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Scattergun to strategic: how the Weston Charity Awards helped us double in size in two years

Scattergun to strategic: how the Weston Charity Awards helped us double in size in two years

Horden Youth and Community Centre (HYCC), a charity working for the wellbeing and advancement of people in Horden, County Durham, won a Weston Charity Award in 2014.

As this year’s winners are announced, Centre Manager Steve Clarke reflects on the experience and the difference it has made – to him and to HYCC.

We applied for the Weston Charity Awards because we were planning a period of change. Previously, we’d had a kind of scattergun approach to what we did – someone would come with an idea, and we’d say, ‘Go on, we’ll have that’. We wanted to move on from this but we needed advice from professionals who could support us to get over the obstacles associated with getting bigger and better.

Business mentoring

After we were announced as winners of the Weston Charity Awards, we realised we were in for an invigorating year. Our Pilotlight Project Manager was friendly, amenable, knowledgeable and trustworthy. From day one we had trust in their abilities and in Pilotlight.

When we found out who the mentors (Pilotlighters) were, we were a little intimidated to say the least! They were all international, high-powered business leaders, and initially I felt like I had to be as high-powered as them. However, we soon saw they were ‘normal’ people; they simply wanted to get their heads around who we were and what we wanted to do. We just had to be ourselves – they wanted to put themselves in our shoes, not the other way around.

The early sessions were all about finding out who we were, how we were funded and how we met the needs of our community. We then looked at our mission, what we wanted to achieve and our marketing and business strategy. Looking at things from a fresh perspective was an ongoing challenge but an exciting one, and we became far more strategic in the activities we developed, how they tackled the community’s needs and how they fit with our mission and values.

Putting mentoring into practice

The months after the project were busy! We put a lot of what we had developed with Pilotlight into practice, which include everything from creating a marketing strategy to putting a new roof on the building – so not only did our knowledge change, our physical structure changed. Since then, we’ve continued to grow our footfall and turnover has increased from £164,000 to almost £250,000. As an organisation, we’ve more than doubled our capacity and we expect to double the size of our facility. All of it was underpinned by the work we did through the Awards.

Our ambition

The ambition for the next two years is to put on a second floor and increase footfall by another 30%. We’ll also use sport as a way to tackle mental health issues in the community, and provide more education opportunities for Horden. We’ve taken the model from Pilotlight and analysed how best we can support our community, and settled on these areas as our focus. This is how our thinking has changed.

We are continually grateful for the support we’ve had through the Weston Charity Awards. It’s opened up so many doors for us, and we could never have done it alone. If you’ve won this year, you’re going on a journey of discovery. Take it all on board and I’m convinced you will be stronger at the end of it – both as an individual and an organisation.

Steve Clark is Centre Manager at HYCC


• How business mentoring can really help your funding strategy


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