Helping Charities to Thrive

3rd December 2023

Business expertise and guidance given through an innovative project are transforming charities, helping them to thrive and aim for excellence.

With funding from the Thriving Third Sector Fund, we are supporting the long-term future of local charities by contributing to their strategic development through a project called the Thrive Programme.  The programme is delivered by Cranfield Trust, the leading provider of pro bono consultancy and management support for the voluntary sector.

The work of Cranfield Trust focuses on small to medium-sized charities that provide vital services to local communities, but that have few resources to invest in management and leadership development and external support.

Volunteers, who are either still working or now retired, with experience in the  business sector are matched to charities and work with them, and CEOs, to help strengthen their skills so the organisation can move forward and meet future challenges.

Over the last four years, Hearing Help Essex, the Essex Blind Charity and Southend Carers are among 50 local voluntary organisations to have benefited from mentoring through the Thrive Programme.

Sue Elder, Associate Regional Manager with Cranfield Trust, leads the Thrive Programme in Essex.  She said, “We have been working with ECF since 2019, delivering the Thrive Programme in Essex and the feedback we have received shows the results can be transformational.

“ECF identifies organisations that could benefit from the programme and we match all participating organisations with volunteer mentors, based on the needs of the organisation and the people involved.

“The programme lasts for nine months and includes management consultancy, mentoring for CEOs, learning and workshop events, peer-to-peer support and networking.”

Essex Blind Charity (EBC) has made great progress since becoming involved with the Thrive Programme.

Jonathan Dixon, general manager of the charity said: “I joined EBC at time when it was at a crossroads. The Thrive Programme was there to rescue me and the charity. It provided me with the tools I needed to take the charity forward.  My mentor, Clive Morgan, had an HR background and was able to help me put in an organisational structure review.

“We are now a much stronger, better managed charity. This is not the end of our Journey to Excellence, it is only the start.”

Clive said: “I get a strong feelgood factor from being a volunteer for Cranfield Trust.  I get to use my skills, knowledge and experience in a non-commercial setting.  If you retire early it leaves a void in your life and being a volunteer has helped fill that gap. I hadn’t realised how much knowledge and experience I had until I started working with charities but now, I know I have quite a lot to offer.”

Reflections from a volunteer

Gordon MacSween, a former Managing Director who took early retirement, has also proved to be a valuable volunteer with Cranfield Trust. His skills and experience have helped the suicide prevention charity Reach out For Mental Health based in Colchester, and the Chelmsford-based charity InterAct that works with people with learning disabilities.

Gordon said, “Having taken earlier retirement I wanted to do something for charity and heard that Cranfield Trust would know of the best places for me to help.   Their process has been excellent and I am now working with two local charities, each with different challenges, and for both of which I have a real affinity.

“I don’t claim to be an expert in the third sector, but I do aim to bring the right tools and techniques at the right time, to help the excellent CEOs of these charities achieve more.  It’s the best use of my time and ultimately more valuable than directly volunteering.”

Hearing Help Essex

Retired HR director Chris Jullings is a volunteer with Cranfield Trust, and was matched with Hearing Help Essex, a small charity that supports people with acquired hearing loss.

Chris said: “I worked with Hearing Help’s CEO, Sophie Ede, to focus on the issues that will unlock the organisation’s ability to help twice as many people over the next two years.  Being a Cranfield Trust volunteer is a small call on your time but makes a big difference to small charities.”

Sophie Ede said: “Working with Chris has been brilliant. He really took time to listen and to understand our challenges and then helped me to map out the stepping stones needed to achieve both our short-term and longer-term aims.  As a direct result of this project we have increased our capacity and feel far more resilient.”

Southend Carers

Dawnette Fessey, CEO of the charity Southend Carers, is full of praise for the help her organisation has received through the Thrive Programme.

She said: “Being part of Thrive has made a great difference to me as a leader as it is quite a lonely position. The key achievement through the programme has been to start from scratch on a business plan. To be able to go on training offered enhances us as charities. We might be the third sector, but we are not the third cousin once removed. The advice I would give to anyone considering this programme is get on board!”

Andy Payne-Worpole, Head of Programmes at ECF said, “The Thrive Programme is a great opportunity for charities and voluntary groups to address the barriers and issues that hinder their development.

“It helps ensure they have the skills they need and makes them become more resilient for the future. The success of the project shows that ECF is not just a grant-making organisation and this is just one of the ways that we are helping to support a thriving third sector in Essex.”

Register your interest

If you would like to take part in the 2024 Thrive Programme, please email on 01245 355947