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RSA launches new charity grant programme worth £250k

18 June 2021
RSA risk grants

RSA, one of the largest insurers in the UK, has launched a new £250,000 grant programme to support charities that are working to improve risk education, as well as those helping to tackle climate change and environmental related issues.

The programme, which will be managed via the Neighbourly platform, is open to applications from registered charities, community groups and community interest companies until 2 July 2021. RSA plans to send grants of up to £10,000 to successful applicants by the end of July 2021.

The news comes during Small Charities Week between 14 – 19 June, which celebrates the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector who make an invaluable contribution to the lives of millions of individuals, communities and causes across the UK and the rest of the world.

"We want to support charities who are playing a critical role in their communities"

To secure a grant, charities will need to demonstrate their projects share RSA’s ambition to improve risk education for road, home, cycle and online safety, as well as child safety, ideally driving behaviour change. It is also open to charities with programmes that are tackling climate change, conservation and offsetting carbon emissions. 

Applicants must be based in the UK or the Republic of Ireland (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), and RSA is looking to support projects that will be completed within six months of receiving the grant.

Details on how to apply and the full entry criteria are available online here: RSA Climate Change and Education Grants | Neighbourly.

Laura Spiers, Head of Corporate Responsibility at RSA, said: “It’s been a tough year for charities, particularly small local causes, and we hope our new grant programme helps provide them with some of the investment they need to further build on the excellent work they do. 

“Through the programme, we want to support charities who are playing a critical role in their communities. With RSA being one of the largest insurers in the UK, tackling climate change and helping people manage their risks in areas like road safety are hugely important to us and the work of innovative local charities can really help to move the dial. We look forward to reviewing applications after the window closes on 2 July.”

Steve Butterworth, CEO of Neighbourly, said: “If we really want to build back better, local action built on local insights must come first – never has there been a greater need to respect and respond to the ingenuity and expertise of local charities and community groups. The UK faces major societal and environmental challenges, and small charities must be supported to ensure that communities not only survive but thrive.

"Small charities have been the backbone of our communities throughout the pandemic – and they will help to shape our recovery, as well as having a vital role in combatting the climate crisis as we head towards the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope RSA’s new grant programme can help to enable and inspire small charities to continue their brilliant work.”

The proven power of small charities is vital to building back better

17 June 2021

Policymakers, civil society, responsible businesses and citizens alike are all eager to ensure an equitable pandemic recovery that leaves nobody behind. But we will only meet this ambition by strengthening support for small charities and local causes who are part of the fabric of our communities. Recovery and rebuilding needs to begin in communities – not be placed on them – and be driven by the knowledge of people who are living and working there.

When it comes to changing and improving lives for people facing difficult circumstances, it is those closest to the individuals involved who know best. From understanding the reality of challenging situations to actively involving people in finding solutions that work for them, small charities and local causes are best placed to use their intimate local knowledge to help ensure thriving communities. One size does not fit all, so if we really want to build back better, local action built on local knowledge must come first.

There are more than 136,000 small charities and many thousands more unregistered community causes across the UK. From food banks and those giving companionship to people facing loneliness, to the numerous organisations that help people to fulfil their potential and achieve their aspirations. As Small Charity Week is currently highlighting, these groups are the backbone of our communities and have shown tremendous dedication, adaptability and resilience since the start of the pandemic. Their local knowledge and ability to reach people in need is unparalleled. 

While there is rightly a mood of positivity and relief for many of us as the UK starts to emerge from the worst grips of the pandemic, the difficulties we face will be exacerbated if support for small charities and local causes stops now. Neighbourly’s recent Community Insights survey, which polled more than 1,200 small charities and good causes, showed that 78 percent of respondents saw an increase in demand for their services in recent months. Unless support for small charities and good causes is maintained, people supported by the essential organisations at the heart of our society risk falling through the cracks.

We face complex and pressing issues – from tackling societal inequalities and increasing people’s opportunities, to meeting the mental health concerns of individuals of all ages. The UK’s community infrastructure must be strengthened to ensure our communities not only survive but thrive. We’re all in this together, and we must all double down on support for small charities and local causes.

We know that resources in all forms – including money, time, services, products, ideas and people – are required for systemic change, and there is no silver bullet for the challenges ahead. Yet unlocking relevant support at the right time will only be provided by listening to local voices and acting on what they say. Help and generosity from all kinds of places has been essential. But we cannot afford for the sense of shared endeavour, and the backing for local causes, to stop now. We need policymakers, businesses and individuals alike to continue their support for small charities and local causes. 

