Why Everyone Should Volunteer

Why Everyone Should Volunteer

Marie Prendergast Social Purpose - Impact Stories

HR professionals can add real value through volunteering in the Third Sector – My experience as a school governor.

I have been a school governor for just over two years, and due to moving to a new house and away from the local area, I stepped down at the end of last term. This has given me a chance to reflect on the last couple of years and I really wanted to share my experience in order to encourage others to consider volunteering.

Why did I become a volunteer?
Having worked in Education recruitment for a long time I was incredibly lucky to have worked with some very inspirational and talented school leadership teams. From these experiences I was keen to work closer with schools and work with them in a way that I could have a wider reach than just supporting them with their recruitment. I felt that becoming a school governor would be a good way to do this.

Why it took me so long?
I had thought about becoming a school governor for several years, but it was not until about 2 years ago I actually plucked up the courage to do so. I use the words ‘plucked up the courage’ because I was nervous, I questioned myself…

What could I give? I was not an education professional and I did not have children… What could I offer them?

I have no time! I was also worried about the time I could give as I worked long hours in Central London, and it already felt like there were not enough hours in the day. In my time in L&D I have been on, and delivered endless time management courses and had concluded that the only thing that could help me was Hermonie Granger’s time turner!

However, one evening I applied through my local authority by completing an online skills audit unsure if I would hear anything back – I didn’t think that I would be useful to them! As a surprise to me, I received a phone call at 9am the next day. They had said they had a local primary school close to me that was going through some changes and felt my HR and business skills set could help them.I was very nervous for my first meeting, but everyone was incredibly friendly and offered lots of support.

Two years later as a governing body we have federated, recruited two new Headteachers and went from special measures to good from Ofsted. It has been an amazing experience to be part of a team who has supported this to happen. I say supported because that’s what we did as governors, but it was the staff, led by our talented leadership team, who made it happen.

So… were my fears of what I could add with my skill set and would I have enough time alleviated? Honestly, not up until a couple of weeks ago…

I always thought I was just the governor who was always late thanks to the good old Metropolitan Line, did my reading at the last minute, never quite understood the year 6 SATs data, and struggled to make the daytime events. This is actually a very accurate picture; however, it was only when I had announced I was stepping down and received some lovely words from the chair of governors did I realise that I had added value through my skill set and the time I had volunteered.

She thanked me for my contribution and said that I had provided a new perspective on how we looked at things as a governing body due to my experience in business and HR. She further went on to encourage me to join another governing body when I had moved as I had a lot to offer a school.

Why am I sharing this? It’s not to sing my own praises
I was really touched by this lovely feedback and it is this that has driven me to share my experience. Not to sing my own praises, but to share and encourage people to take up the experience. Many people like myself don’t take up these opportunities because we are worried about how much time we can give and the value we can add.

The reality is you that you do not need to worry about this, as charities and schools are crying out for support in HR, marketing and legal expertise. What you feel may only be a small part of your time can make a big difference to them.

I never went into the governors’ role with a list of things I wanted to gain from it, but I have learned so much about people, teamwork and the education world.

Yes, it took my time, but it gave me another element to my life, it made me leave my desk on time, it gave me something else to think about other than the day job and it opened me up to think about things indifferent way. Although, if anyone does find that time turner I would still make you a very good offer for it!
I am not sure what I will do next whether I will look for another school to become a governor or I will look at other ways to volunteer within education or in the wider Third Sector. I do know that I will be looking for a new opportunity and there are so many interesting options to consider.

If my story has perhaps inspired you to take the next step and seriously consider skills based volunteering, you may be interested to know that in 2017 Frazer Jones set up our very own volunteer network. We now have over 350 HR professionals ready and willing to give their time on a pro-bono basis or in a trustee capacity to small charities with an income of less than a million.

For more information check out our website http://www.frazerjones.com/uk/oursocialpurpose/teamuphrvolunteernetwork/ or get in-touch.