In the spirit of International Volunteering Day on 5 December, you might be interested in the results of the recent NED and volunteering snap poll. The poll was part of a wider initiative looking at how members volunteer and followed a discussion at a recent volunteering member evening.
As qualified treasurers, ACT members have a unique mix of experience and knowledge, underpinned by their ACT membership. Finance and treasury skills are in high demand from boards of both corporates and not-for-profits.
The NED and volunteering snap poll was completed by 70 members and showed:
Overall, there is a very positive desire to give something back amongst our membership and to use the skills we have to help other organisations.
Interested in Volunteering?
Take a look at these volunteering opportunities at treasurers.org/cpd/volunteering
Developing business skills
The panel at the NED and volunteering evening consisted of volunteers who acted as mentors, trustees and treasurers of charities. The panel mentioned that they developed key business skills through their charitable work, and this included through:
- Developing their strategic thinking
- Enhancing their professional networking
- Enriching their skills and experience, including gaining a real understanding of governance (versus operations)
- Contributing to a great cause
- Developing their team working in a different context
The panel were asked a number of questions regarding the volunteering roles they undertake.
How can you get involved with a local cause? There are many causes that need help so how do you know which charity is right for you?
There are various ways to get involved with charities, whether at an operational level for a local charity or in a more strategic way within a larger charity. If you are involved with a local charity you can get immersed in the day-to-day running of the charity and get involved in a wide variety of issues whereas if you take a more strategic role you would be advising the charity and not involved operationally.
The type of charity and role that you take depends on your own personal experience and what you want to give back or achieve when you volunteer. Opting to support a charity that you can relate to, that you are enthusiastic about or that you have had experience within the past is a good way of ensuring you are giving back to a cause that you feel passionate about.
Financial skills are in demand – and good business skills can make a real difference to local charities. What are the key issues for charities?
The not-for-profit sector is very different from the corporate sector that ACT members normally work in. Within large corporates, there are often teams of people who can help with projects, but charities are leaner, and projects are largely completed by volunteers who may not have the exact skills set to complete the task. When working with volunteers you must be patient and sensitive – high emotional intelligence will enable you to get the best out of everyone involved.
Fundraising is the biggest issue for charities. The realities of survival at a charity can often be very stark and sources of funding are a critical factor. Many charities hold six months of reserves and therefore can only survive through constant fundraising.
Large charities not only have all the elements to deal with of a corporate, but additionally have all the complexities of funding from various sources including numerous grants, all of which must be split up and accounted for across a range of activities. The focus on cost-savings and value for money is paramount as all donors want to ensure that they are getting maximum value.
Volunteering is about giving back but it can also develop your own skills. What have the panel learnt through their volunteering work?
The key skills the panelists had developed related to their communication and behavioural skills. The charity often initially needed their technical/financial skills but as they became more involved with the charity they became involved with wider issues, and developed their non-technical skills while doing this.
How do charities address diversity issues?
Often charities want to attract younger volunteers, but this can be difficult. Younger volunteers want to help but often don’t feel they have the time or the right skills. A good way for charities to do this is to work with large companies – such as large banks or the Big 4 accountancy bodies – to ask them to send volunteers to help with projects. This can also enable the volunteers to see what the charity does and to participate without having wider responsibilities.
From a charities perspective it is important for them to think about what is preventing an individual from volunteering so that they can address this by:
- Showing how adding a valuable skill set can benefit the individual from a business perspective and add an extra skill to their CV
- Looking at working with companies and universities – this will make individuals more aware of the charity, the issues it faces and how they can be involved
- Being flexible to enable the volunteers to help at a time that is convenient for them.
How do you talk to your employer about allowing you to have time off to volunteer with a charity?
There are numerous priorities within your working environment, but volunteering can provide you with a different perspective and beneficial business skills. The panel spoke about the need to put together a business case to show the benefits of volunteering so that employers could see the benefit to the company.
Our thanks go to Gary Williams, AMCT, Trustee, Essex Youth Build and Trustee, Thames Chase Trust, Joseph Braunhofer, FCT, Business mentor, Prince’s Trust and Zakir Vahora, AMCT, Honorary treasurer, Parkinson’s Charity for taking part in this panel discussion.
Please visit the ACT volunteering page for further information on how you can get involved.