For Matt Hateley, National Grid Gas Transmission engineer, putting his business expertise to work for the Westfield Community Centre was just the start of a personal journey in volunteering.
A year or so ago, I was on an internal National Grid development programme whose approach included Skills Exchange opportunities to use your business skills and broaden your experience through volunteering. It tied in with our Good Leaders programme that matches up volunteers and charities by skill set and geography.
I had been involved before in traditional volunteering – the painting and gardening details, giving school children interview practice, careers advice and so on. This was my first experience of using my business skills and knowledge in a different sector.
From my perspective, Skills Exchange works well. Good Leaders introduced me to the people at the Westfield Community Centre in Hinckley, which is not far from my home. At that stage, they were applying for a national grant. As a conditions of applying, they had to have somebody from a local business with some business expertise and commercial acumen to help them make sure the money produced the results intended.
Keen to stay on
The Westfield application wasn’t successful – the grant was massively oversubscribed because every charity was in the same position of having to find new sources of funding. But by that time, I’d been working with them for a couple of months and was keen to continue. Every time I went to Westfield, I could see the services they provided and the activities going on. It showed they were doing a really important job for the local community.
We set up a sustainability sub-committee to work out how to keep the charity running and to develop a long-term plan to reach a point where we’re financially comfortable. I think it has helped having someone like me to provide an outsider’s point of view.
That sub-committee has been going for about nine months and has been a success – at the general meeting in January, Westfield was back at the point of breaking even. So our next step is to try and create a buffer and earn enough from different activities to feed back into services and other expansion work.
Confirmed as a trustee
At the same meeting, I was confirmed as a trustee of Westfield. It’s something I want to do in my own time.
The trustee’s role is around providing assurance and rigour to make sure the charity lives up to its aims and does so in the right way. It makes use of the skills I developed during a couple of years in corporate audit and assurance. I’m now back in an engineering function in gas transmission – I’m a mechanical engineer by background.
I see volunteering as a win-win. It’s good for the charity – they get a free skilled resource, a different person with a different mind set. For me, what started as a personal development role turned into something I wanted to continue in my own time because it’s something that you take pride in. Westfield Community Centre provides a much-needed service and encourages adhesion between different people. It’s nice to be part of that and to feel you can make a difference to the charity and hundreds of people who use the facilities weekly.
National Grid supports a national network of organisations called the Skills Exchange Alliance which promotes skills-based volunteering.
One way to volunteer is using the skills developed in the corporate world to help a charity. Graham Frankland, National Grid’s Corporate Responsibility and Citizenship Manager, explains how skills exchange can benefit everyone involved.