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Seeds of Change campaign launches to help ensure greener communities across UK and Ireland

7 October 2021
seeds for change environment tree planting

Neighbourly has today launched its new Seeds of Change programme, bringing together support from Southern Co-op, RSA, Cadent, Coca-Cola EP, Danone and M&G to help small charities and good causes have a bigger positive environmental impact for local communities. 

"Seeds of Change gives businesses and local communities a way to come together in the lead up to COP26 and beyond"

Seeds of Change will enable businesses to donate volunteer time and/or grants to small charities and local causes across the UK, helping causes to create green spaces for local communities and reduce their CO2 emissions. 

It’s critical to involve community causes in accelerating responses to the pressing environmental and societal challenges we face", says Steve Butterworth, CEO at Neighbourly. "Seeds of Change gives businesses and local communities a way to come together in the lead up to COP26 and beyond – translating the enormity of the climate crisis into meaningful action at a local level.”

Holly Bramble, Community Lead at Southern Co-op, adds: "Urgent action is needed to tackle climate change. We already have our own ambitious goals across our retail, coffee and end of life businesses but we can't stop there. Co-operation is essential and we hope this latest funding will act as a springboard for lots of local causes and charities to take action and have a direct impact on carbon reduction. We're excited to be working with Neighbourly to make a positive impact on all of our futures."

“Our employees are itching to get back to supporting the charities close to their hearts"

Support will be directed to a wide range of vetted local causes – including mental health charities, community centres, youth organisations, schools and environmental volunteer groups – who can deliver measurable, high-impact outcomes.

Green spaces are proven to support people’s wellbeing by reducing depression, anxiety and stress. But only 35% in the lowest-earning households in England are currently within a ten-minute walk of a natural green space, compared with 59% of the highest earning households.  

Delivering seeds of change

Seeds of Change will enable national businesses to direct targeted support to communities where environmental changes are needed the most by engaging and supporting local causes and community groups in these areas. 

Micro-grants will be directed to local causes for planting and environmental activities, using an existing seed-fund of around £100,000 from a selection of Neighbourly partners. In response to almost two thirds of local charities in Neighbourly’s network saying they need volunteer support with their greening programmes, businesses will provide their employees with opportunities to give their time and skills to help with environmental projects. Businesses will also engage with good causes to support them with climate education programmes. 

rsa volunteers

Head of External Communications at insurer RSA, Alex Jones, tells us: “Our employees are itching to get back to supporting the charities close to their hearts by volunteering their time, skills and fundraising efforts to make a real difference to their communities. Seeds of Change is a fantastic scheme to facilitate this work and by targeting the creation of green spaces can enhance communities across the UK.”

Commitment to carbon reduction

New Neighbourly research also shows that over two thirds of local charities (66%) think it is very important that they commit to carbon reduction or carbon offsetting measures.

For businesses, Seeds of Change presents a real opportunity to offer support at a local level. Hannah Cornick, Head of Sustainability & Social Innovation at Danone UK & Ireland, says: "We believe the health of people and the health of the planet are interconnected, so we’re proud to back Seeds of Change as a tangible way to ensure greener neighbourhoods while also providing important wellbeing benefits for local people. 

"Danone UK & Ireland is taking action to accelerate a low carbon, greener future across our operations. And while we may be a global business, our approach is fundamentally local – so we know it’s important for responsible businesses to look beyond their own operations to support charities and local community organisations to drive change from the ground up. Collective actions like the Seeds of Change programme can really make a measurable positive difference for our communities."

Environmental Grants

As part of Seeds of Change, environmental grants will be administered by the Neighbourly Foundation, launched in 2020 as an independent charity arm to respond to an increase in local need during the pandemic. Since launch, the Foundation has provided more than £3.6 million in micro-grants to over 4,800 local charities and community causes, supporting an estimated 1.6 million people each week.

Successful causes will be vetted and selected through an application process on the Neighbourly platform. Grants will be awarded for activity delivered from October 2021 to Spring 2022 that will have a sustainable and direct impact on carbon reduction, or will protect natural habitats and local biodiversity. All activity and outcomes will be measured and reported.

