About thirdbridge

An award winning social enterprise that helps companies do good by helping them connect with charities, engage their employees and report their impact.

Diversity in volunteering

The world of volunteering has changed dramatically over the last decade. When I was little, the word volunteer made me think of a nice old lady in a charity shop. Now, volunteer roles are taken up by anyone and everyone, and the sector is far better off for it. However, we still have plenty of work to do in terms of diversity among our volunteers. For example, people in employment are more likely to volunteer than those who are economically inactive, white people are more likely than ethnic minority groups, and people in the South-West of England are more likely than those in the North-East (Source: NCVO).

Diversity in a charitable organisation is so important. First of all, working closely with a group of people from different background, and with different experiences is bound to give you access to a whole range of perspectives, opinions, and ideas. If every person you work with has lived a similar life, then you’re not going to able to look at things from every angle and come up with the best solutions. Additionally, if your volunteers are like a microcosm of the community you are trying to serve, you’re far more likely to be able to understand and, therefore respond to, the needs of the whole community, rather than just the bits you know about.

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I also believe that a mixed group of volunteers makes it easier to attract new ones. I know there have been times when I’ve turned up to an event and felt like the odd one out. Maybe I’ve been the only person under 35, or one of the only women – and it doesn’t particularly make me feel like sticking around or coming back. I feel much more comfortable arriving to see a diverse room full of people with different experiences who are coming together because they are all united by wanting to support the same cause.

As well as better serving your community and beneficiaries, working within a diverse group will make the experience better for the volunteers themselves. I recently took an incredible course by Realized Worth about the transformative power of volunteering for the volunteer, and it really opened my eyes to how much it can change your life if done correctly. As part of evolution, humans have evolved to be naturally empathetic, but only towards those who we consider to be part of our ‘inner circle’ – usually either people that we know or people similar to ourselves. However, we do have the capacity to expand that inner circle. The best way to do it is by sharing a meaningful experience with someone, and volunteering together has been shown to be one of the effective methods. Therefore, by volunteering with people who we might not regularly interact with, we’re expanding our inner circles and bringing our communities closer together.

You can also increase the positive impact you’re having as an organisation by targeting groups in your recruitment that would particularly benefit from volunteering. For example, there are studies showing that volunteering can help elderly people to avoid social isolation and to improve their mental and physical health. For refugees and asylum seekers, volunteering is a great way to integrate in the community and start to make friends. For job-seekers, volunteering is a great way to learn new skills and gain some experience to add to their CV. By providing engaging opportunities for groups that can be marginalised, you’re adding value beyond your beneficiaries and your organisation.

Corporate volunteers can also help in this area. Businesses are also part of the community, and forging relationships with the individuals that make up those companies is a great way to open up dialogue between the private and third sectors in your area. Not only that, but you’re gaining access to a whole host of professional skills that could be used to improve your organisation’s operational efficiency and strategic direction.

If you’re looking to improve the diversity of your organisation’s volunteers, a great place to start is with your existing volunteers. First of all, do an audit of who is working with you right now. This will give you an idea of where things stand, and give you an insight into which groups you might be under-representing. If you haven’t been collecting data properly until now, this is a great reason to start! It would also be a good idea to speak to your current volunteers and to find out their opinions on how you’re doing things currently. Find out if diversity is a concern for them, or if they think there might be anything that could be off-putting to a certain group. You could even take it a step further and use your ties to the community to do some market research. By speaking to a mix of different people, you might be able to identify any problems in your current approach and listen to some suggestions on how to overcome them.

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Once you’ve established your strengths and weaknesses, you can start to create a policy around diversity and inclusion. It can then become a part of your strategy going forward. Firstly, you can consider diversity when creating new roles. There are plenty of questions to ask yourself – do your existing roles appeal to a wide range of potential volunteers? do you have roles and venues that are accessible to people with disabilities? You should also take diversity into account when thinking about recruitment processes. Think about where you advertise your roles and how. Could you put posters up at community centres or groups that target under-represented groups among your volunteers? Are there any online forums relevant to the volunteers you’re trying to target where you could post opportunities? Could you consider audio, braille, or large print adverts? If you are a national charity, could you invest more resources in areas of the country where volunteering is generally lower? There are countless options depending on what your main priorities are!

