eastern Europe, primarily Romania. Founded by Alison Butcher, following her work after the 1989 Romanian revolution, the organisation empowers people to look after their own health needs through teaching and rehabilitation in the community.
In 2006, Agents of Change desperately needed extra help to do bookkeeping, accounting, auditing, and financial management in order to keep track of their income and spending; their work overseas made this particularly complex. Reach introduced Alison to May, a volunteer with financial and bookkeeping expertise. May has been there ever since – that’s nearly ten years!
Alison said, “May was ideal for our needs. The period after May joined us was such a learning journey for me! May’s auditing background meant she hugely professionalised our financial procedures; we could not have operated at such a high standard without her help.
May has overhauled all our processes ensuring bookkeeping, receipting and audit trails are all in place which massively reduces our risk. She is an absolute joy to work with and very professional.
The longer she was with us, the more we came to appreciate her. This is exactly how volunteering and working with someone should work – we have taught each other so much. The Reach service was fantastic though I never expected May to be with us for nine years. As a small charity with a very practical set-up, her help has been invaluable.”
The volunteer’s story – May
We spoke to May spoke to us about her near decade-long stint at Agents of Change, where she contributed her expertise to help people both in the UK and Romania:
“My experience in auditing meant I had worked in environments with high levels of control; I realised I had valuable transferable skills which could benefit a UK charity.
One of my initial challenges at Agents of Change was to teach Alison the financial processes needed to ensure best practice in the organisation. She had been doing everything on her own up to that point; I had to be very patient as we had lots to put in place. I set up a number of audit and trail systems to make the organisation more efficient.
Every transaction now has proper accountability. Alison can also implement what she has learnt when she is in Romania which means she can manage her relationships there more effectively.
Volunteering at Agents of Change meant I gained exposure to Romanian accounting procedures as well as conversion rates. As I developed professionally, I was able to benchmark how effective I was professionally, which greatly improved my confidence.
I love both teaching people and finance/auditing and was able to use both skill sets at Agents of Change. I have so enjoyed my nine years here and because of this the time has flown by!
It’s fantastic to hear about a partnership like May and Alison’s work so successfully for so long and for the charity to be doing such valuable work in Romania. However all good things must come to an end as May is emigrating, so Alison is again looking for a volunteer with financial skills to help at Agents of Change.
If you have financial background and want to share you skills (or know someone who does!) please let us know and we’ll put you in touch. Alternatively contact Alison directly to find out more about the role.
After nearly 30 years, Byways and Bridleways Trust’s longstanding volunteer, 88-year-old Douglas Coombs, is finally thinking about ‘retiring’!
Douglas decided to volunteer after retiring from the British Council in 1983, where he worked for 23 years in a variety of posts both home and abroad, eventually ending up as controller for its books division.
‘I wanted to do something more than simply retire,’ he says. So, the British Council Retirement Association recommended that he should contact Reach to find suitable volunteering opportunities, and we soon found him an appointment at Byways and Bridleways Trust in Wiltshire.
During his time at the Trust, Douglas has volunteered for two to three days a week. Initially, he wrote articles for and helped edit the charity’s magazine, Byway and Bridleway, while carrying out additional committee and conference work. For a number of years, he was also a member of the editorial board for the journal Rights of Way Law Review, which the Trust launched in 1990.
More recently, he has been writing up inspectors’ reports for Byway and Bridleway. This involves reviewing the decision letters issued following public inquiries relating to the rights of way network and writing reports of those decisions that have national significance with regard to interpretation and application of Rights of Way legislation.
Douglas says that keeping his mind active after retirement was an important consideration, and volunteering has perfect been for that.
So, what next? Douglas isn’t sure, but thinks it might be time to put his feet up a bit and turn his full attention to watching and following his great love cricket.
Beacon Counselling, a charity that helps people affected by mental or emotional distress in the North West, was keen to improve the way they wrote and targeted funding bid approaches.
They saw an advertisement about Reach’s services and very quickly we helped them to recruit volunteer Alan Smith who has dramatically raised their fundraising game.
James Harper, the charity’s general manager says:
“Alan’s input has transformed our service. As a result of his input, we have a much more strategic approach with most of our funding bids now successful when before it was very much hit or miss. We are now helping more than a thousand people a year – up four fold from 2008 – and have obtained more contracts with the NHS and local authorities in Lancashire and Cheshire. He played a very big part in helping us to win the coveted GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Award in 2012, beating 351 other applicants.”
Reach volunteer Alan retired a few years ago from a successful and busy career in engineering and as a company director.
“I was looking to use my business skills in a positive way when I saw an advertisement about Reach. Their staff were very helpful and efficient in researching where I could help and quickly put me in touch with Beacon Counselling – since when we have never looked back!”
Posted in Success Stories Tagged with: Charity awards, Creative volunteer engagement, Fundraising, Good practice in volunteering, Improving performance, News, Organisations, Reach volunteering, Skilled volunteering, Volunteer expertise, Volunteers
At Reach, we are committed to helping connect people like you with causes that really inspire them. Becoming a charity trustee could help you grow your skills and experience in a totally new environment and context.
