As part of our 30th anniversary '30 Voices' campaign, CEO of Ryedale Carers Support, Claire Hall, shares her experience of our free mentoring for charity leaders.
In 2015 North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) made a decision to reduce the number of contracts it managed and asked that Ryedale Carers Support work in partnership with Caring Together Whitby (CTW) and Support for Carers Scarborough (SFCS), with Ryedale Carers Support the lead charity in this partnership.
NYCC also announced the introduction of a tendering system, adding additional funding vulnerability to the charities involved. The Cranfield Trust helped us steer our way through the creation of a partnership and a joint business plan. This led to NYCC awarding the contract to Ryedale Carers Support and the delivery of a carers sitting service to our clients in Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale. Without this contract the three charities would have gone under.
Clearly the role of an external mentor was of great benefit to the partnership as it provided an unbiased arbiter in a highly charged situation where each charity was defending its territory and existence. Emotions ran high. Ryedale Carers Support was impressed by the way Lesley -Anne was able to take on board the various issues at stake, guiding those involved towards a successful conclusion.
After a series of meetings where Lesley - Ann familiarised herself with the individual charities within the new partnership she facilitated a staff and trustee away day. At the away day it became apparent that if the partnership was to succeed it needed to become stronger and more resilient to external challenges. Lesley - Anne helped the Chief Officer of Ryedale Carers Support to consider a new decision-making structure which would be financially and structurally sustainable, ensuring a steady supply of new volunteers able to deliver the 1:1 support at the core of the partnerships work. Working with the Cranfield Trust enabled all concerned to look outwards and above the day to day routines that can often hinder change.
Four years later and the partnership is financially secure for the next 5 years having secured two new contracts with NYCC. At the away day, under Lesley -Anne’s guidance the following was agreed:
To set up a steering group made up of representatives from each charity. This continues to meet twice a year
Appoint a Chief Officer with overall responsibility for the partnership. This is still working and is an effective management structure.
Look at appointing a member of staff with a particular remit for marketing and volunteer recruitment across the partnership. This was achieved through funding from the Henry Smith Charity and the staff member has been in post 3 years and has recruited over 70 volunteers for the partnership.
I am sure that our work with Cranfield Trust set the building blocks for this success as these decisions were pivotal in the partnership’s development.
There is no doubt that as Chief Officer, I was worried that a Cranfield Trust mentor would come in and tell us how to do our strategic and business planning. Instead Lesley - Anne listened and teased out of us what we wanted to do, making helpful suggestions. Lesley – Anne gave us ownership of our decisions. On a personal note I found it very helpful to use Lesley - Anne as a sounding board.
Many of the decisions in the early days could have resulted in the closure of one charity or possible staff redundancies – not topics I could discuss with anyone in any of the organisations. I would recommend the Cranfield Trust to anyone who needs to grow or change their organisation as it gives you space to air your thoughts in a safe environment with a mentor who understands the journey you hope to embark on.
Cranfield Trust is unique because instead of giving money they give an experienced mentor. By sharing their skills, the Cranfield Trust mentor enabled us to thrive and grow. Our partnership now supports over 400 carers and older people by providing a volunteer sitting service, a volunteer befriending service and 6 regular monthly and weekly events for lonely and isolated carers and older people in a very rural location.