We know. Charities and social enterprises like yours work tirelessly to tackle disadvantage, and you and your team put heart and soul into your cause. But, with competing pressures and opportunities, sometimes it’s difficult to know which direction to take.
That’s where we come in. Our programmes see empathetic business experts share their expertise with charities, bringing new perspectives, diverse skills and vast experience to bear on the challenges they’re facing. Since 1996, we’ve helped more than 1,000 charities to amplify their impact, reach more people and contribute to a better world. We’ve seen it all, and we know how to make an intervention work.
This is no one-size-fits-all solution. We have a range of programmes depending on the type of organisation you are and the situation you find yourself in, and within each programme your dedicated team of mentors - we call them Pilotlighters - and our experienced staff make sure that you have focused, individualised support.
Our support is free of charge to charities and social enterprises.
We are currently open for applications to our programmes. Take a look at the deadlines to apply here.
The Weston Charity Awards
Created in partnership with the Garfield Weston Foundation and Pilotlight, the Weston Charity Awards celebrate and support ambitious front-line charities working in the fields of Community, Environment, Welfare and Youth.
Applications are now open for the Awards which offer a package of support worth over £22,000 to up to 22 charities. Supporting small charities to thrive and not just survive, the Awards help charities to plan for sustainability, development and growth over ten months.
If you lead a charity based in the North or Midlands of England, or Wales, you could be eligible to apply.
Applications are now open for the 2024 cohort.
If you are an ambitious charity based in the UK, we can help you reach the next level. Take a look at our eligibility criteria and how to apply for support. Need to know more? Read the experiences of other charities just like yours below or scroll down and download our brochure.
From the outset I remember thinking, 'What will make the Pilotlighters the right people to provide support? What are they going to be like?' I was hoping for an analytical, outside perspective, and that's what I got. I felt from the first meeting that everyone was on the same page.
Having only become the CEO of The Felix Project relatively recently, it's been invaluable to receive this input on a challenge the charity is currently facing. I am very grateful for the recommendations we have been given from the Morgan Stanley Pilotlighters.
Pilotlight 360 was invaluable for me as a leader. Not only do I now have a five-year business plan, a new mission, social objectives, business objectives and narrative, I'm more confident in my role.
Taking part in the Pilotlight Insight was incredibly useful for MumsAid. The Pilotlighters were really committed to ensure we had useful and useable outcomes. Thank you!
The input we have received from the Pilotlighters has been invaluable. It's helped guide our thinking at such a critical time for Volunteer It Yourself.
The process was very useful for me. I was led to question my assumptions around different possibilities for our future.
We now have the tools to create real growth which is so exciting.
In 2016 SELFA Children's Charity were recipients of a Weston Charity Award, which not only supported the organisation with a core grant of £6,500 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, but also began a period of transformation through the Pilotlight 360 programme.
Eagle’s Nest Project is a charity set up to work with young people aged 11-18 that are struggling to engage in mainstream education, often as a result of early childhood trauma. It offers alternative education solutions that build confidence and to equip them for more positive engagement in education and society moving forwards.
"From a personal perspective and also the team’s perspective, to be able to go back and have full confidence in our plans to grow corporate support, following feedback from the Pilotlighters, allowed for a stronger pitch to recruit the additional team member required."
"We were blown away by the enthusiasm of the Pilotlighters as they worked up solutions to the brief we set them. We heard plenty of fresh perspectives and we had some of our own thinking challenged in a supportive setting. I now have concrete next steps and new ideas to work through with my team."
Hands Together Ludlow works with partners, stakeholders and volunteers to improve wellbeing and create a more equitable community in and around Ludlow by reducing isolation, poor health and financial hardship.
"The project not only met its intended goals but also demonstrated the Pilotlight Direction programme can deliver exceptional results while maintaining a positive and proactive approach throughout the process."
"The report, feedback, genuine interest and generosity of time and effort in helping us review aspects of ourselves and our aims, has proved invaluable."
"The insight into how corporate volunteering works and the best approaches has been very useful and helped our understanding greatly, not just for BCM but also for the other voluntary groups."
"The Pilotlighters had a gentle way of challenging and pushing us all. Their role in giving us focus has been huge. We couldn’t see a future, but now we feel positive."
"The charity has grown from strength to strength through this programme and we've been successful of other large grants during this time of the Pilotlighters support."
"The Weston Charity Awards has helped us to rewrite our strategic plan. We've now got a new vision and mission and a very clear idea of what our journey is going to be over the next five years. It's provided a lot of clarity to everybody on the team."
