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Case Study: A Problem Shared

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The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s voluntary mentoring scheme is helping one charity deal with key management and brand issues.


It’s a tough, commercially-oriented world for charities, which have to compete for the public’s attention and money, and combat charity fatigue.

For the hundreds of smaller charities that have to work without the support and draw of big name celebrities or global events like Live 8 to raise awareness, the challenges they face are comparable to those of any business competing in the marketplace.

It was some of these challenges that first drew Denise Yates to work in the charities sector, having spent almost a decade working as a professional strategic marketing consultant in the private sector. During this time Denise decided to complement her Economics degree and years of practical on-the-job experience with a diploma from The Chartered Institute of Marketing. She is now a member of the Greater London region, which runs a voluntary member-to-member mentoring scheme available to members of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Greater London region.

"I already had previous experience of working with children with special needs and also ex-offenders before I joined the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)," said Denise. "It’s certainly a challenge but extremely rewarding working in the charities sector, especially with children. But in addition to the obvious challenges, my initial post at NAGC as finance & fundraising manager also required a set of skills that I had not utilised before, as we wanted to diversify the organisation’s finance streams. I decided this could be best achieved with some outside help.

"As a chartered marketer, I was aware of the voluntary mentoring scheme being piloted in the Greater London region and felt this would be an excellent way to engage the skills of some highly experienced fellow marketers who would be able to look at our business challenges objectively and utilise their broad range of experience to help me deal with them."

Under the Scheme, the prospective mentee receives a list of voluntary mentors whose business background and skills can be matched to their requirements. Informal meetings are then held between the two parties. Denise ultimately agreed a partnership with Doug Sinton, who had recently retired from his role of managing director with Sinton Tyres.

"Having a mentor is a bit like having your own business psychiatrist or counsellor. Everything you discuss with them is on a confidential basis and I know that with Doug, I can say anything and know I won’t be judged for it.

"Problems which I thought were intractable at the coal face suddenly seem so easy to solve once you have talked them through with someone who is not so closely involved.

"For example one of the immediate operational challenges we had was a staff training issue. We needed our staff to be trained in the use of a new database system that would help us work much more effectively in terms of time, cost and resources. But it was going to cost over £4,000 to train the staff and the funds weren’t readily available.

"I talked this through with Doug and he pointed out that we might put together a proposal showing how effective use of the database would save the NAGC around £22,000 per year in operational costs, for the initial investment of just £4,000 in proper training.

"I decided to present this proposal to the Director and this common sense approach won the day – the training costs were immediately approved and we are now reaping the benefits."

Denise, who is now deputy director of NAGC, is continuing to work with Doug as her mentor and would now never want to work without this sort of independent business mentoring. "Ideally, I would introduce mentoring on a cross organisational basis," said Denise. "I think this type of help is invaluable at all levels of our business management structure and is a great way for people to develop a broad base of career skills.

"Mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement at all," she explained. "Doug and I meet for a couple of hours about every six weeks in a station coffee bar! We also keep in regular contact by email."

Denise is now working with Doug on her biggest challenge yet - a proposed major re-branding exercise for NAGC that will cover every aspect of the organisation and is set to launch in 2007 – NAGC’s 40th anniversary.

Greater London region members of the Chartered Institute of Marketing interested in the Mmntoring Scheme should contact Philip O’Brien by email on [email protected].
For more information on joining The Chartered Institute of Marketing, go to www.cim.co.uk.

For more information on the National Association for Gifted Children go to www.nagcbritain.org.uk

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