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Getting to the core of skilled volunteering

London, 15 Nov 2015

What do you get when you put a researcher, auditor, financial modeller and corporate librarian together as part of a skilled volunteering program in London? An eclectic team of pro bono volunteers working to achieve practical and valuable outcomes for their community.

Launched in 2009, the CoRe (Community Resourcing) Programme in London matches teams of business volunteers to local Islington charities for six months, to help develop their capacity by supporting their strategic priorities. Since the program was established, 30 charities have been supported.

The 2015 CoRe Programme, in partnership with Macquarie Group, Slaughter and May and the BIG Alliance (Businesses for Islington Giving), brought together business skills and voluntary sector expertise to support six Islington charities.

Macquarie auditor Chris Delaney was one of the team members assigned to support Chance UK in the recent six-month CoRe Programme. Delaney has worked for Macquarie for five years in both Sydney and London and using his professional skills as a volunteer was a first for him.

“Being part of CoRe was a great way to use my skills in a practical way. I was using my business mindset and experience and I was able to measure my impact at the same time, which was important to me,” said Delaney.

After being matched with a researcher and financial modeller from Macquarie and a corporate librarian from Slaughter and May, the team’s first meeting focused on identifying what they could offer Chance UK.

“On the surface the mix of team members might not have seemed logical but in fact we all brought to the table what the organisation needed and that was intentional with the program coordinators. We worked well together and each applied our strengths so it was a good mix,” says Delaney.

Chance UK operates an early intervention program to tackle challenging behaviour of primary school-aged children through intensive individual mentoring and family support.

The mentoring program, which was established in 1995 by an Islington police officer, has worked with 200 children who are at risk of developing anti-social or criminal behaviour.

One-on-one weekly mentoring is provided by a trained adult volunteer and the focus for the mentors and mentees is on doing activities together, such as participating in sport, visiting museums and exploring new interests.

Chance UK works across six boroughs in London with a focus on Islington, which has the second highest rate of child poverty in England and one job for every seven or eight job seekers.

As part of the CoRe Programme the volunteer team worked to increase Chance UK’s fundraising capacity. The team dived into the nitty gritty of the organisation’s digital marketing activities, completed a financial analysis and business plan critique to identify trends and gaps, facilitated a managerial strategy session, researched various companies corporate social responsibility activities and hosted a ‘pitch’ event to test the team’s corporate engagement ideas.

“We initially set about understanding Chance over a few sessions and the challenges they had, but then we quickly got into completing some ‘quick wins’. After that we focused on a financial analysis and a longer term strategy for corporate engagement,” said Delaney.

Chance UK’s Business Development Manager, Navinder Kaur, valued the team’s input and business acumen in contributing to their short and long-term needs.

“I was not sure about how to start the process of devising our fundraising and corporate engagement strategy,” Kaur said. “Ideas were whirling around in my head and I felt I needed to work with others to get the process started. The output of the CoRe team was invaluable as we just wouldn’t have been able to complete many of the activities due to our limited capacity as a small charity."

She added that it was “great to be able to bounce ideas off people who brought a range of much needed skills and experience to the organisation which complemented our own skill-sets”.

“It enabled us to get on the right path to get the job done quicker and more effectively.”  

Delaney enjoyed having the opportunity to work with Macquarie staff that he wouldn’t have otherwise met and the CoRe Programme provided a good talking point with colleagues, as a way of encouraging skilled volunteering and support of non-profits.

His belief in and support of Chance UK has extended to him recently completing the Three Peak Challenge, raising £1,000 for Chance UK. This involved Delaney climbing the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales in just 24 hours.

“I’ll continue to follow Chance UK’s work to see what happens with all that we’ve done,” Delaney said.

“We’ve set up lots of things and incrementally made little tweaks for their long-term benefit. We were able to make a real difference which was tangible and impactful.”

Image caption: Chance UK mentors have worked with 200 children who are at risk of developing anti-social or criminal behaviour. Photo courtesy of Chance UK.