Businesses must embed themselves deeper in their communities – continuing to help grassroots organisations to provide the support that they are best placed to give; from donating surplus food to foodbanks to encouraging staff to support good causes by volunteering their time. We need policymakers to put small charities at the heart of discussions and action around the recovery and rebuild. And we need people across the UK to consider how they can help the small charities and good causes in their neighbourhood.

We are calling for rapid recognition of communities as unique places with individual needs, and collaboration that is based on equal participation. Small charities and local causes are key to all our recovery and future. To deliver big, we must think local.

Employee volunteering creates a happier workforce, research finds

4 June 2021
employee volunteering

Organisations that offer employee volunteering programmes have happier workers which are more likely to trust and recommend them to others, new research by YouGov has revealed.


Volunteering for local causes has long been recognised as a way of increasing wellbeing while creating positive impact in the community. The positive effects of volunteering on personal wellbeing last up to three months and equate to a monetary value of £1,800 per volunteer, according to a recent LSE analysis of the NHS Volunteer Responders programme.


YouGov’s research, commissioned by Neighbourly to understand the positive impact of employer led volunteer programmes, supports these findings. Six in ten volunteers, through an employee programme, rated their general happiness at seven out of ten or more, compared with only 55% of employees who have never volunteered. A happier workforce is a more effective one, with previous TUC research showing higher wellbeing results in better productivity and fewer sick days.


Employees who have done employer-supported volunteering are also more likely to recommend the company they work for, YouGov’s study found. While only half of survey respondents who had never volunteered recommended their employer, this rose significantly to 70% among those who had volunteered through an employer-led programme.

Fuelling trust in businesses

These figures were similarly reflected when workers were asked how much they trust their company. Previous research by Neighbourly has highlighted the importance of trust in attracting and retaining customers, with 96% of consumers more likely to purchase from a brand they trust. But the latest YouGov study shows trust is also vital to retaining talented staff in the long-term, and wellbeing is closely linked. Seven in ten respondents who volunteered with their company were more likely to trust their employer, compared to 57% of non-volunteers.


In PwC's Annual Global CEO Survey, 55% of CEOs said they are concerned about trust in business today. Overall, the cost to replace an employee earning the average UK salary of £27,721 could cost up to £12,000, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. This is based on a combination of using a recruiter to source the talent and the hours an owner would spend hiring the right candidate – creating a substantial hidden cost for any business to front, especially if they are in an industry with a high staff turnover.


To sustain staff wellbeing, trust and recommendations, employee volunteering programmes need to be enduring and consistent, with HR and CSR teams considering them as a regular part of the package. This was evidenced strongly in the YouGov research, which found staff who had volunteered in the last three months were 26% more likely to recommend their employer than those who volunteered over a year ago. Similarly, those who volunteered in the last three months were 25% more trusting of their employer than those who volunteered over a year ago, with 81% of recent volunteers rating their trust seven out of ten or higher.

A new generation of volunteers

The pandemic shifted the nature of many kinds of volunteering from in-person to remote or virtual. This has opened up opportunities to thousands of people who were potentially anxious about meeting new people in a strange environment and has transformed the demographics of volunteering.

Neighbourly’s community insights have historically demonstrated that over three-quarters of volunteers who administer local causes are aged over 40. Yet while the YouGov poll found under-35s are the least likely to volunteer in their own time, they are in fact the most likely to volunteer as part of a workplace scheme, showing just how important such programmes are.

With younger workers among the most difficult to engage, it’s clear that volunteering should form a crucial and integral part of keeping employees connected, productive and, of course, happy. Needless to say, while positively impacting businesses and staff, a strong, consistent employee volunteering programme can have a tremendous impact on charities and local causes. The more widespread such efforts become in companies, the greater benefits for all.

If you’re interested in developing an employee volunteering programme for your staff, learn more by clicking the ‘More about employee volunteering’ button below.

Q&A: A Year in the Life of a Virtual Volunteer - a Volunteer’s Week Special

1 June 2021
lasmin and beth volunteers week

This time last year, Neighbourly was in the midst of launching its first ever virtual volunteering programme, connecting employees from partner businesses across the country with local good causes to support with everything from marketing and finance to virtual workshops for young people. 

Beth Underwood, B Corp Manager at Danone Dairies, was one of first to jump at the opportunity to volunteer and was connected with two good causes - supporting those struggling with their mental health via Dorset Mind, and as a befriender for Greenwich Hospice - where she was matched with Lasmin.

To celebrate all that volunteers do during Volunteer’s Week, we caught up with Beth one year on from starting her journey as a virtual volunteer befriender - just as an ease in lockdown restrictions meant she was able to meet Lasmin in person for the very first time.

“[Virtual volunteering] has given me a real sense of purpose”

Here’s what Beth has to say about becoming a remote volunteer during the pandemic and why she thinks it's something others should consider.