Steve comments: “If we really want to build back greener and better, we must prioritise local action built on local insights. We’re confident that Seeds of Change can help to ensure healthier, happier and thriving communities and we’re calling for any other businesses wanting to support local communities through environmental programmes to join us. To deliver big goals and achieve maximum impact we must think local.”

Neighbourly and its business partners are calling for any businesses that want to support their local communities to back the Seeds of Change programme. To get involved, click the blue button below and get in touch or visit the Seeds of Change campaign page for more information.

Sainsbury’s partners with Neighbourly to increase surplus food donations to local causes

8 September 2021

Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s largest retailers, has partnered with Neighbourly to donate food surplus to communities across the UK. The partnership will connect individual Sainsbury’s stores to charities and community groups, who will ensure that the food is put to good use in the local area, helping to tackle food waste while supporting a wide range of community initiatives.

Through Neighbourly, Sainsbury’s will have access to over 17,000 local charities and community groups including homeless centres, schools, breakfast clubs, community centres, community fridges, community cafes, night shelters, refuges, churches, and hospices. Selected charity partners will coordinate a daily collection service from their local Sainsbury’s store where both ambient and fresh grocery items with a valid best before date will be donated to them.

Following a successful trial, the scheme is now being rolled out across all Sainsbury’s supermarkets with all locations expected to be taking part by the end of the year.

Sainsbury’s has donated food to charities and community groups since 1998, with the recent priority being providing support where needed during the pandemic. With a third of all food produced for human consumption being wasted globally on an annual basis, Sainsbury’s has pledged to reduce its food waste by 50% by 2030 – and the partnership with Neighbourly is a crucial step in achieving this. 

Steve Butterworth, CEO of Neighbourly, said:

“Getting surplus food to community causes is a win-win: making sure unsold food is put to the best possible use while combatting the environmental impact of wasted food. Sainsbury’s is genuinely committed to local action, and we’re pleased to be scaling up our partnership to help forge strong community collaboration between stores and their neighbourhood charity partners.”

Ruth Cranston, Group Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, said

“We’re delighted to have partnered with Neighbourly to ensure we’re supporting people in our local communities through donations of surplus food from our stores. We’re committed to reducing food waste and we’re really excited to be working with Neighbourly to help us with our mission.”


Charities and community groups who would like to work with a Sainsbury’s store to help redistribute food can get in touch via

Community causes brace as Universal Credit uplift and furlough scheme wind down

19 August 2021
community insights summer 2021

Neighbourly’s latest Community Survey of over 1,100 local good causes cites major concerns ahead as the removal of the Government’s Universal Credit uplift and the end of the furlough scheme looms over many of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

While covid cases may be showing signs of levelling off, the number of people in need is not. Being at the heart of communities, local charitable organisations and their volunteers are addressing specific social and environmental problems at a hyper local level. But concerns and needs must be recognised to ensure that adequate support goes to those struggling the most.

Removal of government safety nets 

Since March 2020, the average number of people a local good cause supports each week has risen by 187% to a record 417 - a number that has increased consistently every quarter. 

numbers supported

During this time, many of those most in need have been supported by a temporary £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit, whilst millions have kept their jobs and 80% of their salary through the Government’s Furlough scheme.

With both of these support systems set to be removed at the end of September, it’s predicted that a huge number of people will fall through these financial safety nets, plunging thousands of adults and children into poverty and exacerbating existing social issues, food insecurity and mental health problems.

For good causes on the ground this is a massive concern, with 63% seeing the removal of the Universal Credit top up and ceasing of the furlough scheme as the top reasons for an increase in future demand.

63% concerned about universal credit furlough

On average, groups expect these factors, plus the end of covid restrictions, to increase demand for their services by 33%.This could equate to an additional 140 people per good cause needing support every week. 

Applied to Neighbourly’s entire network of charities and community groups across the UK and Ireland, this could mean the equivalent of over 2.3 million people needing additional support in the next three months.

