Following a successful marketing career including a senior role with Mars and then Director of Supporter Marketing with the Woodland Trust, Helen first started working with EP in 2013. She specialises in marketing, fundraising and communications and works on a wide range of other projects as well. Helen tells us why she loves being part of EP and the work she does.
How did you first get involved with Eastside Primetimers?
I was already working independently as a consultant when I heard about Eastside Primetimers through one of my contacts and the idea of being involved with a broader network of people and having the opportunity to work as part of a small team appealed to me. Working independently can be a bit isolating at times and it is important to me to have other people to connect and engage with.
My first project with EP was with Birmingham LGBT. It was quite small, just two days but it was a great start and I really enjoyed it. I have gone on to do other work with them since and that is something I really value – the chance to develop an ongoing relationship with a client and support them over time.
In your experience, how do things differ between the corporate and Not for Profit (NFP) sectors?
The most obvious thing is the difference in resources. My corporate career was with a large and very successful global business (Mars) who invested heavily in attracting and developing the best people. They had highly competitive selection processes; once people were on board their ongoing development was critical to the success of the company and so they invested a lot in this. I see great people at all levels too in the NFP sector but the investment in their development is just not comparable however, their passion for the cause is such a strong driver and goes a long way – people give a massive amount!
One of the other differences I notice is the pace at which things get done. Certainly, in my experience in the corporate world things move fast, decisions are made quickly, and the focus is all on the value created by the work you do. Things generally happen more slowly in the NFP sector. Decisions take longer and projects and work programmes are often slower to get off the ground and involve more approval stages, which just presents different challenges.
What do you find most rewarding about your involvement and work with EP?
Definitely the variety of projects I work on and the people! Also, the opportunity to build longer term relationships with clients.
I have found that my marketing and business insights skills are really transferable and I love using them, however with EP I get to work on a much broader range of assignments which is fascinating.
Consulting can be challenging at times – what advice do you have for other consultants?
Watch out for ‘objective creep’! A client may start off expressing a need for something but then as you work with them to understand their situation and challenges, it becomes apparent that what they want and need is something different. We have a very useful EP resource that helps us focus the client on their objectives and the impact they need to achieve, it really helps make sure we get this right.
Another challenge can be engaging early on with all the key stakeholders in a project to ensure that everyone knows about the direction the work is taking, how it will be done and what the intended outcome is. Recently, I did a lot of early work with a client on the management side of the organisation and when I finally got the chance to talk to the Board it quickly became apparent that they were expecting something quite different. One way around this if you can’t talk to everyone at the right time is to make sure you copy the key people into significant communications.
Do you have any tips for someone new to consulting/working with the NFP sector?
If you are new to consulting but have experience in another sector, think about developing your consulting skills and experience in your sector as a starting point. At the same time, you can get involved and build your NFP experience as a Board member or volunteer. Be strategic about it and make sure that whatever you do will help you move in the right direction towards the career you want.
Also, start by learning from others, asking people for their advice and insights on making the change. Sometimes this can lead to unexpected and surprising opportunities, but it is incredibly valuable just to hear about other people’s experiences.
Be open and let things evolve! Many of the most rewarding things I have done I didn’t anticipate when I started as an EP consultant – that’s the joy of it!
Since 2002, Eastside Primetimers Foundation has given free help and advice to over 1,000 people interested in making a transition to the not for profit sector and/or to a portfolio career through events we have run, partnerships with career management services, one to one meetings and more intensive personal career coaching. Many of these individuals have then joined our unique talent pool of expert charity consultants, helping us support a stronger social sector.
Are you considering making the switch to the not-for-profit sector? Join us at our next information event on September 25th to learn more about how you can get involved in the sector, or contact Hannah Main today for a discussion about how we can support you in your career transition.