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The personal benefits of using your skills for good

Mary Coughlan recently spent two hours volunteering with a small and little-known – yet utterly innovative – Glasgow charity. It was both inspirational and humbling. Here’s what she discovered.

car travelling around the world

by
Mary Coughlan

in Features

19.11.2020

Recently, a handful of Charles Stanley employees gave up their time to as part of the Employee Volunteering Programme to help provide advice in dealing with the fallout of Covid-19.

Charles Stanley has been involved in volunteering for many years, although in the past the help has been provided by physically turning and getting stuck in – often this was painting and decorating, with a bit of gardening thrown in. 

The impact of Covid-19 on the third sector has been considerable and the demand on leadership teams is unprecedented, as they endeavour to maintain services during these challenging times. Very few have had the headspace to consider continuity planning, which is where corporate volunteering comes in. 

Employee Volunteering is a partner organisation that organise virtual meetings with employees and community leaders to help them address the challenges presented by the crisis. This is a very different offering than weeding and painting window frames, but arguably it is much more vital as charities struggle to provide services with no money coming in from fundraising events, charity shops and other usual sources of income. Covid-19 has created a crisis for charity fundraisers – and our help and advice was welcomed. 

Making a difference

Employee Volunteering enables colleagues to work together on a volunteering activity to make a difference. These can include a Covid-19 charity recovery forum where colleagues can use their everyday skills to brainstorm solutions that help charities recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Covid-19 Recovery Forum is an online virtual workshop that provides an opportunity for work colleagues to use their professional and personal skills to help charities or social enterprises address the challenges presented by the pandemic. Volunteers work in groups of up to eight colleagues alongside a community group leadership team and use the breadth of their skills and experience to review the impact of the virus.

The event is a facilitated 2.5-hour virtual volunteering session that begins with an introduction from the charity and an overview of the work they do. Volunteers then review the impact of Covid-19 across the organisation – and brainstorm the actions the charity needs to take to survive and recover. 

On the video call, the charity explains its issue to us. Together, we identified gaps in their procedures and processes, challenged set ways of thinking, and brainstormed feasible solutions to address their challenges.

The charity: Caravan Project

Two board members from the Glasgow-based Caravan Project explained their work and sharing the problems they faced – and assessed how these could impact the charity’s longer-term aspirations. The small, mainly voluntary team arrange respite holidays, short breaks and days out for low-income families, carers and those with disabilities.

Unsurprisingly, the most immediate issue was funding – particularly with Covid-19 restrictions on physical events. The charity also wished to tap into any ideas or experience we had on streamlining processes, saving costs and the better use of technology.  

Suggestions included engaging graduates with relevant skills – particularly technology and social media skills – to volunteer with them to improve the technology used for fundraising, database optimisation and booking processes. The graduates would – in turn – get excellent work experience. Volunteers also had ideas on optimising office systems, increasing the charity’s profile and longer-term funding suggestions. 

The feedback from charities on this programme was profound. And, for the Charles Stanley employees involved, this was such a symbiotic event. It was a privilege to help them with their amazing work – and their openness and gratitude was personally uplifting. We also gained insight and awareness of the workings of a small charity, the constant struggles they endure – and the wonderful people that give their time and talent to keep the charity going. It was a two-way learning process. 

Personally, this virtual meeting demonstrated that I have wide and varied relevant skills that can help others less lucky than myself and my colleagues by helping a charity in a structured and innovative way. You don’t find many true win-win situations in life, but this really felt like one of them. 

Nothing on this website should be construed as personal advice based on your circumstances. No news or research item is a personal recommendation to deal.

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