Regional differences

Whilst these changes will impact people across the country, our Community Survey data suggests that some areas may be impacted more than others.

Of the groups that responded to the survey, the majority based in Wales (80%) and Northern Ireland (75%) predict that the removal of the Universal Credit top up will lead to an increase in demand for services, the highest prediction of all regions, when compared to 43% of good causes in the South West.

These regions were also the most and least likely (respectively) to report concern for an increase in need due to the furlough scheme coming to an end.

Local good causes are unique in that they can respond to the exact needs of their communities. As this data shows, certain issues and concerns are more prevalent in certain regions over others, giving us the opportunity to respond to the exact needs of individual communities and having the biggest possible impact.

The domino effect

With all of these changes, respondents have told us where their greatest concerns lie. For the second time in six months, the mental health of service users is right at the top of the list with 97% citing at least some concern and 60% rating it as something they were either very or extremely concerned about.

main concerns insights 2021

Along with mental health concerns, half of good causes told us they are very or extremely concerned about income streams and lack of government support for underprivileged children during the school holidays. Just under half are concerned about financial struggles and physical health issues amongst those they support, along with rising Covid-19 virus rates causing disruption to vital services. 

Understanding the data

We know a great deal of positive impact can be had at scale with the right funding. We’ve seen this with unrestricted Neighbourly Community Fund grants that supported the delivery of vital services and aid during the Covid-19 pandemic - and then again with funds from our partners through the Neighbourly Foundation which has reached almost £3M in the last 12 months. 

Funds that have gone through the Neighbourly Foundation since the start of this year include Aldi’s Hunger Monster campaign, which has raised funding specifically for groups looking after children and families experiencing food poverty. This came after survey data from organisations in Neighbourly’s network at the end of last year estimated that 96% of children supported with food provision were missing a meal every single week.

Our insights also show that, financially, there has been some recovery for some types of charities. For example, 8% of respondents told us they have seen an increase in funds in the last 3 months, with almost a quarter saying their income remained stable. Food banks have seen the best recovery when compared to other types of good cause, with just under 40% telling us that their income has remained stable or risen.That said, with the consistent rise in demand taken into account, this income in many cases is being stretched further than it ever has before.

Moreover, the majority of good causes have still seen consistent reductions in funding in the last year. Almost half (49%) have reported a drop in income in the last 3 months, with nearly 1 in 10 saying the drop had been as much as 75% or more. 

The worst affected include community centres, elderly care centres and youth clubs of which almost a quarter have seen a drop in income of at least 50% in the last 3 months.

operational changes insights 2021

Creating local impact at scale

To help us understand broadly what these charities and community groups need to tackle their biggest concerns, we asked them to rank needs in order of importance.

Unrestricted and targeted grants are number one on the list for all types of good cause as they look to prepare for an anticipated rise in demand and respond to more complex needs in the community such as growing mental health concerns and those impacted by poor physical health.

Grants and funding is crucial in that it can provide immediate and targeted relief through a huge range of different impact themes. However the breadth of positive change that can be achieved doesn’t just come from funding.

main needs insights 2021

Over half of respondents rate donations of food and products as one of their highest needs. For the 35% of good causes that began some sort of food provision within their local community as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ability to collect and redistribute surplus food means they can react quickly and locally to the growing problem of food insecurity.

Equally, a third told us that they are providing food parcels for children during the school holiday with 18% providing holiday clubs and 15% providing lunch clubs.

For these kinds of organisations, surplus food and the provision of good nutrition is critical to maintaining the health and wellbeing of their service users. Not needing to purchase food often has the additional benefit of freeing up funds for complimentary services that support people struggling in other areas of their lives.

Impact at scale

It’s not just food that makes a difference either. Surplus products such as the hundreds of refurbished laptops RSA insurance donated when they had a tech refresh has given those most in need a means to connect with others, access education and find work.

rsa laptop donation

Volunteering remains a vital resource, with a vast number of small charities and community groups relying either heavily or completely on volunteer support. As well as enabling them to reach more people in need, volunteer support can help these organisations to grow, access funding and more. 

