What skills do I need to volunteer with the Cranfield Trust?
Volunteers need to have excellent management skills at a strategic level, and to be capable of working confidently as an independent consultant in their field of expertise. You will be working with charity CEO's, leaders and trustees, to help improve the running of their charity.
I have registered as a volunteer, how quickly can I expect to get a project?
That depends on when a charity local to you asks for support that suits your skill set. Just having you on our register enables us to offer a wider range of skills to our clients, so we are very grateful to people who join us, even if they don’t participate in a project right away.
Do you need to be affiliated with Cranfield or alumni of Cranfield to volunteer?
No, we welcome support from everybody regardless of University affiliation.
I have no experience of the charity sector – will it be difficult for me to work with a charity?
The majority of our new volunteers have no previous experience of working with charities but it is by no means a barrier to volunteering with us. In fact it is a positive! Cranfield Trust volunteers are valuable because they allow voluntary organisations to benefit from their commercial sector experience. In turn, volunteers learn about a new sector and the individual challenges that are faced by charities. It's a two way relationship, with volunteers learning about the inner workings of the voluntary sector and charities gaining valuable knowledge to enable them to support more beneficiaries.
How many projects will I be expected to take on?
Joining our volunteer register does not commit you to any level of activity or particular project with the Trust – it just indicates your willingness to be approached by us. We quite understand that work and other commitments take priority and that you may turn down projects. We are driven by demand from client charities – so if you have very unusual skills or live in a very rural area, we may not approach you as often as a volunteer with strategic or business planning skills based in a major city. We make every effort to keep our database up to date with your availability and interest in taking on projects with the Trust – but very much appreciate hearing from you on how much time you have to give.
How much time does it take?
Projects can take anything from a half-day of specialist advice to 12 -15 days of volunteer time spread over 6 - 9 months. Our average length of project is 6 - 8 days over 4 months. Trust Project Managers specify projects and estimate the amount of time involved to reach the objectives. Once a volunteer has agreed to take on a project, he or she will work with the client organisation to prepare a timetable – this will be flexible to accommodate the availability and requirements of both parties. Time is often broken into short meetings with the client, half day sessions and time working independently at home, and is almost never in blocks of solid days’ work with the client.
Time input differs from project to project and many volunteers remain in touch with their clients after a project is complete – although there is no obligation at all to do this.
What support can I expect from the Cranfield Trust?
A Trust Project Manager will prepare a detailed brief for you, giving background on the client, the project, the nature of the task, timetable and deliverables.
Our project managers stay in regular touch with volunteers to ensure that everything is going smoothly. If you find that you are unable to complete the project for any reason, the Project Manager will search for another volunteer to take it over, and if you need advice, support and information from the Trust or from other volunteers to help your project, the Project Manager will try to find this for you.
We are always happy to hear from volunteers and charities working together and are keen to provide any support we can to ensure a successful outcome for both sides.
Will I be covered by Professional Indemnity insurance when acting as a Cranfield Trust volunteer?
Yes, the Trust maintains PI cover for all its volunteer activities.
What sort of projects will I be offered?
We match volunteers to projects on the basis of their skills, location and availability. When you join our register we will ask for a copy of your CV plus a completed registration form which holds detailed information on your business skills. We use this information to match you to projects and also try to make sure you are working with a charity close to home or to your place of work.
Projects vary enormously in terms of the areas of work they cover, but we always have strong demand for strategic and business planning, marketing (including marketing plans), HR and IT advice, and financial management support. Our approach is one of sharing skills: we expect Trust volunteers to act as mentors to their client organisations, helping them through a process rather than completing the project independently for them. This builds skills and confidence in the client, and is time effective for volunteers.
In some specialist areas, you may be more likely to offer expert advice rather than take on this mentoring approach, but Trust projects tend to be advisory rather than implementation activities.
What happens if I take a project on and find that work commitments prevent me from completing the project?
We understand that work commitments take precedence over voluntary activities.
Your Project Manager will try to find an alternative volunteer to take on the project – although we appreciate having as much notice and help in making a successful handover as possible. Sometimes, volunteers are able to complete the project in two phases, either side of a busy work period, but otherwise Project Managers will usually be able to identify alternative sources of support.
What if when I visit the charity I find that the project is different from the original brief?
We make every effort to prepare a brief which accurately reflects the nature of the project, but it is not unusual for consultancy requirements to undergo some change. Our client organisations tend to be small and subject to considerable change, which can affect project work. If the project has changed substantially and is no longer a good match for you, please discuss this with the Project Manager who will revisit the client to review the position. If there are other changes – for example changes in the charity’s situation or structure which affect the project, again, our Project Manager should be able to advise.
What feedback is there after the project is finished?
We collect feedback from both client and volunteer after the project, and again 9 -12 months after project completion. Our experience is that client organisations provide feedback direct to the volunteer as well as through the Trust, and examples of this are on our website. We are pleased to share feedback from client organisations with their permission and from our own Project Managers.
Can I be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses?
Out-of-pocket expenses are the responsibility of the client organisation, not the Trust, and should be discussed at the start of a project. We make every effort to match volunteers to client organisations close to where they live or work to keep expenses to a minimum, but do make it clear to our clients that they are expected to cover volunteers’ expenses.
Can I recommend a friend or colleague as a Trust volunteer?
We are always delighted to have introductions to potential volunteers and encourage our volunteers to let their network know about our various volunteering opportunities.