Connect with non-profits seeking volunteer financial skills
Indy Singh Hothi - Leading with love & compassion in volunteering
Indy Singh Hothi
Chartered Accountant with ICAS (2013)
Co-founder of Future Arc
Council Member of Queen Mary University, Cultural Advisor for Mayor of London - and previously Trustee of Khalsa Aid International (4 years), Council Member (2016-2021) / President (2022/23) of ICAS, Coach/Mentor for Teach First (2 years)
From the boardrooms to the frontlines of global crises, Indy Singh Hothi, CA exemplifies the profound impact of volunteerism in the accounting profession. Blending his expertise in accountancy with a deep commitment to social good, Indy's journey takes us through diverse roles - from the President of ICAS to a pivotal player in international humanitarian efforts. His story is a powerful testament to the value of selfless service and the unique contributions finance professionals can make in the non-profit sector, transcending traditional boundaries to make a real difference in the world.
What inspired you to start volunteering - was there a specific moment or event that motivated you?
I spent a lot of my childhood with my maternal grandmother who always emphasised the importance of giving back to, and engaging with society in a positive way. This value was further cemented in my faith, where the concept of 'Seva' (selfless service) and 'Sarbat Da Bhalla' (positive welfare of all) really struck a chord with me from a young age. I can remember as far back as primary school that I was always getting involved with volunteering activities.
In 2014, I remember reading about the devastating flooding in the Balkans region (the worst for over a century) with over 3 months of rainfall falling in a few days. Floodwaters caused over 2,000 landslides with a number of lodged landmines detonating. I desperately wanted to help and donated to the Red Cross. A few days later I saw a request for volunteering support from a charity local to me (Khalsa Aid International). I responded to that request and within 48 hours I was in Bosnia working with their coordinators to distribute aid and oversee rebuild of homes - it's an experience I'll never forget.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
There are so many aspects of volunteering that I enjoy and love. I always said to myself that I'd like to leave the world a little better than I found it and the sense of purpose and drive the volunteering gives me in achieving that personal goal is second to none.
What has been your proudest moment as a volunteer?
My proudest moment has to be in 2020/21. We were in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and I had taken on an interim leadership role with international NGO, Khalsa Aid due to the CEO undergoing major surgery. The charity inundated coordinating international programmes with all of the restrictions and also launched a major COVID-19 programme in the UK to support vulnerable individuals. We then started getting reports from India of oxygen shortages in hospitals. One of the most abundant and impactful resources to treat patients recovering from COVID.
On a cold Monday morning, we grouped as an organisation and devised a plan to crowd-source and buy oxygen equipment to reach hospitals across India. By Friday, we had received over 400 oxygen concentrators, procured thousands more and identified surplus oxygen tanks within the NHS ecosystem. We then partnered with Virgin Airlines and British Airways to ship this cargo on freight planes with surplus capacity. In less than a week we had supplies reaching hospitals across India. It was hailed as an example where businesses, NGOs and the Government can work collaboratively for the common good. Later that year, Khalsa Aid was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize - I just couldn't believe it at the time, what an honour.
What has been your toughest time as a volunteer?
There have been many tough experiences but none matched my time in Iraq Syria border during the height of occupation of ISIS. We were working in a number of displacement camps. The stories of men, women and children who had escaped such inhumane treatment was really heart wrenching. It really stuck home for me that reading about conflict/war or watching TV News updates is one thing but witnessing it in person is another. There are individuals, families and whole communities with dreams and aspirations whose lives have been turned upside down and into a living nightmare. It taught me an important lesson in the value & importance of advocating for peace and always leading with love & compassion regardless of what side of the geopolitical conversation I'm on.
How have your finance skills come into play?
I laugh sometimes that I'm only approached to volunteer because of my skills as a CA! For me the Accountancy skillset is really the qualification of choice for anyone in business and its no different in the charity sector. Every organisation whether that's a small community group or large charity needs individuals with a financial background. At the end of the day these are organisations like any other with operations that require oversight, review and reporting mechanisms.
The qualification has given me immediate credibility and backing and really has unlocked opportunities, whether as a volunteer, trustee or council member. When thinking about volunteering many accountants think about what they can donate or how they can get involved volunteering on the frontline - all very important and worthwhile things to do. BUT, we never think about how we can volunteer with our skills & experiences professionally which are arguably are valued and needed for organisations in the voluntary sector.
What have you learnt from your time volunteering?
How long do you have!? I've had a lifetime worth of experiences and learnings from volunteering. I remember a conversation with a young analyst in the city when he started volunteering at his former school. He'd wax lyrical about how he would be using all of his professional experiences & knowledge to help the school. It got me talking about my volunteering experiences and the 'cross-pollination' of learnings that I had expected to happen, especially from the corporate world to not-for-profit. One major realisation & learning was that the flow of insight was often the other way! In the not for profit sector, I was thrust into new situations, confronted with complex problems and interacting & working with people I wouldn't have otherwise and working to serious time pressure. All these experiences, skills and ways of working have helped me tremendously in my professional career.
What would be your one piece of advice for a finance professional looking to volunteer?
Get started, Just get started! There's a saying in the startup world that the best data/feedback comes from taking action. When it comes to volunteering, it can be one of those things you talk about with good intention but always falls to the bottom of your to do list. Just get started in a small way with a cause that's important to you. Whether that's volunteering with a local community group, you and a bunch of friends deciding to do something good for the community or a formal volunteering role. Think about the steps you need to take to get started, once you get started you can evaluate what you enjoy and take it from there.
How do you think we can get more finance professionals volunteering their skills?
A very important question. It's really about awareness of the value of accountants in the not for profit sector. So many accountants that I know only consider it after seeing or speaking to peers who are volunteering. I've witnessed that light bulb moment so many times. Organisations such as Charterpath and the work to profile accountants that volunteer is so important to get more of those in the profession volunteering.