With our latest research showing that employer-led volunteer programmes lead to a happier workforce, there’s a huge opportunity for employers to bridge this gap in volunteer numbers whilst connecting with local communities and boosting employee wellbeing at the same time.  

Whilst the situation might look incredibly challenging on paper, with seemingly impossible situations on the horizon for both local good causes and the millions of people they support, there is clear data that shows exactly what is needed, where it is needed and how it can most effectively be delivered.

The good news is that much of this data is a prediction ahead of time and there is still time to respond. The knock on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been huge and we’re not out of the woods yet. Whilst funding and grants programmes have continued throughout this crisis, they need to be continually scaled up and scaled out, with more businesses investing in their communities - be that through volunteers, funds or surplus - to deliver impact at scale.

If you're a business that wants to deliver positive impact at scale by donating volunteer time, money or surplus food or products, tell us your challenges or ask us a question by getting in touch - just click the blue button below. You can also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular news and insights.

WRAP report shows food surplus redistribution up by 45%

26 July 2021
lidl food surplus donations

Last week environmental charity WRAP launched it’s latest Courtauld Commitment Annual Report which revealed that food surplus redistribution rose by 45% in 2020, when compared with the numbers from 2019.

This represents more than 92,000 tonnes of food, worth £280 million and the equivalent of 220 million meals in one year.

This came with the news that the Courtauld Commitment will be extended and expanded with ambitious changes to support the UK’s goal of halving food waste by 2030.

Achieving global environmental goals

The Courtauld Commitment 2030 is a voluntary agreement of over 80 organisations, including the likes of Neighbourly and its food surplus partners Aldi, Lidl and M&S, to collaborate across the entire UK food chain to deliver farm-to-fork reductions in food waste, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water stress that will help the UK food and drink sector achieve global environmental goals.

At Neighbourly we believe that edible surplus food should never be wasted and should instead go to communities in need. With food waste one of the biggest contributors to climate change, we see businesses as playing a key role in tackling not only climate change, but delivering social value to local communities in the process.

As signatories of the Courtauld Commitment we tracked a significant rise in our own food surplus redistribution during 2020 - working with our key partners to help them redistribute over 9,000 tonnes of surplus food, equivalent to almost 23M meals, to those in need - representing a saving of over 34,000 tonnes of CO2. This was through the midst of a global pandemic where need across local communities was greater than ever before.

As momentum increases, we have seen just how great an impact food surplus redistribution can have when communities, organisations, businesses and individuals collaborate and take action for the greater good. 

Yet, as the Courtauld Agreement has shown, it’s a holistic approach that will help us achieve critical climate objectives and, at Neighbourly, we continue to take this view, engaging businesses in a range of initiatives including product surplus redistribution, employee volunteering and targeted financial donations - along with showing their impact through social value measurement - to ensure progress made against SDGs and climate issues are sustainable and scalable in the long-term.

A commitment to halving greenhouse gasses

It’s clear that the Commitment is helping the UK food and drink sector to deliver against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 to halve food waste - with food surplus redistribution a piece of a much larger puzzle. 

The Commitment will now be central in achieving and monitoring progress towards Net Zero ambitions and convening action on water stewardship in at-risk food sourcing locations.

As well as highlighting the important progress that has been made, the Courtauld Commitment’s Annual Report revealed ambitious targets for the years ahead which include :

  • A 50% absolute reduction in GHG emissions associated with food and drink consumed in the UK by 2030, against a 2015 baseline.
  • A 50% per capita reduction in food waste by 2030 vs the UK 2007 baseline.
  • To achieve sustainable water management (quality and quantity) in the top 20 most important product and ingredient sourcing areas in the UK and overseas – covering 50% of product ingredients deemed ‘at risk’ from water insecurity

With only four months until COP26, the UK has taken a bold step forward in reducing the impact food has on the natural world. But the next 10 years will be a critical time for those engaged inside and outside of the Courtauld Commitment and beyond to continue to collaborate and cooperate in order to achieve these goals from businesses right the way across the lifecycle of food.

