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.

Remaining impactful while volunteering outdoors with your team

I’m the first to admit that England is not a tropical paradise. However, the British people are famously resilient. The slightest glimpse of a ray of sunshine and we’re sprawled on the grass, Pimm’s in hand. For those of us lucky enough to work for a company that gives us time off to volunteer, it’s obviously very tempting to make the most of the weather by volunteering outdoors. There’s certainly no problem with that in theory, but it’s important to keep in mind that outdoorsy, group-style volunteering activities are really in demand with employers and employees alike. Often, they are resource- and time-intensive for the charity to organise, and, sometimes, they don’t really have a huge impact. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it though. Just make sure you keep a few things in mind when picking your opportunity:


1. It might come with a cost

Hosting a large group of volunteers takes a lot of time to organise and requires a lot of supervision on the day. Charity workers are extremely stretched as it is, and staff time obviously has a cost that needs to be considered. Furthermore, outdoorsy activities are often quite resource-heavy – gardening tools, equipment, paint, seeds, etc. This obviously also has a cost that needs to be covered. You can ask your company to help, pay it out of your own pocket, or raise the money with a bake sale or other fundraising activity.

2. Be upfront about whether you or your company might be able to support them with other things as well

If there isn’t a cost, it might be because the charity is hoping to engage you, your colleagues, or your company longer-term. Be honest about whether this is a possibility or not – it doesn’t have to be a guarantee! There are plenty of ways this could work. Is your company looking for a new partner? Might your colleagues want to do a sponsored run for them? Do they need skills that your company could provide pro bono? Would you be interested in volunteering with them in your free time? If not, be up front about it – they’ll probably still appreciate the one-off help.

3. Make sure they actually need this help

Check that the activity you’ll be doing is actually going to make a difference to the charity. Sometimes charities will allow volunteers to take part in ‘fun’ activities so they’re enthusiastic and more likely to encourage their colleagues or companies to work with them in the future. If you’re not sure that will happen, make sure the activity is actually going to be useful for the charity.

4. Use your skills

If you’re known for killing every houseplant you’ve ever had, then perhaps helping out at a community garden isn’t the best use of your time. Think about what you’re good at and try to find an activity that suits you – you’ll enjoy it more and it will have more of an impact.

5. Enjoy yourself but take it seriously

Volunteering outdoors in the summer with a group of colleagues is a really fun, but make sure you actually got the job done. Also, make the most of being there – take the time to talk to staff from the charity and find out about their work, get to know beneficiaries if they’re there as well, and engage with the issue they’re trying to solve.


There are plenty of great charities in genuine need of groups of volunteers for outdoors activities. Here are a few that we’ve come across recently:

The Wimbledon Guild

Groups of up to 10 people are welcome in The Wimbledon Guild‘s community garden in Wimbledon. There are plenty of tasks to get stuck into, including building raised beds, weeding, composting, and generally keeping the garden looking neat and pretty.

SweetTree Farming for All

Team-building days can be spent at SweetTree Farming for All‘s farm in Mill Hill. Tasks include building a shed together, clearing brambles from woodland areas, digging out a pond area, or planting new plants in growth beds.

Deen City Farm

Groups of up to 20 can head down to Wimbledon to help Deen City Farm and Stables continue with their activities. There are tasks all year round, including fencing, building, painting, gardening, woodwork, and mending.

Friends of Bradford’s Becks

In the springtime, your group would be able to help the Friends of Bradford’s Becks with keeping the waterways of the area clean and free from litter.

Sedbergh Youth and Community Centre

Sedbergh Youth and Community Centre are struggling with an overgrown, untidy outdoor cycle track and woodland walk. They need clearing so the centre can carry on with their summer activity schemes. Their outdoor activity equipment also needs painting and staining.

If you would like any help with finding suitable volunteering opportunities for your team, please get in touch on info@thirdbridge.co.uk.



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

Timewasters need not apply

Collaboration is rarely easy, and working cross-sector is even more complicated. Traditionally, partnerships between companies and charities have been characterised by the private sector organisation as the dominant party. Often these are not relationships of equals, in which both party’s needs, boundaries, and aspirations are taken into consideration. A healthy relationship would be one where both sides give and take, teach and learn, and grow together.

We want to make sure that no charity feels like they’ll lose out on support by being assertive, so here’s a few things we think that companies should keep in mind when asking charities for volunteering opportunities.


