Felicity McLeister
November 6th, 2013 by Guest Contributor

Felicity introduces the discipline of Operational Research

Operational research (OR) is the discipline of applying appropriate analytical methods to help make better decisions.

I have recently taken up the role as OR Pro Bono Project Manager at The OR Society.  Having worked in the third sector for six years and having never heard the term OR, I can really see the need to raise OR’s profile in the sector.

The idea of providing pro bono OR support to the third sector has been discussed among ORS members for a number of years; a pilot scheme run by volunteers has been successfully running since 2011. Please click here for case studies.

How can OR help you?

Third sector organisations face extremely complex decisions about the direction they should take and how to allocate scarce resources.  These are some of the issues the organisations we’ve worked with have faced:

  • ‘We have lots of different options for the future but it’s impossible to decide which to choose in such uncertain times.’
  • ‘We’re under huge pressure to do more with less, and we don’t know how we’re going to do it.’
  • ‘It’s hard to stay objective when we’re faced with such emotionally charged decisions.’
  • ‘We know we’re doing a good job – but how can we prove it?’

Without the tools to model different scenarios and understand the consequences of them, it isn’t surprising that many organisations tend to rely on gut feelings.

An OR practitioner comes armed with an array of analytical tools plus the skills and experience to identify the critical factors and issues, explore the different options and explain the impact of them in real terms.

It won’t make the decisions for you, but it provides some of the head to your organisation’s heart and, when you combine the two, you are more likely to act in the interests of your organisation and its beneficiaries.

We have already helped several third sector organisations and are keen to work with many more.

If you work for a third sector organisation, would like to discuss pro bono support or need more information, please email me on felicity.mcleister@theorsociety.com quoting ‘OR in the third Sector’.

Felicity  McLeister blogs in behalf of the Operational Research (OR) Society

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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September 3rd, 2012 by Robin Gordon-Walker

Reach, the skilled volunteering charity, has appointed two new Trustees – Simon Hebditch, a social organisation consultant, and Andrew Jenkinson a Board level insurance specialist.

Reach’s Interim Chief Executive David Collins said, “Simon and Andrew bring a key range of management, financial and professional skills to Reach’s work. We are very pleased to have them on board as Reach embarks on its next phase of delivering an enhanced and more effective service to charities and professional volunteers.”

Simon Hebditch said, “Having worked for many years in the voluntary sector I have been aware of Reach and the invaluable and unique service it provides and I look forward very much to helping it develop its services and thrive for the future.”

Andrew Jenkinson said, “Reach is a highly regarded organisation and I look forward to contributing my financial and business experience to further improve its services to charities and volunteers.”

Liz Maher is standing down as a Reach trustee after nine years of service.

David Collins said, “Liz has made a very strong contribution to Reach and has been an inspiration to the our Board, staff and volunteers. We wish her well for the future.”

Simon Hebditch has worked in the voluntary and community sector for many years, specialising in policy analysis, strategic planning, campaigning and external relations. He is a Trustee of the Small Charities Coalition and was the first chief executive of Capacitybuilders from February 2006 to March 2008. Previously he had been external affairs director of the Charities Aid Foundation and assistant director of NCVO.

Andrew Jenkinson is Non Executive Director, Consultant and Interim Manager at Andrew Jenkinson Associates. He was formerly Group Finance Director at Barbon Insurance Group Ltd and Chairman of Friends of Hertfordshire Youth Music Groups.

Liz Maher is Director of Centurion VAT Specialists Ltd, a Council Member on Newport Board at South Wales Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer of Friends of Newport Cathedral Choir and a member of the CBI Enterprise Forum in Wales at CBI.

The current board of Reach Trustees is:

  • Bob Fee (Chair)
  • Frank Moxon (Deputy Chair)
  • Andrew Jenkinson (Treasurer)
  • Iain Herbertson
  • Liz Burns
  • Nicky Field
  • Simon Hebditch
A retired journalist, Robin now looks after Reach’s press and PR functions on a voluntary basis.

