Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Using Pro Bono O.R. to address a wide range of operational improvements

Pro Bono O.R. (Operational Research) – free consultancy for third sector organisations
UK based organisations in the third sector can benefit from O.R. consultancy at no cost. The Operational Research society is offering third sector organisations the opportunity for free consultancy to address a wide range of operational improvements – for example greater efficiency, better customer service, higher quality or lower cost.  Whatever the aim, O.R. can offer the flexibility and adaptability to provide objective help.
O.R. is about finding ways to apply analytical methods to make better decisions. Third Sector organisations face extremely complex decisions about the direction they should take and how to allocate scarce resources.  These are some of the issues the organisations we’ve worked with have faced:
  • ‘We have lots of different options for the future but it’s impossible to decide which to choose in such uncertain times.’
  • ‘We’re under huge pressure to do more with less, and we don’t know how we’re going to do it.’
  • ‘It’s hard to stay objective when we’re faced with such emotionally charged decisions.’
  • ‘We know we’re doing a good job – but how can we prove it?’
 Here are some of the issues the projects we've already completed have addressed:
  • Strategic planning/review
  • Impact measurement
  • Process improvement
  • Data analysis
  • Business planning
  • Efficiency improvement
  • Options appraisal
  • Decision making
O.R. consistently delivers significant value – strategic to tactical, top-line to bottom-line – to the organisations and executives who use it.   
 Since launching in September 2013, Pro Bono O.R. has completed twelve projects and is currently working with a further fifteen organisations.  In addition to that there are several organisations that have expressed an interest in receiving support.  We have over 250 volunteers across the UK and these range from retired professionals to analysts in their early career, consultants and others in the O.R./analytics profession who either volunteer in their own time, are given company time or a mixture of both.  Forty four of those volunteers have already worked/are working on projects and many more are eager to get involved with helping support third sector organisations.
Hear what the organisation have to say:
"We are enormously grateful for being able to benefit from the advice and support of such a knowledgeable and experienced professional, who was able to raise challenging issues in a sensitive and helpful way"
"We've benefited hugely from your work and support in all areas of the project, and from an organisational perspective you've enabled us to take a highly professional approach to increasing the efficiency of our charity"
Hear what the volunteers have to say:
"I've really enjoyed working with third sector organisations and found the staff extremely positive about the contribution we make"
"Working as a pro bono volunteer is a great way to contribute some professional expertise to some truly worthwhile causes.  The Third Sector is full of people who feel passionately about their Mission, so working with them is invariably a positive learning experience"
For further information about the scheme please visit:
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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Would you pay volunteers' expenses?

I came across this great blog the other day from guest blogger Mel White on Rob Jackson's blog.

The blog covers the issue of volunteer expenses.  As someone who manages a volunteer scheme I fully endorse organisations covering volunteers travel expenses (where ever possible).  In most cases we try to find a volunteer demographically close to the organisation in order to reduce any travel costs.  As the article points out, by not offering to covering expenses it is financially discriminating against those who are not able to cover their travel costs but are more than willing to give up their time for great causes.  

Volunteers should at least be given the option to claim expenses.  Many may not, but to not have the option will reduce the number of people taking up voluntary positions.

To read the fill blog please click here

Pro Bono O.R. does ask the organisations to cover volunteers expenses and this is made clear right from the outset.  Organisations wishing to take up the offer of Pro Bono O.R. are required to complete and sign a registration form which has a clause in it relating to expenses.  If volunteers do want to claim expenses these are agreed between the volunteer and the organisation before the project commences to ensure the organisations has the necessary funds.  We have found all the organisations we have worked with have been happy to do this and in cases where the organisation's budget is minimal we have specified that the volunteer needs to be local.

Having had this debate with several people I am aware that there are some organisations who choose not to pay expenses and others that simply can't afford to.   One person I spoke with said they volunteered for two charities, the first one did not pay expenses because they thought the volunteers' "passion for their cause was enough", the second one did.  The volunteer pointed out that "the two organisations are very different and it would be unreasonable for the first one to dip into its funds to compensate its hundreds of volunteers".

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject and what you do if you have volunteers.

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Still wondering if Pro Bono O.R. could help your organisation? Check out all the projects we've completed so far

This PowerPoint presentation provides a one page case study slide for each project Pro Bono O.R. has worked on so far: Pro Bono O.R. Case Studies 

The variety of the projects shows just how widely O.R. can be applied whether you want to: 
Review your strategy; 
Reduce costs; 
Improve processes; 
Improve utilisation of limited resources; 
Demonstrate impact; 
and much more, O.R. can offer the flexibility and adaptability to provide objective help.

Don't just take my work for it, here is what some of the organsations we've work with have to say:

'The work is already supporting our planning and development for next year and allowing us to focus our thoughts and decisions on the places of most importance for our organisation. It has helped us to come up with new solutions already.'
'We’ve benefited hugely from your work and support in all areas of the project, and from an organisational perspective you’ve enabled us to take a highly professional approach to increasing the efficiency of our charity.'

'Brilliant – it makes the predictions of risk visible. This will be so useful.'

'I’m really pleased with the report and it will be very useful indeed for forward planning and to support our Big Lottery bid.'

For more information please visit Pro Bono O.R. or contact me via email, twitter or LinkedIn 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Pro Bono O.R. collaborates with Career Volunteer

I am delighted to announce that Pro Bono O.R. will be working with Career Volunteer.

Career Volunteer works with charities and social enterprises around the world to assist with trustee recruitment, skilled volunteers and Board members through corporate volunteering, employee engagement, skilled volunteering programmes and executive search.

Career Volunteer works with skilled volunteers - people with strong skill sets looking to add to their careers through volunteering. Their aim is to make skilled volunteering or being a trustee a normal part of working life for the majority of people; to unleash their skills in a way that builds capacity and resources for charities worldwide. 

They are keen to see more large companies provide structured time and support for their emerging leaders to engage in supporting charities as trustees and skilled volunteers through their CSR, corporate social responsibility programmes and their leadership development programmes, seeing this as good for everyone concerned. 

Career Volunteer's vision to unleash the talents and skills in the corporate and public sector for the benefit of charities and social enterprises has great synergy with Pro Bono O.R., whose aim is to use skilled volunteering to help third sector organisations, give volunteers opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills and to increase the awareness of Operational Research.

Working together will enable Pro Bono O.R. to carry out more projects by being able to advertise projects through the Career Volunteer website and therefore having a wider pool of volunteers who are able to apply for projects.

I am really excited by this collaboration and look forward to seeing how we can provide mutual support for one another; ultimately providing benefit to the third sector and providing more opportunities for skilled volunteering.

To see more about Career Volunteer and the types of volunteer roles they are currently recruiting for please visit their website

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If you are not already a member of The OR Society and are interested in joining please visit send an email to

Additionally you may be interested in becoming a member of our Third Sector Special Interest Group (ORiTS). For more details visit:

Other pages that may be of interest:

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Why volunteering makes sense

Through first hand experience of Pro Bono O.R. I can see why 'volunteering makes sense'.  Both the volunteers and the organisations benefit from the volunteer placement.  Volunteers have said it gives them a sense of achievement, builds their networks, enables them to practice their skills in a different arena, enhances their CV and gives them a 'feel good factor'.  The organisations have benefited from free skilled volunteering that has provided lasting impact and really made a difference.

This great blog from Hannah Morton-Hedges talks further about 'Why volunteering makes sense', from greater employability, confidence, diversity to reward.  Read the full article here

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