An adventure in charity mentoring
Posted on August 4, 2017 by 0 comments 0 likes
“Charities have answers to world issues, but their working lives need to be made easier to carry out existing solutions” (Jeremy Agnew: Rainmaker Foundation mentor and Social Entrepreneur)
In a sector so focused on the question of innovation it’s easy for us to forget some of the basic things that can really help to make change happen, and for the majority of charities and their staff it’s about finding the right kind of support.
We spent last week observing and talking with fellow Rainmaker mentor, Jeremy Agnew, to hear his thoughts on where mentoring can add value and learn from his experience as we get ready to start working with the 2017 Cohort.
Jeremy is the founder of AnewMission, a unique and innovative app, which facilitates mass collaboration among people from at times wildly varied backgrounds, to solve local, national and global issues.
The Rainmaker Foundation similarity brings together two seemingly different worlds – pairing mentors from the commercial and tech sectors with 10 small charities that have the potential to create large scale impact. This all sounds like a win-win situation but its success hinges on a building a healthy respect between mentor and mentee to tap into the real value of each other’s perspectives.
Jeremy points out that as entrepreneurs, we can be quick to make assumptions about the efficiency of a charity or flaws in their business model, while for charities, a hard-nosed business approach can feel counter-cultural to their mission and the value that they are seeking to deliver to their beneficiaries. Often Jeremy says, ‘it isn’t that charities are not innovative, they are fire- fighting and it is difficult to future plan.’
Fear of failure can also be a key block to creating change within an organisation. From a business perspective it’s ok to ‘fail fast, succeed quicker’ but for charities bound by reporting deliverables to their donors, they don’t operate in a sector that encourages experimentation. As mentors we have to work hard to make the charities we work with feel safe in admitting where things are going wrong so we can help them problem solve and push-boundaries in order to develop. ‘We have challenges we face all the time, we innovate naturally, the key is to foster an environment that creates innovation’.
There’s also something very exciting for Jeremy in choosing to work with a charity outside of our ordinary comfort zone. At the Rainmaker Charity Innovation Day, he was matched with a digital tech charity that fitted his career profile, but was unexpectedly drawn to a charity where he could bring skills that they didn’t have.
Working with Diversity in Care has been game changing for the organisation that Jeremy has since taken under his wing – spearheading a fundraising campaign to secure their premises and working with the CEO to move it beyond the point of financial crisis and reincarnate under a more sustainable service delivery proposition. Jeremy describes the experience as being phenomenally positive but remarks that:
‘I have to be careful I’m not insisting on anything, I provide considered advice but it is a fine line particularly during crisis management where there are vital decisions being made and shifts in thinking. Mentoring charities requires compassion. I realised the lengths that Angela [charity founder] went to in order to help different members of our society, it makes me humble, I admire her’.
Watching Jeremy working with Angela at a post Innovation Day meeting, at no point did he insist on a plan of action: instead he listened, asked questions, identified key issues, prioritised a substantial range of immediate concerns and then suggested ideas and possible approaches for next steps. Some were embraced, others inspired debate, some were vetoed and others were born between mentor and mentee, as their collective insight for solving the problems emerged.
Looking towards mentoring the next cohort of Rainmaker charities, spanning everything from classical music in carparks to abolishing modern slavery in the UK, we take Jeremy’s parting words with us:
‘You have the opportunity to discover a new purpose in your life, and it can be as exciting or contained as you want it to be. You only have one life. If it isn’t’ spent improving the world, I don’t think it is a life well spent’.
Co-authored by: Jenna Gordon, Rainmaker & Angel Investor and Charlotte Newman, COO at Rainmaker Foundation
Jeremy Agnew is founder of AnewMission, a unique and innovative app which facilitates mass collaboration to solve local, national and global issues. www.anewmission.org