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June 4th, 2011 by Reach

This is an interesting time for the Civil Society Sector, with many-not-for-profits facing financial pressures while simultaneously recording an increase in demand for their services. The sector is being tested in extraordinary ways and the need for good governance has never been more acute. If the Big Society is to become a reality, it is vital that organisations have the very best trustees in place.

Following the success of March’s event, TrusteeWorks, together with Trustees Unlimited, are delighted to be running another training event for people interested in becoming trustees. Drawing on the experience of TrusteeWorks, Reach Volunteering, NCVO and Trustees Unlimited, the event will cover three key areas:

  • An introduction to the Civil Society Sector
  • An overview of the role and responsibilities of being a trustee/non-executive
  • Tips on how best to secure a role.

You may be a charity with a new trustee on board, a volunteer looking to become a trustee or a trustee new to the role. What you have in common is the need to find out more about that role and the crucial part it plays in the life of your charity.


17.15 – Introduction
17.25 – Karl Wilding, Head of Policy, Research & Foresight
17.35 – Anne Moynihan, Trustee & Governance Consultant
17.55 – Sarah King, TrusteeWorks
18.00 – Ian Joseph, Trustees Unlimited
18.20 – 7.00 – Q & A
19.00 – Networking (drinks & canapés)
19.50 – End

When: 14 July 2011
Where: NCVO, Regent’s Wharf, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL
Cost: £35, which includes canapés and drinks.

If you’d like to book a place, visit the website or email chris.taylor@ncvo-vol.org.uk.

Reach Volunteering: connecting people, skills and good causes.

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Caroline Beaumont
January 4th, 2011 by Reach

Caroline Beaumont joins Reach Volunteering as Director of Services and Business Development.

In the new position of Director of Services and Business Development Caroline will be responsible for expanding Reach’s services to increase the impact of skilled volunteering on the voluntary sector.

Reach Chief Executive Sarah King said, “Caroline has a keen interest in skilled volunteering and we are delighted that she has joined us to help build our service and profile at a time when the voluntary sector faces big challenges on the funding side and demand for support but also is presented with exciting opportunities.”

Caroline Beaumont said, “Reach has 30 years’ experience of matching volunteers’ skills with charities’ needs. The time is right to get even smarter about the operational, strategic and governance support that volunteers can bring and I’m looking forward to developing Reach’s services to help strengthen the skills base of the sector.”

Caroline recently completed a Fellowship on the Clore Social Leadership Programme.

She was previously Deputy Head of Corporate Development with Action for Children, Head of Marketing at Transaid and before that worked in Corporate Partnerships at Voluntary Service Overseas.

Reach Volunteering: connecting people, skills and good causes.

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Rainbow colours
December 9th, 2010 by Reach

Reach Volunteering and the Equality and Diversity Forum are planning a new initiative to increase diversity among charity trustees.

This was announced last night (7 December) by EDF Chair Sarah Spencer at an event to celebrate the organisation’s coming of age as a charity.

Sarah Spencer said: “A strong legislative framework requiring public bodies to advance equality is at last in place and we need now to shift our attention to making that work.

“We recognise that the voluntary sector itself needs to change. So we are planning the new initiative with Reach to increase diversity among charity trustees and enable charities across Britain to realise the benefits of a diverse board, alongside the Government’s initiative to increase diversity in public appointments.”

Reach Chief Executive Sarah King said: “We very much welcome the opportunity to work with the EDF on this important initiative. Many charities approaching Reach to recruit trustees already talk to us about how they can broaden the membership and experience of their Board.

“By working with EDF as experts in equality we want to increase diversity among charity trustees and enable more charities across Britain to realise the benefits of having a broader board membership board.”

The initiative is in its early planning stage and is due to be launched in Summer 2011.

Reach Volunteering: connecting people, skills and good causes.

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Welcome sign
June 24th, 2010 by Reach

Reach is in the process of upgrading its website and internal placement system. This will make registering with Reach much easier and give much more control to our organisations and volunteers in the service they receive from Reach.

For more information on the benefits of the new system read our article Reach volunteer matching.

The new system and on-line service will be launched in July when we will send all registered organisations and volunteers full details and a new password so that they can use the facility. All your current information will be transferred and you will be able to view it and update it.

