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5 ways employee volunteers can support charities from home

4 June 2020
remote volunteering projects

With many charities experiencing both an increased demand for services and a reduction in the number of volunteers due to social distancing, we’ve been on a mission to match skilled employees with local charities and community groups across the UK.

Many of the charities and good causes we work with are either completely reliant on volunteers or have had to divert their senior staff to support the rise in vulnerable people and families in crisis.

In response, we’ve been working with our partners Danone, The Football Association and Heineken to launch our Remote Volunteering programme. These large companies have thousands of experienced professionals and experts on everything from marketing and tech to administration and financial management who are keen to support their local communities.

This week, to celebrate Volunteer’s Week, we’re excited to share some of the projects these employee volunteers have been working on to support charities, community groups and vulnerable people from the comfort of their sofa.

Inspiring children and young people

remote volunteering inspiring children

With most children and young people still out of school and education and many questioning what their future might look like, charities have been working to support and inspire students and young people to stay curious, learn and discover new skills during lockdown.

One of the most active projects we’ve seen here has been between Danone employees and the IGD's Feeding Britain's Future Schools Programme.

As part of the programme, employees have been leading interactive workshops for school children to inform and inspire students about the world of work.

Miriam Tellis, a Sales Lead at Danone, has already run one of these workshops and found it a great success. She recently wrote in a post “[We spoke] to 50+ students from two UK schools, discussing the wide range of jobs within the food and drink industry and how shopper behaviour has changed during lock down. [There's never been] a better opportunity to showcase our industry to future talent.”

Meanwhile in Berkshire, ABC Reading - a voluntary group that supports schoolchildren in learning to read - had to cease their efforts after the closure of schools in March.

Instead volunteers have been doing as much as they can to inspire children to keep reading at home - and have recruited employee volunteers to put together and send out ‘story sacks’. Some have even been perfecting their best reading voices and signed up to record themselves storytelling.

Boosting marketing and PR

remote volunteering marketing

For charities who’ve had to drop their social media channels, blog or marketing strategy in favour of urgent support work, there have been a few projects popping up for marketing experts to help get things going again.

Chiltern MS has sadly lost a significant amount of its income due to Covid-19. However, with their non-profit paid-for physiotherapy service offering hope for recovering some of their lost income, they have recruited an employee volunteer to update their website and launch a marketing campaign to get things back on track.

For non-profit community group More Trees BANES in Bath, a small group of volunteers has come on board to help with communications, copywriting, PR, research, project management and policy creation to help with the launch of their upcoming Community Tree Nurseries campaign.

Supporting job seekers

remote volunteers supporting job seekers

One of the biggest negative impacts of the pandemic has been in the loss of work for many thousands of people. Jobcare, a charity based in Dublin, is providing support to people who are desperate to find and keep satisfying employment. To help out during a time of social distancing, a team of employee volunteers have signed up to provide one-to-one remote coaching for jobseekers covering everything from career advice to mock interviews.

In the South of England, Milton-Keynes charity Worktree is focussed on youth careers, recruiting employee volunteers to answer nine questions about their careers on film - a ‘Career Snapshot’ - so that they can develop a human library of careers for young people to explore at home.

Letter writing and befriending

remote volunteering letter writing

In attempt to quell the increasing sense of loneliness and isolation many individuals, particularly the elderly and those living alone with health conditions, have been feeling during lockdown, many charities have stepped in to up befriending and letter writing schemes to aid in the remote friendship building that can keep hopes up during these tough times.

Plenty of employee volunteers have already signed up to provide either telephone befriending or connect up with a pen pal to help those who are vulnerable feel less alone, with charities involved across the UK, including Dorset Mind, UACS Elderly Person Project in London, Age Concern Chipping Norton and more.

Data and admin assistance

remote volunteering data admin

With data and admin tasks often put on the back burner during times of crisis, charities are requesting extra help in this area to keep things running smoothly.

Skylarks, an independent charity supporting children and young people with additional needs in Richmond-upon-Thames has just three employed staff - so having some remote volunteers come on board has meant they’ll have the extra help they need with everything from designing posters and leaflets to updating essential contact information directories.