To read the full report, head over to the WRAP website.

Hundreds of charities to celebrate Thank You Day with grant from Virgin Media O2 Together Fund

1 July 2021

This month we were pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with Virgin Media O2.

At the start of June, Virgin Media and O2 formally combined to form Virgin Media O2 - now the UK's largest mobile network with a broadband network - and they've set up a brand new 'Together Fund' worth £500,000 to support local charities and good causes as the nation begins to emerge from the pandemic.  

Neighbourly is incredibly proud to be partnering with what is now one of the biggest businesses in the UK to help them deliver much needed funds to local causes championing community spirit, belonging and togetherness across the UK.

Following a round of applications, 400 local good causes have been allocated a grant from the fund - with many of them nominated by Virgin Media O2 staff themselves.

Thank You Day

To kick things off - Neighbourly, Virgin Media O2 and all the good causes involved will be supporting the nation’s first Thank You Day, coordinated by the Together Coalition on the 4th July.

Thank You Day is where millions come together in a small way in their local communities to give back and say thank you - to friends, family, neighbours, volunteers, postal workers, NHS staff and everyone in between that has helped us get through what has been an unprecedented time.

As part of this, many of the good causes in receipt of a Together Fund grant will be hosting their own micro-events to say thanks.

One cause taking part on the 4th July is The Spitz Charitable Trust which enriches opportunities for participation in live music in care homes and day centres.

spitz thank you day

In Bridgeside Lodge Care Home (BSL) in Islington, where the charity’s office is based, Spitz has been running outdoor live music sessions for elderly residents - using a tablet to relay the music to those unable to be outside - helping reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“ [Spitz staff] have ensured the continuity of happiness, emotional recreation and well-being”


Fatma Makalo, General Manager at BSL explains: "We've seen the special bond the Spitz staff have built with our residents. During the pandemic it's been a very dark time so it's been really important that we have some sort of joy. We knew the residents and staff loved music, that's why I felt the Spitz needed to spend more time at Bridgeside Lodge. It's ensured the continuity of happiness, emotional recreation and well-being." 

spitz thank you day 2

Spitz will be using part of the grant they received from the Together Fund to purchase two more tablets so that their live broadcasts can reach more isolated people unable to attend their sessions in person - including a special Thank You Day music event at the care home on the 4th July itself.

Bringing communities together

Not only will the Virgin Media O2 Together fund enable good causes to celebrate and say thank you on the 4th of July, but the fund will enable them to invest in initiatives that will bring communities together and improve wellbeing in the longer-term.

Live Unlimited, a charity that supports looked-after children and young care leavers in Barnet, will be using the funding towards their Outdoor Club.

live unlimited thank you day

Outdoor Club gets looked-after children aged 9-13 outside enjoying forest school activities. These include using tools, making fires, cooking on a fire, climbing trees, swinging in hammocks and generally hanging out and having fun. The added benefit for these young looked after children is that Outdoor Club enables them to be around others who've experienced trauma and understand what they are going through.

“This is the first thing he has loved doing in a group”

Despite being only recently piloted, Outdoor Club has had a tremendous impact on the children involved. Foster Carer Mellie said: "He is absolutely loving it. It's the highlight of his week. He is autistic and doesn't join in things, preferring to be by himself, and this is the first thing he has loved doing in a group. 

"The first time he went it was raining and I was worried he wouldn't like it, but he came back muddy and filthy and talked about all the things he'd done. It's just what he needed and has made a real difference to him."

Get involved

Whilst the Together Fund grants have now been fully allocated and applications closed, good causes and community groups can still get involved by celebrating Thank You Day on Sunday 4th July.

For inspiration, head to the Thank You Day website for guides and ideas for creating a special day. If you are doing something to celebrate Thank You Day, don’t forget to shout about it on social media with the hashtag #ThankYouDay and tag @nbrly and @VMO2news on Twitter or NbrlyUK on Facebook.

If you’re a business that’s looking to find out more about the Neighbourly platform and our grant management programmes, please click the blue ‘Info for businesses’ button below.

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.

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