The Weston Charity Awards are now open for applications! From humble beginnings in 2014, the Awards have grown and now support charities across the North and Midlands of England, and Wales. The Awards are open to a diverse range of organisations - previous winners have included a YMCA in the Midlands, a community hub in Greater Manchester, and a social arts organisation in Cardiff. If you’re a charity leader still unsure what exactly the benefits of winning the Awards are or what you can expect from the experience, I hope this post will answer some of the questions you may have.
All Weston Charity Award winners participate in our Pilotlight Programme – a 10-month-long coaching and mentoring engagement with four senior leaders (affectionately known as Pilotlighters) from the private, public and charity sectors. It's an opportunity not only to take a step back and evaluate your organisation, but to also iron out organisational, structural, governance or service kinks your charity may be facing and help you build capacity and long-term sustainability.
Leaders learning from leaders
All charity leaders from winning charities between 2016 and 2019, say they have improved their leadership skills and confidence in their role. We often hear they are nervous to meet our Pilotlighters, as they have very impressive business backgrounds and are unsure how they will be received.
One winning charity leader, who completed the programme this year, particularly commented that:
I have been very touched by the praise given to our organisation by the Pilotlighters, who highlighted the dedication and commitment of everyone involved in supporting our community of families.
The Pilotlight Programme is a meeting of minds, all with the aim to help support the charity to reach its key objectives. Our Project Managers are essential in keeping the team on course, and creating a collaborative and confidential environment where everyone feels supported. It’s not a box-ticking exercise for our Pilotlighter teams, they work with us because they want to help charities help more people more effectively. Charity leaders themselves report an increased understanding of other perspectives, and an increase in their wellbeing after participating in the programme, just as our Pilotlighters do.
Developing strategy, improving efficiency
Two years after completing the programme nearly all charity leaders say they have seen a positive impact on their strategic vision and report improvements in the effectiveness of the services they deliver.
When asked about completing the Pilotlight Programme this year, one award-winning charity leader said:
I'm not sure we intended to drive as much change as we have - this is a positive unintended consequence!
A lot of charity leaders report a positive long-term impact in the effectiveness of their Board of trustees and their senior management teams.
Another CEO completing the programme this year said they had an incredibly eye-opening moment when discussions moved to the CEO:Board relationship:
The Pilotlight Programme exposed how over-reliant the Board were on me, which we knew, but this was brought to the fore and we focused on governance in the last few meetings. This has helped to open up discussions and also made me look at re-setting work-life balance boundaries.
The impact of Covid-19
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, charities winning last year were moved mid-way through the programme to digital delivery, completing the programme over Zoom.
One leader found this actually helped with Board engagement:
The move to Zoom helped us begin to engage a usually difficult-to-engage Board in the later stages of the project. I didn't think it would be possible to motivate them to get involved and I'm happy to have been proved wrong.
For many charities, 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year that has highlighted many challenges. Not only has the pandemic created new obstacles to a successful operation, but it has also uncovered areas in need of improvement that have only intensified as the year has progressed. 2021 Weston Charity Award winners will have the opportunity to discuss these challenges and strategise a much brighter future with the help of their Pilotlighters. It’s also worth mentioning that our latest impact report shows that two years after finishing the Pilotlight Programme, participating charities have, on average, increased their reach by 36% and their income by 40%.
So, if you’re a charity leader working in the fields of Community, Youth and Welfare, are in the North or Midlands of England or Wales, and would benefit from mentoring and coaching to steer your organisation towards longer-term sustainability, apply for Weston Charity Awards today here. Organisations that have applied in previous years are welcome to apply again and we also welcome applications from our existing charity partners that have completed our other programmes.
For more on the impact of the Pilotlight Programme on all our charity partners, take a look at our latest Impact Report.