Connect with non-profits seeking volunteer financial skills
Sophie Lees — No one is too small to make a difference
Internal Audit Manager, Asda
Trustee & Member of Burnatofts Community Project
“No one is too small to make a difference. Although I can only give a few hours every other month, together with the other Trustees and amazing staff we have an opportunity to change things for the better.”
How did you get involved in volunteering?
When I moved to Leeds in 2018 I wanted to become more involved in my community, and reached out to a local debt and benefits advice charity (Burmantofts Community Project) to see if they had any opportunities to support them. They had positions on their Trustee Board, and while I was only 24 at the time and felt I didn’t have much to offer it's been a role that I’ve really enjoyed, especially seeing how much the charity has grown since I first joined.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
I enjoy collaborating with people outside of my usual circle to solve important problems — it helps take me out of my day-to-day work and feel like I'm part of something bigger.
What has been your proudest moment as a volunteer?
Seeing our Deputy CEO talking to Martin Lewis about our work on BBC News was an exciting moment! Martin Lewis agreed to give £100,000 to the charity to support them and I was so proud to see our charity getting recognition and support for the important work that they do.
What has been the toughest time volunteering?
It was difficult during COVID as there was so much uncertainty, as the Charity were working remotely for the first time, supporting clients in particularly challenging circumstances, and navigating changes in funding. It put our staff under enormous pressure, but we continued to work together and focused on supporting our clients at times when it really mattered.
How have your accountancy skills come into play?
As an internal auditor and an accountant, I've been able to use my skills in a number of ways, such as helping to reviewing the risk register, and doing ad hoc pieces of work such as chair effectiveness reviews and salary benchmarking. By being financially literate I can provide a view on the financial statements and spot when issues may be on the horizon.
What have you learnt from volunteering?
No one is too small to make a difference. Although I can only give a few hours every other month, together with the other Trustees and amazing staff we have an opportunity to change things for the better.
What would be your one piece of advice for accountants looking to volunteer?
It's important to fully understand the commitments before you get involved and communicate these to the people around you, such as colleagues, partner and the charity too. Sometimes important things come up at work which means that I can't attend the Trustee meetings, but if this does happen, I will give as much notice as possible and ensure that I've sent over questions and comments on the Board Papers in advance.
How can get more accountants volunteering?
Sharing stories on the impact of volunteering and on how accessible roles can be the small kick needed to spur action. As accountants we have so many skills we can offer and so I'd really encourage anyone to start looking for an opportunity today!