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.
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.’