I think increasing diversity among your volunteers is a really easy way to maximise the positive impact on everyone involved – your beneficiaries, your volunteers, your organisation, and your community as whole. There are plenty of small steps that can be taken to massively improve things in this area, so what are we waiting for?!


For more information about how thirdbridge could help you find new volunteers, please get in touch on info@thirdbridge.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

Don’t waste your New Year’s Resolution

It’s the time of your where we all become super focused on bettering ourselves – and that’s great! I don’t know about you, but my New Year’s Resolutions tend to last approximately 10 days and then the bleakness of January gets the better of me and I slip back into old habits to try and cheer myself up on the long road to spring. However, I think if I managed to find a balance between improving myself and making a difference I would find it a to easier to stick with it – it’s always harder to give up when you know other people will be affected as well.

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Here are some ideas for resolutions that will make a difference and keep you motivated:

1. Get fit while supporting the training and employment of people leaving prison

New social enterprise The Hard Yard run fitness classes designed and run by ex-offenders. The classes are all in urban spaces, require no equipment, and are really hard work – ideal for getting back on track after Christmas. Classes cost £15 each (or less with package deals), but you know your money isn’t just helping you lose weight – it’s helping to change the lives of ex-offenders by providing them with training and employment.

2. Do exercise while doing good

If you prefer to be a bit more hands on, then perhaps Good Gym is for you. You can take part in mission runs where you help older people in the community with one-off tasks, coach runs where you regularly run to visit an isolated older person, or group runs where you run together to help out with community projects. They’re all over the UK in 39 different locations, so have a look for a group near you.

3. Give your training focus by getting sponsorship for a cause you care about

Getting started with a new training routine is harder, and sticking to it is even harder. That’s why lots of people choose to sign up to an event – maybe a 10k, half marathon, or triathlon. But you can take it one step further by agreeing with a charity that you will gain a certain amount of sponsorship for taking part in the event – that way you have no chance of backing out! Most charities would be delighted to have the support, so do a bit of research about causes you care about, pick a charity, and get it all set up – all you’ll need is a JustGiving page.

4. Prepare yourself for your next promotion with some skilled volunteering

It can be hard to know how to show your employer you have the right skills to take a step up. Perhaps you’re going for your first management position and need to prove your leadership skills, or maybe you just want more responsibility in your area of expertise and need to find a way to show you can think about your role differently. Well, skilled volunteering might be the way to go. More and more employers are using skilled volunteering as a cost-effective but impactful alternative to traditional training programmes. Using your skills to mentor or coach young people is a great way to get used to managing people, and will give you great experience of handling difficult pastoral issues as well as guiding people in the right direction and empowering them to solve their problems. Using your expertise in your business area to provide pro bono support will allow you to use your professional skills in a totally different context, forcing you to think about the issues you face day to day in a different way. There are so many charities looking for this type of support. Do some research and reach out with suggestions to organisations that interest you. We’re also happy to help you find a great opportunity – just get in touch.

5. Drink more water while supporting a great cause

This one ends up on my to do list every January, but every year getting through those two litres gets quickly forgotten. Frank Water and Jerry Bottle both sell lovel refillable water bottles that will make you want to fill up and stay hydrated, and they both donate all profits to help provide clean water for those who need it.

6. Get some healthy snacks and support small-scale producers in rural Africa

Let’s be realistic, giving up snacking is almost impossible. But you can definitely make your snacks healthier – especially if you know that your money is helping to provide sustainable livelihoods for farmers in rural Africa. Check out Aduna and stock up!

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I hope these ideas will help you take the first step on a path towards a better future for you and for society. Good luck!


If you have any other resolutions that haven’t been covered in this list, let us know and we can help point you in the right direction!

Doing good while having fun: can your Christmas party be ethical?

Christmas has somehow snuck up on us again this year, and I’m sure your plans for festive celebrations are already in full swing. However, it’s important to remember that ethical business extends beyond your team volunteering days and into every aspect of how you run your company. It’s possible to put some ethical considerations in place that won’t take away from the fun, but will still let your employees know that you’re serious about doing good – even when it comes to social events.

