Volunteering works in so many ways

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1-7 June is Volunteers’ Week in the UK and lots of charities and other organisations which rely on volunteers are highlighting the huge variety of roles for volunteers and the many ways in which people can contribute to their chosen good causes and to wider civil society. Let’s hope the recruitment drive succeeds in matching lots of willing people with the tasks that need doing and that new volunteering converts will gain satisfaction from helping to make something good happen. Alongside that great feeling of being useful there are many other benefits to be had too – the opportunity to learn new skills and gain new experiences; the chance to meet new people and perhaps make new friends; the chance to influence the direction of a cause you care about; the opportunity to visit places or do things you might not otherwise have ever considered. Volunteering can be a door opener to a new job or change in career and it can build self esteem and help people who have faced problems to regain confidence in their abilities and to improve their communication skills. Continue reading →

How to benchmark and improve your performance

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It’s already the middle of January and many New Year Resolutions are teetering on the brink of collapse. But fear not – there is one resolution that you can make which you will be able to keep because it requires little effort, is really interesting for anyone who is curious about how others behave and can provide all sorts of benefits to you and your organisation. Why not make 2013 the year in which you start to benchmark?

For those of you who already write organisational plans and set targets for yourselves and your staff which are reviewed and evaluated, benchmarking could be an additional tool which will add even more value and enhance your performance both as an organisation and as an individual manager. You may find that by comparing your performance with how others are doing you will find one or more of the following: Continue reading →

The importance of workforce development

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The importance of workforce development should not be underestimated but in these days of funding cutbacks and emphasis on evaluating impact, setting up social enterprises and collaboration with the public sector it’s easy for people and their development needs to drop down the priority list. Perhaps people are seen as less complex or less essential to organisational survival than the more process driven topics which get the headlines today? Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was heartened today when invited to run a workshop on workforce development for small charities (www.thefsi.org) that so many people chose to attend. It indicated to me that despite the lack of funding focus it is still considered to be a vital ingredient in any effective and successful organisation and certainly the people in the room representing a very broad range of small organisations understood its importance to them. Continue reading →

Being a good employer – getting the basics right

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Employing people is a complex business and ensuring that your organisation is legally compliant can seem daunting to the board of trustees of a charity. Many aren’t daunted because they are unaware of their responsibilities and liabilities and may get a rude awakening when something happens to disturb their calm. Keeping abreast of charity legislation and financial reporting requirements occupies a substantial proportion of any organisation’s time and is usually the domain of the Treasurer and CEO and if the charity is big enough – the Finance Director. Keeping up to date with current employment law is just as vital and ensuring that policies and terms and conditions are in place and that staff both are and feel supported should be a key priority for the trustees.

Many charities below a certain size will not have the resources to employ an HR expert and the responsibility will rest with the CEO or another senior manager who may not have HR skills. Organisations often get by with borrowed policies and cut and pasted employment contracts which may be doing the job but quite often contain out of date clauses or inconsistencies. Often it’s only when something negative happens, such as an employment tribunal, that any attention is paid to the basics.

There are several sources of advice and information available and Trustees should set some time aside to review current policies and ensure that their organisation is legally compliant and also ideally behaving well in supporting and communicating with their staff and volunteers. It has been shown that being a good employer is not only a positive thing for its own sake but can improve the effectiveness of the organisation. Better supported staff are more motivated, communicate well , represent the organisation in a positive way and are likely to stay whilst you need them. Unsupported staff cost the organisation money whether directly or indirectly through poor performance and missed opportunities. Continue reading →

Meeting deadlines

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There’s nothing like the adrenalin rush that comes with having to meet an imminent  deadline and managing to get there – just in the nick of time, sometimes by staying up all night and drinking lots of coffee and scraping past the winning post. Yes! Takes some of us back to our student days when staying up all night was the norm and forward planning a luxury we couldn’t afford.

I’ve always had a tendency to work to deadlines (or as others might say, to leave things until the last minute) – I favour the “just in time” approach to management and usually it works. I mull over what needs to be done for many weeks or days in advance and this gestation period helps improve the quality of my final output but I usually won’t actually get around to finalising the submission or the report or the tender document until the 11th hour. Trouble with my approach is when things go wrong with factors outside my control – such as when the internet connection goes down just at the point I want to send the email (note I wrote when , not if – it always seems to happen). That last minute completion of a detailed funding application or job application that needed one extra detail which is unavailable at the last minute can make all the difference between success and failure. Continue reading →

Increase your chances of getting to interview

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I’ve just completed a recruitment brief for a small organisation and thought it might be a useful time to reflect on some of the things I have learned, or been reminded of, to help recruiters and applicants get to interview.

Firstly, and no apologies for restating some obvious points, it is really important as a recruiter to get the brief right before you start spreading the word. This includes not only the job description and the person specification but also some of the key job terms and conditions – salary of course, but also location and length of contract. There may be other details that can be agreed later on in the process but you will need to be clear about the what, who, where, when and how much. Continue reading →

Behaving with integrity

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This week the results of an Essex University survey on integrity were published causing a flurry of articles and discussion about the findings. It seems that from their responses to the questions asked, fewer young people show integrity than those in older age groups and that a greater number of us are less honest than we were previously. We appear to be on a slippery slope to dishonesty and our young people are yet again in the media spotlight, and not in a good way.

I’m not going to spend time on analysing the content of the survey but do suggest that the concepts of integrity, truthfulness and honesty are complex and interwoven with social attitudes and moral codes. Telling the whole truth all the time will not necessarily be the most successful tactic in a public or private situation. Someone who always insists on being brutally honest, regardless of the effect their truthfulness has on other people, can be a difficult person to get along with and may cause havoc in the workplace. However, having integrity, behaving honestly and only telling the truth (even if at times it’s not the whole truth) are essential in building trust. The individual who gets a reputation for being untrustworthy or for double-dealing will create problems in the workplace and if they are in a leadership position can cause long-term damage to their organisation. Continue reading →

Someone to talk to

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Desert Island Discs may seem an unlikely source of inspiration for a blog on mentoring but that’s where this one started. Martin Sorrell of WPP was talking to Sue Lawley in a recent Radio 4 programme, about his business success and the support he had had from his father who had offered him a listening ear and sound advice. Martin’s view was that everyone, no matter how senior and successful, needs someone to offer an outside perspective; someone who has no agenda of their own who can offer support as a mentor, as a sounding board. Continue reading →

Learning to succeed

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I sat on an interview panel yesterday and was impressed by the calibre of the candidates. One particular point which impressed me was the response which all the interviewees  gave as part of their answer to the question “What personal attributes would you bring to the role in addition to your skills and experience?”

The common answer was an enthusiasm and enjoyment of learning new things. Continue reading →

Finding and keeping trustees

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In Trustees Week 2011 it seems timely to write a few words about the challenge that faces many of us who are involved in charity management. How do we find skilled individuals willing to volunteer their time as trustees and, having found them, how do we then keep them on board?

Recruiting the right trustees is as vital to a charity’s success as finding skilled staff and it’s often even more difficult, given the fact that trustees are largely unpaid and assume huge responsibilities when they take on the role.

Yet nearly a million people give their time to be trustees so they must be getting something out of it, especially since many people who are trustees of one charity choose to also become trustees of other organisations too – serial trustees are legion. Continue reading →