Place Category: Business Services
Pilotlight is an award-winning social enterprise that brings the business and charitable worlds together to create positive social change.
Pilotlight transforms the lives of disadvantaged people in the UK by offering charities and social enterprises access to the strategic business support they need to become more efficient, effective and sustainable.
We do this by harnessing and matching the talents of our members – we call them Pilotlighters – to charities through our programmes. All our programmes are project managed by experienced Pilotlight Project Managers who drive for the best outcomes for both our Charity Partners and our Pilotlighters.
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Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise Mark criteria includes a requirement that the applicant can demonstrate that social and/or environmental objectives are being achieved.
In support of this, new applicants and renewing Mark holders are asked to respond to a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help them think about the social impact they create, and to articulate this clearly and succinctly.
Updated April 2021
1) What are the main social differences you have aimed to make (or supported)?
Pilotlight is a young but established charity that recruits people with professional skills (Pilotlighters) into programmes of organisation support for small charities and social enterprises working to meet needs in the context of disadvantage. Our objective is to help charities and social enterprises become more resilient and deliver more effective and efficient services, resulting in better outcomes for disadvantaged people.
2) What actions have you taken to deliver the aims described above?
Pilotlight has pioneered a distinctive and arguably unique commercial model for skills exchange for charity, through which people with professional skills participate in our programmes of support for charity and social enterprise leaders and in the process learn themselves from this as a learning experience.
Individual Pilotlighters typically participate in teams through the Pilotlight Programme to provide patient strategic coaching for charity leaders, where Pilotlighters recruited through business partners, alongside this, may participate in this or a range of shorter programmes designed to meet business and charity needs. For some experienced Pilotlighters, we have also run a programme of one to one mentoring for charity leaders.
Alongside this, we benefit from a selection of charity leaders joining as associate Pilotlighters with their skills through a bursary scheme.
3) What has changed, what specific outcomes and benefits have been realised as a result of the above actions?
Organising for change through the voluntary sector is at the heart of why Pilotlight exists. We know that it can be hard to access all the skills that are needed to achieve social improvement – it is in the nature of the sector that hopes run ahead of resources. We exist to change that, to make it easier to access the skills that are needed to make the most of what voluntary action and organisation can achieve. Our purpose is to add the skills needed to make a success of what charities do.
In 2020, Pilotlight worked with 660 Pilotlighters on 141 projects, delivering support to 135 unique charities. Together, these 135 charities were supporting over 2 million people across the UK over the year.
Over time, Pilotlight has worked with an estimated 2,835 Pilotlighters on 970 projects to support 769 charities. This means that we expect that by the end of 2021, Pilotlight will have worked with over 3,000 Pilotlighters and delivered over 1,000 projects in the 25 years since we were founded.
4) Please describe how your income and/or any profits generated from previous years has been maximised in delivering social outputs and adding social value.
The activities that lie behind our work are all based on a core model which matches leaders from charities and social enterprises with teams of people with business and organization skills to support what they do. These programmes are free to charities and social enterprise and we attract funding, typically from individual Pilotlighters and corporate partners to cover the costs of delivering these.
In our longstanding Pilotlight Programme for example, our skilled project management staff facilitate a 10 month engagement to help the charity leader plan for sustainability, development and growth. With our corporate partners, we have developed a range of shorter programmes, typically between 2 and 6 months, also aimed at supporting charities but in different ways and at different stages of their development.
As a registered charity, we track expenditure on charitable activities and these represent around 97% of our annual expenditure. In the last financial year, we have made a loss, reflecting a decision to maintain programmes at a time of need over the pandemic. In previous years, where we have made a surplus, these have been held as reserves to ensure the sustainability of our core activities for the common good.
The below questions are not mandatory, but Mark holders are encouraged to answer them where possible, to provide a fuller account of their social outcomes and the social value they create.
5) How do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
Our impact evaluation framework has evolved over a period of years and is operated with an independent evaluation partner, Cornish and Grey. An annual impact report is reported on internally to the Board and a shorter impact report is made public on our website – we have adapted this over time as we understand what people’s information needs are and how these are best met.
Our impact framework is based on a range of data sources, including regular survey data from key stakeholders and evaluations in line with an underlying theory of change around our programmes. Alongside this, we monitor longitudinal outcomes on key indicators of reach (the number of beneficiaries served by an entity we support) and income over time – at a two year point after the completion of our most long-standing form of strategy support, the Pilotlight Programme. Clearly, our intervention is only one component of a charity’s overall performance, but particularly over time, this provides a health check on whether our support has had a positive impact.
So, for example, charity leaders supported on the Pilotlight Programme in 2018 reported positive longer term impact for their organisations against a number of key outcomes - particularly on strategic vision, the effectiveness of the senior management team, and the clarity of marketing and communications. For those completing the programme in 2017, we see that their income has increased by 27% and their service users by 30%.
In terms of qualitative data on our support over the pandemic, some charity leaders commented that they had particularly appreciated the support in a role that could ‘be a very lonely one’ at the best of times.
“It was good to have ‘critical friends’ who I could share information with and get support. It was a good chance to share my thoughts, feelings and ideas with peers and be able to get honest feedback.”
“The sympathetic response from the project managers and Pilotlighters was very useful and created space to reflect on the crisis.”
