An interview with Skilled Volunteer Charlotte Cobb
Blog by Skilled Volunteer Diane Carrington | May 2023
Charlotte is a financial professional with extensive experience within big investment banks, for most of her career she has seen projects through from inception to delivery in leadership roles, managing global teams. She has a strong interest in people development, their experiences in the work place and has coached and mentored many staff over the years. It was some of these skills honed over her long career that she was able to bring to a project and share them with a non-profit.
Charlotte wanted to find a way to “give back” to the community but didn’t know how. Her prior involvement through work had been just one day projects and though she enjoyed them she had a sense that many non-profits needed more help and felt a dissatisfaction that there was no opportunity for her to get “stuck in”.
She was also concerned that she wouldn’t be able to carve out time from her busy schedule when she attended a networking event and discovered Link Up London’s Skilled Volunteering – it was then that she realised that it was possible. “… whilst its fantastic to go for a day …It’s not the same as getting this involved with an organisation and this is what I’ve really enjoyed with this”
After meeting with Link Up London Charlotte was soon matched with Start It Right a non-profit operating out of Croydon but with ambitions to expand to more locations. Start it Right provided holiday schemes and projects, their aim being to create stimulating environments to engage children and young people facing challenges through informal learning and play. Charlotte was keen to work with them feeling that they were a good match and she was particularly struck by their passion for the cause: “Alexia was a pleasure to work with…as a mother myself this really resonated with me”.
The focus for the project was to produce a toolkit that would make life easier for the non-profit when onboarding and recruiting volunteer staff and board members and this was where Charlotte’s extensive skills in this area were put to task. Alexia wanted to ensure that the processes they were using and the tools that they had were fit for purpose.
Although Charlotte’s background was totally different from that of a non-profit she found that the similarities in the processes were similar; she looked at what might need to change, gave advice, feedback and ultimately helped them to create a more streamlined process producing an onboarding toolkit for them. The result was that they were better equipped with new knowledge and understanding of the necessary procedures which would allow volunteer staff to self-serve more and free up time from some of the more mundane admin processes. “…this is what is so inspiring about getting involved and spending time with Alexia, she has a full time job and she does all of this outside of that as well… it really is incredible to see the effort that people are trying to do and add value to their communities.”
Charlotte spent around twenty hours over three months working on the project and one of the things that she enjoyed the most was the sound boarding element, listening to a different perspective from Alexia-hearing about her background and her processes whilst setting up her non-profit. “…this is the beauty of these kind of projects ultimately what I contributed was very specific things… I could offer things they were trying to do but didn’t have the skillset to … they can spend time on what they are good at, with what they need to be focused on. That’s what you want to see from doing a project like this.”
Charlotte valued the exposure that she got through the project to this type of organisation. She feels that she now has a greater appreciation of the types of challenges non- profits face something that you cannot gain from a corporate volunteer day. She discovered how transferable her skills could be despite the contrast in environments and describes the experience as being “super insightful”. She plans to follow up their progress and is now keen to continue working with non-profits as her experience of seeing their passion, the need and how much she can help has made her want to contribute more.
“Whilst you might go about it differently the principles are there and you can learn from the different types of environments as well”.
One of the big surprises for Charlotte was finding out just how accessible and flexible skilled volunteering makes giving back to your community. Since completing the project she has shared this with work colleagues as she believes there are a lot of people out there with valuable skills that non-profits desperately need – they were just as surprised at how much they could be contributed in such a short amount of time.
“What Link UP London does is to make this type of volunteering accessible. The more people that talk about it the better, as they will figure out there is a way to contribute without giving up every Tuesday evening for the next year to be able to do so… the whole experience has made contributing accessible for me and I hope this will encourage others too”.
Charlotte, when asked what an outsider might say about her input, says she hopes she added value by creating smoother processes, and in doing so the non- profit could get on with what they do best and not have to waste their time on areas that are not their strong points.
Her final words to others considering Skilled Volunteering?
“I would tell them to do it, don’t procrastinate or say I haven’t got time to make it work… it can be done very flexibly – it is much more flexible and accessible than I thought it was!”