With more than 15 years’ blue chip marketing experience, Amanda Walker was a huge asset to Street League, helping them to develop their communications strategy. The four-week project resulted in the alignment of the charity’s key messages for its main stakeholders at the national level. Here Amanda shares her experience on the project.
When I moved over to the UK from Melbourne eight years ago, I came for the usual reasons – to travel, see the world and enjoy new experiences.
Back home, I had always worked in big corporates, like Kraft. After just a couple of weeks in London, I found myself in a similar role, this time at Heinz.
I loved my job and it did help to fund a lot of travel, but by 2009 I was keen to try new things. So I decided to take some time out to do something different. I worked with a couple of small start-up businesses, which I found really invigorating, and then, through a conversation with a recruitment consultant, I found Impetus – PEF and the opportunity to do some pro bono work for this great organisation.
Up until that point, I had never done any work in the voluntary sector. I had no idea what to expect or how I would be received, but I felt strongly that if I was going to do any voluntary work, it should be focused on my skills as a marketing professional.
Impetus – PEF was really appreciative of my skills and quickly found a great project for me, working with Street League. They use football to get the most disadvantaged young people into work, education and training, and were doing really well, but wanted some help to get themselves to the next level.
Going in, I had a few concerns, mainly that as an outsider I might not be welcome or appreciated. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I met the guys at Street League we clicked straight away. I really enjoyed spending time with people who cared so much about what they were doing.
Part of my research involved going to a match in Brixton to talk with some of the players. I wanted to understand what made Street League so good for them. I hadn’t done anything like that before, so I was a little nervous, but being an Aussie really helped to break the ice and it turned out to be one of the most moving things I’ve done in my career. It is not until you spend time with people who are really disadvantaged that you can really appreciate how fortunate you are. It was humbling.
But more importantly, it taught me a lot about what made Street League special and how the marketing should be focused. They really loved the organisation, but not for any soft, hand-holding reasons. They loved it because it helped them get fit. Their priorities were very straightforward and short-term, which meant the marketing needed to focus on getting across the key benefits and showing the results were rapid.
If possible, I’d love to do another pro bono project, and definitely with Impetus – PEF. Everyone I met was lovely and always appreciative. They made it such an easy experience.
Personally, it has also been really useful for me with recruiters. It not only opens doors with charities, but it also shows people that you have different perspectives on things and that you are able to work with little or no resources.
Looking back, I think the experience taught me that while I don’t necessarily want a career in the voluntary sector, I can make a meaningful contribution to voluntary organisations and at the same time make myself a more rounded person. I have recommended pro bono work to friends and family and I would strongly encourage you to look into it too.