Name: Grace MacInnes
Occupation at time of placement: Student
Volunteered at St Basils: May 2016 - May 2017 (p/t)
Location: Head Office, Birmingham
Team based with: Fundraising and Communications
Role title at St Basils: Marketing and Communications Assistant
Line manager and reporting to: Marketing and Communications Officer
We asked Grace to write a little about her year volunteering with the Fundraising and Communications team at St Basils, the skills she feels she has acquired and what else she got out of the role:
"Volunteering with St Basils has been a wonderful experience. Not only has it allowed me to contribute to a fantastic cause, it has been a really beneficial experience for me - gaining skills, knowledge and experience in communications and marketing.
I began with St Basils in May 2016, as Volunteer Marketing & Communications Assistant, coming into the office one day a week. I intended for this to only be for four months over the summer, but by the time it got to September I didn’t want to leave, so (almost a year later), I’m still here. Luckily, the whole team are really flexible, and were happy for me to volunteer when it was convenient for me, taking days off if I had too much uni work - as well as always providing great snacks.
This meant I could continue throughout my third year of uni, something I have really enjoyed and provided a welcome break from studying! Volunteering with St Basils has been a complete joy and I’ve certainly never been bored. My roles have ranged from running the Instagram account, meeting with media agencies, to helping out all-night at the Big Brum SleepOut and creating a strategic plan for the St Basils Walk.
My manager, Ellie, has always allowed me the freedom to choose tasks that I’m really interested in (and that will look good on my CV!), as well as providing me with careers advice and helping with job applications. I have developed so many new skills through this role, in particular its been a wonderful way to gain experience in marketing - and I have just secured a full-time position in marketing with another charity for when I graduate. This definitely would not have happened without my volunteering for St Basils.
One of the best parts of being part of St Basils has been the people: from meeting with and hearing the stories of the young people that St Basils supports, to working with the fundraising team and liaising with other volunteers, it has been amazing to gain experience and skills from a great group of people - particularly knowing that it’s all helping to prevent youth homelessness. It’s definitely a win-win".
Name: Zoe Hughes-Nind
Occupation at time of placement: Student
Volunteered at St Basils: July - September 2016 (p/t)
Location: Head Office, Birmingham
Team based with: Fundraising and Communications
Role title at St Basils: Project Manager - 'Donate your Homepage'
Line Manager: Marketing and Communications Officer
Reporting to: Head of Fundraising and Communications
"Summer 2016 I worked at St Basils on a voluntary Fundraising, Communications and Marketing internship. The internship was 4 weeks part-time. I applied for the internship through my university (University of Birmingham) and after an interview and a written test I received news that I had been successful. The internship title was Project Manager, and my job involved running a fundraising project from start to finish. I can honestly say that, even though it was unpaid, it is the best work experience I have done to date (and I have done a few), and this is down to both the work that I got to do and the culture at St Basils.
The fundraising project involved getting various companies across the West Midlands to ‘donate’ their homepage to St Basils for one day, on 30th September, to raise awareness of youth homelessness and the work St Basils does to combat it. The company replaced their usual homepage with a pop-up page briefly explaining who St Basils are and what they do, thus inviting significantly more traffic to St Basils. This was a new initiative, never done before, and so I was particularly excited to be such a big part of it. My job involved contacting over 200 companies, anything from solicitors firms to landscaping companies, arousing their interest in the project, persuading them to join and building relationships with them. I also had to sort out the technicalities of the project, create a social media presence of the project, keep record of all communication, and ensure that all ran smoothly. The project was a great success: on 30th September St Basils received a considerable amount of traffic, and even got press coverage, which was impressive for an initiative that only ran on one day.
A brief overview of the work that I did:
There was a lot of research involved, through companies’ websites and various databases; a lot of relationship building; phone, email and face-to-face communication with clients, travelling offsite for meetings; and my communication skills were really tested as I had to adapt my style and the information I was giving to each company. As I communicated with so many companies, this really was a big step-up from previous work experience I had done.
Not only was the work itself satisfying in that I got to see real results that I worked to achieve, and knowing that this has helped raise awareness of a real issue, but I was also given a great deal of responsibility. I did most of my work independently, with my managers always checking to see that I was handling everything well, and whilst this meant that I had to keep on top of everything and take full responsibility for contact with the companies, I also got to make decisions by myself, set up meetings by myself, and even run meetings by myself. For the first meeting with a potential client, when I travelled to their office(s), both my manager and my boss offered to come with me, or to help me prepare. However, I was confident enough in my knowledge of the project and my managers were also confident in me, and so I decided to challenge myself, and organise and conduct all meetings with the companies by myself. I had never done this before, and this has developed my commercial awareness, as well as being a great achievement I can put on my CV. My commercial awareness and business experience also grew through building relationships with so many different companies, learning how they worked, and problem solving when things didn’t go entirely to plan. Examples are when a certain company wanted to change the pop-up page, and when a company could not launch the pop-up page because their site was slightly different, but I found solutions to these and increased my business confidence and my ability to problem solve.
