Blog: Being an ACOSVO Mentor

This blog is from one of our ACOSVO Mentors, Philippa Bonella. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or a mentee, see here for more information.


"I’ve worked in the third sector for 2 decades, but took the plunge to go freelance in April 2017.  I work with lots of (usually quite small) charities doing diverse things, to help them improve their strategy, planning or governance.  It feels like a real gift, half way through my working life, to learn so many new things, work with so many different people, and ditch the 9-5 tyranny.

One of the first people I chatted to as I went freelance was of course Pat Armstrong, CEO of ACOSVO.  She was full of great tips for my new business.  But quid pro quo – she asked me to become a volunteer mentor for ACOSVO members.  I mostly agreed because I owed Pat a favour, but actually I have loved every minute of it. 

Phili Wetton quickly set me up with my first mentee, after I’d completed the registration process.  She provided an anonymised biog to each of us so we could see if we might get on, and then we had a meeting to test the water.  All went well, and we now meet every 6 weeks to chat about a range of issues the mentee is working through.  After a few months, I now have a 2nd mentee, and it’s interesting how different their challenges are.

I hope I’m being helpful!  To be honest, both my mentees are experienced and have good judgement.  I suspect they mostly need an informed and sympathetic ear as they find their own way to the solutions they need.  It is tough when you don’t have anyone to confide in, and you don’t know if others are facing the same issues (they are!).  I’ve worked with a lot of different charities, so I can give a bit of external perspective.  But it’s not my job to fix their problems – it’s theirs, and they are doing it well.

I’ve enjoyed the experience more than I expected to.  I work from home and spend most of my time on Skype, so it’s great to have an excuse to get out of the city and meet my mentees where they are.  I have missed working with a team since I went freelance, and although this is nothing like a management relationship, it still gives me a sense of pride to know that (in a very passive way) I am helping people to be their best.  It’s also interesting and useful to look at the way I do things (like preparing for a difficult meeting or building a relationship with a new Chair) and see how others address them.  I’ve learned a lot about my own practice through being questioned by my mentees and seeing how they do things their way – it’ll stand me in good stead when I return to organisational life.

So to sum up, it’s good fun, the people are great, and you learn a lot about yourself, others and the sector.  What’s not to like?"