1st - 7th June 2020 is Volunteers’ Week, run by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations. Volunteers’ Week is an annual opportunity to take a step back and celebrate the inspiring and essential contributions that volunteers make to our public services, charities and local communities. And this year celebrating Volunteers’ Week feels more important than ever. Around a million people have signed up to support the NHS response to COVID-19 by volunteering.1 Many more have been volunteering with care homes, food banks, local mutual aid groups and more in response to the pandemic.
Volunteering can feel like a very personal choice, made on an individual level to support a cause close to the volunteer’s heart. Given this, how can businesses get involved in volunteering?
Volunteering is a core aspect of our social enterprise pledge but, being the impact, evidence and evaluation nerds that we are, we want to be sure that we are volunteering effectively and impactfully. So we’ve come up with a framework to think about how, as a social enterprise, we can support causes that align with our values. Our approach boils down to three core dimensions of achieving social impact:
We find this framework helpful when considering how, as a company, we support and encourage our team to use their volunteering days. We also find it helpful when approaching organisations we would like to support. Especially during times of crisis, organisations providing frontline responses can find the flood of unstructured offers of support overwhelming. While well-intentioned, an influx of emails and questions can become another overhead to sort through rather than a helping hand.
We have found it best to come with ideas of how we can utilise our time, skills and assets, and work on these ideas with organisations to co-design support that will work for them. We’ve come up with the following ways:
To give time:
Some colleagues are donating their time to support their local mutual aid groups with food deliveries and budgeting donations.
To give skills:
In Surrey, our operations team are donating their administrative skills to Surrey County Council to help match local businesses with opportunities to donate food, PPE, cleaning supplies and more to the response effort.
To give assets:
We have used our virtual socials as fundraising opportunities for our partner charity South London Cares, which is a very simple (and fun!) example of social impact using corporate assets.
This is a very difficult time for many businesses. For some it will not be the right time to consider volunteering. For those in a position to consider giving, however, we would recommend sitting down to think about what you can do with your time, skills and assets. Beyond the value you will bring to recipients, and in addition to the skills development opportunities, volunteering has significant emotional benefits for volunteers, especially at times of crisis. Research shows that after disasters people feel an emotional need to contribute, to ‘do something’, to feel useful. Providing outlets for this enhances long-term community recovery and resilience.2 Volunteering can therefore be an important part of our own, our organisations’ and our wider society’s recovery, as well specifically supporting frontline responses.
If you are interested in talking to us about volunteering, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.