"It can feel quite tumultuous to start with because you're taking everything apart, but actually, there is that lightbulb moment where it all seems to coalesce and start to make sense. So yeah. Keep the faith. It's worth it."
“Our Pilotlighters gave us a number of things to consider across different areas of the project, based on their experience. They helped us think about possible routes to market, and were particularly helpful in ensuring we maximised the commercial potential.”
"The whole process was very well organised and supported. Having access to a wealth of experience, although not directly linked to the charity sector, allowed outside-of-the-box thinking in a condensed short time, we all agreed that this was a very useful exercise."
Via the Pilotlight Direction programme, Lindsey and her team were matched with five Barclays Pilotlighters, who were tasked with the challenge: How does Advice Services Alliance (ASA) best scale it’s impact and establish a sustainable income stream?
At the end of the programme, the Pilotlighters presented Jade and Ben with a variety of considerations and recommendations for different growth models. This included a risk framework, financial growth model tool and suggestions for standardised governance documents.
When we worked with Kathy Verges in 2010, she was CEO at Crossroads Care Havering, which had a turnover of around £600k. Kathy retired as Chief Officer in January 2022. After a series of mergers Kathy led the charity on to re-brand to create TuVida, which had national reach and a turnover of £14m. She reflects on her work with Pilotlight.
“This programme gave me the license to set some time aside and focus, I’m not sure if I would’ve done so otherwise. I’ve come to realise we have the seedling now and it’s time to figure out how big a pot we now need to repot it in.”
“Working with the Pilotlighters was a great experience not only for our organisation, but for me personally, as it provided me with the time and opportunity to sit back and look at the issue from a different perspective.”
"This has been one of the most life-changing experiences for my organisation and myself. The work conducted has helped us accelerate our growth and better define our objectives."
"We had a fantastic experience. The Pilotlighters were engaged, collaborative, and inspirationally challenging. The outputs were of high quality and of immediate help to us."
"The Pilotlight 360 programme was great in helping us focus more on what we wanted, and the extra brains to help us think through our plans were immensely helpful. If you need help thinking through a strategy, programme or course of action, the Pilotlight 360 programme is for you."
"The programme gave us the time and space to think more strategically about our organisation. All the elements came together to form a robust three-year strategic plan."
TLC: Talk, Listen, Change came to Pilotlight in 2019 with ambitions and plans for the future. After completing the Pilotlight 360, the organisation has grown quicker than originally anticipated and the CEO, Michelle Hill, credits some of that to the power of Pilotlight.
"I was really impressed with the whole process - a lot was achieved in a relatively short space of time."
"The programme was exactly what we needed. The Pilotlighters took time to understand what we do and what we wanted to achieve, which I particularly appreciated."
"Pilotlight gave us the tools to use the considerable experience of the Board to ask the required questions, which ended up freeing a deadlock that had held the charity back."
Our latest initiative, Conversation for Change, distils the essence of our strategic development programmes into a single, 90-minute virtual meeting with up to eight senior business leaders.
"I enjoyed working with colleagues from other divisions, making networks, learning more about the charity sector and how charities function and having direct communication with people who work closely in the sector. Also, I could make a real difference and give input to the charity."
"The support from Pilotlight, along with the durability of our team and their willingness to adapt, has made all the difference to being able to manage COVID-19. We’ve continued to provide services effectively to our beneficiaries throughout."
"The support from the Pilotlighters has given Active Fusion a clearer direction and has helped the charity secure funding from Doncaster Local Authority, Sport England, Awards for All and Children in Need."
"Taking part in the Pilotlight 360 was extremely useful and we were very fortunate to have Pilotlighters supporting us who were committed to helping us develop as an organisation."
"The response to our COVID-19 campaign has been true testament to the spirit of global citizenship and we would like to thank all of those who supported us, including our fantastic team of Pilotlighters."
"I've been very impressed by the calibre of the Pilotlighters. We now have a firm foundation from which to take the charity forward."
"This has been a great programme and we are delighted to have taken part."
"The process was very useful for me. I was led to question my assumptions around different possibilities for our future."
"Taking part in the programme was incredibly useful for MumsAid. The Pilotlighters were really committed to ensure we had useful and useable outcomes. Thank you!"
"Having only become the CEO of The Felix Project relatively recently, it’s been invaluable to receive this input on a challenge the charity is currently facing."
"The input we have received from the Pilotlighters has been invaluable. It’s helped guide our thinking at such a critical time for Volunteer It Yourself."
"From the outset I remember thinking, “What will make the Pilotlighters the right people to provide support? What are they going to be like?” I was hoping for an analytical, outside perspective, and that’s what I got. I felt from the first meeting that everyone was on the same page."