The charity you’re working with probably doesn’t revolve around you

While you may be a significant part of their day-to-day or their strategy going forward, they definitely have lots of other things going on too. That’s why it’s not going to do them any favours if you get in touch with a week’s notice asking to have 25 volunteers accommodated. Remember that it takes a lot of work for a charity to set up volunteering activities and they need enough notice so that their other workstreams aren’t compromised.

Charities are always evolving and their needs may not always be the same

Just because they needed some physical labour in their garden last year, it doesn’t mean that will still be a helpful thing for them now. Of course, it’s important that your employees are undertaking a type of volunteering that is engaging for them, but it’s also important that it’s something useful for the charity. Most volunteers can tell if they are there as part of a tick-box exercise anyway and would prefer to do something a bit different but feel like they are making a real impact. Speak to your contacts at the charity and speak to your employees – I can almost guarantee there will be some cross-over in their wants and needs.

Volunteering sometimes has a cost and it’s usually justifiable

Certain volunteering activities are expensive for charities – particularly hosting large groups, providing activities that require a lot of resources, or facilitating participation in sports-based fundraising events. It’s hard enough for most charities to make ends meet as it is without covering these costs as well. Sometimes they will ask you for a small financial contribution to cover the costs. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of a company donation – individual employees can cover their part, or they can fundraise to make the money. They’re putting a lot of work in for you and the engagement you’ll get from your employees as a result is more than worth it.

Charities also have a lot to give

It’s seems to be very easy to forget that charities are full of passionate, committed, educated, experienced people. Yes, charities often need your expertise to make sure their operations are as efficient as possible. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t experts as well. They have a deep understanding of the demographics and communities that they work with every day – communities and people that could be your customers or future employees. They’re often extremely adept at engaging their stakeholders. They also certainly know how to make a big impact on a tiny budget – I’m sure all of us could benefit from that skill! You don’t just have a cause to support, you have a partner who can make you better as a person and as a business.

The onus is on both sides to make the relationship as productive as possible

There are so many fabulous and innovative ways for companies and charities to work together. Here are some of our favourite examples:

PetRescue Australia & Pedigree

Macmillan Cancer Support & Boots

Save the Children & GSK

Great relationships like these don’t just spring up naturally, and they are rarely driven by one side only. Collaboration usually breeds the most exciting ideas. Work together as colleagues. Not as a benefactor and recipient, but as two equals who are passionate about social and environmental change and have complimentary experiences that can be combined to make a real difference. Think about skilled volunteering projects where staff from each side have teaching or mentoring roles, developing a product to sell together, an unusual cause marketing campaign, running an event together – the world is your oyster.


From conversations we’ve had with parties from both sides of the coin, it looks like things are already starting to move in this direction. Charities are becoming more confident about what they have to offer, and companies are learning to treat charities as valuable partners rather than grateful recipients of their philanthropy. We’re looking forward to hearing more and more examples of relationships that are genuine partnerships working towards solving the most important social and environmental issues we all face.

If you would like any more information about how thirdbridge can help you find new charity or company partners, please contact Rose on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk.rosedelfino_bw


Post by Rose Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager

How to get your employees excited about volunteering

Is your strategy around volunteering in place? Is your policy perfectly formulated? If so, congratulations – you’re ready to get your employees involved! No matter how brilliant your plans are, if nobody knows about them then your engagement levels aren’t going to be where you want them. In our experience, ~10% of your staff will be ready and raring to go without any encouragement, another ~10% will never get involved unless forced, so your efforts here are to get that middle ~80% to take part and to love it.


Here are our top tips on how to engage your employees in volunteering:

1. Make best use of internal comms

First things first, people need to actually know that your programme exists and the basic facts about how they can get involved.

There are three main points to get across:

  • the existence of the programme and the reasons why you’re running it
  • the benefits of volunteering in general
  • which specific projects and initiatives are available to them and how they can get involved.

Make best use of all channels available to you:

  • Email

Send an introductory email around with the basics, then every month or so send a little reminder with some interesting stats or info about a new project you’re running.

  • Intranet pages

Make sure all the necessary links are readily available, as well as signposts to the key info points. You can also put up the odd ad about a particularly exciting initiative.

  • Communal spaces

Think beyond the humble noticeboard and get posters up advertising specific volunteering opportunities in places where people can’t help but see it – we favour next to the kettle and on the inside of toilet doors!