Neighbourly: What is your main takeaway from the experience of being a volunteer befriender through Danone's employee volunteering programme?


Beth Underwood: Volunteering virtually throughout the pandemic has been a really rewarding experience. It’s definitely given me a real sense of purpose.


My family and friends thought I was a bit mad when I signed up to two long-term volunteering programmes (Dorset Mind and Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice) this time last year, as my job was really busy at that time, but for me it was a great way to switch off from work and focus on something else. 

My biggest takeaway is that volunteering has actually helped me feel less stressed and less overwhelmed by my to-do list.


NB: What are the benefits and challenges of volunteering from home?


BU: The benefits of virtual volunteering are that you do not even have to move from your sofa and you can be making a massive difference to someone else's day. 

Prior to the pandemic, I liked the idea of doing regular volunteering in person, but I think I would've found this difficult to maintain, and a little exhausting alongside commuting to work and back every day.


I often complete my volunteering on the phone whilst on a walk, so that I'm getting fresh air and exercise at the same time. The personal benefits of long-term volunteering are that you can make a bigger impact on a cause you believe in (for me mental health and loneliness).


The challenge with any sort of volunteering is time management. There definitely have been days where I’ve been tempted to reschedule a call, but I’ve tried to avoid this as much as possible as I think stability is important for people suffering from mental illness or loneliness.


NB: What has kept you motivated to continue and what do you feel are the benefits of long-term over short-term volunteering?


BU: One-off team volunteering days are great and you can make a huge difference to charities using your combined skills. However, since school when I used to do a lot of volunteering in the local care home, I've always preferred the idea of longer-term individual volunteering. The biggest personal benefit to long-term volunteering is that you gain soft skills including communication.

“When we talk [Lasmin] makes me laugh a lot… which always brightens my mood.”


With longer-term volunteering, you also have the opportunity to build strong relationships with people outside of your normal social bubble. I’ve loved learning Lasmin’s perspective on things like racism, Jamaican food, working for the army, working as an intensive care nurse, and US politics.


It hasn’t taken anything to be motivated to continue speaking to Lasmin, she is so flexible around when we talk and she makes me laugh a lot every week which always brightens my mood. When I talk to Lasmin now it feels more like chatting to a very interesting friend, not a volunteering client.


It's taken a little more motivation to continue being a befriender for Dorset Mind as it requires more brain power to complete the more structured goal-setting program. Dorset Mind requires you to track your progress every week and update the team on your client. 

However, Dorset Mind provides amazing services to support their befriender volunteers – often facilitating learning sessions, creating a buddy system so that you always have someone to speak to, and making you feel part of a team with weekly newsletters.

lasmin volunteers week

NB: What does it mean to you to have finally met Lasmin face to face?


BU: It was quite a surreal experience. We had both seen just one photo of each other, but we immediately said that each other were exactly as we had imagined.

Seeing Lasmin face to face was just as easy and comfortable as it was speaking to her over the phone every week for the last year so any nerves disappeared straight away. Lasmin said she couldn’t sleep as she was so excited to have a visitor and kept saying how happy she was to see me which made it all worth it.

“[Virtual volunteering] makes me feel valued, important and helpful”


When we went to the shops together, I loved seeing how Lasmin knew everyone in her community and was making everyone laugh as she went about buying her food. I didn’t realise this at the time but she was also buying one of everything for me, so as I left she also handed me her favourite Caribbean foods to try.


When I left Lasmin was upset which also made me sad as I realised how much the visit and calls meant to her. I've promised her we'll arrange another date for me to go and visit again and of course continue the weekly calls.


NB: Would you encourage others to get involved in employee volunteering?


BU: I couldn't recommend it more, volunteering as an employee alongside your day job. It makes you feel valued, important and helpful. When you've had a bad day it's so nice to talk to someone completely outside of your family, friends and work life and just hear about their life and not think about what's going on in your world for half an hour. 

It's a perfect opportunity to practice the art of listening. I usually only ask questions whilst volunteering and it is quite a 'one way' conversation but for me that's the bit I like the most. It's really energising to have a conversation like this.

Community Friendships

As well as being a rewarding and affirming experience for Beth, having someone to talk to and build a friendship with during the pandemic has had a huge impact on Lasmin, the patient at Greenwich Hospice who was matched with Beth last year. 

After meeting Beth for the first time, Lasmin said: “After speaking to Beth on the phone for a year, I wondered if I would ever meet her. I was so happy when we planned that she would come and see me at home and I am not embarrassed to say I shed a few tears.

“Everything has been so out of the ordinary because of the pandemic and Beth has been just the sort of person that a patient needs. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met and I am looking forward to seeing her again soon.”

