Volunteering my corporate skills to make a contribution

A hand holding a magnifying glass over a spreadsheet next to a hand typing numbers into a calculator
With a successful career in corporate finance, Anish Saigal decided to use his skills to contribute towards tackling the climate crisis.

I am a qualified accountant and have mainly worked in large corporate firms. I studied Economics at university and when I left, I did an accountancy qualification. After doing a bit of travelling, I moved into banking and have mainly worked in finance roles. I joined Barclays in 2009 and have built up a wealth of experience from working across different functions such as credit control, stress testing, budget cycles and external reporting. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lots of opportunities in my career. 

At the start of this year, I began to think about the strengths that I have and how I could apply my skills in a voluntary role. I have two kids and I wanted to do something related to improving the life of children such as tackling the climate crisis. I started looking at different charities and I came across the InterClimate Network. The charity delivers climate sustainability programmes to inspire young people in the UK to become leaders and advocates for action on climate change. The climate crisis is not part of the curriculum and the InterClimate Network targets students (predominantly in secondary school) to make them aware of climate change and inspire them to take action.

I took on the role of Treasurer, which suited my skill set. This involves overseeing the cash flow of the charity, working closely with associates and directors to understand how much money the charity has, forecasting spend and managing the balance sheet. I’ve also been doing a bit of fundraising, which is new for me and has helped me to develop new skills. 

Making every penny count

The InterClimate Network has the same challenge as every other charity - raising funding including what that looks like in the long-term. Everything starts with finance. You can’t do anything without knowing how much income you have and how much you are spending. Since I started 3-4 months ago, I’ve been reviewing the finance situation and how we could simplify and improve different processes. A key part of this has been meeting the team and understanding the charity. In the charity world, every penny counts and compared to the corporate sector, it feels very real as you’re dealing with individual salaries and costs. 

Volunteering has been great. I’ve really enjoyed meeting a new set of people and seeing the passion that they have for their work. I’ve also liked going back to basics with finance such as putting numbers into a spreadsheet and doing a budget. The people are the main thing though and the important work that they’re doing in schools - delivering that message about the climate crisis, inspiring action in the next generation and creating change that will hopefully have a long-term impact. 

I’m happy to be able to volunteer and feel like I’m contributing. Volunteering isn’t a tick box exercise. You need to make the time and really believe in the charity or cause that you’re volunteering for, but it’s definitely worth it. Volunteering is a great way to meet and interact with new people and make a meaningful contribution.