Guest Post by Emma Bennett
Volunteers come from all walks of life to small charities, wanting to make a difference and contribute to their community. With local charities, volunteers can see the direct effect of contributing their time. It can feed their sense of altruism and genuinely make change. Throughout my time managing volunteers, I’ve found that those from the corporate world, if properly engaged, can be the most valuable assets to small charities. They’re often smart, commercially aware, and willing to give. However, there are a few things that, as a volunteer manager, I’d love my corporate volunteers to know.
- Ask yourself ‘how are we actually going to fund my idea?’
Local charities often have very few resources and that includes cash. Generally, in the private sector, there is a lot more money to play with. And smart, eager business volunteers bring all sorts of innovative ideas to the table. This is amazing for small charities, but unlike the private sector, the funding just isn’t there. There are lots of potential limitations and it can be de-motivating to have your idea put to one side due to lack of resources. Saying ‘I’m sorry, we just can’t do it’ is one of the hardest things about running small charities and it happens all the time. But don’t be put off! The solution is pretty simple, don’t stop bringing spark and innovation, just bring a clear fundraising plan too.
- Committing when you don’t have time is bad for everyone.
If you commit to any kind of volunteering program, whether it’s in a big or small organisation, consistency and attendance is paramount. In smaller charities, when resources are low, flaky volunteers can be a problem for everyone. The worst thing you can do as a corporate volunteer is to bite off more than you can chew and find yourself having to miss sessions due to work commitments. I’ve found that due to the nature of their professions, business volunteers are the most likely to get caught up in a meeting at work, have too much to work on, or have to stay late at the office. Whilst this is completely understandable, please ask yourself honestly if you have time in your schedule before you commit, particularly if you are volunteering with vulnerable people who would be disappointed by your absence.
- Doing anything ‘just for your CV’ is lame.
When I’m recruiting volunteers, corporate or not, if you say ‘I’m doing it for my CV’ in your application form, I’m twice as likely to reject you. If you’re only volunteering because you think it’ll make you look good to your boss, it’d probably be better for my charity if you didn’t. Yes, volunteering is outrageously good to put on your CV and fantastic for your career development, but that shouldn’t be your only motivator. Local charities in particular are often run by a small group of people who are usually unpaid and passionate about their cause. That cause could be community renovation, mentoring young people, caring for the elderly, helping the environment… but whatever it is, it exists to improve the lives of others. Ask yourself whether you really care about the cause before you start volunteering, because if you don’t care, you probably won’t stay, and that doesn’t benefit anyone.
In my experience, corporate volunteers can bridge the gap between the private and third sectors, bringing fresh ideas and bright minds to the local community. As long as business volunteers can remember how under-resourced we are, commit fully, and give time for the right reasons, huge changes can be made for valuable causes and vulnerable people and that’s a beautiful thing.
Author bio: Emma Bennett is a Volunteer Coordinator for Community Leeds After School Study Support and also works in the private sector for High Speed Training Limited. Emma is passionate about mental health and making volunteering accessible to all. Follow her on Twitter @emm_benn.