  • Meetings

Ask department heads or team leaders to remind their teams about the importance of getting involved when they have catch ups.

  • Newsletters

Use internal newsletters to show off case studies of people who’ve really enjoyed their volunteering experience, or to advertise any events you might be hosting.

  • Blogs

Get your enthusiastic employees to write blogs about how much they love volunteering. You can also ask external partners to write guest blogs about their work or about relevant topics they’re experts in.

  • Social media

Get some pretty pics of your employees looking happy while volunteering on your social media – you’ll kill two birds with one stone by making the rest of your staff jealous and also showcasing your efforts to the wider world.

  • Brown bag lunches

Organise short lunchtime or breakfast events on relevant topics – this could be volunteer case studies, talks from external speakers about the psychology of volunteering, presentations from local charities who do interesting work, etc.

On average, people need to hear a piece of information seven times in seven different ways in order to properly retain it, so you’d better get creative!

2. Recruit internal champions

Tap into that ~10% of super enthusiastic ambassadors that you have at your fingertips and establish a group of employees who really care about volunteering to help you spread the word. Their natural enthusiasm will make it easy for them to help you promote it across the organisation. Make sure they’re right across the company so their reach is significant.

You can make this as formal or as informal as you like. Will this be an official role where they have actual accountability? Will they be required to take someone who has never volunteered before with them at least once? Will they host talks to let people know about their experiences and the benefits they’ve felt? Will they be incentivised?

3. Get some competition going

Everyone loves winning! Capitalise on that by creating volunteering leaderboards within teams and between teams. These could simply be based on hours volunteered or you could make it more complex depending on your specific aims and objectives. Make use of your volunteering champions to stoke the fire and get people into the competitive spirit!

4. Incentivise!

Obviously the rewards of volunteering are a gift in themselves, but sometimes a little something extra helps people get into things! You could give a prize once a quarter for the best volunteer, or perhaps consider a more democratic prize draw for everyone who has volunteered that quarter.

5. Charity donations

As people start to get passionate about the causes they’ve chosen, some additional support from their employer is very motivating. There are several ways to approach this:

  • matched donations for employees who have done some fundraising for their charity of choice
  • grants that employees who have volunteered can apply for on behalf of their chosen charity
  • a quarterly prize draw for a fixed donation to the charity of choice of the employee that wins.

6. Focus on development opportunities

This is more of a long-term goal but definitely worth keeping in mind from the start. Volunteering, particularly when skills-based, is a more effective way of developing an employee’s professional skills than traditional class based training. With HR’s support, it’s possible to map volunteering activity to employee performance and learning & development objectives that are discussed in reviews. This could include credit for saving the company money by promoting environmental initiatives, increasing sales by improving the company’s reputation through stellar local community engagement, improving their own productivity by practicing their skills in a new environment, etc.


Hopefully that’s plenty to get you started! We’d love to hear about any other methods you might be trying internally, success stories, or learning curves you might have experienced. Let’s share ideas and get more and more people out there making a difference. Good luck!



If you have any questions about engaging your employees in volunteering, would like to discuss how thirdbridge could help you with this, or would like to share any of your experiences, then we’d love to hear from you! Just drop Rose a line on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk!

Putting together your first employee volunteering policy

If you’re serious about stepping up your commitment to doing good, you’ve got to get your ducks in a row. Things can get complicated quickly when you’re dealing with so many stakeholders all at once. You need to be clear about how you want to work with external partners, such as charities, social enterprises, community groups, schools, brokers, and CSR consultants. You also need to make sure you’re satisfying senior managers and investors in your company who will be very focused on return on investment. In all the confusion, it’s easy to forget arguably the most important group of stakeholders – your employees. Without their involvement and engagement, external stakeholders will get much less impact from your support, and your company will miss out on all the benefits of involving your employees in your responsible activities – increased productivity, better retention, cost effective L&D, etc. However, before you can get them involved and excited, you need to make sure everyone is clear about the details by putting together an official policy. This will make your job easier but also cover your back in case of any issues.


Here are our top tips on what to include:

1. Why employee volunteering?

Make it clear why you’re encouraging employee volunteering, and explain the decisions you’ve made while putting the programme together. This will make employees feel involved and hopefully allow them to buy in to your vision.

2. What is employee volunteering?

Provide a clear definition of what you mean by employee volunteering to make sure everyone’s on the same page!

