Michael Brown, the Founding Director of Empower to Cook CIC, a social enterprise based in High Wycombe, tells how he recruited the ideal person to deal with the CIC’s finances via Reach Volunteering.


Empower to Cook works with schools, families, social housing, and other community organisations and corporates. The name explains all – food education helps with life skills, confidence, physical and mental health, food poverty, community connections and the environment.

Michael tells us that “Empower to Cook was at a stage of small growth and we needed someone to help with finances.” He reports that, as someone with a disability himself, he looked for support “especially to help streamline and give easy access to our financial records. For key business areas Empower to Cook uses Quick Books and wanted to make sure that end of year accounts, invoices, receipts and cash flow forecasts were up to date, and accurate.”

Michael speaks highly of the volunteers recruited through Reach Volunteering. Amongst them, Fiona Page, a Chartered Accountant and and Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, has made a ‘huge impact” in the key area of finance.

She also has experience of working with social enterprises and has been a school governor. Her background skills make her ideal for Empower to Cook! Fiona loves using her financial skills to add value to a Not for Profit and especially Empower to Cook. She’s really interested in the idea of cooking to engage the community in food sustainability and food waste issues.

Michael felt that Empower to Cook faced challenges, saying that “Several people had worked on different spreadsheets. So there wasn’t a great deal of consistency and it was, hard to access data”.

According to Michael, Fiona is, “highly skilled, calm, focused and confident with great insight.” In her own words “The challenge is to tailor the finance support to what is required at the right time.”

Michael describes Fiona’s work as “transformational, making us feel more professional, confident we are growing a more sustainable organisation.  We were able to achieve our short term goals and move towards our longer-term goals and overall strategy.”

And this isn’t the first successful match for Empower to Cook.  Michael has had “two other brilliant volunteers from Reach. Sue Wenborn has been a key enabler. She is hugely capable, reliable, kind, brings professional skills to help us with clients, working on customer liaison and proposals.  Geoff Would is project managing our community cookery and wellbeing kitchen refurbishment. He’s liaised with Janssen and Sodexo directly, plus other suppliers. He’s scheduled works and is very practical and hands on all round. Both Sue and Geoff have been key in growing our reach, embedding us more in the local community and beyond.”

Reach was recommended to Fiona by a colleague at Santander. She found it “really easy to register on the Reach Website, find roles and make contact with potential opportunities”. And now she frequently recommends Reach. It has a “great range of roles from many types of organisations.”

Michael has the following suggestions for others. “Have an initial phone call before deciding if it feels right to meet up with the potential volunteers. Be passionate and believe in what you want to achieve – this may rub off (on the volunteer) and make them more committed to your cause. Then communicate by email, texts – things can change.” He knows that it is important to be realistic and value small things, “Don’t overload your volunteers, be honest and open and don’t forget to thank them, all the time”. And finally, “Supply good cake, refreshments and positive banter. It’s not all work! Remember they are a volunteer and they too have a life. Be flexible. Be aware of their well-being.” Good advice indeed.

For more information on volunteering or further information at Empower to Cook CIC, please get in touch by phone 07799 734258 or email info@empowertocook.co.uk.

(Case study courtesy of Reach Volunteering)

Updated on January 23, 2020

Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society