Felicity McLeister
January 13th, 2014 by Guest Contributor

Felicity from The OR Society returns to dive deeper into the impact that operational research could have on your charity.

No matter what size or at what stage your organisation is, no matter what kind of decision, problem, or opportunity you face, there’s probably a way for Operational Research to help.

Pro Bono OR from The OR Society consistently delivers significant value – strategic to tactical, top-line to bottom-line – to the organisations and executives who use it.

Benefits of OR include:

  • Business insight: Providing quantitative and business insight into complex problems
  • Business performance: Improving business performance by embedding model-driven intelligence into an organisation’s information systems to improve decision making.
  • Cost reduction: Finding new opportunities to decrease cost or investment.
  • Decision making: Assessing the likely outcomes of decision alternatives and uncovering better alternatives.
  • Forecasting: Providing a better basis for more accurate forecasting and planning.
  • Improved scheduling: Efficiently scheduling staff, equipment, events, and more.
  • Planning: Applying quantitative techniques to support operations, tactical planning, and strategic planning.
  • Pricing: Dynamically pricing products and services.
  • Productivity: Helping organisations find ways to make processes and people more productive.
  • Profits: Increasing revenue or return on investment; increasing market share.
  • Quality: Improving quality as well as quantifying and balancing qualitative considerations.
  • Recovery: Gaining greater control and achieving turn-around.
  • Resources: Gaining greater utilisation from limited equipment, facilities, money, and personnel.
  • Risk: Measuring risk quantitatively and uncovering factors critical to managing and reducing risk.
  • Throughput: Increasing speed or throughput and decreasing delays.

Here is what a few of the organisations who’ve received Pro Bono support had to say:

Crimestoppers: ‘We’ve benefited hugely from your work and support in all areas of the project, and from an organisational perspective you’ve enabled us to take a highly professional approach to increasing the efficiency of our charity.’ (Performance Manager)

Participle: ‘I have just started to digest the work you did for us and wanted to say a huge thank you. This will be so critical to our growth and I am very grateful indeed for your time and expertise. The team have described you as “a joy to work with”.’ (Principle Partner)

The Cardinal Hume Centre: “We valued the opportunity to work collaboratively and without doubt benefited from the analyst’s expertise and commitment to the project.” (Operations Director)

We currently have three projects underway with the RSPCA, Work for Us and Harrogate & Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service and a further project about to commence. We have 60 volunteers across the UK who are currently available to work on projects. This puts us in a great position to offer Pro Bono O.R. the third sector organisations across the UK.

For more information please see my webpage or blog, or feel free to connect with me on twitter or LinkedIn.

Felicity McLeister is the Pro Bono Project Manager at The O.R. Society. You can find her on twitter @FMcLeister.

Guest contributors are invited by Reach to give their own take on issues related to skilled volunteering and trusteeship. We hope you enjoy their articles.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer and may not reflect those of Reach.

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Older man feeling free
July 2nd, 2013 by Elliott Gresswell

We here at Reach are always saying that volunteering is good for you- and now we have the medical science to back us up!

A recent study released by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has revealed a surprising fringe benefit to volunteering; it could substantially reduce the risk of high blood pressure in adults. The study was held over 1,164 adults aged 51 to 91, and involved conducting an interview and blood-test check in 2006, followed by another in 2010 intended to measure what percentage of those surveyed registered an increase in blood pressure, by how much, and what lifestyle choices could be seen as contributing factors.

The study took place in America, a country with an estimated 68 million high blood pressure sufferers a year. Here in the UK we have a similarity troubling level of blood pressure danger, with 32% of our adult male and 30% of our adult female population suffering high levels at any one time- that’s approximately 16 million people. Hypertension significantly increases risks of heart problems and preventable stokes and, what’s worse, it’s an illness that is rarely accompanied by any obvious external symptoms. It’s a serious problem that is best tackled by prevention through lifestyle choices like diet- and, it seems, volunteering.

The Carnegie Mellon study discovered that, among the interviewed, those who reported at least 200 hours of volunteering per week were 40% less likely to develop hypertension than those who did not. Interestingly, the study found nothing to indicate that the specific type of volunteering had any effect on the results- apparently, any kind of volunteering will do, as long as it’s done for long enough!

Hypertensive risk is particularly strong among the elderly and retirees. Says Rodlescia S. Sneed, the lead author of the study: “As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interaction… Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes.” It seems that, if you’re looking to retire, there are worse things to do with your time than look into a bit of self-preserving volunteering!

Hypertension has also been linked to working in high-stress professional environments, like demanding  jobs. So if you’re finding it all a bit much, letting the work and deadline pressure weigh down on you, then… take a holiday, relax for a while! But when you get back, perhaps consider that volunteering may well have benefits that are physical as well as psychological and that, far from piling on your valuable time with extra work, volunteering time may well contribute significantly to your ability to function more healthily and efficiently in your day-to-day life.

Of course, let’s not get too carried away here- we’re not suggesting volunteering is some kind of magical life-boosting panacea (well, we are, but mostly in hyperbole). But this is just one more indication that the benefits of volunteering are numerous, and go beyond the obvious- though still important- surface boons like increasing the content of your CV. It can improve you as a person- not just mentally, but also physically… and it can do so while you improve the lives of others. It’s a real no-lose situation, and you can trust us when we say- it’s good for you!

Elliot is Reach’s dedicated volunteer blogger

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