3. Who can employees volunteer with?

Will you allow employees to volunteer with any organisation they choose or will you put restrictions on it? Do the organisations they choose need to fit in with your over-arching objectives around cause or location? Do they need to be UK registered charities? Can the charities have a religious or political aim?

4. What type of volunteering can they do?

Does it include fundraising? Is it only volunteering done during working hours? Should employees volunteer in groups? Is skilled volunteering particularly encouraged?

5. How long can they volunteer for?

How many hours per year can employees spend volunteering during working hours? Do they need to be taken as whole or half days, or can they be split up into individual hours?

6. What about volunteering in their own time?

Should they still log those hours? Would TOIL be considered for volunteering outside of working hours? If so, would that only be for certain types of volunteering?

7. When can they volunteer?

Do they need to have been in post for a certain amount of time? Are there any restrictions on certain times of the year / month / day? Does this vary from team to team? Can more than one member of a team be out at the same time?

8. How can it help career development?

Will volunteering be linked to performance appraisals or L&D goals? Could future leaders be matched with trustee opportunities to help them gain experience?

9. How do employees identify and find volunteering opportunities? Do you use internal or external tools?

Do you use any tools to help them find opportunities? Do you have company-led initiatives for them to get involved with? If so, how can they find out about those?

10. What is the authorisation process?

Will there be a formal process or can employees just ask their line manager on an ad hoc basis?

11. Will you provide additional support to their chosen organisations?

Would you match any donations they make or funds they raise? Are there any grants they can apply for? Are there any formal channels for them to suggest their chosen organisation to other colleagues who may want to volunteer with them?

12. How will expenses work?

Will you reimburse them? If a DBS check is required, will you cover the cost?

13. What about insurance?

Do you have insurance that will cover them or do they need to provide their own? Do the organisations they choose to volunteer with need to have public liability insurance? If so, whose responsibility is it to check if that is in place?

14. What is the feedback process?

Where will they record hours? Where and when will they provide feedback? Will it be anonymous?

There are certainly other things you may need to consider for your particular organisational needs, but we think that covering all of these points would be a great start! Once you have these details in place, you can relax and start focusing on the more exciting stuff – engaging your employees, building new partnerships, and enjoying all the impact you’re having!

If you have any questions or would like to discuss how we could help with your employee volunteering programme, then please do not hesitate to be in touch: rose@thirdbridge.co.uk

What’s so great about volunteering?

Volunteering rarely gets the credit it deserves. It’s a hugely powerful force for good in so many ways – it helps keep the third sector afloat, it benefits the individual volunteer, it’s a lifeline for our public services, and corporate volunteering improves a company’s profits.

Here are just some of the ways volunteering makes our world a better place:

How can you benefit?


Feeling good

Volunteering can make us feel good for many reasons. Recognition, gratitude, validation that you’re a ‘good person’, satisfaction at the impact you’ve had – the list goes on. But it’s more than just feelings, it’s science! The act of volunteering has a similar effect on our brains as exercise and sex. Cortisol is blocked which stops us feeling stressed, oxytocin is released which encourages bonding, and endorphins and dopamine are produced making us feel happy. 1

Improving your CV

Volunteering is a great way to improve your professional skills. Taking the lead on a project allows you to practice management in a low risk setting, improving your leadership and people skills and preparing you for future promotions. However, it’s through skilled volunteering, particularly pro bono, that the real benefits come to light. In fact, 91% of Fortune 500 HR Managers said that skilled volunteering improves business and leadership skills. 2 By using your professional skills in a novel setting, you’re able to get a whole new perspective on your day job. A consultant, for example, that is used to providing solutions to clients that involve a great deal of expense, manpower, or resources would be forced to consider the problems in a totally different way – a way of thinking that they can take back to their normal work.

How can society benefit?


Keeping the third sector alive

The charitable sector in the UK does far more work than we often realise. Services one might reasonably assume are covered by the government are actually provided by charities – air ambulances, hospices, many mental health services, support for carers, and the list goes on. 80,000 charities get by on less than £10,000 per year which I think is pretty shocking (and amazing). 3 Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, a fifth of small and medium charities face closure in the next 12 months due to funding, skills, and resource gaps. 4 The sector struggles to keep afloat even with the many committed volunteers it relies on. In 2015/16, 14.2 million people volunteered at least once a month, and the value of volunteering was estimated to be £22.6bn. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would happen to the sector without that incredible amount of generous support from volunteers, but the amount and quality of services provided would certainly be jeopardised.