On the more technical side of things, Express CIC which supports children and young people with autism, is hoping to use the pool of employee volunteers to find a database expert to build them an automated database so they can reach people in need more effectively.

These are just a handful of projects that have been set up through the Neighbourly platform between our partners, their fantastic employees and the charities that are working so hard to help as many people as they can through the pandemic and beyond.

To find out how Neighbourly matches businesses’ volunteer skills with its network of vetted good causes, head to our Volunteering page. If you're a charity that's looking to recruit some volunteers, create a volunteer event on your Neighbourly project page. You can get in touch if you have any questions by emailing hello@neighbourly.com.

Remote employee volunteering could offer lifeline to charities across the UK

28 May 2020
working from home remote volunteering

Since the onset of strict social distancing measures in March, many charities and community groups have seen an unprecedented increase in demand for their services - along with a reduction in face-to-face volunteering as individuals and families are forced to self-isolate or care for others.

With the employee volunteering schemes that usually peak during the spring and summer also facing massive disruption, we knew we needed to help employees switch their approach.

“54% of charities said that they needed the help of remote volunteers to continue to support vulnerable people”

We sent out a survey to the good causes and charities registered on Neighbourly which, with almost 1,000 responses, has highlighted a real need for remote employee volunteering.

80% of the front-line charities and community groups in our survey, which included food banks, homeless charities and disability groups, said the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing has forced them to adapt their services.

With that, 54% said that they felt they could use the help of remote volunteers to continue to support both vulnerable people and with the running of services in the coming weeks and months.

“Remote volunteering presents a major opportunity for our hospice to recruit younger members in the community who have vital digital knowledge”

Jon Devlin, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Greenwich and Bexley Hospice says: “We have 700 patients, and many of our volunteers are aged over 60, so are currently unable to provide their usual support. Remote volunteering presents a major opportunity for our hospice to recruit younger members in the community who have vital digital knowledge, time on their hands, and are looking for ways to make a difference.”

Volunteering from home

volunteering from home virtual

Large corporate organisations, with highly-skilled and experienced employees based across the UK, are in a unique position to assist charities whose senior teams have had to divert away from tasks like charity finances, fundraising and marketing, to focus on essential support work for vulnerable groups.

“By matching relevant skills with charities’ need, businesses can support essential services at a time when they are needed more than ever”

Steve Butterworth, CEO of Neighbourly, explains: “We all have a crucial role to play as we start to rebuild from the crisis while continuing to help people in need. By channelling volunteer skills into local organisations who are already doing vital work, we can help to ensure that the right support reaches the most at-risk people.

“Volunteering from home offers a safe and flexible way for people to make a big difference. Employees can support good causes wherever they might be based – all while at home, fitting around other time commitments. By matching relevant skills with charities’ need, businesses can support essential services at a time when they are needed more than ever.

“It’s not just charities who will benefit. Volunteering has important wellbeing benefits for the volunteers themselves, and helps people feel engaged and rewarded – all of which is particularly important in helping to stay connected and motivated while working from home, or furloughed.”

Corporate heroes

So with next week’s Volunteer’s Week marking one of the peak weeks of employee volunteering in the yearly calendar - we’ve been working with our partners Danone, Heineken and The Football Association to help them adapt their volunteering schemes, enabling their employees to offer skill sharing and practical remote support to good causes local to them.

“We have a passionate and motivated group of ‘Danoners’ who are eager to volunteer and offer support and advice”

This means employees will be helping charities with everything from website and financial management, fundraising and social media, to befriending and letter writing to isolated people - all from home.

letter writing virtual volunteering

Chris Hillman, Head of Sustainability & Social Innovation at Danone, adds: “At Danone we’re committed to supporting our community, and throughout this crisis it has never been more important to help charities. Not just with donations of money or food, but also by donating time and skills to help others. 

“We have a passionate and motivated group of ‘Danoners’ who are eager to volunteer and offer support and advice. We’re proud to team up with Neighbourly to support charities through virtual volunteering.”