Huge thanks to Beth for taking the time to share her experience of remote volunteering and befriending over the last year. To stay up-to-date with the latest stories, case studies and research from Neighbourly, follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn

If you’re a business that’s looking to find out more about remote and in-person volunteering programmes, click the blue button below.

Food Insecurity: Tackled by our Local Communities

20 May 2021
Portchester pantry

Food insecurity has come to the forefront of the minds of politicians and the public more than ever before in the last year, as society has grappled with the social and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the UK Government definition, food insecurity "covers a wide range of circumstances; where there is risk of, or lack of access to, sufficient, varied food." 

The definition covers a vast range of circumstances. For some food insecurity means some are unable to afford enough food to meet their needs, for others it means they have enough food but it is of low quality and nutritional value, impacting their health and wellbeing.

Surveys of Neighbourly-registered good causes in the early-stages of the pandemic showed a steep rise in demand for services, particularly amongst food banks offering emergency food parcels. Whilst The Trussell Trust statistics show that emergency food bank parcels going to children has increased by nearly 50% in the last two years alone.

Food Inequality

The UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recently released much awaited research data (covering 2019/2020) on the state of food insecurity in the UK..

Looking at food insecurity from the lens of many different factors, including age, ethnicity, income and housing status to name just a few, the data highlighted significant disparities in food security across some of the UK’s most vulnerable groups.

The most impacted groups included households with children, disabled people, young people (aged 16-24) and those from Black and Afro-Caribbean communities - all of whom are significantly more likely to be living with low or very low food security. 

Those in receipt of income-related benefits were some of the worst affected, with a quarter living with food insecurity. For those on Universal Credit, a shocking 43% were reported to be living with food insecurity. 

The picture this data paints is that food insecurity is unfairly impacting the most on vulnerable and minority groups. Not only that but the data demonstrates the complex nature of food insecurity, affecting different groups in different ways and at different levels.

Whilst income is a factor, food insecurity is not as simple as not having enough money to buy food. It covers access to fresh and nutritious food, access to decent facilities, access to education on nutrition, physical and mental health, structural inequalities and a whole host of other factors.

A Community Response

This Spring, our Community Survey of over 1,200 local good causes found that a third of groups collecting food surplus via Neighbourly’s partner businesses had set up a new foodbank service as a direct response to the pandemic.

33% new food banks april 2021

This rise in the number of informal, local-community based foodbanks is a sign of increasing struggles for society’s most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

“Most people who use the foodbank are working parents”

Local communities are seeing and experiencing the impact of poverty and food insecurity first hand and, in response to stretched social and government services, are coming up with their own solutions to meet these needs at a local level.

omagh early years centre

Omagh Early Years Centre (pictured above) is a childcare facility and after school club that serves 185 families with children aged from 12 weeks to 12 years old. Like so many children’s centres, nurseries and schools, they set up their own food bank for the first time at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic - in order to support those families most in need.

Ciara McKenna, Centre Manager told us: "Many parents with children have limited budgets and, with all the additional pressures that Covid has brought, we wanted to work with families and organisations in our community, to help reduce financial stress, food poverty and food waste.

“Most people who use the foodbank are working parents and some were initially embarrassed about accessing the foodbank. We want to support any family who can use extra food and we offer a discreet pick-up service. We would encourage any family who could use this foodbank to come forward - there are no judgments made, we are here to help.”

“Many families have got into so much debt due to losing their jobs [in the pandemic]”

The story echoes across the UK with The Portchester Pantry - another example of a community food bank set up in response to the pandemic. 

portchester pantry 2

Foodbank Coordinator Julie Sexton (pictured above right) tells us: "People were being furloughed and so had less money coming into their household. We delivered the food at the beginning as people were isolating, especially the elderly. As time went on, families with children were spending more on food as the children were at home all day. 

"A year on from the start of the pandemic, many families have got into so much more debt due to losing their jobs and now being on benefits.

"Now the Pantry has moved to The Hub (part of Portchester Community Association) and we will also be starting a membership scheme where people can pay £5 and get up to £20 worth of shopping to help them back to independence. This will run alongside the foodbank which will always be free for those in most need."

What’s needed

Our Spring Community Survey revealed that, despite the UK’s more recent steady emergence from the Covid-19 lockdown, demand for services is continuing to rise, with local good causes still suffering dramatic loss of income that’s only predicted to worsen in time.

When it comes to organisations that are offering a food service (e.g. foodbank, community kitchen, soup kitchen etc), 88% need to carry out a weekly ‘top up shop’ on top of the food donations they receive to ensure they have enough essential food and other household items to support those most in need.

monthly grocery spend April 2021

When asked which food items these organisations most commonly purchased as part of top ups, the most popular items (in order) were food cupboard items, fresh dairy items, fresh fruit, veg and salad, personal health and hygiene items and laundry, household and cleaning products.

