SPOTLIGHT VOLUNTEER PROFILE
Ken McKay One of our experienced volunteer visitors explains how, after a long career in communication and corporate responsibility, he came to volunteer for Cambridgeshire Community Foundation (CCF)
AFTER 40 YEARS in a variety of jobs (something that I suppose might, in retrospect, be called ‘a career’) I was pleased to be able to take early retirement. This was an opportunity for me to do other things: travel, spend time with my family, and become more involved in some of the voluntary work I’d tried to fit in around employment for years. I left school in Glasgow to train as a journalist on a weekly newspaper in Ayrshire, and then moved on to national and international publications. After I married, I changed direction and ran communications and marketing for two new towns in the north and then for Peterborough. When the development corporation there closed, I joined an international financial company initially to handle corporate communications, and later as lead on business ethics. The company was giving away large sums to an array of charities, as part of an incoherent corporate social responsibility policy. I was convinced that the money could be used more effectively, and began to develop a strategy. I visited scores of charities, large and small, and launched a focused programme to deliver measurable benefits relevant both to our business and the charities’ objectives. My wife and I moved to Cambridge in 2012. Our son and his family live close by in a village near St Ives, while our daughter and family are in East Sussex. I’ve been chair of trustees for Peterborough Environment City Trust, sat on the boards of two voluntary housing associations and I’m a business adviser for the Prince’s Trust. A colleague there introduced me to CCF towards the end of 2013. Within weeks, I met Sam Weller (see ‘Trustee Profile’ page 12), and went with him to visit a You Can Bike Too project at Milton Country Park. Weeks later, I made my first solo trip to see The Laughter Specialists, who work with children who
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have learning difficulties, at a school close to Cambridge. Both visits were moving. It was immediately clear that relatively small sums given by CCF on behalf of local companies enabled specialist charities to achieve real impact with activities that delivered benefit to old and young people with specific needs. I’ve visited all manner of projects, ranging from creative artists working with Travellers’ children to a group in Ely making motorbiking safer for teenagers on Fenland roads, and a Cambridge charity that recycles some of the many unclaimed and lost bikes in the city. I know that people who deliver projects, especially in small charities, are highly committed and often very skilled in what they do. Often they are motivated by personal experience from within their own families. They have knowledge and empathy that let them provide help to people who would go without support if they weren’t there. This is increasingly important as social care budgets shrink. Late last year, visiting a project on behalf of CCF, I met Catherine Price, Parish Nurse at Cambourne, who runs projects to build community spirit in this small new town. She told me how, after graduating from art college around 20 years earlier, she had been supported by the Prince’s Trust to help start a business. Later, she trained as a nurse and she now works parttime as a specialist sister at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and gives the rest of her week over to volunteering. Sometimes people don’t feel confident about filling out applications for charitable grants, and occasionally they have been a little nervous when I have asked if I can visit them on behalf of CCF. I think that I’ve always been able to leave them feeling less nervous and hopefully more confident. And I have never seen a project that wasn’t worthy of the funds CCF has channelled to them.
THE FORUM / Apr-Jun 2017 / 15
The magazine of Cambridgeshire Community Foundation.