Tags:#NVW2020VolunteersCase Studies

4 min read

"Back your own knowledge" - A volunteer's advice to himself

A common thread in first-time volunteers at Springboard Trust is wondering what you can bring to a school principal’s development.

We work with volunteers from a broad spectrum of industries, all with different focuses and levels of expertise – yet almost always, they feel unsure about the work.  

Even Dan Grafton, ASB’s South Island Sales Manager – who had done extensive work with schools before, including being on a Board of Trustees – was uncertain about his expertise with school leadership.  

It didn’t take long for that to change.  

The a-ha moment 

In his role at ASB, Dan has spearheaded multiple initiatives that saw the bank engage schools throughout the community. Through this – and his time on a BoT – Dan saw school leadership first-hand, including the complex dynamics that principals must navigate. 

But it wasn’t until the first session that he fully grasped what he could bring to the relationship.  

“The vision session was a big a-ha moment for me. As a corporate we talk about purpose a lot, and have shifted over time to a big focus on helping customers over making products. To go to the first workshop and hear about the vision was like hey, wait – this is my bread and butter!”  

With schools also looking at tools like the Gallup Q12 surveys, Dan was able to go above and beyond – bringing his expertise with these frameworks to principals in a clear and concise way.  

“The strategic planning process is really similar across both ASB and schools – realising that gave me a huge appreciation for how these models work and align with other sectors.”  

Despite thinking his experience with strategic planning was unofficial – and perhaps not applicable to an education environment – Dan quickly realised the core of Springboard’s cross-sector magic.  

“If you’re a people leader, in any way, you can help others learn. Strategic planning, focusing on vision – everything you need is there.”  

Just go in and do it – and back your own knowledge. It’s an awesome experience, well run, and incredibly rewarding.
Dan Grafton, South Island Sales Manager, ASB

Bringing the long-sightedness 

Upon joining the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme, Dan found that each principal had distinctly different priorities.  

“I’ve done the programme twice now, and these schools were chalk and cheese in terms of structure and what they wanted to achieve.” 

“The balance between wellbeing and achievement, particularly in schools affected by the earthquakes, was huge. Some also haven’t thought a lot about their strategic plan before either – it's just a document they file once per year, rather than something they always come back to.” 

That’s where honesty becomes, as it often does, the best policy.  

“You’ve got to call them out, challenge the principals on what they want to achieve, so they can identify what they want to do and how that links back to their vision.”  

“It’s sometimes hard. A lot of principals are so busy fighting fires, fighting to get through the next hour that a long-term focus takes some work.”  

He also believes the matching process goes a long way to forging this honest relationship.  

“It takes a bit of time to get to know your principal, but we got along just so well – felt really well paired, which is fundamental for making this programme work.” 

Learning for two  

While the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme focuses on the school leader’s learning, Dan also brought back some important lessons to ASB.  

“SLPP was great for some perspective, to appreciate how good we have it at ASB. Education changes so often and so fast – by comparison, we have a lot of stability. I was able to bring back some of the challenges teachers were facing which helped bed in that mentality for our teams too.” 

“Another big thing was cultural diversity. We had relatively little exposure to Māori culture from my departments perspective, while it is a critical priority for the principals I’ve worked with.” 

“I’ve been able to do some training myself in that regard, and bring it forward as a focus.”  

All told, it has been a fantastic pair of partnerships for both Dan and the principals he has worked with. When asked what advice he would give himself if he was considering SLPP, he was unequivocal: 

“Just go in and do it – and back your own knowledge. It’s an awesome experience, well run, and incredibly rewarding.”  