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Here are our suggestions for how to keep the true spirit of Christmas in your festivities:

1. Order your party supplies from an eco-friendly provider

A party usually ends with a whole mountain of plates, cups, and cutlery ready to be thrown away, which is a big thumbs-down for the environment. If you choose a supplier that has done all the hard work and sourced sustainable materials, you can relax knowing that you’ve minimised your environmental impact as much as possible while still providing everything your guests will need to enjoy themselves.

Why not try Little Cherry for pretty but sustainable options?

2. Choose a social enterprise to cater your event

Every year more and more social enterprises are popping up in every industry, and food is a big focus. When there are so many caterers out there who can provide delicious food at a reasonable price, why not go for one that will use their profits to help an important social or environmental cause?! It’s a no-brainer really.

There are some fabulous options all around the UK. Why not check out Good Mood Food in Manchester to support mental health services, MILK in Glasgow to help empower refugee women, or Unity Kitchen in London to help fund apprenticeships for people with disabilities?

3. Go for a veggie or vegan menu

Meat production is gradually becoming more and more linked with some major problems facing the world today – from global warming to world hunger. (Check out Cowspiracy and Food, Inc. if you still need convincing.) Cutting back our meat and dairy consumption is a great way to do a little bit of good for the planet. As an increasing number of people are looking for plant-based alternatives, the vegan food available to us is getting delicious! It’s no longer a case of being stuck with some chips while everyone else tucks into a delicious meal. You could consider choosing veggie options from a regular caterer, or even look into an all vegan option. It’ll still be delicious, and your environmental impact will be almost non-existent!

Why not try Vood Bar for some plant-based delights?

4. Change the world by getting drunk

Obviously, no Christmas party is complete with plenty of booze., but you can even turn alcohol into an opportunity to make a difference! There are a few social enterprises starting to appear in the wine industry, and it’s the perfect time to show your support so this trend can continue.

Why not try Vin2O who use all their profits to support clean water projects?

5. Pick a restaurant with a purpose

Similar to the catering options above, the social enterprise scene in the food and hospitality industries is going strong. There are plenty of ethical options out there, so have a look around and pick somewhere delicious and impactful.

Why not try The Clink for 5* food in London, Cardiff, Surrey, and Manchester that helps to reduce re-offending rates?

6. Look into charities with unusual spaces to hire

As government funding has begun to dry up, charities have got more and more creative with ways to keep themselves afloat. Plenty of organisations have great spaces that they use to support their beneficiaries and have been making extra money by hiring them out as event venues. Have a look into some options in your local area and help support a cause your employees care about as well as putting on a party that’s a bit different than usual.

Westminster Boating Base is a great example for river-side views in London.


These are just a few options to get you started – there are plenty of other ways to help society and the environment while keeping your employees happy with a great celebration. Do some research on options local to your business, brief the team responsible for planning the event on the importance of minimising waste and maximising social impact with every decision, and feel free to get in touch if you need any advice! Enjoy the festivities!

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For more information about social enteprises, check out Social Enterprise UK. If you are looking for solutions to make doing good more straightforward, please get in touch with us on info@thirdbridge.co.uk. 

Getting started with impact measurement

Impact measurement is a huge topic which can easily get quite overwhelming if you’re not careful. The bad news is that there’s no simple solution… But don’t worry, because the great news is that there are plenty of small ways to get started and still find some real value, and we’re here to help you take those first steps!

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Objectives – what are you trying to achieve?

Start with the objectives for your projects. This is such a vital stage that is so often over-looked. How can you tell whether your work has been successful or not if you don’t know what you were trying to achieve?! We recommend coming up with at least two objectives for each project– one focused on the social or environmental impact you wish to have, and one focused on the business impact you are looking for.