For the majority, meeting the needs of their local communities relies on donations (both financial and essential items) from a multitude of sources.

extra support needed

Tip of the iceberg 

The rise in community foodbanks is the tip of the iceberg, indicative of critical levels of food insecurity across the UK that desperately needs to be addressed.

The nation’s community causes provide a vital service to meet the needs of people on a local level - but more and more they are forced to use valuable and depleting resources to meet basic human needs - fighting fires instead of being able to invest in the long-term happiness and wellbeing of communities.

Working together, businesses and the public have a real opportunity, right now, to have a meaningful impact on society by ensuring good causes have the right support to help local people pull themselves out of poverty and associated food insecurity. 

When good causes have adequate resources, they can not only fight fires - but can also focus on what they really do best - creating sustainable, happy and healthy communities and ensuring we build back better.

Keep reading

300,000 food bank donations made in Lidl Tackling Hunger campaign

Aldi pledges to donate 10 million meals to families facing hunger

Holiday Heroes: the charities that are taking on holiday hunger

Spring Community Insights: Local good causes integral to recovery from pandemic

20 May 2021
community insights spring 2021

This Spring, over 1,200 of the small charities and local good causes registered with Neighbourly got involved in our quarterly Community Insights survey - offering a birdseye view of the impact and challenges faced by community organisations across the UK and Ireland.

Responding groups ranged from food banks, community centres and homeless shelters to disability charities, youth clubs and religious organisations.

org type spring 2021

Whilst the results of these community insights highlight ongoing challenges - they are also incredibly empowering as they show us the types and scale of support that is needed to build healthy, thriving communities across the country.

Demand continues to rise

Previous Community insights from across the last year have put into numbers the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable in our communities, which has been demonstrated by rising demand for services offered by community organisations.

Whilst the UK is now moving out of its third lockdown, demand for support has not slowed. In the last 3 months, almost 7 in 10 local community causes have experienced a further rise in demand for services.

demand spring 2021

In terms of how this translates into numbers, in November/December 2020, the average number of people local good causes were supporting every week was 365. By March/April 2021, this average had risen to 393. This equates to an increase of over 7% in just four months and 171% increase since before the pandemic began.

Looking forward, three quarters of organisations expect that demand will continue to rise over the next 3-6 months, reflected in rising concern over increased levels of poverty, food insecurity and mental health problems that in many areas have worsened during the pandemic.

Recovery from the pandemic

Despite the immense challenges faced by those on the frontline of our local communities in the past year, the majority of local good causes (62%) feel that their organisation is beginning to recover at least a little and 7% feel like their organisation is starting to recover a lot. For almost a third (31%) however, they do not feel their organisation has started to recover at all.

income and predictions spring 2021

Many community organisations are planning for a large drop in donation income, with 6 out of 10 organisations expecting at least a 25-50% shortfall in financial donations compared with normal levels. 3 in 10 are predicting financial donations to remain steady, whilst only 10% are expecting a rise in donations.

Sustaining communities

One of the key solutions to ensuring these essential organisations have the resources to support our communities is understanding their needs. 

According to these community insights, the greatest requirement for these groups is funding for running costs, followed by funding to purchase items to support service users, food donations, regular volunteer support and donations of other non-food items.

Future concerns

With the pandemic putting many communities into extremely difficult situations, local good causes are playing a critical role in supporting the most vulnerable with basic services, as well as building upon the structures that will nurture our wider communities back to health.

greatest concerns spring 2021

For these organisations, the mental health of their service users is their number one concern. It’s no surprise that, after months of isolation, rising poverty and insecurity, this concern spans all types of community causes - whether mental health focussed or not. 

Last month, the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned of a worrying rise in both adults and children referred to NHS mental health services in England - including a 20% rise in children and young people referred for emergency mental health treatment.

As well as mental health concerns, organisations fear further lockdowns and worry about the physical health issues of service users, increasing numbers of people to support and the financial stability of their organisation.

What is evident is that with public health and local authority services facing huge levels of strain, more of this vital work is being taken on by small charities and local good causes who are stepping up to support those who are struggling the most.

Collective action

Whilst the concerns raised by community organisations pose a challenge - they also offer an incredible insight into the direct action that can be taken.

Local good causes and small charities are unique in that their tailored approach to individual communities, which means that even the smallest amounts of support and funding can go a long way - generating a phenomenal impact on the health and happiness of society, the economy and the environment over time. 

Keeping critical community services not just running, but thriving, is more than possible with collective action.

For many of the community organisations registered with Neighbourly, food insecurity in their local area has become a huge focus. 

In part two of our Community Insights (Spring 2021), we will share more of the insights from these groups and from the latest government research to paint a clearer picture of how we can best support the vital work of our local good causes going forward.