"The support over the last year has been invaluable. The sessions have helped me identify some key operational improvements and commit to implementing those changes. Improvements I’m confident will make a huge difference to our performance and ultimately benefit our beneficiaries."
"Pilotlight 360 exceeded my expectations and has been an invaluable process for me. I’ve been blessed with a great team of Pilotlighters. I’m not sure if I’d still be CEO without the Pilotlight 360."
"Pilotlight Impact Day was a great opportunity to explore how to take some of our current challenges forward. We really appreciated the approach of the three teams and are looking forward to building upon these projects and the learning from the day."
The Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) is a charitable organisation that collects and uses evidence to improve children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. CORC holds data relating to mental health and wellbeing outcomes of more than 400,000 children and young people in the UK, representing the largest data set of this kind worldwide
"The support Pilotlight provided was incredibly important. As a social entrepreneur, I learned a lot from engaging with the business community."
"It’s been great. We’re over the moon with the work the Pilotlighters have done. The team were absolutely first class and a good fit for us. We can’t thank Pilotlight enough."
"We can now move forwards with confidence knowing that our strategic plan has been rigorously and expertly constructed."
"Pilotlight has helped myself and the chair realise we're on the same page. We've worked hard to constantly implement change off the back of meetings, which has made the process incredibly useful!"
"Working with Pilotlight and Pilotlighter team was a game-changer for NAPAC. We'll be seeing the benefits for years to come as our training programme grows and develops."
Trafford Domestic Abuse Services (TDAS) supports individuals and families who are affected by domestic abuse. It supports both female and male victims who live or work in the Trafford area. It also provides intervention and prevention services, and works in partnership with other voluntary organisations to support families across Greater Manchester.
"Overall, Pilotlight has helped us transform our corporate offer, our social impact reporting, and our human resources processes and management. These were key things we needed to address, but we just didn’t have the knowhow to work them out on our own. The work we’ve done will benefit our organisation and those we serve for many years to come."
"The team of Pilotlighters helped us to reflect on why we wanted to launch a new social enterprise and very importantly how this fitted in with the charity’s aims and vision (which they also helped us to fine tune)."
"It’s all been very exciting, and it's all happened because of the Pilotlight 360 and the follow on support from the Pilotlight Direction programme a couple of years later. As you can see the projects have proved to have had a phenomenal impact on the charity both in terms of governance and aspiration. Pilotlight has given CCA a future!"
"I have struggled to think about what work to focus on because there are so many different avenues to my organisation. Having people narrow down the areas into the ones that are perhaps most worthwhile, helped so much."
"We’ve moved from only thinking about the short to medium term, to looking at the long-term and the bigger picture."
Just Lincolnshire’s vision is for Lincolnshire to be a place where everyone is valued and discrimination is eliminated. It works with a wide range of partners, schools, disability forums and local community organisations to deliver workshops around hate crime and promote equality and fairness across Lincolnshire. It also supports groups to embed best practice through training Ambassadors and Equality Champions.
Glasgow ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Forum reaches out to marginalised communities across Glasgow helping to support integration, employability and personal development to primarily refugees, asylum seekers and individuals where their first language is not English.
"The help and advice we've been given has been incredible, and has certainly helped us gain a more professional and structured way of thinking about the charity."
"Pilotlight was the perfect platform and catalyst to ignite our flames and get us energised and excited about the future again."
Spectra is a social enterprise that promotes sexual health, particularly among the LGBTQ+ community. It shares information on healthcare and safe sex, runs HIV and STI tests and provides condoms. Spectra also supports the Trans community through counselling and social groups.
Devon Communities Together (DCT) is the operating name of The Community Council of Devon, an independent charitable company founded in 1961, and part of a national network of Rural Community Councils. DCT is a community development organisation that helps communities help themselves by providing advice and information, and supporting projects throughout Devon.
“We’re now there in terms of our purpose: the Pilotlight process helped us get to a decision.”
“Working with Pilotlight gave us the opportunity to think about where we were going as an organisation and how we might get there. We used the process to have discussions across the organisation which has then shaped a programme of action and change for People and Work over the last two years since the project.”
"The Pilotlighters really helped to shape the strategic planning process and gave us very valuable critical comment and feedback. Now more than a year after completing the programme we are very clearly reaping the benefits."
"The decision making matrix tool we co-created during the engagement has been of great value to The Ecology Centre since, strengthening the processes we go through when commissioning new project work".
"The team of Pilotlighters gave me the confidence to make changes and really develop our services."