Here are some examples of focus areas for your objectives to get you started:

Your business 

  • Brand awareness – more customers knowing about your business
  • HR benefits – improving your ability to hire, retain, motivate, and develop employees
  • Operations – your business running more efficiently, including waste reduction
  • Reputation or stakeholder relations – improving your reputation with your customer base and therefore standing out against competition
  • Supply chain – improving efficiency within your supply chain

Your employee volunteers

  • Behaviour – encouraging employees to change a behaviour, for example recycling more, volunteering in their own time, or becoming a brand ambassador for your company or for a charity partner
  • Personal impact – supporting personal change in an employee, for example feeling prouder of their company, improving their self-confidence, or becoming more motivated at work
  • Skills – developing employees’ skills.

The environment

  • Ecology or direct environmental impact – a direct improvement as a result of your work, for example planting trees, or cleaning up a beach
  • Human behaviour – on-going impacts because of your behaviour as a company, for example recycling, turning off lights, or printing double-sided

Charities, social enterprises, or community organisations

  • Capacity building – helping a charity to become more efficient and self-sustaining, through skilled volunteering or donations
  • Leverage – helping a charity by supporting them to gain more exposure, raise awareness of a cause, lobby, or access other support

Beneficiaries of your community partners

  • Behaviour or attitude change – changing the way beneficiaries of a charity behave, for example reducing anti-social behaviour, or working harder at school
  • Quality of life – improving the quality of life of beneficiaries of a charity, for example improving their confidence, improving their ability to integrate with their community, or improving their health
  • Skills and personal development – improving the skills and development of the beneficiaries of a charity, for example tutoring them to help them gain a qualification, helping them to improve their literacy levels, or mentoring them in preparation for a job interview

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Inputs – how much are you investing?

Next, ensure you are accurately tracking your inputs so you know exactly what you’ve invested in your activities. If you don’t know these figures, then there’s no way to work out a Return on Investment (ROI). It’s also a nice way to get some headline stats to promote your work. Inputs can include donations of money, donations of items, employees that have volunteered, hours volunteered, the value of that time, money raised through fundraising activities, overheads of staff time or external software used, etc.

Outputs – what activities are you doing?

The next step is to record the activities you are doing to achieve your objectives. These are the things that you actually do during a project. This could include holding workshops, providing mentoring sessions, planting trees, incorporating social enterprises into your supply chain, running campaigns, donating money – anything that is measurable. There are likely to be multiple outputs for each objective. Try and come up with some target numbers and keep track of progress as you go along, so you have time to adjust your efforts before the end of the project if necessary.


I think it’s realistic for everyone to get at least this far – no matter what stage you’re at on your journey to doing good. Even if you stop here, that’s a great start and gives you some very useful information, as well as a great baseline to keep improving in the future.

Outcomes and impacts – did you achieve your objectives?

To take things to the next level, you need to start thinking about outcomes and impacts. These are the changes that happen as a result of the outputs of your projects, and help you ascertain if you achieved your stated objectives.

Outcomes occur immediately after the delivery and are seen as the direct changes that your activity (the outputs) have had.  Impacts are the wider and longer-term effects of a project that can go beyond the direct beneficiaries of your project. These are harder to track and measure. For example, if an outcome of your project was improved literacy skills of a group of students, this could lead to those students going on to get jobs that they wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise and, therefore, a reduction in the reliance of state benefits.

These can be measured and reported on throughout your project, based on evidence that you have gathered (e.g. from feedback, surveys, follow up work, etc.).  At the start of a project you can identify the indicators you will use to evaluate your outcomes and impacts, although you should always leave room to capture unexpected outcomes (sometimes these can be negative as well a positive).

It’s really useful to have some supporting evidence to back up these claims. A good place to start with this are surveys to gather feedback from employee volunteers, charity partners, and the beneficiaries of those charities that benefited from your projects.

Here are some ideas of things that might be useful to ask to help you prove your impact:

For employee volunteers

  • General professional skills – has volunteering helped them to improve their skills around team-working, communication, negotiating, or problem solving?
  • Management skills – has volunteering helped them to develop their skills around leadership, strategy and planning, or line management?
  • Personal development – has volunteering helped them to improve their self-confidence, sense of well-being, or empathy for other people?
  • Morale – has volunteering helped them to improve their job satisfaction, commitment to the company, or motivation?

For charity partners

  • Did they achieve their objectives for this project?
  • Did your employee volunteers contribute towards achieving those objectibes?
  • Did your employee volunteers help outside of those objectives as well?
  • Would they be keen to work with you again?