Mental Health Awareness Week: Local Good Causes Using Nature to Heal

11 May 2021
mental health awareness 2021

This week, as part of the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re shining a light on some of the work of local good causes that are supporting the mental health of their local communities.

The pandemic has really taken its toll over the past year and, for small charities and good causes across the country, mental health has become a growing concern. 

The most recent community insights from our Spring 2021 survey found that over half of Neighbourly-registered good causes were either very or extremely concerned for the mental health of their service users.

These include not just mental health charities or groups you might associate with supporting people with their mental health, but include food banks, religious organisations, schools, youth clubs and a vast array of other types of good cause that often work to plug the mental health support gap faced by so many in our local communities.

Out into nature

With this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme being ‘Nature’, we’re celebrating three good causes that have been using nature and the great outdoors to bolster happiness and wellbeing in those that need it most.

Harehills in Bloom

harehills in bloom

Harehills in Bloom, a community group based in Leeds, was set up by local residents to tackle the problem of litter and fly tipping in the network of alleyways connecting the neighbourhood. Before long, its green-fingered mission was able to improve the environment and boost the wellbeing of local people far and wide.

Jenny Drew, a Harehills co-ordinator explains: "Harehills in Bloom have from the start wanted to improve the quality of the few green spaces we have in inner Leeds and introduce greenery to grey corners and streets for the benefit of the whole community. During action days, the transformation of fly tipped corners and neglected greenspaces bring people together - and for those overlooking the spaces, we have quite literally brought nature to their doorsteps.”

“By brightening up the area with plants and flowers [we’re] brightening up people's minds too”

For Jenny, one particular resident stands out. She explains: “An elderly resident living by the Edgware green space that we have worked on for several years told us he was now getting up early to count all the different species of butterfly that had visited the meadow. 

“This space was once a neglected grassy area where people would empty their dog litter and fly tip. It now has an orchard, edible hedge, spring bulbs and wild flowers.”

Reflecting on the impact these changes have on the wellbeing of the local community, Jenny concludes: “We are a small group, doing what we can to change the look of a poverty stricken area by brightening up the area with plants and flowers, and thereby brightening up people's minds too.”

Nature Vibezzz

nature vibezzz

A year-on from the start of the pandemic, where so many young people are finding themselves in crisis and unable to access specialist support, projects like Nature Vibezzz are essential to local communities in championing the mental health and happiness of their youngest citizens - giving them the tools to support their own inner wellbeing as they grow and develop into adulthood.

“Being outdoors allows us to find our inner confidence”

Set in the South of London, Nature Vibezzz provides a forest school for local children - along with environmental education and practical nature conservation for the local community.

Telling us more about the impact of the Forest School, Nature Vibezzz Chairman Eric Mbiada explains “A lot of the young people we work with live in flats, are not comfortable with nature and often don’t want to get their hands in the soil. After two or three sessions [at the forest school], that completely changes and we see a real improvement in their confidence and self-esteem. 

“Our work has great benefits to both the physical and mental health of our participants. Being outdoors allows us to find our inner confidence and the connection between ourselves physically and emotionally. Several studies confirm that time spent outdoors or in nature related activities can improve children’s mental and physical health. 

“Our activities are crucial for participants who are coming out of lockdown, reinforcing their adapting and thriving capacity. It will be especially beneficial for families with young children who have been living through the crisis in cramped conditions."

Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust

edinburgh lothians greenspace trust elgt

Edinburgh and the Lothians Greenspace Trust (ELGT) is a charity that both works to improve green spaces such as parks and woodland - and inspire local communities to boost their wellbeing through the power of the great outdoors.

“[Taking part in] activities in local greenspaces can really help people to relax and reduce stress”

ELGT Organiser Richard Darke said: “ELGT has been promoting the mental health benefits of nature and using local greenspaces for over 10 years. We have been seeing an increase in the positive impact it has on early intervention and prevention of long-term health conditions.”

Through a whole range of projects across Edinburgh and the Lothians - the charity gets people of all ages and walks of life out and about, planting trees, pruning community gardens, learning about nature and so much more.

Richard adds: “The Trust’s events and activities in local greenspaces can really help people to relax and reduce stress. They also provide opportunities to interact and learn about nature which has a positive effect on people with mental health issues.”

Mental Health and Beyond

This Mental Health Awareness Week we at Neighbourly want to thank the thousands of local groups like these and acknowledge the wide-reaching impact not only on mental health and wellbeing - but so much more.

Mental Health UK research has shown that 45% of people reported being in green spaces had been vital for their mental health during the pandemic. Not only that, but green spaces have also been shown to reduce stress rates and associated crime levels within communities. 