Click here to find out how Neighbourly matches businesses’ volunteer skills with its network of vetted good causes. Neighbourly is committed to creating measurable outcomes through remote volunteering, with those who give their time and skills able to see a real-time positive impact.

How Middlesbrough’s alleys brought a community together

27 May 2020
alley pals team volunteers

For many, the advent of the Covid-19 outbreak has been overwhelming and disastrous. Yet, for the thousands of communities coming together, society has simultaneously begun to pave the way for a kinder, more neighbourly future. The young are looking out for the elderly and those with family and friends are reaching out to those in the community who are isolated or lonely.

For Middlesbrough-based community group, Ally Pals, this sense of community togetherness is something they’ve been creating in their neighbourhood for the last 15 years. 

Not immune to the devastating effects of the pandemic, this year Ally Pals’ very sadly lost their founding member Jim to Covid-19. Jim started Alley Pals with his neighbour Mavis and will be sorely missed by his loved-ones and friends.

Despite this, Catherine Howell, who is the co-founder of Barefoot Kitchen - the community interest company that now manages the Alley Pals project - knows his memory will continue to inspire others to carry on his heartfelt community work.

With so much history behind them, we caught up with Catherine, to share the story of this unique project along with the work neighbours have been putting in to support the local community during lockdown.

The secret gardens

With somewhat unusual beginnings, Ally Pals was set up when the local authority began gating the alleys that sit between Middlesbrough’s back-to-back terraced housing. 

Catherine tells us: “The local authority’s main goal was to prevent crime but at the same time they inadvertently created safe and enclosed spaces that communities could use. 

“People realised that with a lick of paint, and a few planters, the alleys could become incredible shared gardens.”

alley pals middlesbrough before and after

Since then, a team of green-fingered neighbours has cleared, cleaned, painted and planted in more alleys than you could count. Over the years, these spaces have become essential to the neighbourhood - for residents to sit and relax and children to play and learn - they’ve even been used for community parties, film nights and concerts - all with the ultimate aim of bringing people together.

Positive partnerships

More recently, with local community interest company Barefoot Kitchen helping to increase the impact of Ally Pals - the project has blossomed.

Catherine explains: “Barefoot Kitchen has been working to support the Alley Pals groups by finding funding - such as the Neighbourly Community Fund - to help realise their ideas and linking them with other networks that can help out.  

“For example, Alley Pals had struggled to access compost locally, so we helped them set up a small garden centre in a shipping container at the local community hub car park. And when we heard that free fruit trees were on offer from a nearby environmental charity, we not only managed to get hold of the trees - but also got some free training for the residents.”

alley pals middlesbrough tree planting

Covid community heroes

Since the Covid-19 lockdown began, Alley Pals have been unable to have their usual neighbourhood alley gatherings, but that hasn’t stopped them from being a force for good in their community.

Catherine says: “Neighbours have become close friends, helping each other with shopping errands and checking in to make sure that people are okay. Several of our Alley Pals are in isolation, but our Facebook and WhatsApp groups have been invaluable for keeping spirits up and sharing what we’re doing.

alley pals finished alley with seating

“We’ve been dropping off seeds, compost and donated seedlings, so that people can work in their own alleys and we’ve made a fantastic new connection with an organisation that is distributing our surplus allotment produce to newly-arrived and struggling families.

“We’ve also just started a ‘Community Cupboards’ project, where local people can swap and share spare gardening materials and surplus home grown veg using a box on the alley gates.”

A blooming great idea

All their hard work is paying dividends now, as Catherine explains: "In 2019, we tackled an alley that was completely overgrown and prone to flytipping, clearing 27 bags of rubbish.  

“Residents loved the new space, and they began to build planters in the alleys. We helped by providing compost and plants and, later that year, two beautiful apple trees.  

alley pals middlesbrough planters

“One of the residents sadly contracted Coronavirus. Although he has made a recovery, he has been isolated at home. Having a green space outside that he could visit safely has been a godsend, and he was discharged at exactly the right point to see the apple trees in their first full bloom.”

