It’s National Volunteers Week and we would like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of our wonderful Volunteers for their hard work and commitment.
Since the Fredericks Foundation started in 2001 volunteers have played a very important part in our success. Their professionalism, dedication and energy has helped not only the foundation but more importantly many of our deserving and inexperienced clients to start their own businesses and change their lives and the lives of their families forever.
To celebrate National Volunteers Week we asked one of our Volunteer Mentors, David, what Volunteering means to him…
What Do You Do and How Do You Help?
As a mentor for the Fredericks Foundation my role is to try and provide traditional mentoring support although, in many instances the businesses that we deal with are, by their very nature, very small with simple business lines. The fact that our mentees are with Fredericks Foundation will often mean they have a poor credit history and as with many small businesses no track record to help secure start-up funding. They will often lack real business experience and so we provide guidance and advice to help nurture the business during their often difficult set-up period which can be a very worrying, tiring and often an emotional time. The guidance is given in a mentoring style, sometimes moving into coaching but always in a very supportive manner.
In many instances the support is quite simple – directing people to a possibly better, cheaper supplier of materials, commenting on advertising material – and essentially, and probably most importantly, being there as a sounding board to encourage the mentee to develop their own ideas to take their business forward without simply relying on others. Sometimes you are there to help them over a period when things may not be going too well; often there are ‘rocky’ periods at the outset of any business. On other occasions you may have to push them to put more effort in, basically to let them know that they are just not doing enough to develop their company. We also need to be available at the end of the phone to deal with emergencies, real or imagined it doesn’t matter, situations. Here we are a calming influence helping them re-assess the issue and deal with it appropriately. All the time we are looking to protect the Frederick’s investment so that loans are repaid and available for recycling. If we contribute well to the running of the mentee’s business, then clearly loan repayment shouldn’t be a problem!
Why Do You Volunteer?
The easy, predictable answer is to ‘put something back’ which is true. However, some of us who act as mentors for Fredericks are no longer involved in running businesses on the day-to- day basis as we once were. Continued involvement in business – which we all love - and the hope that you are helping someone during the difficult period of setting up and trying to run their own (small) business gives huge satisfaction back to the mentor.
How Do You Benefit From Volunteering?
There is real pleasure for the mentor in seeing a start-up business begin to develop and in sharing the often small successes which means so much to the mentee. Having a breathless message left on your mobile that “Business has gone ballistic – I’ll call you later” gives you a huge ‘kick’ particularly if this is a result of what you may think is a very small, basic suggestion that you have made. Indeed, at the time of writing this I’m really looking forward to hearing of what the following phrase in an e-mail from one of my mentees could really mean – “not to say too much at the moment but I could have some very good news by then (our next meeting date).”
Why Might Others Benefit from Volunteering?
Really this is a combination of the factors mentioned above as they apply to me. Many will understand the thrill of getting positive feedback for a mentee who may have been struggling. In addition to the mentees you are helping the Frederick’s Foundation charity continue to develop as a responsible provider of finance. It does seem that there is the real possibility that running almost any business could become tougher over the next few years, particularly at the smaller end of the market and obtaining finance on reasonable terms could be much more difficult.