Supporting programmes run on behalf of our business partners have the potential to help our communities make huge strides at a hyper-local level as grassroots causes know exactly what their local areas need to thrive.

Ensuring local good causes have the tools and funds to optimise both the mental and physical health and happiness of communities will in time snowball - improving the health of society, the economy and the planet.

If you’re a business that’s interested in finding out more about supporting local good causes, click the blue ‘find out more’ button below or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Remote volunteering – simple ways to make a big difference for communities

15 April 2021
remote volunteering micro volunteering day

The power of volunteer support across the UK has been vital since the start of the pandemic, with people of all ages stepping up to support all kinds of good causes and charities. Remote volunteering has been an important part of this – with a growing number of businesses enabling their employees to give their time and skills to help good causes from their homes and workplaces. 

But with communities continuing to struggle with poverty, hunger, unemployment, and homelessness, we can’t afford for this vital volunteer support to stop now. We must maximise volunteering as a critical resource to help our communities to recover and rebuild.

Remote volunteering offers people a simple, safe and flexible way to make a positive impact. It means that employees can support good causes wherever they might be based – all while fitting around other time commitments.

By matching employee’s relevant skills with the needs of charities and good causes, businesses can help sustain their support for their community – while also providing their staff with fulfilling ways to make a meaningful difference.

There are a whole range of ways to get involved, including:

  • Marketing, communications and fundraising: helping charities with their online fundraising, whether that’s setting up fundraising pages, or creating a fundraising campaign – as well as practical skills support on areas such as social media engagement.

  • Employability mentoring: running workshops with young people looking for work, including CV writing tips, how to get into a career, and interview practice – which is a particularly good fit for the skills of HR teams.

  • Logistical and IT support: with charities stretched for time, providing administrative support to help update their websites, databases or security settings can be a huge help. For example, employees at Danone helped community kitchens set up processes to support their emergency food distribution and volunteer rotas.

  • Letter-writing companionship: writing letters to isolated people at risk of loneliness, who would greatly appreciate a letter to help provide companionship and comfort. Samsung’s staff have pledged to send 1,000 letters to help brighten people’s lives, ranging from words of kindness to jokes and poems.

Taking part in remote volunteering helps employees feel engaged and connected to communities, as well as increasing their pride in their employer – all of which is especially important while many continue to work from home. Previous Neighbourly research showed that 80% of employees who volunteered said the experience made them happier – and 100% felt proud to work for their company as a result of volunteering.

Hyper-local causes are the backbone of our communities – from food banks and elderly care services to children’s hospices and homelessness groups. But they need continued support in order to keep providing their vital services to people who need it most.

Neighbourly’s network of front-line community partners have told us how much they value the support of remote volunteers, particularly as they continue to contend with increased demand for their services alongside reductions in face-to-face volunteering. 

To get your organisation started:

  • Identify the most relevant volunteering opportunities for your employees – what are the areas you specialise in, and what skills can your employees offer from home? Engage with your employees and understand what motivates them.

  • Establish how and when – how much time do your employees have to commit, and when? Can you make volunteering time formally available and encouraged, if you don’t already?

The pandemic has strengthened all of our bonds with our communities – and we all have a crucial part to play as we collectively rebuild from the crisis. By channelling skills into local organisations who are already doing vital work, we can help to ensure the right support reaches the most at-risk people. 

Read more about remote volunteering

Raconteur Sustainable Business Report launches today

6 April 2021
the times sustainable business report raconteur 2021

Today marks the launch of the Raconteur Sustainable Business Report 2021, a report that brings together the key research, knowledge and thought-leadership driving the future of sustainable business - including an article from Neighbourly’s own CEO Steve Butterworth and COO Zoe Colosimo.

This exclusive report, published in The Times, also addresses some of the challenges facing sustainable business and offers expert advice on how to tackle these issues.

What to expect from the report

On page 7, Steve and Zoe address how creating localised impact fuels trust in business, along with how local communities are proving the solution to global problems, referencing Neighbourly-commissioned YouGov research on the additional trust formed in businesses that support local good causes.

Other themes and features within the report include:

  • Feature interview with Nigel Topping. What practical steps can companies take to truly reach Net Zero within their given timeframes?

  • Balancing sustainability with shareholder expectations. How can business leaders juggle the expectations of their shareholders and board members with sustainability efforts?

  • Green premiums. A realistic plan to drive for net zero carbon for businesses.

  • Taking a vaccine approach to sustainability. How can companies think innovatively about social impact?

  • Becoming a B-Corp. Is it right for your business, pros and cons

Women lead the way in supporting our local communities

8 March 2021
international women's day 2021

Today is International Women’s Day - a day for celebrating the achievements of women in a world that has a lot of work still to do to overcome gender inequality. This year the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. 