While we complete the final transfer to the new system, the online facility to view skilled volunteering opportunities through the Reach website will be temporarily unavailable. We apologise for any disruption which this may cause.

The Reach team will continue to look for suitable opportunities for our volunteers during the transition. You will still be able to contact us so please email us on mail@reachskills.org.uk if you have any comments or concerns.

Reach Volunteering: connecting people, skills and good causes.

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Ticking a survey
June 2nd, 2010 by Reach

This confidential research study seeks to understand more about the performance of Boards of Trustees (‘the Board’) of UK charities and how Board effectiveness influences charity performance.

This questionnaire solicits opinions from Trustees and Chief Executives to find out what your perspectives are about your board and its impact on charity performance.

Responding to the questionnaire should take no more than 15–20 minutes of your time. Your participation will assist greatly in providing valuable and beneficial knowledge and information for your board and boards of other charitable organisations in the UK. Neither you or your charity will be identified in any publications resulting from the study.

An electronic copy of the final research report will be sent to all who request it and provide their e-mail address. This will be of particular interest to your board in its quest to continually improve board and charity performance. The final ‘benchmarking’ report will be more meaningful to individual charities if the Chief Executive and as many Trustees as possible can take part in the survey.

Trustees and Chief Executives can take part in the survey by going to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CDQZKLJ

All information that you provide over the Internet is done so safely using a secure, encrypted connection. The information obtained for this research will remain confidential. Only the researcher is able to access the information through a password-protected database.

The name of your charity is required, but this will be anonymised in the final report.

Reach Volunteering: connecting people, skills and good causes.

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Trash can
May 26th, 2010 by Sarah King

The bin men come to my village on a Monday.  One week its household waste, the next its the environment bit.  I am remarkably organised sorting things in to the right bins and boxes and I am quite proud of how much greener I am.

I wish that was because I am an organised person but it isn’t, it’s because the council gave me very clear instructions on what to do, when to do it, what not to put in each bin.  They also put it in context telling me how not to waste mine and the world’s resources.  I hate waste but to avoid it I needed someone else to set the guidelines and pretty much tell me how to do it to act.

Last week I was at a workshop on improving voluntary sector performance and one of the headings was ‘removing waste’. I had one of those annoying ‘ah-ha’ moments which you get when something is bloomin’ obvious but you haven’t done anything about it.

Our volunteers have been telling me for some weeks that some of the new processes we’ve introduced are wasting their time and creating peaks of work that end up just sitting around.  I have been slightly baffled by why this is causing so many problems until my ‘ah-ha’ moment revealed that we hadn’t given them clear enough guidance on how to deliver our service efficiently on the new system.

Like me, they needed a week by week guide on what tasks needed doing, how to sort the work appropriately and how to make sure that half the work wasn’t left at the end of the day because it was wrong or didn’t fit in a particular pigeon hole.  They also needed the big picture on why we were doing things and how it would benefit us and the people we work with.  In a single one hour meeting today we worked out most of the things we needed to change and how.  It’ll take a bit more than an hour to remove the waste but it’s a start.

We so often create waste in our work because we don’t look at our processes and don’t change them when other things in the organisation change.  If we asked whether our services are timely, of high quality and at a cost we understand (and can afford), I wonder how much we would save?

Sarah is Reach’s former Chief Executive, leading the organisation from 2008 until 2012

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May 20th, 2010 by Charlotte Zamboni

A new national scheme is being developed by Reach Volunteering to match senior managers of charities and community groups with experienced volunteer mentors who are capable of guiding their professional development. This follows a six-month project in which leaders of a handful of third sector organisations in London were mentored by specially selected Reach volunteers. Feedback from the project was so overwhelmingly positive that Reach has decided to develop it into a national initiative.

Kim Safianoff, who managed the pilot project, says the scheme was Reach’s response to a growing demand for mentoring amongst voluntary organisations.‘Increasingly, people in leadership positions in the voluntary sector were asking us to find volunteers who could work with them in a mentoring and coaching role,’ recalls Kim. ‘At the same time, we were becoming more generally aware that people in key positions in the voluntary sector were facing enormous challenges which they weren’t necessarily fully equipped to deal with.