Supporting public services

In recent years, political decisions around austerity have carved into our public services making it impossible for them to continue functioning without the support of volunteers. There are around 20,000 special constables who support the police force on a voluntary basis, doing almost the exact same work. And that’s to say nothing of the hospitals, libraries, and parks that would grind to a halt without their volunteers. 6

Improving human empathy

I know this sounds like a big statement, but bear with me! Humans are naturally inclined to empathise and it’s played a big role in how we’ve survived and thrived as a species. Darwin talks about this altruism in his writing about evolution. Essentially, if we didn’t care about those around us then we would find it harder to survive and pass on our DNA. Allowing a member of your immediate community to succumb to injuries means less protection for you, and leaving your children to fend for themselves means they are less likely to live long enough to pass your genes on. However, our empathetic tendencies are almost solely reserved to people we consider to be part of our in-group. The only way for us to expand this inclusive group is by sharing meaningful experiences with people we wouldn’t usually spend time with. Volunteering is a perfect way to do this – it’s often a new experience for both parties, both sides can learn from each other, it’s usually a meaningful activity, and it’s a non-threatening space to get to know a new group of people. In the right circumstances, we can leave a volunteering experience as a fundamentally changed person whose world views and perceptions of people traditionally seen as ‘other’ have shifted for the better. 7

How can business benefit?


Recruiting and retaining the best talent

Millennials care about social good and are starting to make choices about their careers based on this. In fact, 88% of millennials say they want to work for a socially responsible company. Providing a robust employee volunteering programme, allowing them plenty of time during working hours to give back, providing matched donations, and presenting them with plenty of varied options to get involved with will set you apart from the competition and ensure you have your pick of young talent. However, you’ve still got to practice what you preach to ensure you retain the talent you’ve invested in. 50+% of millennials would consider leaving an employer whose values no longer matched their own. 9 Make sure it’s not just a policy that sits in a binder somewhere – it should be a part of your company culture. Senior staff should set the example that’s it not frowned upon to take the time to volunteer but actually encouraged. People can easily see through false promises of being responsible – don’t fall into that trap.

Increasing employee motivation

Believing that we’re part of something good is really important to humans. I feel proud every day to be working for a company whose main focus is making the world a better place. That’s what motivates me to keep working hard even when I’m tired or ill or just in a bad mood. The same goes for companies and their CSR programmes. In fact, 66% of employees report a greater commitment to their company after volunteering 10, and 94% of companies surveyed believed that employee volunteering provides a way to raise employee morale. 11 With motivation comes increased productivity which means more money for the company. Skilled volunteering also provides learning and development opportunities at a cheaper price than normal training. In fact, it costs £19 less per employee to develop skills through volunteering than traditional training. 12 Committing to a decent budget for CSR can lead to savings in the long-term.

So I think it’s safe to say that volunteering is certainly something to be celebrated. The individuals who give up their time, the companies who encourage their staff to give back, and the third sector organisations who provide meaningful opportunities for people to take part in should all be so proud of what they do. I wouldn’t want to live in a world without volunteers, and hopefully I’ll never have to.


Post by Rosalia Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager 

For more information about how thirdbridge could help you set up and manage an employee volunteering programme, contact Rose on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk. 

1 Source: Realized Worth
2 Source: Deloitte
3 Source: NCVO
4 Source: Centre for Social Justice
5 Source: NCVO
6 Source: The Guardian
7 Source: Realized Worth
8 Source: Deloitte
9 Source: PwC
10 Source: Corporate Citizenship & City of London
11 Source: Corporate Citizenship & City of London
12 Source: Corporate Citizenship

CEB, now Gartner Pro Bono Impact Day 2017

Every yeaceb logo newr CEB, now Gartner run a Global Impact Week. It’s an incredible commitment to giving back. Every office around the world takes part and employees are encouraged to spend the week using their time and skills to make a huge difference to charities.

This year, we were lucky enough to get to be a part of this amazing week. We helped to organise a Pro Bono Impact Day which was kindly hosted at CEB, now Gartner’s London offices. 14 third sector organisations attended the day, armed with a strategic or organisational problem they needed help to solve. Based on the details of that project, we matched them with CEB, now Gartner employees who had the right skills to help them overcome their challenges.

