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Abu's Blog

Abu's Volunteering Blog

In summer 2015 Abu joined us as a student volunteer to share his skills with HARCVS. As a student of accountancy, Abu’s experience and ideas have been valuable looking at budgets, costings, processes and funding applications.

However, Abu has also learned about some of the ways small local charities can make a big difference to people’s lives in our communities. Abu joined our Opening Doors guests for a tea dance and visited our Help at Home Service hard at work making homes safe for people who struggle to keep their garden and house tidy.

In this blog, Abu shares his story of his time with us... 

HARCVS would like to thank Abu for all his hard work and flexibility and for giving us some really useful contributions to a number of projects.

Abu talking finance with Karen and Phil 

Day 1

I arrived at HARCVS building where Karen gave me a general induction which consisted of signing confidentiality forms and a plan of the various tasks that I could be involved in as well as the important health and safety procedures I had to follow, in the event of an emergency. Needless to say, it looked like it was going to be a busy 2 weeks!

Following this, Karen introduced me to the wonderful team they had at the office who instantly put me at ease and a short while after, I attended a meeting with Karen, Mark, Rachel and Anna. The meeting highlighted key issues regarding the presentation of the brand and what HARCVS should do to communicate the brand even better, in the community. Coming from a background outside of marketing, it was remarkable to see how something as small as a logo, can improve our image in the eyes of a stakeholder.

Next, I had to prepare a summary of the key messages we could learn, from the unfortunate liquidation disaster at Kids Company; a charity that provides invaluable support to underprivileged children. I had initially gave a brief introduction of the company and then talked about what went wrong and how we can prevent this occurring to our charity organisation. I really enjoyed completing this task as it enabled me to improve my commercial awareness of the third sector, a key skill which employers look for.

Day 2

I started the morning by attending a meeting with Karen and Phil to discuss the differences in our budget compared to our actual performance for the quarter. Phil and Karen explained the key expenditure in the various documents included in the finance subcommittee papers. They also discussed the various checks auditors use to verify what we do. It was definitely useful and it was a great insight in to charity finance.

Following this meeting, I had observed Phil, our finance officer, complete payments through BACS. He explained that there were relevant controls in order for expenses and invoices to be paid. It was great to see that the controls I had learnt in my course were implemented in practice.

I then decided to take a break from working with figures and attend the tea-dance with Lizzie as a photographer. This was an event which was part of the Opening Doors Service organised by HELP. Here I had the opportunity to explore my creative side as a photographer and talk to elderly couples who participated in this activity. It was remarkable to see the work this wonderful charity does.


Day 3

Today I had worked with Rachel, our Business Development Officer, who gave me the task of inputting data from a software package on to a spreadsheet. I then produced a flowchart which highlighted the action to take if a person wanted to volunteer. I matched the figures on the spreadsheet to each part of the process. In addition to this, I also calculated the percentage change between each process and highlighted areas that we needed to focus on.

By now you may be confused! Let me explain why I did this… This exercise is known as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) which was completely new to me. It’s a strategy used by companies to manage the interaction of future and current customers. It was used on this task to identify where we needed to strengthen our process, so that more people would volunteer in our community.

Following this, Karen took me to meet Dave, who is part of the HELP team. Dave completes all the DIY activities for people who can’t necessarily complete it themselves. To see another aspect of what the charity does was an amazing experience.

Abu with Dave from our Help at Home team, busy keeping gardens tidy and safe

Day 4

I spent the day at Harrogate Borough Council, with Rachel and 5 members of Harrogate Borough Council looking at grants that would be offered to charitable organisations, following certain conditions being met. My role was to keep a written record of how much was spent from the limited fund we had. For each project, the panel members gave their view of the project and collectively they would come up with the decision, if the charity were to receive the grant or not.

It was definitely incredible attending a meeting of this magnitude and demonstrates the level of involvement and responsibility I was given in such a short period of time at HARCVS.

Day 5

Today I had met with Karen to evaluate my previous week and to discuss the possible tasks to complete for the week I had ahead of me.

After this, I was completing a costing exercise for the Opening Doors Service. This service consists of a wide array of activities ranging from tea dances to shopping trips and is run by the staff members of HELP. I had to work out the expenditure of each activity in the programme.

Finally, I met with Mark to discuss the BCF (Better Care Fund) exercise. The idea behind BCF is to promote the collaboration of health and social care, which would save the NHS money.  

Day 6

Following the meeting with Mark yesterday, my task was to produce a composite performance report for five voluntary sector projects during the period April – June 2015. This proved to be difficult as there were some errors in the reports in Excel, which I corrected to ensure the data was reliable.  I collated all the costs of the first quarter of this year and presented it on to a spreadsheet. I then compared the spending of the first quarter to previous quarters and worked out an average of how much each organisation spent on each project.

In addition to this, I worked on a briefing note that highlighted the difference between audit and independent examination. The Cabinet Office had raised the threshold which meant that now, 4000 charities can opt out of a required Audit. I discussed the key points to consider and presented a recommendation as to which method to use.   

Day 7

Abu with the HARCVS team on his last day 

I started the morning off by attending a meeting with Karen and Mark. The agenda of the meeting was regarding a charity that needed advice on certain procedures. These meetings are one of many services that HARCVS offers.

For my final task, I printed out the agendas, minutes, reports and other relevant documents and filed them in date order.

Today is the end of my placement programme and I’d just like to thank Karen and the team for being extremely kind and helpful. Thank you all for providing me with an invaluable yet incredible insight to how a charity operates. You will all truly be missed!