Work Experience

This week we have been participating in work experience at Community Impact Bucks. In the past week we have learnt about day to day life in a regular office job, but have also used it as an opportunity to learn about many other aspects of careers and related decision making. We have enhanced our understanding of social skills and their usage in the working environment, by working both with colleagues and with members of the public, improving our confidence and our ability to adapt to situations outside of our comfort zones.

We have also learnt about different areas of communication, especially in the modern, digital age, and have used our knowledge of social media to our advantage to achieve greater publicity for the organisation. We also used our knowledge to create higher news valued text to display on a more regular basis, which would reach a larger target market of the modern day. In addition, we were given a tutorial with the website Hootsuite, which, previously unbeknownst to us, allowed us to post to multiple websites at the same time, exponentially multiplying the publicity that a post could achieve.

We attended a few events over the week, including a community launch of Men in Sheds in Amersham, where we aided in the distribution of catering supplies, and engaged in photography. We also took a course about volunteering with vulnerable adults, where we learnt about risk assessment, listening skills and working alone. Finally, we also went out in the i-Van, a community vehicle where youth can try out music production and animation, along with other multimedia and practical crafts.

We designed flyers and leaflets using software to advertise new projects and websites, and also edited photos to include quotes from case studies and interviews in preparation for posting on social media in upcoming weeks. We also learnt basics about google analytics and website marketing strategy and design.

We have enjoyed our time at Community Impact Bucks so far and are looking forward to our final day tomorrow. We feel we have learnt many different skills and are now more confident in our lives as a result.

– Michael and Imogen

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Charities should be more like businesses!

Biz-Plan

I was at a meeting the other day explaining the needs of the charity sector to a Government advisor and he was shocked to hear that only about 20% of charities have a business plan. Scary! There was mild panic in his eyes.

Surely charities should act more like businesses? That is a statement I hear often – I say it too – and on one level I think we can all agree with that – if that means that charities should be efficient, have a clear vision, act professionally with donors’ money and have a well thought out business plan – who could argue! (Actually there are plenty of businesses that should be more like businesses in that case!). And, incidentally, that principle of being business-like is what we support 100%. The team here at Community Impact Bucks are expert at helping charities to develop a sustainable strategy, to improve efficiency and governance. So that should be the end of the matter. No news.

But I do wonder about how fair this argument is. Are we really saying that if you, as charities, want to carry on doing the fulfilling things you “enjoy” doing you need to step up and properly earn your way in the world like… business?!

When I raise this issue with charities there is generally agreement round the table, but not always. Some charity founders say that … “making money is not our business”. Are they wrong? Today’s thinking would suggest that they are very behind the times, but others would argue that they are not in “business” to make money, they are in “business” to deliver things that are beneficial for the rest of us in general – so why should we burden them with a completely new role?

Furthermore, are we really being even handed? The traditional support services delivered by the Government (local and national) are increasingly being devolved to local charities, yet many of those services provided are still just as important to our way of life as they ever were. Some of us seem to be squeamish about other organisations such as the NHS getting involved in “business” of any sort. If we hear nurses complain of not enough resources we don’t suggest that he or she should put down the drip, the swab or the bed pan and roll up his or her sleeves and diversify – selling raffle tickets and offering a night in the ward as an inexpensive B&B to earn a few quid. We say thank goodness they are there when we need them and if we have to pay a bit of tax to make sure the nurses have the resources they need so be it. Money well spent… Yet if that nurse was working for a charitable organisation where money was short we would suggest just that.

If we have the misfortune to have to call on the services of a firefighter or police officer, do we really want them to be squeezing us in between running a fund raising event or charging hen parties for a ride in the fire engine? No, we want the firefighter or police officer to be thinking about delivering their excellent lifesaving service that they do so well – and leave the fund raising to us. We pay taxes.

So why do we feel so comfortable about advising charity to get out and earn its way? I assume it depends on the charity and the cause to an extent. But society is not made up of ‘businesses’ and ‘charities’, it is made up of people who, in general, want similar things for a better life. A good business finds ways to make a profit and offer a solution – but we never ask a business to “step up and take care of the elderly, the sick or homeless”. They may say it’s not their job. They do business and a charity does charity.

The reality, however, is that we do see many business owners who do just that. They say how can we help charities? It is also true that we have many charities that embrace business strategy and develop a sustainable income. I just think that when we wave the finger at charities and demand that they need to start acting like a proper business in order to survive, we should remember two things. Firstly, few businesses would ever survive offering a service for free or offering a service to customers who often could not pay, and secondly let’s remember if charities really can’t make that transition then we all could suffer.

Yes charities do need to be more like businesses – but the real magic happens when businesses and charities work together and we all win.