999 Club Case Study
Robert Block, director of the 999 Club, gives an overview of his experience of working with Pilotlight. The 999 Club provides immediate help in any situation as well as long-term support and friendship to the most disadvantaged or vulnerable members of society.
About the charity
The 999 Club provides immediate help in any situation as well as long-term support and friendship to the most disadvantaged or vulnerable members of society. We work with people affected by homelessness, addiction and mental vulnerability as well as ex-offenders and elderly people. We operate two centres in the London Borough of Lewisham.
Our staff and volunteers are all local people who have a deep cultural affinity with the people we serve. The centres offer daytime respite to people who face a multitude of problems. We are normally visited by 245 people a day. The charity offers help, advice and referrals on accommodation, benefit rights, detoxification, mental and physical health. Our Deptford Centre also provides a nursery for children of families at risk. Every year we provide a 10-week night shelter for 25 people after Christmas, when the Crisis shelter is no longer available and when the winter cold really bites.
There are nine full-time staff, nine part-time and ten volunteers. The charity has been operating for 18 years.
Why and how did it start?
The two founders, Iris French and Patricia Wyndham, started helping alcoholics in the churchyard at St. Paul’s Deptford. This quickly became a focus of local action which was given a small government grant and they were away.
Why did the charity decide to start working with Pilotlight?
We needed real expertise to create capacity in the organisation. We knew we did not have it ourselves. We needed to break the log jam in the organisation, to bring in a different frame of reference, and real expertise which we lacked ourselves.
What did your work with Pilotlight involve?
It involved business planning and particularly financial planning. With the Pilotlighters’ encouragement we have produced three-year rolling budgets. We have looked at how we run the property side of our income. We have worked on the handling of restricted and unrestricted income and most importantly the presentation of financial information.
How has the charity benefited from working with Pilotlight?
We have benefited hugely. The Pilotlight process has taken us to the next level of our development. It has given us the excuse to work on the medium-term needs of the organisation and provided us with the expertise we needed. Pilotlight has also encouraged us to recruit trustees able to assist the organisation in its further development.
What lessons have you learned from the experience?
Our expertise and professionalism have increased. We have also learnt about business planning. We have improved our financial monitoring. I think professionally we have learnt a great deal about business planning and the professionalism necessary to run the organisation.
What impact has your work with Pilotlight had on your clients?
The 999 Club existed off pure energy and charisma, as charities often do for periods. The business planning work and the skills it has developed at the organisation, have introduced an essential element to the organisation to ensure its sustainability. Our clients now have the real prospect of uninterrupted service for years to come.
What would you say to other charities thinking about working with Pilotlight?
Three years ago we were stumbling around and it felt like those in the office were fighting a losing battle. We are now in considerably better nick; Pilotlight has definitely had a role in this.