Connect with non-profits seeking volunteer financial skills
Kemi Olafare — learn to wear two hats
Finance Business Partner, UCLPartners
Enterprise Adviser with Reed in Partnership
“My skills are more transferable than I had realised, and can be of real benefit for small charities who may not have the funds nor capacity to employ these abilities, e.g. Excel skills. Something seemingly simple such as presenting data in a chart or automating a budget document can be of great benefit. Also, there are so many people providing their abilities and energy to make a positive contribution, who receive little acknowledgement, which is very inspiring.”
How did you get involved in volunteering?
When I started to apply for jobs in finance, I was drawn to the not for profit sector as I was fascinated by the varied and charitable work being undertaken, much of which I was unaware of. Through working in this sector, I became aware of various voluntary roles, so I wanted to challenge myself to apply my skills and experience to a different environment, especially for a smaller charity as I saw that there would be a more direct impact of my work.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
The opportunity to learn something new and appreciate the often unsung work that people do to make a difference, as well as the reward of using my experience to support a not for profit and its beneficiaries.
What has been your proudest moment as a volunteer?
Writing and submitting a funding application from scratch by myself 24 hours before the deadline. I wouldn’t recommend this (!) Other pressures at the charity meant that the planned delegation of tasks to complete the bid did not happen and it was too good of an opportunity not to apply. The application was unsuccessful, but it was a great confidence boost that I understood the charity operations well enough and I could utilise my experience gained from my job to be able to complete the application.
What has been the toughest time volunteering?
The frustration of declining funding for an excellent service. We had to make difficult decisions as Trustees to secure the sustainability of the charity, which was already operating on a tight budget. We started to charge service users who were able to pay, when a key attraction was that the service was free. Also an annual celebratory event to thank the volunteers was cancelled to save money, but we had to ensure that morale was maintained during those challenging times.
How have your accountancy skills come into play?
I prepared items such as budgets and cash flow forecasts, which were needed for funding applications and scenario planning, as well as to ensure the financial viability of the charity. The wider skills around being an accountant were also used, such as taking a strategic overview to plan for sustainability, developing a business plan and constructively challenging operational decisions.
What have you learnt from volunteering?
My skills are more transferable than I had realised, and can be of real benefit for small charities who may not have the funds nor capacity to employ these abilities, e.g. Excel skills. Something seemingly simple such as presenting data in a chart or automating a budget document can be of great benefit. Also, there are so many people providing their abilities and energy to make a positive contribution, who receive little acknowledgement, which is very inspiring.
What would be your one piece of advice for accountants looking to volunteer?
You are wearing two hats and may need to change from one to the other quite quickly! As an accountant, you need to have visibility of key financial data such as budgets, management accounts, cash flow forecasts, and be able to analyse this. However, the person at the charity responsible for these items may be a volunteer at the charity, or be performing various operational duties, so information may not be prepared as timely nor well compared to what you’re accustomed to at your place of work, so flexibility is required.
How can get more accountants volunteering?
Organisations should offer some protected time to allow accountants to volunteer. This would reduce the burden of having to fit in volunteering around work and personal commitments, which can dissuade people. Also companies should seek to engage with their local community and stakeholders to identify and offer volunteer opportunities. This would alleviate some of the barriers around identifying voluntary roles, and foster a community ethos.