Below are experts from a Marketing Week article featuring the Agency of the Future's spin-off project Pimp My Cause.
Six leadership skills you can gain from volunteering
By Maeve Hosea, published on July 2, 2015
Voluntary work can offer rewarding experiences and opportunities, particularly for ambitious marketers who are keen to develop leadership skills and build strong networks within the industry.
2. Learning from new environments
Getting involved with people in the voluntary sector is an eye opener in many ways. While they might want guidance in areas, charity workers, who are often highly skilled and have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, have plenty to teach too.
One of the most important lessons for young marketers is arguably the often-limited resources they are presented with in such scenarios and how that challenge can be a springboard for effective marketing.
“You can learn more than you think by working with charities and social enterprises,” says Catherine Cherry, marketing director, UK, Ireland and Netherlands at Sony Mobile Communications. She donates the time of her marketing team to small charities as part of an annual ‘challenge’ event in partnership with Pimp My Cause, a web-based platform bringing good causes in need of professional marketing support together with experts.
“Part of it is having the chance to apply your marketing expertise in a new environment. Working with small budgets forces you to think creatively and challenges the return on investment in every idea,” says Cherry.
The brand donates two days per year to the partnership: one for creating the marketing plan and the other as a follow-up day, where it brainstorms creative ideas that the charities can execute based on their plan. The people involved range through all levels, from Cherry herself at director level, to marketing assistants and executives. She recommends that young marketers volunteer because of the guaranteed learning opportunity the initiative offers.
“For less experienced marketers, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from others, to work with senior people they wouldn’t normally get to spend time with and to work across the entire marketing plan – unlike their day jobs, which often focus on specialist functions.”
3. Building confidence and passion
Giving is at the core of volunteering but there is much that can be gained from it too. Yes To Life is a charity that works with cancer sufferers to help them access an integrated approach to their treatment. Approaching its 10th birthday, it is aiming to improve its loyalty offering for supporters.
Loyalty programme Nectar works with Pimp My Cause under the banner of Loyalty for Good and is mid-way through a nine-month project with Yes to Life. It has helped with the charity’s anniversary celebration in June this year, as well as a project to strengthen its relationships with both the business partners it works with and the people who make donations to the charity.
Nectar partner manager Jeannine Trim, who has worked for the loyalty brand since graduating in 2011, has cultivated a passion for the cause while working on a series of pro bono campaigns for Yes to Life. “I was really attracted by how different its approach to cancer is,” she says. “Added to that, the brief fits well with what we do because they want to build relationships with not only people donating to them, but other businesses.”
Trim works with a team of seven other Nectar marketers from different levels within the business on the project, meeting weekly and receiving training concurrently. “You will learn new skills on the training scheme and you will be able to implement them straight away, which is helpful,” she explains. “It gives you confidence in ideas; confidence that you are the expert – you may be a young, comparatively inexperienced marketer, but you are still an expert in your field.”
5. The opportunity to make a difference
With the transition to digital, charities and social enterprises need good marketing more than ever.
Andrew Nixon-King, programme manager at Liberty Mutual Insurance, has volunteered for a number of organisations including Glad’s House, which supports children living below the poverty line in Kenya, and Wise Up Workshops, which provides drawing and talk therapy to children. He has donated his website and search engine optimisation skills, as well as inbound marketing strategies to improve performance.
His intention behind volunteering is about giving back in a small way, but it has also made a meaningful contribution to his own career development agenda.
“Volunteering has boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem because making a corner of the world a better place really adds a sense of accomplishment,” he explains. “It has also tested my ability to lead under tough time-sensitive circumstances, with limited resources and no direct authority. I’m certain these added value experiences will help progress my career in the future.”
Nixon-King has gained confidence from working on projects which have made a very tangible difference to people’s lives. This in turn has helped him with motivation, given him inspiration, made him a more rounded person and prepared him for future leadership.
“A good leader has exemplary character – it is someone with honesty, integrity, vision and the ability to make a difference,” says Nixon-King. “Volunteering without doubt adds character and helps build upon these core leadership values.”