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

 

 


 

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:

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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


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[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 get the support you need

Taking your first steps to working with companies can be a daunting experience. Here are our top tips on how to make it easier.

  1. PLAN
  • Before you even think about what kind of company would be good for you, you need to be clear about what you want. Take some time to define your goals.
  • When you know what you want to achieve as an organisation, break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Then, think about how companies could help you achieve each of these small goals.

Why not make use of our new, simple way of categorising what you need?

People – volunteers to help you with unskilled tasks

Expertise – volunteers to help you with their professional skills

Fundraising – individuals or groups of individuals to raise money

Money – finances from a company – a donation, sponsorship, or cause-related marketing

Things – donations of products like laptops, office furniture, or gardening equipment

Other – anything else, including apprenticeships for beneficiaries, or use of event space

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  1. RESEARCH
  • Now you understand what you want from companies, do some research. Look at similar charities. What successes have they had with companies? What type of company are they approaching? Are there any great examples to inspire you?
  • Using the information you have compiled, think about what kind of company would be best for each goal. Where should they be? How many employees should they have? What industry sector should they be operating in?
  • At this point, you also need to consider what benefits the company would get from working with you. Why would they want to support you? Does your cause or the project they would be working on align with their customers, or the locations in which they operate? Could you help them unlock a new market? Could it improve their reputation? Could their employees develop new skills by taking part in the project?
  • Once you know these answers, get on Google and start creating a shortlist. LinkedIn is great to get an idea of size and industry sector. Twitter and Facebook are often places where companies show off the good they already do. Also, check their website to see if they are already working with charities and, if so, the nature of these relationships.
  • You can then use LinkedIn again to find a specific individual to contact. This could be someone in charge of CSR, HR, Marketing, Sustainability, or even the MD – use your judgement.

Why not ask us for advice? We do this all the time and would love to help. Reach out to rose@thirdbridge.co.uk if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed.

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  1. REACH OUT
  • Using a combination of tools, you should be able to work out the direct email of the person you want to contact.
  • Spend some time writing a great first email.
  • Make sure to:

– be specific – be clear about what you are asking for

– make it customised – include details about their company and their approach to doing good

– be flattering – let them know you’re impressed by their work and their relationships with charities

– include a clear call to action – you could ask them if they are free for a chat on a certain day.

  • If they don’t reply, don’t be afraid to follow up a couple of times.
  • It’s also worth trying a cold call. Prepare first so you know what your key messages are, and ask for the person you want to reach by name.

Why not take the stress out and let us introduce you to potential partners? All you need to do is schedule a call with Rose, explain your needs, and she’ll approach on your behalf.

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Love is in the air 😘

Loathe it or love it, Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us.

I’ve always loved dating. Whether it turns into true love or not, connecting with another person is always a good use of time. As far as I’m concerned you can’t lose: Bad date? You get to learn something about yourself and what you’re really looking for. Good date? Speaking to a person you don’t know opens you up to new experiences and points of view. Perfect match? Nothing beats the feeling of clicking with someone on a fundamental level.

But does that only apply to romance? I don’t think so. We could all benefit from more professional dating. It’s so easy to go for days only talking to people from your organisation or industry. How can we develop as people and as professionals if we don’t expose ourselves to different experiences, opinions, and skills?

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At thirdbridge, we believe in cross-sector collaboration. Who needs sex, drugs and rock & roll when you have the excitement of introducing two perfectly compatible organisations? Not us, that’s for sure.

Our free network works just like a dating site. Sign up, advertise what you have to offer, and search for potential matches. Looking for no strings fun? One-off opportunities are for you – fire off a quick donation, volunteer for one day, or run a sponsored marathon to get your heart racing. More into casual dating? Check out our short-term opportunities – match your expertise with what a charity needs and help them over a few months. Or maybe see a few charities at the same time – we won’t tell. Searching for true love? There’s a charity out there waiting to sail off into the sunset and form a shared value, mutually-beneficial partnership.

Still a sceptic about virtual dating? We’ve got you covered. We agree that nothing beats a personal touch. Just contact our Cupid-in-residence (rose@thirdbridge.co.uk) and she’ll talk through what you’re looking for with you and do her best to personally introduce you to a potential match. And they said romance was dead.

So don’t worry if you don’t have a date this year, with our help you’ll be the Casanova of cross-sector collaboration in no time!

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Blog written by Rose Delfino, Community Development and Marketing Manager, thirdbridge

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Businesses unite in a bid to make the UK economy ‘fit for the future’ by backing sustainable development

  • Over 80 major businesses have united to call on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the UK and overseas
  • Open letter to Prime Minister says sustainable development is essential for long term prosperity and the wellbeing of future generations
  • Letter is published on the eve of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos

In an open letter to the Prime Minister published today, thirdbridge, along with more than 80 leading companies have united in a call on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals* (SDGs).

Ahead of the World Economic Forum annual meeting taking place on 17-20 January, businesses say they are ready to work with the Government to help deliver the SDGs in the UK as well as internationally, but that the Government must create a framework to help businesses play their part.

The letter is published on the day that the Business and Sustainable Development Commission publishes its own flagship report on the business case for achieving sustainable and inclusive growth, and quantifying the value of private sector opportunities aligned with the SDGs.

“thirdbridge are proud to be part of this group of companies calling on the UK government to do more than pay lip service to the SDGs.  The only way the challenges we face at both a local and global level can be solved is if all sectors – public, private and third sectors – come together to tackle them.  We strongly support a partnership approach, with business playing it’s role to achieve the SDGs.”  Rick Benfield, CEO, thirdbridge

The letter was co-ordinated by UK Stakeholders in Sustainable Development (UKSSD), a non-profit network of businesses, NGOs and academics working to advance sustainable development and help facilitate the delivery of the SDGs in the UK.  WWF, one of the steering group members for UKSSD had this to say:

“It’s good business to be fit for the future and consider long-term prosperity alongside the well-being of generations to come. Our current business models too often plunder and pollute the world’s natural resources with devastating consequences for our planet. From increasingly severe weather patterns to the dramatic bleaching of coral reefs and the destruction of rainforests, the need to protect our planet and its people is more urgent than ever before.”  Tanya Steele, Chief Executive, WWF-UK

 


Blog written by Rose Delfino, Community Development and Marketing Manager, thirdbridge

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