Pro Bono brew up a fine new brand of business

The Bridgend café in Callander. Picture: Malcolm CochraneThe Bridgend café in Callander. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane
The Bridgend café in Callander. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane
Callander's Bridgend cafe development shows how this free support network can help, says Elaine Crichton

If you find yourself in Callander in need of a pick-me-up, I highly recommend you stop by the Bridgend café and get a young barista named Jamie to make you a coffee; he may well make the best latte north of the M9.

Jamie hasn’t always made such great coffee, and the Bridgend café wasn’t always a place worth stopping off, but the fact I now hold both statements to be irrefutable truths has as much to do with accountants and property lawyers, as it does with the training Jamie received at the coffee machine.

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The Bridgend café, and the Callander Youth Hostel which houses the café, are both social enterprises run by the Callander Youth Project Trust (CYPT) – a charity specialising in helping young people into work and education.

The hostel occupies a beautiful building just off the main street in Callander and has been re-vitalised by CYPT in the last five years, including picking up 5-star visitor status from VisitScotland. The success of both businesses is a direct result of the Trust’s determination to have a place where local young people can meet and socialise, as well as to create employment and training opportunities for local young people.

CYPT Managing Director Chris Martin was a key factor in this success and he often tells the story of when he first presented the idea of developing the building at Bridgend to the charity’s board – they thought he was completely mad.

That’s when he turned to the offer of support from Inspiring Scotland’s Pro Bono network, a group of individuals who offer non-financial, expert support to charities free of charge.

Most social change organisations such as CYPT don’t have the ready access to resources such as strategic marketing, finance, IT, and HR that they need to succeed. When skilled volunteers from the Inspiring Scotland Pro Bono group bring their expertise to these organisations, they not only help them accomplish projects, they help develop strong organisations and allow them to fulfil their mission statement.

In many ways the project at Callander is the poster child for the power of pro bono, it simply would not have been as successful as it is today without pro bono input. The list of requests from CYPT was long and varied at the outset; support with property issues, project management, consultancy work on tourism, marketing and accounting support, website design, interior design and even a request for advise on gable-end water ingress! These were all delivered for free.

As Pro Bono Executive at Inspiring Scotland, I now have a group of over 260 people from all walks of life with myriad skills and experience reflecting almost all professions, from employees of large legal and accountancy firms to individuals, business entrepreneurs, consultants and retired executives.

The common purpose among pro bono supporters is the desire to give freely of their expertise but pro bono is more than corporate volunteering. The level of involvement, strategic input, and mutual collaboration embodies something that often goes on to build long-lasting relationships.

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It’s a great way to match willing experts to the incredible organisations doing amazing work in communities across Scotland.

The Callander Hostel and Bridgend café are very visible examples of the power of pro bono but this happens on a daily basis across our portfolio of over 200 charities. Requests range from business mentoring and coaching as a charity approaches critical mass, to requests for social media training or professional photography.

Our charities are actively encouraged to use the pro bono resource and they do. Last year nearly 1600 hours of pro bono support was delivered amounting to a (very understated) value of £302,000. What we can’t yet measure is the compounding effect this has on the organisation.

I am constantly struck by how important this kind of professional assistance is to our charities; it can give them renewed hope with a problem or open up solutions they thought were beyond their expertise.

The support provided by the Pro Bono network at Inspiring Scotland is a key part of making the organisations we work with more sustainable and allows them to achieve their vision more effectively. In the case of CYPT and the Bridgend café that has meant, not just two successful social enterprises, but a place in Jamie’s home town where he could get a job, earn money, learn new skills and pursue a career. As well as make fantastic coffee.

Callander Youth Project Trust is a youth orientated charity which is part of the Inspiring Scotland 14:19 fund set up in 2009 with a view to support disadvantaged young people 
aged 14-19 into positive destinations of employment, education or training.

• Elaine Crichton is Pro Bono Executive at Inspiring Scotland


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