Big thanks to Catherine for taking the time to tell us all about Alley Pals. This blog is dedicated to Jim and all others in the volunteer and charity community who’ve lost their lives to Covid-19.

If you know of any amazing community group stories or volunteers who deserve a cheer, tag us in your posts on Twitter @nbrly or via the Neighbourly Facebook page.

Meet the Covid Community Heroes: A Mental Health Awareness Week Special

18 May 2020
mental health awareness week 2020

After 8 weeks of lockdown in the UK, it’s more important now than ever before to look out for our friends, family and neighbours who may be struggling with their mental health.

With that, the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which is running this week from the 18th to 24th May, has come at just the right time.

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Kindness’. The Mental Health Foundation explains: “We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity”.

Thankfully we’ve seen kindness in abundance through the Neighbourly platform since the Covid-19 pandemic began wreaking chaos in our local communities back in March.

Since then we’ve launched our Community Fund which we’ve been distributing as grants to a huge array of grassroots charities and community groups across the whole of the UK and Ireland, including those who are going to all lengths to support those struggling with their mental health. 

So as a special edition of our ‘Meet the Covid Community Heroes’ blog series, here’s the story of just five of them:

Tonic Music

Plenty of us identify with the joy that music can bring - whether that’s listening to soothing classical, bashing a drum kit or singing in the shower.

But for Portsmouth non-profit Tonic Music, music and the arts is key to how they help people in their community recover from mental health problems.

tonic music mental health awareness

They run workshops, choirs, host gigs, raise awareness of mental health at events and festivals and so much more - simply using the power of music as medicine.

Since the lockdown, they’ve been writing helpful blogs and hosting tonnes of musical fundraising events to keep their work going. You can even buy Tonic Music fundraising t-shirts on their ebay page.

Lindengate Mental Health Charity

Another brilliant charity that’s doing something a bit different to support their local community, the sunflowers of the mental health world, Lindengate Mental Health Charity.

Specialising in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, Lindengate uses the healing power of nature and the outdoors to improve mental wellbeing, boost self-esteem and social inclusion and encourage long-term recovery. 

lindengate mental health awareness

Since lockdown, the charity has been providing a tonne of helpful information that anyone can use to take advantage of nature for a wellbeing boost - whether you’re lucky enough to have your own garden or not. They even have instructions on how to grow your own tomato plant at home with just soil, a tomato and old yogurt pots!

Dorset Mind 

We all know that sometimes, the best way to feel better, reduce feelings of isolation and improve our mental health is by talking to someone.

For Dorset Mind, this means providing vital talking therapy to hundreds of people across Dorset, to give them the strength to recover from mental health problems.

mind dorset mental health awareness

Since the start of lockdown, the Neighbourly Community Fund grant they received enabled them to purchase video conferencing licenses so they could seamlessly transfer their face-to-face support online.

They told us: “This has ensured that our existing clients have received continuity of support services such as individual counselling, befriending and mental health support groups during this challenging time. Furthermore, providing our support via online video conferencing has enabled us to reach out to members of the community who previously not experienced mental health problems but have found themselves struggling with anxiety, stress, loneliness and isolation as a direct result of Covid-19.

“Our support services are helping prevent problems such as stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness from developing into devastating long-term mental health disorders, and a potential crisis.”

Just Good Friends

It's common to see triumph over adversity in films and the media where it doesn't quite seem real - so when it happens in our local communities it's all the more inspiring.

For Bev Sykes (pictured below left), feeling the intensity of loneliness and isolation after the loss of her mother, she set up Just Good Friends to try and help others in the same boat.

bev sykes just good friends mental health awareness

Just 5 years later and Just Good Friends has around 200 members and 40 volunteers who help combat loneliness and isolation together by doing everything from quizzes and bingo, to trips, outings and even ballroom and sequence dance lessons.

Since lockdown the need to help members of Just Good Friends who are struggling with their mental health has become even more important.

Bev said: “We’ve been regularly staying in touch with members who are struggling with their mental health and some of the £400 community grant has gone towards updating their gardens, which in some cases were like forests. Now they can sit and enjoy nature which is a positive step for improving their mental health. 