‘It is lovely to work with charities and help them help people.’

vso group 3

‘Informative, tailored to our needs, fascinating discussion – surpassed expectations.’

Example project:

Kingston Samaritans, a branch of the national Samaritans charity local to one of CEB, now Gartner’s offices, came to the event after struggling to prospect, approach and pitch to local businesses for support. They were matched with three volunteers who embraced the challenge whole-heartedly.

In the words of Tom from Kingston Samaritans, ‘It was a pleasure to meet such analytical, charming, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and community minded people.’

I listened in to some of their discussions and every person was really engaged and the discussion was wide-ranging and inspiring. Some advice included:

  • creating a menu of simple ways a company could support them
  • asking for a meeting first rather than a donation
  • stressing to local employers that the charity supports many people in the local area, meaning that some of their employees or customers are likely to be beneficiaries
  • thinking about providing services to employers around mental health as another income stream

Kingston group

‘An amazing day of insight and sharing.’

I’m obsessed with pro bono volunteering. Just thinking about the impact that a few hours can have on a charity and its beneficiaries blows my mind. Making one operational area more efficient with some sage advice from experienced professionals can lead to exponential change within the charity. By improving HR for example, the charity will save time and money in the short-term. But by putting that practice into advice in the long-term, by choosing the best person to hire, retaining talented staff, and maximising L&D opportunities, the service that charity offers becomes better and they are able to reach more beneficiaries. It’s amazing to even think about, so seeing it happening in real life was a really emotional experience.

Working with the team at CEB, now Gartner was inspiring, and seeing how engaged every single volunteer and charity representative was reaffirmed all the reasons why I chose to work at thirdbridge in the first place.

‘A meaningful event for both charities and volunteers. Giving back is great.’

rosedelfino_bwPost by Rose – Community Development & Marketing Manager at thirdbridge.

If your company would be interested in hosting a similar event or your charity would be interested in attending one, please feel free to contact me on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk

Apprenticeships finally taking centre stage

This month saw the beginning of the much-discussed Apprenticeship Levy. The government sees this as the a way to create get more young people into skilled work, creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020. Those unsure about the scheme have painted it as an unfair tax on business, but we think a little push is the perfect way to show businesses how valuable working with apprentices can be.

First things first, what’s the situation with the levy?

  • Companies with a payroll of over £3m will have to contribute 0.5% through PAYE.
  • You can claim back the amount you pay in to support apprenticeship schemes.
  • If you’re not eligible for the levy, you can still access government support to take on apprentices.

Why are apprenticeships important for businesses?

A business is only as good as it’s people.

The most exciting place I’ve ever worked (apart from thirdbridge of course!) was extremely diverse. Every staff member came from totally different backgrounds, but we were united in one place by our passion for the cause we were working for. Not only did we benefit from a whole host of different viewpoints, but we were able to appeal to a whole range of stakeholders easily – everyone we spoke to could see themselves reflected in us. It made us all challenge our own attitudes and we all left as more well-rounded, open-minded people.

When a business is full of clones, it makes it difficult for innovation to happen. If every person has experienced the same thing, opportunities to be challenged on your views don’t come up as often. I find that the best ideas come when two opposing views come together but each side is open to adapting their opinion.

Apprenticeships are an opportunity to bring some new life into your business, to allow your staff to develop, and to diversify your workforce.

Why are apprentices important for young people?

Apprenticeships are another way for young people to achieve. Academic pursuits aren’t right for everyone, and often people feel pushed into either going to university or just going straight into a job. The skills and experiences that young people can gain from an apprenticeship ensure that those talented young people who make the decision not to go to university still have the chance to thrive and go on to the careers they want to have.

Why are apprentices important for society?

The training, experience, and resulting employability that comes from apprenticeships will create jobs, grow businesses, and strengthen the economy as a whole. A varied, skilled, and thriving workforce is what will keep the UK as a viable economic power, particularly in the turbulent years we have ahead of us.

How can thirdbridge help?

We can give you access to our wide range of charities and social enterprises. Partnering with organisations that are already engaged with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, will make the whole process much easier, while also helping you to reach your diversity and inclusion goals.

Here’s a few to get you going:

Fair Train




Business perspective

Mike Freely, Managing Director of Octink had this to say:


Octink has had an apprenticeship scheme for over 10 years, ever since we originally became an Investor in People. A desire to develop young people from within the local community is at the heart of why we have such a scheme.