Aptly put on the International Women’s Day website, “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.”

In response to this year’s theme, we wanted to take a moment not only to celebrate the successes and achievements of women in the small charity and community cause sectors - but also to take note of the challenges they face as they work to support those in need in our local communities.

Our most recent community survey of over 2,200 local good causes registered on Neighbourly took a deep dive into the makeup of the people that run the charities and groups through the platform.

The results showed that it’s majoritively women running these grassroots community causes with 73% of group leads identifying as female.

7/10 IWD2021

It would be easy to assume that all these women are volunteers, carrying out this vital community work in their spare time. In fact, 17% of female respondents were the founders of their organisation. 

What’s more, if you add together the most senior leadership roles within organisations (e.g. founders, directors, trustees and senior managers etc), women take up almost half of those roles (43%). A further 20% are working as managers and 20% as staff members. Just 11% of female respondents are volunteers.

For females from a black or minority ethnic background, the shift to leadership roles was even greater with 53% in senior leadership roles.

IWD2021 female roles

That is in stark contrast to the for-profit business sector where, according to the gender statistics database, even some of the largest companies in the European Union have poor female representation in leading roles. In 2020, just 19.3% of executives and 7.9% of CEOs were women - and that’s not even accounting for other factors such as race and ethnicity.

Of course, community organisations are not immune to this bias. Male respondents only made up 26% of respondents of our survey - yet a greater proportion (60%) are in a senior leadership role.

That said, in an industry that works at a local level, it’s critical that the support structures in place - whether through small charities or informal community groups - are reflective of the communities they serve. So it’s incredibly encouraging to see that these grassroots groups are able to defy bias and self-organise in a more representative way to fight for the changes that matter to their communities.

Unofficial contributions

Whilst the leadership makeup of small charities and good causes is showing promising progression in this sector, it’s important to consider the extent of the work that’s being done.

For example, 34% of female respondents (excluding trustees) reported that they were not paid for the work that they do. With around 9% carrying out some paid and some unpaid voluntary work.

When looking solely at women in senior leadership roles overall, the percentage who are unpaid actually increases, to 41%. For female good cause founders, just 16% reported that they are in a paid role.

unpaid volunteers IWD2021

Structural inequalities run deeper than gender however, with 53 % of women from BAME backgrounds carrying out solely unpaid voluntary work for their organisation. For BAME women in senior leadership roles, this increases to 57% in unpaid voluntary roles.

Full Time Community Heroes

When it comes to the number of hours worked by women in community organisations, those who are unpaid do typically work less than those who are paid. However, that’s not always the case.

Over half (62%) of female unpaid volunteers work 20 hours or less for their organisation, whereas the majority (61%) of female paid staff work 31 hours or more.

Hours worked IWD2021

Nonetheless, a substantial one in ten unpaid female volunteers put in more than 40 hours a week for their organisation - which puts them on par with the average UK full-time worker.

Whether paid or unpaid, it’s clear from these figures that women interacting with Neighbourly through their organisation are putting in significant hours and dedication to their local cause and community and it’s important that this is recognised.

Mounting Pressure

Other community surveys carried out over the past year have shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a wide reaching impact on local good causes, leaving them short on funds and time. 

For women responding to this latest survey, two thirds said the Covid crisis had led to them working more hours within their organisation than previously. For women who are unpaid, this increases to 73%. Women from a BAME background are most likely to have had to increase their hours due to Covid at 79%.

covid increased hours IWD2021

Whilst the main motivations for this work are noble and valid - with 84% saying their main reasons are to help people and to make a difference - the amount of unpaid work and increasing pressure put upon the groups supporting our communities is of great significance. 

Communities challenging inequality

The UK Government estimated that the charitable sector’s contribution to the country’s economy is around £17 billion.

However, many of the groups registered on Neighbourly are not registered charities, they are small community groups that were formed by local people in direct response to local need. When these groups are taken into account, the impact is likely far greater.

More recently, a report by Pro Bono Economics revealed the charity sector's contribution to the economy could be as much as £200bn per year when taking the contribution of informal volunteers and wider economic spill-out into account.

Grassroots organisations may be small but they have understanding of and access to local communities at a representative shoulder-to-shoulder level - ultimately giving them the flexibility to deliver the kind of positive change that could unlock all types of inequality in the UK.

Women are leading the way when it comes to fixing structural inequalities within our society from the ground up, but this can’t go on forever. Without support and funding, the positive strides made by women in community leadership positions will only begin to reinforce existing gender inequality and bias around what society deems to be valuable paid work that serves the economy.

We’ll be sharing some broader findings from this survey across the next few weeks, so stay tuned to our blog for updates. You can also stay up to date by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.