‘Apprentice style’ Charity Initiative Sharpens Graduate Skills
Reading Quest and Tourettes Action charities win £5000 each
An action plan to help a literacy charity working with young children develop an online app and a strategy to advance a clinical database for a Tourettes Syndrome charity were jointly awarded first place and each received £5000 at the Pilotlight Project ceremony held last week in London.
Five teams of City graduates had been challenged to create practical solutions to real issues faced by five small UK charities. The charities taking part were The London Early Years Foundation, Suffolk Family Carers, Tourettes Action, Scs Kinder and Reading Quest.
Each charity was asked to provide a challenge which would contribute to their overall aims as an organisation and that they would be willing and able to act upon from July 2011.
They included requests to create a social franchise for childcare services, to test the viability of marketing family carer training materials and to to help to turn a charity owned property in Wales into a revenue generating guesthouse
The ‘Pilotlight Project’ run by mentoring charity, Pilotlight, and The Royal Bank of Scotland paired a team from the RBS Graduate Programme with each charity and asked them to work together to devise the best approach to various real issues facing them. The team with the best solution had a chance of winning £5000 for their allocated charity.
The project which ran over six months aims to introduce graduate trainees to working with charities and to enable them to learn new skills and approaches, which they can bring back to their organisation.
Fiona Halton, CEO of Pilotlight explains, “We wanted to create a new programme which enriches both the business world and the communities our charities serve. This model gives everybody something back and is long lasting through the projects that have been kick started with the charities and the skills that will be taken back to the workplace”.
“At the beginning of their careers, “she continues, “our Pilotlight Project graduates have some insight into what it is like to run a charity. That is incredibly precious”.
For RBS, involvement in the project has been highly rewarding according to Glen McGowan Head of RBS Global Banking and Markets EMEA Markets Graduate Programme, "The Pilotlight project was chosen as a fantastic opportunity for RBS to combine supporting our graduates personal development needs along with providing an innovative way of supporting our wider community strategy with CSR involvement."
The Pilotlight Project is a new initiative for Pilotlight and an extension of the work the charity already carries out to help small charities grow and professionalize. It does so by matching them with voluntary teams of senior business people, whose members mentor and coach the charities through the process of planning for growth and financial sustainability.
The graduates who took part now have a better understanding of how small charities work according to Conrad Oakley, a member of the winning team that worked with Tourettes Action, “small charities face challenges with limited resources and a tough economic climate. We learnt about presentation, diplomacy and working with time constraints given other commitments.”
A review survey of the project carried out at the end of the project shows that 92% of graduates had developed team working abilities with over 70% pointing to improvement in relationship building, time management and communication skills.
The Pilotlight Project began in January 2011, with a launch event that included an introduction to the UK voluntary sector and a briefing for each team from their paired charity.
“We were excited, challenged, inspired to work with the graduates,” said Suzanne Dobson, CEO of Tourettes Action and joint winners, ” their sharp questions made us face some issues in our service. Their enthusiasm was hugely refreshing and the team made excellent use of the wide spectrum of talent amongst themselves to deliver the solution.”
Jayne Lacny Director of Reading Quest tells of a similar experience, “we would not have missed the opportunity to work with Pilotlight and RBS on this project for the world. We strive to do the very best for the children that we support, many of them disadvantaged. Our team of graduates did the same for us and much more in terms of support. They also brought dynamism, huge financial skills, creativity and common sense.”
“We had the vague idea that we would like to launch a trading arm to bring more financial stability. The graduates probed every aspect of the suggestion and forced us to think the concept out more clearly. They researched all avenues, making sure that we didn't go down any dead ends and the final result is a clear path forward to producing an app. We are so excited about being a co-winner and look forward to progressing with our trading arm in the near future.'