“We felt that our register of highly skilled volunteers could provide a rich source of mentors”

‘Some people combine a lot of roles and aren’t experienced in all of them. For example, they may lack specific business skills or have limited experience in managing staff. We felt that our register of highly skilled volunteers could provide a rich source of mentors who were willing to work with such individuals to improve their effectiveness, manage organisational development and also help them achieve their professional and personal goals.’

One of the leaders who took part in the pilot study is Stuart Cameron, Project Manager of Tryangle, an organisation in South London that works with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. He says the provision of a volunteer mentor by Reach could not have come at a better time.

‘Tryangle had been set up by the Methodist Church and I was employed by them to run it,’ explains Stuart. At the end of 2008, they decided that Tryangle had to become an independent organisation. That meant I had to set up a charity and a limited company. And suddenly I was thrown in at the deep end, having to deal with things that I had never had to worry about before.

‘I found that I was floundering with things like accounts, payroll and employment policies and felt very lonely, wondering all the time whether I was doing alright or not. At the same time, our work was expanding. I really felt the need to share management and decision making.’

That need was met when, as part of the Reach mentoring pilot, Stuart was paired with Terry Belcher, Financial Director and Co-proprietor of a metal fabrication business in North London.

“It was very re-assuring to have him around and helped me to develop in my role”

‘Terry was just a great resource. He was very knowledgeable and able to help and guide me across a whole range of issues which I’d been struggling with,’ says Stuart. ‘But he didn’t just give me practical advice over things like finance and marketing. Talking stuff through with him helped me to gain perspective, new views and fresh insights. It was very re-assuring to have him around and helped me to develop in my role.’

Stuart met once a month with his mentor, Terry Belcher, who admits that prior to working with Stuart he was a little daunted about taking on a mentoring role in the voluntary sector and concerned about whether he would be able to ‘do the right thing’. But Terry says it was apparent from the start that their relationship would be a mutually productive one.

‘Stuart and I hit it off from the word go and I was able to give him help and advice with some basic issues which he was unfamiliar with,’ recalls Terry. ‘But beyond making practical suggestions about things like accounts, I was able to act as a sounding board for Stuart and to give him the encouragement and support he needed to build up his confidence and get on with things himself.

‘It was a really supportive relationship which developed, and one that was rewarding for me as well,’ adds Terry. ‘It gave me a positive feeling when suggestions I made worked for Stuart and I enjoyed watching his confidence grow in the process. He’s now able to develop a bigger support network and isn’t afraid to ask for help any more.’

Terry’s relationship with Stuart has been so successful and productive that they’re continuing to work together beyond the end of their initial six-month mentoring agreement. Now, a national scheme is being developed to provide more volunteer mentors to the voluntary sector. Reach volunteer, Tim Heald, who was one of the mentors in the pilot project, is co-ordinating the new initiative.

‘We will be using our unique volunteer register to identify potential mentors and encourage more people to consider the role. We’ll be looking to recruit a broad range of people in terms of experience, age, ethnicity, gender and geographical spread,’ says Tim. ‘We’ll employ Reach’s skills at matching volunteers and organisations to respond to direct requests for mentoring support. And we will also be proactive in identifying voluntary organisations for whom mentoring could prove productive.’

Once a pairing has been agreed, both mentors and clients will be briefed and trained on various aspects of the mentoring process. Tim, who is a learning and development specialist with many years experience in the commercial world, believes the new scheme will prove highly rewarding for mentors and clients alike.He explains: ‘Mentors will have the challenge and satisfaction of using their skills in a constructive way to improve the effectiveness of key individuals working in the voluntary sector. At the same time, they’ll be expanding their own learning and experience.

“Mentors can become powerful allies”

‘For their clients, it’s an opportunity to share expertise, skills and ideas with someone who is often coming from a commercial background. With many voluntary organisations under pressure to be more financially focussed, better managed and more accountable, mentors can become powerful allies in their response to these challenges.’

If you want to know more about volunteering as a mentor, or if you are interested in finding a mentor to work with you, contact Kim Safianoff on 020 7582 6543 or mail@reachskills.org.uk

Charlotte was Reach’s Marketing Manager until 2011

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