“I thought we’d just get tools to work through, instead we got a complete audit of how we operate. The process has been bigger than we thought it would be.”
"Working with the Pilotlighters has given the Zest team confidence to think more commercially. We’re in a very different place now.”
"This time last year we weren't winning funding bids, and I couldn't work out why. Now I know why. We can go into a meeting and say who we are and where we're going. And now we're winning bids, and being approached to apply for bids. I don’t think in my whole career I’ve had a year like this – it’s been a transformational process for me.”
“Working with Pilotlight has made a real difference to the governance of Malvern Special Families. We have been challenged to review the way we were working and now we are thinking more strategically and the board is working together more professionally and effectively."
“It's been so helpful to think about the whole strategy of the charity, in particular understanding the specific roles of the CEO and Chair."
Founded in 2007 by veteran media editor Bob Clarke, the MAMA Youth Project (MYP) provides production training to young people from under-represented groups and those with limited educational or employment opportunities.
"Organisational change is not easy or comfortable. We felt the safe space created at the meetings allowed us to be completely frank and honest about what we were thinking, the challenges we faced and the reality of our financial situation."
"Pilotlight gave me the confidence to go for things –to stretch that little bit further."
Balloons is a landmark charity based in Devon, which provides support to help children and young people come to terms with bereavement and loss.
"At the start of the process our organisation wanted a three-year strategy but were not in the position to create one. Pilotlight provided structure and perspective that allowed us to come together to ensure that our final document was one that everyone could follow and get behind. Creating a clear vision, with open and frank discussion was absolutely key to this."
Kids Run Free (KRF) is a Leamington Spa-based charity which aims to help children be healthier and happier by getting them running regularly.
“The way the charity moves forward will be different and entirely more effective. Our work with Pilotlight has been life-changing on both a personal and professional level”.
By the end of the programme, LNN had a new strategic plan, had hired a fundraiser, significantly increased its income, and had enhanced confidence in financial planning and management.
Mow & Grow uses gardening and horticulture to help socially excluded individuals, families and communities to live independent lives in and around Norfolk.
Since refining the charity’s focus as part of Pilotlight 360, Reaching Higher has seen engagement from volunteers and funders increase, resulting in better staffed and better funded projects.
“I feel that for the first time I have a strong governance structure overseeing my work and it helps keep the stress levels down. Things are always going to be busy here, but now it is less stressful.”
"The beauty of the Pilotlight process is that it enables you to focus on doing the work around strategy and the monthly meetings give you a natural deadline."
"At first, the meetings were a bit scary but the Pilotlight team were absolutely brilliant. They were very supportive and it was much more fun than I was expecting! We all got to know each other really well.”
“I think the journey has been very rewarding for everyone and Rose and our board members have learnt a lot.”
Maternity Action is the UK’s leading charity committed to ending inequality and improving the health and well-being of pregnant women, partners and young children – from conception through to the child’s early years.
“There was a complete trust in the room and everyone was very respectful and supportive – we all wanted to do the best for the organisation.”
"We’ve found that we are already looking at things with a different mentality – we can see the bigger picture."
Setting Directions: putting great charities on course for even better impact - Station House Media Unit (shmu)
“The Pilotlighters guided us through the process of redefining a new five-year strategic plan for the organisation, and the level of depth and quality in the plan wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
“We now have a skilled, active board that meets monthly, our vision, mission and aims for the organisation are clear and in place and we have a strong team of staff to help us achieve our goals."
The Brittle Bone Society (BBS) is the only UK charity supporting people with the rare bone condition osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). As well as offering a free, confidential support service and signposting help on issues such as genetics, education, work and travel, the charity also fundraises for specialised wheelchairs that aren’t available on the NHS and can cost up to £16,000.
"It is an amazing process that makes you look at yourself, your charity and the service users."
“The thing that really impressed me was how extraordinarily helpful my Pilotlighters were. They come from a different sector with a fresh pair of eyes to ask the questions that needed to be asked. I wouldn’t have swapped the experience for the world.”
“The Pilotlight process can mean the difference between not only survival but building on your charity business in the most challenging economic conditions we have ever seen. It has secured our future.”
“The organisation had grown steadily and we were at the point where we had to decide whether to stay the same size or look at delivering services elsewhere in Scotland.”
Safe and Sound Derby helps to protect young people from sexual exploitation. Set up in 2002, the charity provides support on a one-to-one or small group basis to young people who have been sexually exploited or are at risk.
“The primary aim was to have a sustainable strategic policy in place. We realised that we needed an assessment of what we actually offered and have that defined; the by-product of that should be to open up more funding streams.”
