The Big Advice Day, micro-mentoring and online dating

Love is...

We coined the term “micro-mentoring” in 2012 to encapsulate the idea of Crowd Guru. Last month I experienced the power and flexibility of it as a small charity at The Big Advice Day, part of Small Charity Week 2013 (http://smallcharityweek.com/). This was a great event and is just the sort of thing we need much more of: cross-pollinating skills to support the organisations that make a difference in society.

If you don’t know how it works, Big Advice Day is a bit like a series of blind dates for advice instead of romance.

Was I going to meet “the one” or come home depressed and insecure? Here’s how it went…

 

1. WLTM a fundraising mentor

The first encounter of the day was with a highly experienced fundraiser. Initially the advisor was supposed to give me some guidance on trustee roles and responsibilities. Naturally I checked her out on LinkedIn before the session, and could see she had a lot to offer on the fundraising side. A great profile can be a real asset! We exchanged a few emails in advance of the Big Date and developed a shared understanding of what I needed, which was much more focused around an aspect of fundraising.

I could tell we were going to hit it off because my advisor seemed to grasp my problems better than I did. She quickly ramped up to a pace and level of detail that challenged me but did not overwhelm me. And she pulled the advice back into practical steps that I could carry out myself.

I was really lucky because my advisor felt a personal connection my cause, and wanted to stay involved afterwards.

We have continued to exchange emails, and another date is planned via Skype.

 

2. WLTM someone with hidden talents

The second encounter of the day was a little unusual because of the process used to set up the sessions. Again, I had selected (because of a lack of other options) a session on trustee roles and responsibilities. I had had no communication with my date in advance, but during the introductions phase it was clear that my opposite number knew pretty much all there is to know about skilled volunteering – something that I really want to encourage.

We both agreed that we would spend 10 minutes covering the topic we were supposed to cover, and then dive into the practical things that I needed help with.

I enjoyed the session hugely, but I don’t really know if that feeling was mutual. My advisor had come into the session perhaps hoping to demonstrate her skills in one area, only to find herself pulled back to the thing she knew inside out. One of the motivations for volunteering or mentoring is to challenge yourself and develop your skills. So perhaps I enjoyed it more than she did. I will certainly leave a message on her answer-phone, but will she call back?

 

3. WLTM a user experience guru

Sometimes you meet someone really nice, but you just know there is no spark. My third date was with someone who didn’t really match the profile of what I was looking for. I wanted someone with hands-on experience of designing user experiences for websites. This is quite advanced as a topic, but an hour with such a guru would be really valuable.

Within the first five minutes we realised that we didn’t share any interests and that the session should probably be disbanded. Part of the problem was really the matching process: the broad topic of “websites” covered everything from design, hosting, technical development, user experience, advertising, and much more. We kept chatting politely for a little while and ended the date early. He would be a perfect match for someone, but that someone was not me (at this stage).

 

4. WLTM a marketing guru

The fourth date was a wildcard: I had seen there was a spare slot with someone who worked for a marketing communications agency and thought that bouncing some ideas around would be useful. Once again, we had not had a chance to chat around what we could usefully do together before the meeting, so the initial conversation was a little stilted whilst we both tried to make the experience a positive one. However,  one hour on, and we had crafted an innovative guerrilla marketing event. I learned a lot about what corporates might want from engagement with a charity, and we tentatively agreed to stay in touch as I carried out the planned event.

 

Big Advice Day, Every Day

The Big Advice Day successfully delivered over 160 hours of advice to good causes in one day. The challenge for Crowd Guru is how we deliver that every day: face to face, online, over the phone, or in whatever way people find most useful.

The Big Advice for us was:

  • Keep it focused on tackling a specific task – the sessions were more productive that way
  • Let people get to know a bit about each other in advance – it saves time and helps you move forward faster
  • Get the matching right – the task in question and the level of experience should be appropriate
  • If at first you don’t succeed… not every match will work, so it is good to just pick up and move on where the chemistry and/or skills are not right.

Giving or receiving support is addictive once you get into the swing of it (cue obvious joke about Michael Douglas). My experience is a Cause seeking and receiving help has absolutely confirmed to me that this project is going to have a big impact!

 

Notes:

  • Ben recently took up a trustee role for Amazing Children Uganda (www.amazingchildrenuganda.org), a small charity who provide educational scholarships to street children in Africa.
  • Small Charity Week is the brainchild of The Foundation for Social Improvement (The FSI, www.thefsi.org.uk)
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