For beneficiaries

It’s best to work with your charity partners to work out what questions you would like to ask here, then they will be able to reach out on your behalf to ensure that you are compliant with data protection regulation. They also have existing relationship, so it will be much more likely that they will respond.


This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will help a few of you to take those first steps on the road to impact measurement. Even doing a small amount of this is important and will be really helpful for you, your company, and your charity partners. Don’t feel disheartened if you’re not ready to tackle the whole lot yet – there’s plenty of time and every little helps!

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If you would like to hear about how thirdbridge’s impact reporting software can help to make this process much easier, please contact us on info@thirdbridge.co.uk. 

Building the business case for doing good

Of course we all know that ethical business is a real win-win. Not only can you help to solve a social or environmental issue, but you can also get some amazing business benefits at the same time. However, convincing the decision-makers at your company to support your work and to give you enough budget can be hard work. Here are some ways to make sure your business has your back:

1) What are the benefits?

The benefits of doing good to your business’ bottom line are very real and very diverse. Here are some examples:

Increase revenue through:

  • Enhanced company reputation
  • Access to new markets

Improve productivity through:

  • More pride in the company
  • Increased employee engagement and motivation
  • Improved professional skills & leadership development

Reduce costs through:

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Easier recruitment
  • Less attrition

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2) Useful stats

 Help get your point across with some snappy facts and figures:

  • 94% of companies surveyed believe employee volunteering provides a way to raise employee morale (Source: Corporate Citizenship & City of London)
  • 66% of employees report a greater commitment to their company as a result of their experience volunteering (Source: Corporate Citizenship & City of London)
  • 91% of Fortune 500 Human Resources Managers said skills-based volunteering with a charity can be an effective way to cultivate critical business and leadership skills (Source: Deloitte)
  • 50+% of millennials would consider leaving an employer whose values no longer matched their own (Source: PwC)
  • 88% of millennials say they want to work for a socially responsible company (Source: Deloitte)
  • Based on decreased turnover costs and improved employee performance, $2400 are generated for every employee who participates in a volunteer programme (Source: CEB)
  • £381 vs £400: it costs £19 less per employee to develop skills through volunteering compared with traditional training (Source: Corporate Citizenship)
  • 55% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. (Source: Nielsen)
  • There is a 5% – 40% increase in revenue for companies that demonstrate a clear commitment to social responsibility (Source: Nielsen)
  • There is a 74% reduction in energy use when switching to LED lighting. Whilst there is often an up front expense, payback in LED lighting is typically between one and three years. (Source: Carbon Trust)

3) Understanding your impact

The reality of the situation is that measuring impact is a scary business and it’s really hard to do it perfectly. However, the good news is that there are some small steps you can take to get started on the journey and have a much clearer idea of the impact you’re having on society, the environment, and your business.

You can start by setting some objectives for each of your projects and initiatives. These can be social or environmental goals (e.g. building the capacity of a charity partner, increasing the confidence of a young person, recycling more, etc.) or business goals (e.g. brand awareness, increasing employee skills, etc.). This is such a vital step that so many people miss out. Firstly, it ensures that you aren’t about to embark on a project that isn’t actually going to benefit anyone. It also makes sure that you plan each project carefully with your objectives in mind, so that you are maximising your impact. Finally, it gives you a clear metric against which to gauge how successful your projects have been, and to come up with ways to improve next time.

 

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4) Assigning financial value to social impact

 HACT have developed an amazing tool to help you really understand the impact you’ve been having. They’ve managed to assign monetary values to many of the social impacts that your projects and initiatives might address. It’s a really useful way to prove the return on investment that your initial budget has managed to produce.

Have a look here: http://www.hact.org.uk/value-calculator

5) Inspiration from others

There are plenty of companies out there doing fantastic work. Here are some of our favourites:

6) Compelling content

If you need to convince people about the importance of doing good in the first place, there is a lot of compelling stuff out there. Here are some ideas:

7) Who can help?