Of course the internship wouldn’t have been so enjoyable if the people I worked with hadn’t been so welcoming, eager to help, and hardworking themselves. I worked in an open plan office, and the whole atmosphere was positive, proactive and inclusive: everyone was always willing to help me if I needed anything. St Basils’ website was actually part of the initial attraction for me - that they seemed so efficient and positive in the work, and that they were actually able to make a difference to people’s lives.
Overall I can’t think of anything that I would have changed about my work at St Basils, and I would encourage anyone with drive, good problem solving skills, excellent communication skills, and who isn’t afraid to handle responsibility to work for St Basils. If you want to make a difference in the world, and enhance your CV whilst doing so, apply to St Basils."
Name: Sarah Venning
Occupation at time of placement: Science Teacher
Volunteered at St Basils: May - December 2014 (p/t)
Location: Kidderminster and Bromsgrove Foyers
Role title at St Basils: Pre-tenancy course teacher
Line Manager: Wyre Forest Co-ordinator
Reporting to: Wyre Forest Co-ordinator and Bromsgrove Manager
Having volunteered for many years with St Basils fundraising team, Sarah decided to see if her skills as a teacher could be utilised and offered her services to the supported accommodation schemes near to where she lives.
"I met up with Derrick Manyanda, the Wyre Forest St Basils co-ordinator who asked if I would like to run the “Pre-tenancy course” for the young people at the Kidderminster Foyer.
This is a short 6 week course which the residents can attend for approximately an hour a week. The course consists of four modules:
a) Preparing for tenancy
b) Enjoying a healthy lifestyle
c) Improving financial confidence
d) Creating a home.
At the end of the course attendees receive a certificate to acknowledge their commitment.
The sessions have been really well received by the young people with plenty of interaction and lively discussion and with students leaving with a little more knowledge and a greater confidence in their own ability. They understand the responsibilities of taking on a tenancy and have a greater awareness of the costs involved in being responsible for their own home.
The benefit and enjoyment has been a two way channel. I have been able to use the wealth of experience I have gained through a teaching career spanning over 30 years and continue my commitment to the future of young people. The young people have been able to learn the basic necessities of living independently, in small tailor made groups adapted to their different learning styles. From a very personal perspective, I have found it very self-gratifying; I hope that I’ve made a real difference. I’ve certainly enjoyed doing it.
For anyone thinking of volunteering at St Basils I can strongly recommend it!”
Occupation at time of placement: Unemployed
Volunteered at St Basils: January - August 2013 (f/t)
Location: Youth Hub, Birmingham
Role title at St Basils: Youth Hub Receptionist
Line Manager: Youth Hub Administration Officer
Reporting to: Youth Hub Manager
After being made redundant, Birmingham resident Jessica struggled to get a job when she took on a long term volunteering placement at St Basils Youth Hub, and as a result managed to secure a permanent job at a similar organisation in Solihull.
“I had been unemployed 3 years and had applied for loads of jobs but was just having no luck. I started volunteering on the front desk at the Youth Hub 2 days a week from January 2013 for 8 months. I hoped it would help my confidence and be something beneficial I could do. The placement has given me a wealth of experience and taught me things that you probably can’t learn any other way than just by doing it and talking to the young people. The staff have been great in training me and they also let me shadow some of the housing advisors. To hear some of the stories from the young people was quite emotional, especially where circumstances have just led to the odds being stacked against them.
It was a challenging role at times but also very rewarding. Obviously some of the young people were quite agitated when they first came in especially as some of them have children too. I was the first person they talked to and they told me they’d got nowhere to stop that night. It was all new to me, I’ve never done anything like this as a job before but it was very rewarding as well to be part of the team that can help those young people and to work somewhere where every one is so passionate”.
The role helped me build up my Admin skills as well and learn to use different systems and the sorts of databases that are used by housing providers. I found it easier to answer questions on the application forms for jobs I was applying for and the variety of situations I dealt with while on placement definitely meant I had more to talk about at the interview especially in terms of being able to give relevant examples because it was all fresh in my memory. I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to get a job doing something similar and I’m looking forward to starting my new job. I don’t think I would’ve got the job without this placement!”.
Thanks to these volunteers for sharing their testimonials with us! If you have also volunteered with St Basils in the last few years and would like to share your thoughts on your placement, please email firstname.lastname@example.org entitling your email 'Volunteer testimonial for St Basils website'. You do not need to send us a photo or give us your full name if you would prefer not to.
If you are interested in volunteering at St Basils please check out the Volunteering section under Recruitment for our current vacancies.