Charities are always looking for trustees with professional qualifications, especially accountants and finance professionals. Charity boards have responsibility for financial management so your background can be key to advising and guiding fellow trustees on reporting, control systems, solvency and investments.
You may even want to take on the role of honorary treasurer, a unique kind of trustee with specific responsibility for finance. More than just a busman’s holiday, the role of an honorary treasurer is more varied and challenging than “just doing the books”.
Many trustees find working as part of a team hugely energising and satisfying. As a trustee you could help a charity improve people’s lives, change the environment or transform a community. Being a trustee can also build your network, broaden your experience or get you involved in something completely new. Learn more about being a trustee.
Our friendly team can suggest opportunities in some of the thousands of charities we support in London and throughout the UK. You can get to know the charity of your choice and make a real long-term difference as a financial trustee or treasurer.
Keith Owen registered with Reach hoping to take on a treasurer position; he shares his experience of the process and the positions he found:
Musical Keys Logo”When recently seeking voluntary treasurer positions, I set myself a maximum of two charities within 20 minutes’ drive of my home. I found two – each quite different and without a treasurer for some while – and joined them both.
“Both are expanding as both are successful at funding. I am developing simpler financial reporting for their boards, helping to cost bids and meeting their partners. As a former accountant, I am certainly not finding the work a busman’s holiday. In fact, quite the opposite!”
Keith is now the Honorary Treasurer for both The Magdalene Group and Musical Keys. Read more accountant to treasurer success stories below.
Find out more
Read a blog piece about what to expect when becoming a treasurer from Denise Fellows, CEO of the Honorary Treasurers’ Forum.
To search for treasurer roles visit our website.
As a company director with executive responsibility for the human capital of a multi-national organisation, I was well attuned to dealing, among other matters, with senior-level recruitment across five continents.
This globe-trotting role had been my ‘life’ for many years. Therefore, as I approached ‘retirement’ and relocation to Surrey, I was rather apprehensive about how I would fruitfully use the time that was to suddenly become available to me.
After making enquiries with a number of professional contacts, I was advised to contact Reach – a not-for-profit organisation focused on matching skilled and highly experienced executives with charities and trusts who had a recognised need for their particular skills. After acting on this advice, I was delighted when Reach suggested that I consider a role with them – as an executive recruiter in the not-for-profit sector.
To my great relief, my current role and responsibilities have proven to be hugely satisfying, both personally and professionally. On one hand Reach is providing a valuable service to its broad client base across the UK, on the other, the skilled volunteers are inspirational to work with.
My current project is the recruitment of experienced and inspirational business mentors for the Crossroads Care Association (CAA) – an organisation which provides support for carers in England, Wales and the Isle of Man. CCA is undergoing a major revision of its service delivery model and is looking to the broad business community for strategic thinkers who have a clear understanding of the service-delivery environment and a hands-on approach to management. I am anticipating strong interest from executives in business and government in this challenging, short-term role. Take a look at the business mentor role here.
Don Hunter is a Volunteer Placement Adviser with Reach. He blogs in a personal capacity.
The Army of Angels is a military charity that supports members of the UK’s armed forces who have been physically or mentally injured while serving their country in conflicts around the world. New Reach trustee Andrew McCartney has made a big impact on its board in a very short time.
The charity, based in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, supports all services and ranks and includes veterans of wars in Europe, the Far East, the Falklands, Afghanistan and the Gulf. Many of the men and women have mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder or physical ones such as amputations.
Reach introduced business-experienced trustee Andrew to the charity just six months ago. Working at Gloucestershire Council, he’s gathered lots of contacts and has been able to introduce them to the work of the charity. One of the most important of these has been Gloucestershire’s Rotary Club.
The charity’s co-founder, Cathy Skelnar, says, ‘After Andrew made this important connection for us, our colleague Steve Valentine gave them a short presentation about our work and they are now fundraising for us. They’ve also named Army of Angels as one of their charities of the year. A fantastic result for us.’
Andrew also helped the launch of the charity’s new shop, which opened this year, go with a bang. He arranged the attendance of Gloucester Quays Rotary President, Paul Kerrod, and for local MP Richard Graham to cut the ribbon. The shop is already a useful source of income and is set to develop even further with Andrew’s ideas and savvy business sense.
It’s the behind-the-scenes work of trustees like Andrew which enables established projects like the Route 66 bike tours to continue. The charity has just helped 10 wounded ex-servicemen and women to take part in this global motorcycle trip. Sometimes riding pillion, their involvement often increases self-esteem dented following physical and mental trauma.
On a practical day-to-day level, the injured also regularly express their gratitude for grants to buy basic living help such as a microwave, kettle or furniture. One soldier ‘couldn’t express’ how grateful he was for his mobility scooter grant, giving him the chance to leave this flat after months stuck inside.