“For other members who have no money the grant has enabled them to get connected to social media so they can reach other people, reducing feelings of depression and isolation.” 

Recovery Across Mental Health

Supporting a whopping 7,000 people each year, Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH) is a Paisley-based charity that provides a crisis service 7 days a week for people experiencing emotional distress, along with a whole range of practical and wellbeing support from one-to-one counselling service to stress and anxiety management sessions and activity groups.

Recovery Across Mental Health RAMH community heroes

To help those unable to access their usual support during lockdown, they have been providing helpful resources via their Facebook page and setting weekly creativity challenges. Plus they’ve been organising regular information webinars along with transferring one-to-one support to private online video conferencing services. Crucially, this has enabled them to continue taking new referrals and continuing to support as many people as they can.

Mental Health Resources

For anyone out there looking for support for their own mental health during lockdown, there are lots of resources out there that can help. 

If you’re looking for a local support group or charity, have a search on the Neighbourly database.

For more general advice and support, check out the links below: 

Mind - For information and support on everything from teen mental health to dealing with bereavement and grief.

Samaritans - For information, resources and a free 24 hour phone line if you need a friendly voice to talk to.

If you know of any amazing stories of volunteers, community groups or charities that are supporting those with mental health problems through the lockdown, tag us in your posts on Twitter @nbrly or via the Neighbourly Facebook page.

*Please note, all photos of volunteers and charity staff in this blog were taken before social distancing measures were introduced.

Meet the Covid Community Heroes

7 May 2020
Covid Community Heroes Neighbourly

For the last six weeks, since the introduction of the lockdown, the lives of millions have been turned upside down and inside out. 

Thousands of charities, food banks and local causes in our Neighbourly community have had to adapt incredibly fast in order to safely and effectively support families in need, vulnerable adults and everyone in between - many teetering on the edge of closure themselves.

We were so incredibly proud to have come together with our partners M&S, Lidl, Aldi, HEINEKEN UK, Danone, CocaCola EP, giff gaff and the Southern Coop to raise over one million for our Community Fund to help keep these projects running through the pandemic. 

Grants from the fund have gone to the likes of the Pioneers Project in Plymouth which has been putting together food parcels as well as creating cookery videos and organising virtual craft events to keep local family’s spirits up during lockdown and Newton Community Fridge whose volunteers have been cooking meals for NHS staff.

But behind the funds raised and projects supported, there are stories of individuals working tirelessly, often volunteering their time for free, to keep essential community services running and spirits up during this trying time.

Community Heroes

We spoke to volunteers and staff at three small projects which have benefited from the Community Fund, to find out how they’ve been supporting those in need in their local community and to give them a great big cheer from all of us in the Neighbourly community. 

Lorraine Lewis, CEO of The Lewis Foundation 

The Lewis Foundation is a small charity based in Northampton that supports cancer patients and their families whilst they’re in hospital - providing gift bags with self-care essentials, books and games to give patients much needed distractions from their treatment.

For Lorraine, keeping the charity running during the pandemic was essential.

lewis foundation covid

“It can be a sad, frightening and lonely experience for individuals undergoing cancer treatment”, she tells us. “Especially during this pandemic when their loved ones can’t be with them.”

Thankfully, with so much support coming in, continuing to carry on her hard work has been made possible. "Local businesses and supermarkets have been even more supportive than ever during this time,” Lorraine explains. “They’ve contributed items for our gift bags as well as making monetary donations. 

"But like all charities, we have had to adapt our processes. We can’t use our warehouse at the moment, so our own home has become a temporary stockroom piled high with donations.”

lewis foundation covid 19 community hero blog

Lorraine adds: “We have also been making up emergency packs for cancer patients who are self-isolating in the community, which we have never done before."

One lady whose dad received support from the Lewis Foundation said: "My dad had to undergo his chemo treatment alone today but luckily the gift bag he received from The Lewis Foundation included puzzle books. Thank you so much for giving him a much-needed distraction."