Find out more about how you can help New Zealand schools

Capacity Partners

Capacity Partners are matched with a principal undertaking the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme, meeting one-on-one with them throughout the year with through nine workshops. They build trust, understand the needs of the principal and their context and support the principal in building their strategic plan and their leadership in their unique situation.   As a Capacity Partner, you will work with principals who are new to Springboard Trust and may have backgrounds, specialisations and experiences vastly different from your own. Taking the time to listen, learn and leverage your expertise to support them is critical to success.   The experienced Springboard Trust team will match you with a principal, making all the necessary introductions before the programme begins. You’ll also be part of a cohort with five other principals and their volunteer Capacity Partners, as well as a volunteer who will facilitate each workshop.   Who makes a great Capacity Partner?  Typically, Capacity Partners are senior leaders in their organisation, who are highly capable and skilled professionals.  Experience is typically in strategic planning, change or programme management with strong coaching skills. They may also be emerging leaders hoping to support their learning and ongoing career growth, or who want to accelerate their development in this area.   Volunteers who are also skilled and experienced in leadership or facilitation.   You’ll have experience in coaching, understand how to lead people (particularly from a strategic perspective), and grasp the core ideas of strategic planning, change management and transformation. Time Requirements Capacity Partners are asked to volunteer approximately 40 hours of their time annually, including a three-hour induction for first-time volunteers and nine half day workshops over a calendar year. Programmes typically start in March and have their final celebration workshops in November.  Participation in the workshops is encouraged to ensure maximum learning and impact for the volunteer but also encourages the conversation and discussion that happens within the cohort. 

Subject Matter Experts

The Subject Matter Expert (SME) role is a flexible opportunity to support alumni (principals who have completed the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme) as they take on a bespoke project built around their strategic plan.   This might be assisting them at a Kickstart Your Strategy workshop, helping them review an annual plan, or simply sitting down with a principal and/or their team to help them clarify goals for the year ahead. What makes a good Subject Matter Expert? SMEs are typically senior leaders in their organisation, and have a wide range of expertise, including but not limited to:  Change management  Strategic leadership  Instructional design and leadership  Project management  Transformation projects  Coaching  Strategy analysis and refresh Marketing, branding and communication  Depending on the project, we may require more specialist skill sets for principal support. We would ideally prefer SMEs to have previously worked with Springboard as a Capacity Partner.   Time requirements Due to the variability of the work SMEs do, requirements may vary. Setting up a project usually takes 8-10 hours, while implementation may be anywhere from four hours to 50, across three to 12 months.  


Volunteer coaches work in the High Performing Leaders (HPL) programme, building an individual principal’s leadership insight, capability and practice – all with the goal of them successfully leading their school to better student outcomes and delivery to their strategic plan. You could be working with alumni principals, their leadership teams or their middle leaders.  What makes a good coach?  Our coaching volunteers are typically senior or middle leaders in their organisation, with extensive people coaching experience . They may also be emerging leaders, looking to accelerate their development but still have a core capability to coach and development others  Due to the advanced nature of the HPL programme, Coaches should be highly skilled in the usual areas of requirement: coaching, leadership development and planning, accredited or experienced in debriefing 360-degree surveys and analysis, as well as in-depth emotional intelligence.   Time requirements Coaching volunteers will have to spend at least 10 hours on the HPL programme, over a 90-day period (a single school term).  


Volunteer Facilitators Facilitators work in two of our programmes – the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme and High Performing Leadership Teams (HPLT). In the former, they work with a full cohort of six principals and volunteers, while in the latter they work with full leadership teams. While facilitating SLPP means working with principals new to Springboard, in HPLT they will be working with experienced principals (now alumni of Springboard Trust) and their leadership teams. This presents a unique set of dynamics every time, and can be an incredibly rewarding for those who volunteer their time.   What makes a great facilitator?  Typically, facilitators we work with are middle to senior leaders in their organisations, with extensive experience in people coaching or leadership. They may also be emerging leaders looking to accelerate their development, or highly skilled individuals in this area.   The key aspects facilitator should excel in are the art of facilitation itself, the ability to bring the content to life for the participants and how they can relate it to their own unique context.  Experience working with High Performing Teams and Leadership Development helps bring the programme to life for the participants.  Facilitation of SLPP in particular, facilitators should have experience in leading teams, as well as the ability to engage large groups of people and tell stories with ease.   It is critical that facilitators have strong emotional intelligence skills as you will facilitating cohorts often in varying situations of need , and contexts you are not familiar with.  Empathy and listening skills are a must.   Please note that in most cases, we prefer Facilitators to have prior experience as a Springboard Trust Capacity Partner so they have experienced the programme from that perspective.   Time requirements Facilitation volunteers for SLPP will need to volunteer 50-60 hours, including induction (for first time facilitators), across the calendar year. For HPLT, facilitators are asked to commit to up 10-15 hours over a three month period.

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