Close to all Pilotlighters (96%) report that their involvement with Pilotlight increases their understanding of other perspectives, including different leadership styles.
“Really reinforced my belief in the power of team work and diversity of thought, we worked together well as a team benefitting from each other’s perspectives.”
“I have always wanted to find a way to use my professional skills in a charitable context. This programme has really given me insight in to the way that charities operate, the common challenges they face and how I might usefully contribute.”
We have not to date used the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a point of reference, but this changed in early 2021 with the approval of a new ten year strategy which states that our work will “contribute to five United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 1 – no poverty; 5 – gender equality; 10 – reduced inequalities; 11 – sustainable cities and communities; 17 – partnerships for the goals.”
6) How many people have benefitted from your actions and what measures of benefit can you report?
In 2020, Pilotlight worked with 660 Pilotlighters on 141 projects, delivering support to 135 unique charities. Together, these 135 charities were supporting over 2 million people across the UK over the year. While the number of charities that we work with fell compared to the previous year (152 in 2019), we are reporting a higher reach in terms of indirect beneficiaries (1.4m in 2019). This reflects a more systematic accounting for these numbers, including all charities working with us on our partnership programmes. The numbers, even so, are conservative, as they cover only those served in the twelve month period of our contact.
The key summary outcome areas of charities that we worked with in 2020 are: mental health and well-being (30%), employment training and education (15%), citizenship and community (13%), housing (5%) and family (5%). The service users supported by charities on the Pilotlight Programme were: children and young people (44%), disabled (10%), elderly (7%), homeless (5%).
7) What examples can you provide of a typical service user experience, that help illustrate the benefits they have experienced as a result of your actions?
Wyre Forest Nightstop is part of Nightstop UK – a network of 33 accredited Nightstops throughout the UK – each providing safe, emergency accommodation in volunteers’ homes for homeless young people aged 16-25. In addition, the charity runs volunteer services such as counselling, mediation and a school education programme. Part of the charity’s work has also been to provide further opportunities for beneficiaries to engage back with the charity in a structured and strategic way to create lasting change across Worcestershire.
Wyre Forest Nightstop was a winner of a Weston Charity Award. It participated in the Pilotlight Programme for 10-months where CEO Judith Ford received strategic support from senior business professionals, all facilitated by an expert Pilotlight Project Manager.
At the beginning of 2020, Judith met with the Pilotlighter team to review the charity's progress since completing the programme, she commented "I can honestly say, it has been a real game-changer for the charity."
Wyre Forest Nightstop has been busier than ever during COVID-19. It had to adapt quickly to using digital technology, often involving a steep learning curve for many of its volunteers, so it could continue to deliver services to its beneficiaries. This meant that its mediation service moved to being delivered over Zoom and its counselling service moved to over the phone. Although at the start it was unsure as a charity how it would continue to deliver emergency accommodation, amazingly, with social distancing measures in place and resources from Depaul UK, it was able to continue delivering this service. Looking back, it has been able to provide more accommodation in the last 4 months than during the whole of 2019.
“The support from Pilotlight, along with the durability of our team and their willingness to adapt, has made all the difference to being able to manage COVID-19. We’ve continued to provide services effectively to our beneficiaries throughout.” Judith Ford, CEO, Wyre Forest Nightstop
The Wish Centre is a specialist domestic abuse charity providing safe accommodation, a local domestic abuse helpline, services for victims at the point of crisis and a range of holistic programmes to support and enable change in victims, perpetrators, children and young people. In addition, it provides counselling and training on domestic abuse to practitioners and its ethos is to Listen, Support and Empower.
The charity won a Weston Charity Award and participated in the 10-month Pilotlight Programme which started in 2018 and finished in 2019. It subsequently had the follow up session in February 2020 to review the progress and impact for the charity.
The support from Pilotlight has helped create an effective governance structure. As the board is now more informed, it has been able to manage all the changes brought by COVID-19 and ensure the charity could continue to deliver its services throughout. By ensuring staff were supported and equipped to work from home, the charity was able to quickly adapt its services to meet the rising demand during the pandemic. Its helpline has been transferred to staff mobiles and its group programmes are now delivered online.
“Taking part in the Pilotlight Programme was extremely useful and we were very fortunate to have Pilotlighters supporting us who were committed to helping us develop as an organisation.” Shigufta Khan, CEO, The Wish Centre
8) What social and environmental benefits have you created arising from internal operational policies and other actions?
We operate with a care to our environmental impact and our approach to employee benefits is similarly focused on aligning our culture with our values, of connecting, demanding and unlocking.
Our staff survey is carried out by an independent evaluator. This concluded, in June 2020, that “as with the previous two years, staff feel that Pilotlight’s biggest strength is ‘its people’ and the social value of Pilotlight’s offer. As well as being the focus of staff’s responses to the open ended question, this is reflected in the statements that get the highest average rating: ‘I understand what Pilotlight wants to achieve as an organisation’ and ‘I am proud to work for Pilotlight’ (4.5 and 4.7 respectively [out of 5]).”
“I’ve never worked for an organisation that had such an amazing culture of support, a balance of professionalism and fun, and such a strong vision and mission. I’m proud to work for Pilotlight and I’m grateful for our team of brilliant, compassionate and joyous people.”