Many people choose to do our Pilotlight 360 because they’re interested in being a trustee of a charity but want some kind of experience of a charity board before they take the plunge. Amelie Busch, Investment Director at Big Society Capital, shares her experience of Pilotlight 360, what she learned, and how the experience helped her become a trustee.
What drew you to Pilotlight?
I joined Pilotlight to gain experience working directly with charities and to better understand how they operate and the opportunities & challenges they face. I was drawn to the 10-month Pilotlight 360 programme because it allowed me to really understand the nuances of one charity, to build a strong relationship over time with the management team, and to build a deeper understanding of their operations and strategic decision-making. My company, Big Society Capital, sponsored me and I had the pleasure of being matched with the charity Bexley Mencap, who is a leading provider of support and services for people with learning disabilities.
What was your Pilotlight 360 journey like?
My Pilotlight placement allowed me to work with Bexley Mencap in a sub-Board format. One of the strengths of the programme is that it creates a dedicated space for the charity’s management team to focus on the overall strategy, brainstorm ideas, and get input from myself and the rest of the Pilotlighter team. The four of us Pilotlighters came from a range of professional backgrounds, including risk management, real estate, and financial services, and each brought a different skill set.
Our Pilotlight Project Manager was fantastic. She supported us throughout the 10-month programme and was our fearless leader, coordinator, and coach. She helped us build strong relationships as a team and with Bexley Mencap, which was key to creating an environment of openness, trust and constructive discussion. It enabled us to really get to know Bexley Mencap’s team, ethos and strategy, so that we could collectively work through the challenges. The Pilotlight Project Manager expertly coordinated strategy sessions, site visits, meetings, agendas, pre-reading packs, and everything in between, which meant as a Pilotlighter I could focus on listening, learning, and advising the charity.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with Bexley Mencap and the Pilotlight team over the past year. Together we were able to deliver a refreshed organisational strategy, support a governance review, and strengthen the management team’s resilience by driving greater ownership & delivery of the strategy by both staff and trustees. I feel very fortunate that my work with Bexley Mencap won’t end with the Pilotlight 360 programme, as I’ve recently joined them as a trustee.
What inspired you to take on the role of trustee?
Bexley Mencap’s management team and staff are doing absolutely incredible work to support people with learning disabilities and it was clear from day one that their members are front & centre in every decision they make. I was really impressed by the high quality of Bexley Mencap’s team and services and how crucial they are in the sector. After spending 10 months with the team, I knew I wanted to support them further as they continue to be the leading provider in the borough and deliver their new strategy.
Which skills would you say helped the transition from Pilotlighter to Trustee?
Before taking on a trustee role, it was important to me that I got to know the charity to ensure I had conviction in making a long-term commitment to them. I've volunteered with other charities in the past but the ad hoc nature and lack of engagement with the management team meant I rarely had a feel for the organisation’s culture and ethos, the way I do with Bexley Mencap.
During the Pilotlight 360 programme I also learned an incredible amount from the charity’s management team, including how they tackle challenges, engage staff in the overall strategy, put members at the centre of all decision-making, and collaborate with peers and local government to drive improved outcomes. There are lots of ways to get involved with charities, but the Pilotlight 360 programme was brilliant!