 If you still need some help there are loads of providers out there to help you on your ethical journey. Here are some we know of:

  • thirdbridge – software to help engage your employees and report on your impact
  • Project Dirt – help to organise large-scale, outdoors, team-building volunteering days with charities that genuinely need the support
  • Career Volunteer – support to find rewarding trustee positions for your senior staff members
  • Heart of the City – programme to help businesses get started with doing good
  • Credibly Green – help with all things environmental

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For more information on any of the above, please feel free to get in touch on info@thirdbridge.co.uk.


How to keep your corporate volunteers coming back for more

Working with corporate volunteers shouldn’t be that different to working with regular volunteers – they’re still people after all. There are plenty of things you can do to ensure they have a great experience, make a real difference to your work, and keep coming back. The key is providing a clear and well-thought out volunteering journey – just as you’d have for your other volunteers.


 

Before the volunteering

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  • Create a great role

Start from a place of organisational need. If the volunteering isn’t addressing something you need help with then what’s the point?! Once you’ve worked out your own need, make a role that’s engaging and interesting for the volunteer as well. Then it’s time to write a role description – something like a pared down job description. That way the volunteer is clear on what’s expected of them, and knows about any skills or experience they’d need to have to take part. You can then send an application form round and encourage people to apply.

  • Prepare your volunteers

Having a brief interview process is often a useful step. If it’s a skilled role, it can be essential to make sure that people are right for the role. Otherwise, it’s a good way to get to know your volunteers, build a nice rapport, and make sure they’re enthusiastic about your charity and the role itself. Providing training is a really important step. It can be relatively light touch or much more in depth depending on how complicated the role is, but it’s always useful to get people into the right frame of mind. Even if they won’t be working with beneficiaries directly, it’s still useful to make sure everyone is ready. For example, for pro bono work it can be helpful to give private sector employees some tips on how to adapt their style to suit working with third sector organisations.

  • Collect data

It’s very important to make sure you know who’s volunteering with you. Make sure you collect and store the relevant information while complying with all data protection guidelines. Take this opportunity to gather their preferences on the types of communications you can send to them in the future as well – follow up information about this project, other volunteer roles that might interest them, information about other ways to support you, or newsletters.


During the volunteering

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  • Brief everyone at the start

Starting the session with a brief is vital. It makes sure that everyone knows exactly what they need to be doing during the day, but it’s also a chance to motivate your volunteers. Take some time to remind why the cause is so important, and why the work they’ll be doing will make such a big impact.

  • Ensure that everyone is busy and engaged

If you’ve spent some time creating great role descriptions at the beginning, everyone should be aware of what part they should be playing. However, it’s always good to make sure first timers are made to feel welcome and guided through the process a bit. You can even use more experienced volunteers to do this – you’re killing two birds with one stone as this empowers the regulars to take more ownership of their volunteering experience and move into leadership positions.

  • Debrief everyone at the end

Providing a debrief is a chance for people to unpack their experience. Give them a chance to think about what they’ve done and the impact their efforts will have had. This part of the day is really important for keeping people engaged – by giving them the space to consider what they’ve achieved and how it made them feel, you’re allowing them to think about the way volunteering has changed them as well as the changes they’ve made to the beneficiaries or to the charity.

  • Collect feedback

By collecting high level feedback on the day, you pretty much guarantee that you’ll have at least some input from every participant. Keep it light and simple – maybe just a net promoter score out of ten, and a free text option for more details.


After the volunteering

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  • Say thank you

Letting your volunteers know that you appreciate them is so important. It makes people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves and makes them more likely to come back. Make sure it’s personal to them and not just a generic note.

  • Let them know their impact

As you gather impact information about the volunteer activities you offer, make sure to share it with those that were a part of it. Knowing you’ve made a difference is fine, but if you can put an actual figure on it or see the face of a person that’s benefitted, it feels much more real.

  • Cross-sell other opportunities

If they’ve had a good experience, they’re likely to want to come back, but they might not proactively approach you for opportunities. This is why it was so important to collect that data earlier on in the process. You are now able to send them ideas of ways to get involved, whether that be other volunteering opportunities, fundraising days, or becoming an ambassador.


Corporate volunteers can become really valuable long-term supporters if they’re treated right. Hopefully with these tips, you won’t let them slip through your fingers.


