Time, work commitments, family commitments, struggling to find a role that fits – these are all barriers to volunteering, all cited by the British Heart Foundation in its recent report, The Gift of Time. All factors I totally agree with and all reasons why I’ve struggled to do as much volunteering as I might’ve liked in the past.
Recently, I used some employer supported volunteering hours to spend a day with a local charity that’s a beneficiary of the Northampton Community Foundation’s Fair Deal for Kids, Novacroft’s Charity of the Year.
I went to Home-Start Northampton to help them improve their social media presence, which they ultimately hope will help them recruit volunteers, raise awareness of their work and increase donations. This incredibly inspiring family support charity recognises that the landscape of fundraising and volunteering is changing. To engage people in a cause you really need to recognise the way they prefer to interact, and make it easy for them to get involved. Understanding where your audience goes to find information is a good place to start. Demonstrating the difference people can make and the benefits they can gain, personally and/or professionally, is essential.
In 2017-18 Home-Start Northampton supported 52 families and 114 children
– Source: Home-Start Northampton Annual Report 2018
Together, we set up the Home-Start Northampton Twitter account – and it’s been great to follow their updates in the time since! We looked at what other similar charities were doing and found some really great inspiration in the campaigns they were running. We talked about the best ways to capture people’s attention and methods of sharing some of the great stories and messages Home-Start has to tell. I recommended tools (Hootsuite) to help Home-Start easily manage social media channels, because, like many other charitable causes, the bulk of this charity’s time needs to be devoted to helping the people it’s there for.
A third of all volunteers said they saw volunteering as a way of gaining new skills and experience
– Source: BHF, The Gift of Time
So do the benefits of giving time really include gains in skills? Seeing things from an inside-charity perspective, I learnt a lot that will help me in my role at Novacroft, in which I’m championing our mission to enable charities to be fit for the future. I’d also say that it reinforced confidence in my own knowledge – a definite wellbeing boost!
77% of volunteers said volunteering improves their wellbeing
Above all, though, my volunteering day was fun. I really enjoyed getting to know people that work so hard to help others, and that have a real desire to do all they can to make a difference. I came away feeling like I was truly appreciated, like I’d done something really good that can have a positive impact on this charity and the people it helps. I’ll be going back for more – we only just scratched the surface! After all, charity is important to our society. If we’re all helping each other, collaborating, working to help people thrive, then the future looks bright and I’m excited to be part of it.
Novacroft is running a series of forums to enable charities to thrive. Find out more here.