Category Archives: Pathways to Charity and Development

Employer Case Study – Devon Community Foundation (DCF)

“Our Pathways interns have contributed greatly to our ability to conduct research.”

Devon Community Foundation is a charitable foundation, making grants to community organisations across Devon, as well as engaging in other community development partnerships. We are a small team, with limited resources, and have recruited interns from the Professional Pathways programme for the last three years. We are always limited in our activities by our capacity, and our Pathways interns have contributed greatly to our ability to conduct research. This was especially true this year, as our team has been flat out since April, processing emergency funding to organisations responding to the pandemic across the county. We had planned to spend some time over the summer reviewing the way in which we ask funded organisations to report back to us on the difference in the money made to the communities they work in. However, given the changed circumstances it was looking as if we’d have to put the bulk of that long-awaited work on hold.

Fortunately, we were able to reconfigure one important piece of pilot work as a project suitable for remote working and offered it as a placement through the scheme. We wanted an intern who could pilot telephone calls with grant holders as an alternative to them completing evaluation forms. We wanted to know whether this was feasible in terms of workload, whether it yielded useful feedback for us, whether grant holders would appreciate this opportunity to chat with someone about their work in the community, rather than write about it on a form, and if they would, what questions were the best to ask them. We knew we’d need an intern who was confident talking on the phone to people, especially as they’d have to do this work from home rather than from the office.

Luckily for us, our intern was more than capable of taking this on. She worked very effectively remotely, and was able to speak to a whole range of grant holders about their funding and the difference it had made to their work. The response was overwhelmingly that grant holders enjoyed the opportunity to chat with someone about their work, and how Devon Community Foundation’s grant had helped it move forward. For the Foundation, we got far more frank and detailed feedback than is usually evident on a form. and people were more prepared to talk through any challenges or unanticipated outcomes they experienced, as they were less worried that any admission of problems would lead to them being ‘marked down’. We learned a lot of valuable information that will help inform our grantmaking in the future, and the conversation was an important opportunity for the grant holders to reflect on what they had learned, and what they might do differently next time around.

Our intern also trialled and refined our list of topics to cover during these conversations, and her experience allowed us to judge what level of resource would be required to conduct these conversations in future and whether the role was suitable for a trained volunteer. As a result, with robust evidence that this is both feasible and effective, we’re planning to integrate telephone evaluation conversations into our new grant-making processes. Given the Covid situation, we’d never have been in a position to do that from an informed standpoint without the work of our intern.

While our intern was working with us, she wrote a short blog on her experience, and a longer piece reflecting on what she had learned from the conversations.

Employer Case Study – UppFutures

“Our intern was really beneficial for us by taking the lead with our marketing activities, creating eye-catching social media posts, and writing content for our website.”

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?
As a small charity, we struggle to strike the balance between investing time and efforts into the charitable projects and raising awareness of our cause – which directly helps us with more successful fundraising. Our intern was really beneficial for us by taking the lead with our marketing activities, creating eye-catching social media posts, and writing content for our website.

How was your experience of hosting a remote working intern?
There were no problems working remotely, I tried to make myself available as much as possible but due to meetings occasionally I wasn’t able to respond as quickly as I would have liked. Luckily, our intern was very proactive!

Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?
From past experiences and my career in marketing, I am aware that 35 hours has limitations, however, I overcame this by ensuring there were distinct objectives prior to induction. I tried to keep admin to a minimum by setting up logins and programmes to enable the intern to focus solely on output rather than time-consuming admin tasks.

Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?
You get a very passionate and determined person who will move your organisation forward, regardless of how long they spend with you.

Employer Case Study – Living Options Devon

“A really productive and proactive week, our intern was able to take a fresh look at our digital communications and social media presence and give constructive feedback. “

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?

A really productive and proactive week, our intern was able to take a fresh look at our digital communications and social media presence and give constructive feedback.  They also carried out some invaluable research into different market sectors, areas of which we might not have explored ourselves.

How was your experience of hosting a remote working intern?

Really positive, the intern had a good work ethic, great autonomy, and was able to understand the objectives set and work effectively remotely. We set up good communication channels from the get-go, so we were able to keep in touch daily on progress and barriers.

Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?

Make sure you establish two or three objectives beforehand on what you would like the intern to achieve, whilst also leaving room for them to offer some objectives of their own.  We gave our intern as much information about our charity as possible beforehand, along with the objectives and plan for the first day.  We then had an open discussion on the first day on what the intern was looking to achieve during their 35 hours and what we as a charity would like to achieve at the end of the week.  This open process created positivity and enthusiasm, we explored the areas the intern would like to learn more about based on their experience and future aspirations.  The intern met others in the organisation that were of interest to them, gaining a broader perspective of the not-for-profit sector.

Employer Case Study – The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

“Professional Pathways allows a student with an interest in the field to offer their time and skills and it helps stretched teams to achieve greater impact.”

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?
As a charity, we rely on donations and legacies in order to do our work providing lifelong loving care to hundreds of horses and ponies. Our intern kept major donors updated with the latest breaking news, such as the birth of our new foal Solar, and delivered tailored content dependent on donor interests whether that be capital projects such as new buildings, education projects, helping the vulnerable in our community, or urgent equine welfare interventions. The purpose of this type of contact is to thank a donor for their generosity, check-in with them to see how they are doing in this difficult time and inspire continued support of our charity. Due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, all tasks were completed remotely in the form of letters, emails, cards, and phone calls. Following communications with our intern, donors got in touch with the Sanctuary to say how much they had enjoyed the contact and made donations to fund our work.

Our intern also assisted the Philanthropy Manager in collating information for applications to grant awarding Trusts and Foundations, which have the potential to make a significant difference to the projects we can undertake here. We’ve just been informed that we have been awarded funding. This will allow 12 children from our local community to benefit from Equine Assisted Learning at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary. We have lived experience of how horses have made a difference to our lives and we know how to make a difference to other people’s lives through horses. Our involvement in the Professional Pathways programme has been validated and has contributed positively to both our charity and our community and demonstrates the impact our Pathways intern has made in just a week! The award was £5,000 and there have been other donations from individuals in addition to this.

How was your experience of hosting a remote working intern?
Generally, it was a good experience, we only had one issue which was that the internet in the intern’s student accommodation did not allow the use of our Constituent Management System. The Philanthropy Manager was able to provide all necessary information, but a better internet connection would have meant the intern could gather this information and use the system themselves.

Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?
I would recommend having plenty of tasks lined up and in a variety of formats. We found out that our intern particularly enjoyed making telephone contact with our donors, so it was great that we were able to offer a choice of modes of communication. Everybody works and learns differently so it is great to match the tasks to be completed to the intern’s interests and strengths.

Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?
Professional Pathways allows a student with an interest in the field to offer their time and skills and it helps stretched teams to achieve greater impact. We were particularly impressed by the intelligence, diligence, proactivity, and ability of our intern to hit the ground running and complete a wide variety of tasks autonomously. Our donors were delighted by the thoughtful communications.