The main challenges for us have historically been in attracting prospective apprentices and undertaking the recruitment process. These days we are aligned with local training specialist Hawk Training in Twickenham who not only help with this need but are integral to the training framework we provide apprentices, and for their employer seminars which have helped us plan for and understand the impact the Levy will have.

The benefits are clear in being able to develop an individual often from a young age into exactly the roles you require as a business. Having those with invaluable experience provide mentoring is also positive for both sides. The financial support traditionally provided through the schemes is also useful.

Diversity is certainly achieved in terms of bringing in younger people into the organisation (and in our case certainly more females into what has traditionally been a male-dominated business) as part of our succession planning strategy.

Apprentice perspective

Tim Evans, now employed as an Apprentice Project Coordinator at Octink after an apprenticeship had this to say:


I decided to join the apprenticeship programme so I could further my education while also being in full-time employment.

Without the apprenticeship, I wouldn’t be at this stage of my career by now. It might have taken years of further education or industry experience.

I’ve learned how to more effectively manage time and priorities regarding workload in a professional environment. I’ve also become more proficient with certain IT functions, such as creating reports and databases.

The best thing about being an apprentice has been completing and experiencing first-hand the work required of a Project Manager, while at the same time learning the wider syllabus for this position through my tutor and course resources.

If you need help putting together an strategy for placing or hosting apprentices, feel free to get in touch on info@thirdbridge.co.uk. 

Inspirational conversations: Alix Wooding on cross-sector partnerships

This post is part of a series of conversations with people who make doing good look easy, and inspire us in our work. 

The world of doing good is a tricky one to navigate. It can be hard to stay on track when things aren’t working out exactly how you would like. However, the proof is out there! It keeps us inspired and motivated every day.

We wanted to share that with you, so we’ve been speaking to the people that are taking giant leaps for the rest of us to follow.

Our first conversation is with Alix Wooding. Alix is currently Assistant Director of Engagement at Anthony Nolan. Previously, she was Head of Corporate Partnerships at Macmillan Cancer Support, and Alzheimer’s Society.  She has brokered relationships with Boots, npower, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, and KPMG, creating employee engagement, commercial, and integrated partnerships.

If that isn’t an impressive CV, we don’t know what is. Here’s what she had to say to our founder, Rick Benfield, about cross-sector partnerships.

 [RB]: You’ve said before that the word ‘partnership’ is an over-used term when it comes to relationships between companies and charities – what do you mean by this and what, in your view, turns a relationship into a partnership?

It’s a bit contentious but, yes, I actually think that the use of the word ‘partnership’ can be a bit of a red herring and can leave both sides a bit frustrated and disappointed.  Lots of relationships between charities and companies are transactional: we provide a service for our client (staff engagement, PR, volunteering opportunities) and they retain us because we have the skills and expertise to deliver what they want.

Partnership is different because the relationship is more open, honest and complex.  There is value being delivered to both sides. It isn’t just the exchange of services for money.  The focus is generating shared value.

“Great partnerships are built where an exchange of money couldn’t create the value that the partnership brings.”

[RB]: Do you think it is important for companies and charities to work in true partnership?  

Yes, if we’re going to solve the real problems in society that we’re trying to tackle.  But we need to be aware that it is not an easy thing to do.

We ask for money, because we can translate it into solutions for our beneficiaries, but there are lots of ways to create solutions. Great partnerships are built where an exchange of money couldn’t create the value that the partnership brings.

“Companies don’t fully understand the value that charities can bring, and charities can look at companies as just a chequebook.”

[RB]: Do you think the potential benefits of working together (beyond simple, transactional relationships) are really understood by most companies and charities?

No, not yet.  Companies don’t fully understand the value that charities can bring, and charities can look at companies as just a chequebook.

True partnership has to start from a place of understanding the value that you will bring to one another, and building a relationship of trust and respect.

[RB]: What are the barriers to more transformational partnerships forming?

I think there are lots of barriers to more transformational partnerships forming: none of them are insurmountable, but they can derail many well -intentioned conversations.

  • Time: it takes a long time to build real understanding and trust.
  • Clarity: both sides need to be really clear about the value that the partnership will deliver for their stakeholders, and it needs to be important to them.
  • Culture: there can be big differences in organisational culture; only if you’re aiming for something worthwhile will you persevere when it feels like you’re talking different languages.
  • Evidence: there isn’t great recent data or evidence out there of the real value of working in partnership. That can make it tough for both sides to sell: for fundraisers it’s hard to quantify value over cash, and for businesses it can be hard to quantify the value to brand and perception.

