Since 2004, OC&C teams have worked, on a pro bono basis, on more than 10 strategic projects for charities and social enterprises in the Impetus – PEF portfolio.
Colin Tyler is a partner at OC&C. He explains why he enjoys working on Impetus – PEF projects, and what he feels are the benefits to OC&C.
What types of projects have you been involved in yourself?
I’ve worked on strategic projects with several of the charities, most notably with Keyfund, then Speaking Up, and most recently with IntoUniversity.
What did you do on Speaking Up?
Speaking Up was one of the first investments Impetus – PEF made, and has grown substantially through the period of involvement, both in respect of the number of people supported and also in terms of the capacity building of the organisation. It was one of the first to approach an exit situation. I got involved to help Craig [Speaking Up’s chief executive] and his team to develop their fundraising strategies and delivery for life beyond Impetus – PEF. They needed to hone how they were telling their story, in order to attract subsequent funders during their next phase of development. In that process I got to know Craig well, and ultimately he was very successful in fundraising, getting some substantial grants through this process. Building the story line actually helped a lot on that.
Do you find this work fulfilling?
It’s hugely fulfilling. With Speaking Up, I think we were doing something slightly different to what we usually do, but from a personal perspective, it was great fun to get to know Craig and the organisation.
What’s fun about it?
A whole range of things. Without exception, all of the senior management teams we’ve worked with through Impetus – PEF have been extremely motivated and dedicated individuals. The projects have been extremely positive and collaborative, and always make us feel we have some value to add to those organisations. So there is an immediate reward. The people we work with are always so appreciative.
Why has OC&C chosen to be involved with Impetus – PEF?
There are several strong reasons why we do this. At the very basic level, we feel the projects are worthwhile and effective and having some benefit. We certainly wouldn’t keep doing them if we didn’t feel that. The fact that the relationship has grown over the years is testament to the fact that we feel there has been value in the projects we’ve done.
Impetus – PEF projects also play to our strengths. As a general rule, we have always been uneasy about deploying our time as a business on charitable things that we are not necessarily that well equipped to do. One of my hobbies is woodworking, and I could probably some of my time to help a charity to build some housing. But on average, the average OC&Cer is not a great painter or decorator. So in terms of deploying our time and effort in a pro bono way, we’ve always felt the most effective way to do that is within the boundaries of what we’re actually good at, which is supporting organisations through developing a better strategy for their future.
Is it difficult to balance your Impetus – PEF projects with your commercial work?
This is another important point. OC&C’s relationship with Impetus – PEF has given us an umbrella relationship under which we can manage the flow of pro bono projects. In the years before we started our relationship with Impetus – PEF, we would be approached by other charities to do projects for them, but in a very piecemeal manner. There’s a big benefit to us having a bit more of a “pipeline management” of our charitable pro bono work, where we can manage the timing of when we are able to do such projects. We need flexibility to balance the charity’s requirements against what we are able to deliver them and when we have availability to actually deploy teams. The way we work with Impetus – PEF is a “menu-based” approach, because they are working with several charities at any one time; this also provides us with some flexibility on who and how we get involved on any specific pro bono case.
Additionally, we are able to use these projects as a reward to staff. Impetus – PEF projects have a good reputation amongst staff here. Project managers and consultants are always very keen to be assigned to these projects because the work is seen as interesting and rewarding, providing situations where people can be more creative about how to approach issues. We are also able to give junior consultants opportunities that put them in more stretching situations, taking on a slightly more senior role to what they would normally be doing, which is a useful part of their professional development.
Culturally, we are an organisation that always strives to be a socially conscious place to work. Most employees, when they arrive here and realise we are doing these projects with a full, professional team, deployed in exactly in the same way we work with our commercial clients but entirely unpaid for, are really quite surprised.
Our work with Impetus – PEF’s charities reflects the underlying culture of OC&C and our commitment as a firm to making that a reality, because we are actually doing these projects year after year.
Working with Impetus – PEF’s charities is good in itself, and it’s a good statement of intent on how we want to run our own business.