If you need any support with corporate volunteering, please get in touch on info@thirdbridge.co.uk.

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Guide by Rose Delfino – Community Development & Marketing Manager at thirdbridge

 

 


 

Should we be teaching our children about doing good?

The world we live in is a scary one. Society is starkly divided into two warring camps – are you May or Corbyn, Trump or Sanders? Left- and right-wing factions are becoming increasingly militant in the face of alarming and seemingly insuperable societal and environmental problems. Inequality and poverty are at an all-time high. Climate change is getting to the point of being irreversible. Corporations that are bigger than countries are taking over, often with little regard for this vulnerable planet of ours or the people living on it. In short, it’s not a pretty picture. And we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves.

So what hope do we have left? The answer has got to be the next generation. We’ve got to look to the kids and try to lead them down a different path than the destructive ones we’ve taken.

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In my opinion, the first step on this path is understanding and awareness. I know it’s a cliché but knowledge really is power. It’s very easy to go through life without engaging with important issues in a meaningful way. Most young people get their news from social media now, so glossing over issues that are uncomfortable or ostensibly uninteresting is par for the course. Add to this the increasingly stark divisions in society, and it’s feasible to imagine a world where people of different social classes never actually meet. Empathy comes naturally to humans, but only for people that we feel a connection with. True empathy is rare between groups who have barely had any contact, never mind any meaningful interactions.

I was lucky enough to be brought up in a privileged environment. I had the world’s most middle-class childhood with two supportive parents, enough money, food and clothes provided for me, and basically no worries. However, my parents are both fabulous and principled people. They both worked in education, teaching and working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and fighting constantly to give them the same lives they were able to provide for their daughter. This meant I was constantly aware that my delightful existence was by no means the norm. I worked hard at school but I also had no obstacles in my path – I didn’t have to have a part-time job, my parents could help me with my homework, I didn’t need to help look after siblings or care for a sick relative, I never had to worry about my parents not coming home in the evening, I was never trying to get by without eating or washing or sleeping in a comfortable bed. From a young age, I heard stories of children who had suffered atrocities that even adults would struggle to overcome, who had witnessed murder and torture, who had travelled across continents alone to escape persecution, who had to raise their siblings in the place of their drug addicted parents, who had to learn English in just two years to be able to pass their GCSEs. Overcoming those odds is no easy task, and while there are plenty of examples of incredible human beings who succeed despite everything, most don’t. I know I wouldn’t have if put in that position.

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Just knowing about the existence of different sections of society is a start, but I believe that giving children the opportunity to play with and work with all of their peers is vital. Children don’t have prejudices, and with these experiences, they are far more likely to grow into empathetic adults who care about every type of person, and feel passionate about striving for equality.

As well as experiences, I think there is a place for education as well. Despite ending up working in the third sector, I never received any careers advice pointing me in that direction. Never once did I hear any acknowledgement of the fantastic roles available at charities, at social enterprises, or in CSR and sustainability departments at large companies. I would love to see these jobs celebrated as a valid and prestigious career path, rather than as a ‘nice thing to do’.

Including sustainability, climate change, responsible business, social enterprise, and innovation in the charity sector on standard school curricula would also be a hugely positive change. And I don’t just mean telling kids to save water by having a shower instead of a bath or to be nice to their friends. Children are capable of a much deeper level of understanding than that and we should be engaging with them on the real issues we face and working with them to come up with interesting and effective solutions that we can all get involved with.

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Another solution is getting kids out volunteering from a young age. There are so many benefits: they will have an impressive set of extra-curricular activities to help them get into the schools and universities they aspire to, it’s a great activity to do together as a family, it’s a safe and productive way to teach your children about the issues present in our society, and it normalises actively trying to make a positive change in the world.

Being honest about the very serious problems we are all facing is essential. But rather than scare-mongering, we should be giving children the knowledge and confidence to feel like they can be agents for change in the world. Maybe then we will have some hope of getting our world back on track.


If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out this report


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If you have any questions, or would like any support with finding volunteering opportunities, please get in touch: info@thirdbridge.co.uk.

Post by Rose Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager at thirdbridge.