Case study: Macmillan and npower

mac and npower

[RB]: Which partnership that you have been involved with are you most proud of?

An exceptional partnership that I was part of at Macmillan is the long-standing one with npower.

[RB]: What were the main objectives of the partnership?

With npower, we wanted to support people with cancer affected by fuel poverty. We set up a fund, the npower Macmillan Fund, to support npower customers with cancer by allowing them to cap energy bills and write off debt.  This ensures they can keep warm without the worry, and focus on getting well rather than on staying warm.  So far we have helped over 3,000 cancer patients save over £3million.

[RB]: What were the benefits for both sides?

Our first thought when developing the programme was to ensure it really delivered value to people with cancer.  We’ve also found that it’s a great programme to gain recognition for the partnership, and have driven awareness and PR campaigns about it.  The awards we’ve won have helped to keep colleagues at both organisations engaged and inspired.

[RB]: What was the hardest thing about the partnership? 

Like any partnership, we’ve had our ups and downs.  We’ve had to work hard to ensure the processes between the two organisations are slick, and we’ve had to keep the conversation going to ensure the fund has evolved to continue to meet the needs of people with cancer.

“Be clear about the problem you’re trying to solve, and the outcome that you want, but stay open about how you will get there.”

[RB]: Finally, what advice would you give to anyone about to embark on a new cross-sector partnership?

  • Be clear about the problem you’re trying to solve, and the outcome that you want, but stay open about how you will get there.  If you’re too fixed, you’re not in a partnership mindset, because you’ve already discounted potential value that your partner could bring.
  • Engage people across both organisations – a partnership is between two organisations, not two people.
  • Give it time, partnerships are not quick to form.
  • There will be benefits to both sides, but both sides have to put in enough effort.
  • Make sure it’s for something you really want: all partnerships take time, effort and energy, so it should be worthwhile.

We hope Alix’s words have inspired you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on info@thirdbridge.co.uk. 

Click here to read more about the npower and Macmillan partnership.

How to advertise the support you need on thirdbridge


We love playing match-maker but our dream is to step back and let you find each other without our help. We’re growing steadily and we’re finally going to have our first big influx of volunteers. Yay!

This means that people are going to be looking for opportunities. So, you need to make sure you’re as appealing as possible to attract the attention you deserve.

If you’re using the thirdbridge network as a charity or social enterprise, these are the three most important things to remember when adding an opportunity for a company or volunteer to support you:

  1. Each individual opportunity should be a separate entry

There may be companies or volunteers on the network who are only able to help with one thing and you don’t want to put anybody off by sticking everything in together. Think of it this way: the more opportunities you have, the more companies or volunteers you can potentially engage with.

  1. Be clear about what is required for each opportunity

Don’t select every support category! If you select ‘money’ on a volunteering opportunity it might make people think twice about getting involved. Your overall profile is linked to every category you’ve selected, so you’ll come up in searches as an organisation.

  1. Stay on topic

We know everything you do at your charity is amazing. We know that you would benefit from all different kinds of support. However, focus on one thing at a time and showcase each opportunity properly rather than trying to cram everything into one.

The trickiest part is deciding which support category best suits your opportunity. But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! Have a look at these guides that explain exactly what each one means, and shows you an example for each one:




















If your opportunity is a bit more long-term, strategic, or complex, you can also combine the support categories in any way you like. There’s two examples here:

If you have any questions, need any support, or would like us to add opportunities on your behalf, then just let us know! Contact Rose on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk.

Opportunities with multiple support categories

Part of a series of posts to clarify use of support categories, and to help our charity users create the best possible opportunities for support!

If your opportunity is longer-term, more strategic, or complex, it might be necessary to select multiple support categories. You’re free to select as many as you like but try to make sure they are definitely relevant.

Some examples when selecting multiple categories would make sense could include:

  • a charity of the year partnership
  • developing a new technology product together
  • multi-faceted support to implement a new project
  • volunteering on a project that requires both skilled and unskilled hours
  • funding a project through a company donation and employee fundraising

Shining examples:





For more information about the individual categories try People, Expertise, FundraisingMoneyThings, or Other.

You can also check out our step by step guide on how to create the perfect opportunity.