Natalie Tickle, Membership Manager at Heart of the City shares with us her transition from working for the corporate sector, to now working for a charity, and how being a Heart of the City Contributor benefited her role at RSA. Look out for Natalie’s top three tips for a SME new to CSR.
I’ve been at Heart of the City for just over four months now and I can honestly say that I love my job! For the past 12 years I’ve been working in the CSR teams of large companies and I’m finding it really rewarding to be able to use this experience to support smaller businesses to develop their CSR programmes. My role is varied, but I’m particularly enjoying organising the workshops for our members and the meetings I’m having with them. The meetings I’m having with our members are so interesting, it is great to see their enthusiasm, and some of the ideas they have for supporting their local communities and employees are really exciting.
I worked in the charity sector before I moved to my first CSR role at Lloyd’s of London, so it is not completely new to me, and being based at the City of London Corporation means that we have the support of a wider organisation, and Guildhall is a fascinating place to work. We are a really small team at Heart of the City, but we have the support of a fantastic board of trustees and a wide network of CSR professionals across London, so it feels like a much bigger organisation than it is. My role at RSA gave me good experience of developing a CSR strategy and implementing new programmes – I have experience of what works well and the challenges faced in developing CSR initiatives and although RSA is a large company a lot of what I experienced is relevant to the smaller companies on our programme.
In the past, I supported Heart of the City with mentoring and was a table host at the workshops. I was always keen to support Heart of the City as I found it really rewarding to be able to share my experience with those new to CSR. A lot of my time at RSA was spent developing skills-based volunteering opportunities for my colleagues, so it was nice to have an opportunity for us in the CSR team to also get out and volunteer to share our knowledge and experience. Volunteering at the Heart of the City events was also a good opportunity to meet others working in CSR roles and to learn about their programmes. I’m really pleased that RSA has continued to contribute and I’ve already had them supporting a couple of our events!
A big part of why I love working in CSR, is that everyone is really supportive and happy to share ideas and best practice. We have an amazing group of companies supporting our programmes and Heart of the City would not be able to support our members without their help. Large companies are hosting our workshops for us, providing mentors and speakers and developing the online resources for our members. Everyone working in a CSR role has experience to share and by doing this they can help small businesses to achieve their responsible business ambitions.
I’d say, number one: as a small business you can’t do everything at once, so start by doing one thing really well, for example if you want to support your local community – look at what you do as a business and the expertise of your people, as finding an opportunity to support your local community that is relevant and allows you to share your skills will ensure you have the most impact possible.
Number two: motivate and engage your colleagues and senior management as a successful CSR programme cannot be the responsibility of one person, you will need everyone to get behind it.
And number three, or this should really be number one! Attend Heart of the City’s workshops as leading on the development of a CSR strategy when it is not your main role can be difficult, so our workshops are there to help you with that, to provide extra motivation and to build your network of people facing similar challenges.
I love London, so it is a difficult choice, but I have just come back from a meeting on Farringdon Road and it reminded me of how much I like that area. My first job after university was for a charity on Cowcross Street and then a charity on Saffron Hill, so I spent a lot of time on Exmouth Market and around Clerkenwell. My Great Grandmother was Italian, so my Granddad grew up in Clerkenwell, which was then known as ‘Little Italy’ – I used to buy my lunch from the Italian deli he would have used and even had one or two drinks in the pub he took my Nan to for their first date.