During Trustees’ Week and beyond, we celebrate the contribution of our volunteers like Andrew who are the backbone of charities such as Army of Angels. The unseen but guiding hand through challenging times and the creative spark for sustainable development.
Our guest blogger Jehangir shares his experience of being a mentor
I was a performance management director in my last role. As a Careers Development Group (CDG) career development coach, I coached jobseekers, passing on my experience and mentoring them towards employment.
CDG’s personal advisors refer jobseekers to me and I see them for about an hour at a time, although the length of time varies depending on their needs. I could be seeing the same person every week for 12 weeks, but the average number of appointments I will have with them is six.
It’s satisfying to see jobseekers moving forward, and for me to be coaching them after starting the relationship on a more directive note. Some people arrive in a negative frame of mind but often they just need an empathetic ear and someone to listen to them. Generally, they gain in confidence the more they talk and I enjoy understanding other people’s perspectives; they help to inform my own.
The journey jobseekers travel is one of returning to self-acceptance because up until they lost their job, that job defined who they were. Once they achieve that, they widen their perspective of the kind of work they could pursue. I think you can apply the saying ‘when one teaches, two learn’ to volunteering. You can’t help being affected by the process and through gaining new insights about others and yourself.
I’ve coached quite a few jobseekers to date. Most of them are over forty years old, and some over fifty. I try to keep in contact with as many as possible after they have left CDG, to touch base and, if required, offer support.
Jehangir Mehentee has an interest in understanding how individuals and teams perform during challenging and stressful times. He works as a coach, change management agent and volunteer Youth Worker. You can follow him on twitter @JehangirPinC.
Find out more about coaching long-term jobseekers to success here.
When Reach asked Steph Senior to consider taking on the role of Development Funding Manager for the Kent MS Therapy Centre (artist’s impression pictured above) in Canterbury she admits that her initial reaction was not positive.
‘I’m certainly no ‘fundraiser’ in the traditional sense of the word,’ explains Steph. ‘For example, I’ve never organised an event in my life. But when I went to the interview for the development funding manager role, it soon became clear my concerns were unfounded.
‘What the Kent MS Therapy Centre needed was someone to help them approach trusts and charitable foundations. And the skills I have gained during 34 years in business are proving highly relevant to the job.’
Oxygen therapy patients Steph, a biochemist by training, has recently retired from a career in the medical diagnostics and chemical industries, where she held posts covering product development, marketing, sales and general management. In her new voluntary role, she is tackling the task of helping the MS Therapy Centre raise £1million to replace its ageing buildings. And she’s finding that her business skills are highly relevant to the task.
‘Bidding for funds has played a big role in my business career,’ says Steph. ‘Whether it’s tendering for research and development grants from the EU or applying for project funding to the board of a company, the basic skills involved are very similar. And it’s these same skills which I am now putting to work for the Therapy Centre.’
One of Steph’s first tasks has been to get the organisation to produce a full business plan and come up with detailed estimated costs for the proposed new building. She has also been helping management define and articulate its strategy.
‘We are adopting a classic business approach to the massive financial task we are facing, and I am pleased to see how valuable my business experience is proving to be for such a good cause,’ adds Steph. ‘I would never have believed that my professional background would prove to be so useful, or that my skills would be so easily transferable. Quite simply, I’ve come to realise that fundraising is not what I thought it was.’
To coincide with Volunteers’ Week 2011 Esté van der Walt has shared her experiences of finding a skilled volunteering position through Reach.
I first started volunteering as a university student through local community projects. After moving to London, I missed being involved in the community this way and started to enquire through friends if they knew of any projects that needed help. One friend told me about Reach and their ability to match individual skills with charities in need of volunteers.
To register with Reach was easy and quick and a member got in touch to find the best match. Reach is practical in their approach as they match organisations not only with your skill set, but also with the time you have to give, the location you wish to work in and the type of organisation you would like to join. This practical approach made it possible for me to include a volunteer role in my working week as well as keeping this in balance with my personal life.
The opportunity I received through Reach to work at Knights Youth Centre (also referred to as KYC or Knights) in Streatham, has opened other doors for me too. I have learnt more about myself, grown as a person and received the opportunity to enrol in a therapy course at Birkbeck University – all thanks to the experience I received due to volunteering at KYC. I have also had the privilege to be part of many activities at Knights, one of the highlights being a 100 mile rowing challenge on the river Wye to raise funds for projects at Knights.
Thursday evenings at Knights are called Seniors where we work with young people age 16-19. The seniors evening have been a wonderful experience and learning opportunity. My strength was in supporting fellow youth workers and the team in general. Volunteering at Knights has not only aided my own personal development, but I have also contributed towards a team with one mutual goal, namely to provide a service to young people in need of support. These include a range of activities, focused workshops on a variety of topics, employment support, sport, sexual health advice and fun cooking meals together.
I would highly recommend volunteering experience provided by Reach.