‘Wow, this is really going to make a difference!’

That was the reaction of Chair, John Hullet, and Centre Leader, Amy Spicer from The Red Kite Family Centre after their first meeting with a Charity Mentor. The Red Kite Family Centre in Thame, is one of the 150 mentoring projects completed by Charity Mentors over the last six years. And it was reactions like this, that past mentees and mentors had gathered to celebrate on a sunny morning last July at the stunning Oxford Cherwell Boathouse, demonstrating that there are reasons to be cheerful in difficult times.

150 projects celebratory breakfast

We heard from Martin Wilkinson, panel member of Oxfordshire’s Step Change Fund, which has, to-date, funded 30 projects. Martin explained the criteria for funding and how each project is assigned a project manager after the ‘expression of interest’ phase to help with the application pre-bid stage. It was incredibly useful to get insights from a funder because sometimes, however much effort is put into a funding proposal, it can feel a random and tedious process to the applicant!

Three of our previous mentees gave accounts of their experiences working with a Charity Mentor; John Hulett Chair of Red Kite Family Centre in Thame, Jill Edge CEO from The Sunshine Centre in Banbury and Susie Besant, CEO and Co-founder of One-Eighty in Oxford. There was a common theme, in that the mentees were all dealing with change, either in the external environment (namely funding cuts) or internal changes, and it was the outside perspective of an experienced mentor that helped them to clarify the issues and build confidence in their vision and strategic plan to move their organisations forward.

Mentor and mentee

John and Amy from the Red Kite Family Centre were Charity Mentors’ first joint-mentoring project, enabling the mentor to support both the CEO and Chair of a charity together.

‘That dynamic was really the making of it,’ said John ‘because we got the professional insights that came from the Centre Leader, we got the trustee insights which I bought to the mix, and our mentor was able to bring those things together and make sure that we were all singing from the same hymn-sheet basically, in what we were trying to work towards.’

And finally, inspirational leader, Emmy O’ Shaughnessy, CEO of Ark-T in Cowley, told us with great passion and humour about OWLs (Oxfordshire Women Leaders), which offers peer-to-peer mentorship for women leaders and has already grown to 100 members in the short time it has been in existence. Emmy pointed to new research that shows diversity is inextricably linked to financial resilience. More details about OWLs and other useful contacts and organisations that can help Oxfordshire charity leaders, are available here.

We intend to explore some of the themes from the workshop in more detail in forthcoming newsletters, so sign-up here if you haven’t already, and receive the next one automatically. If you’re a charity leader and interested in a mentoring or co-mentoring project to support your organisation, contact us here.