"Our plans will make a real difference to the lives of young people in Swansea and the wider community and at the end of the day that’s why we are here.”
“They helped us sharpen our message to tell people quickly and concisely what we are and what we are trying to achieve. They also helped us to focus down a bit: we probably had too many projects in too many stages of development. They encouraged us to concentrate on areas that were less speculative, rather than spreading ourselves too thinly.”
New Choices for Youth (NCY) has over 25 years’ experience working with children and young people in crisis. Based in Plaistow, east London, it has a 10-bed residential centre for children leaving local authority care. It runs youth clubs, workshops for teenage parents and provides volunteering opportunities for young people not in education, employment or training.
Baillieston Community Care has been providing two dementia support services in Glasgow for over 20 years. Funded by Glasgow City Council, the home support service and day care centre, Bealach House, are a lifeline to people with dementia and their families.
“The process helped us to grow up and think slightly differently.”
“The Pilotlighters then advised us on how we could generate extra income from the building. It has a spa and hydrotherapy pool, so we now host well-being days for companies to treat their staff to pamper sessions and we hire out our rooms for meetings.”
"It gave us the courage to say we would like to go for five-year funding rather than three years, and we were successful with a bid to the Big Lottery Fund as a result."
EASE (Empowering Action and Social Esteem) was set up in 2001 by Jackie Sear when she moved to the Copley Close Estate in west London. As a youth worker in the community, Jackie saw issues such as anti-social behaviour, violence and racial harassment that were not being dealt with and founded the charity to try and address them.
"I used my time with the Pilotlighters to bounce options off them. This gave me a clear focus for taking decisions on the way forward."
‘It is important to discuss your development with people from the outside world."
Rosemount Lifelong Learning (RLL) grew out of a parents’ group started by Save the Children in 1978. When Save the Children pulled out 20 years later, a new charitable company was formed. RLL aims to combat poverty, reduce deprivation, promote learning and aid recovery from homelessness, trauma and addictions by providing vocational courses for women, adult education and childcare. Last year the charity supported 954 clients.
The Parent House opened 12 years ago. It is based in the old schoolkeeper's house at Winton Primary School near King's Cross, London and was originally set up by parents and carers whose children attended the school. It now offers a range of learning and support for parents and carers from the local community and runs a free registered crèche for learners' children.
Suffolk Artlink improves the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex through the provision of creative arts activities. Last year, the charity worked with almost 3,000 individuals, including children, carers, people with learning disabilities, older people and carers.
“The Pilotlighters made us think about what we were good at, so that we applied for funding that we had a better chance of getting, rather than chasing money that was available but didn’t line up with our core values. This gave us a clear direction."
"One suggestion from the Pilotlighters was to change my title from operations manager to chief executive. They said that would drive what I was meant to be about and that I should be working at a strategic level."
“It wasn’t a painless process for Jean and her team but we gave her the critical sounding board she needed to move her organisation forward.”
Aged 19, Meg Jones was about to begin university when her life was turned upside down. She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour and her family was shocked to find there was little coordinated support available
Epic Arts is a London-based arts charity established in 2001. It organises and runs visual art, drama, dance and music projects for people with disabilities in the UK and Cambodia.
"The opportunity to work with high profile business leaders was inspirational for the charity in allowing a clear direction and plan to be formed."
Susie McDonald, director tells us how her charity benefited from working with Pilotlight.
"We now have an increased confidence in our strategic skills evidenced by the very real creation of a strategic plan."
Helena Parboij set up KPC Youth in 1998, following the tragic drugs-related death of her 18-year-old son. She gathered together a group of local people who wanted to address the problem of lack of facilities for young people in the Cynffig area of Bridgend.
"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."
"Even if it was £80,000 I would still go for my team of Pilotlighters! Pilotlighters provide a superb sounding board and I can't recommend the scheme too highly. They give you a lot of confidence and help to create a balance between operational demands and the need for strategic development." - Celine Sinclair, The Yard, Edinburgh
"We have embarked on a considerable change programme for which Pilotlight led the way. It has been an enormous help in getting to grips with the key issues.”
“Pilotlight gave me new tools to run my charity – it was so successful that I’ve come back for more!”
"It was a massive learning curve for us all but they gave us the foundation we needed. We are more likely to get funding now because we have a decent business plan and strategy in place."
“The process gave us a single vision for the first time, with short- and long-term objectives and who was accountable for them.”
“It was the first time someone not involved in the charity looked at how we worked….they challenged us to think outside the box. We’ve now secured funding for the next three years.”