Paula Shapland, Manager at Park Life Community Cafe

Passionate about reducing food waste and supporting her local community, Paula manages the Park Life Community Cafe in Southampton which uses food donations for a number of initiatives including supporting vulnerable groups and helping those in need through a free ‘take what you need’ food box.

Since being ordered to close at the start of lockdown, Paula has helped the cafe transform into a hub of support for individuals and organisations needing extra support during the crisis.

park life community cafe covid hero blog

Paula (pictured above right) explains: “When the COVID-19 outbreak began and we knew the café would be closed for the foreseeable future, myself and other staff and volunteers wanted to do something to support people in our community. I began collecting food from several supermarkets on a daily basis and set up the M&S collections with Neighbourly. This expanded our services and we are now able to provide donations to hundreds of people every week.”

Incredibly, Park Life now provides food not only to individuals and families in need or self-isolating but to women’s refuges, schools, elderly care homes and a local food bank.

park life covid community hero

“Any food that is not fit for consumption goes into our park compost”, she adds. “Or it is given to a local resident who rents an allotment and feeds her chickens.”  

The team of volunteers have already received a flood of heart-warming thanks for their help, including from the local women's refuge which said: "I explained to Paula that one of our children here had an up and coming birthday and she organised a birthday cake, cupcakes and some lovely presents for her with just 3 days’ notice - this was so appreciated by us, Mum and especially the little girl.

“It’s such a good show of how our neighbourhoods are pulling together during this unprecedented time.”

park life community cafe thank you letter covid heroes

Rosie Rodgers, Senior Care Support Worker at Reading Mencap

Rosie works at Reading Mencap, a charity that supports children and adults with learning disabilities and autism, and their carers.

Sharing what inspired Rosie to start working in care, she tells us: "I previously worked in childcare as a nanny. One of the families I worked for was a social worker and trained me to work with a young child who is autistic.

"That is where my flare for working in care started. I have been a support worker now the past five years and wouldn't change my job."

Before the lockdown came into force, Rosie worked in the day service. "This is where we do arts and crafts, learn how to cook and other fun activities", she explains.

rosie reading mencap

"Now that the day service has been closed, I have been helping out the family service by delivering meals twice a week. I also make calls to the families of those who used to attend the day service to have a chat with them and see how they are doing.

"Whilst delivering food to one particular family, they said: ‘I recently turned 80 and I now feel 21, as the weight and stress of not having to go shopping has been lifted’.

"Another family had said they would be lost without the service delivering food twice a week."

Lockdown volunteers

As well as seeing existing projects on Neighbourly work even harder to help during the lockdown, we’ve also seen an increase in the number of new projects being set up by local communities wanting to help neighbours in need - showing community spirit at its strongest.

So whilst this is an incredibly sad and stressful time for many, we wanted to take stock of the thousands of individuals out there who are making it that bit better for their neighbours and say a great big thank you to all of them.

If you know of any amazing stories of volunteers who deserve a cheer, tag us in your posts on Twitter @nbrly or via the Neighbourly Facebook page.

HEINEKEN UK joins the Neighbourly Community Fund to help hundreds of charities and thousands of people

6 May 2020

Heineken Community Fund Logo

We're incredibly pleased to announce that HEINEKEN UK has joined forces with us and contributed to the Community Fund with a generous donation to help those most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in the UK. 

HEINEKEN UK, who already have a track record of supporting communities particularly through their festive Brewing Good Cheer campaign, were keen to continue their backing of local good causes across the UK and has donated £250,000.

David Forde, Managing Director of HEINEKEN UK said: “Although pubs are closed we’ve seen many of them adapt to continue to support their communities where needed. We’ve also seen local grassroots charities stepping up to deliver vital services to the most vulnerable. They’re helping to keep the community spirit alive by delivering meals and food parcels to those in need, picking up groceries and medicines for people self-isolating and simply being a voice on the end of a phone for people who are on their own.

“We know some people are struggling so the HEINEKEN Community Fund will help to support these charities. It will help to buy thousands of meals and help make sure that the most isolated feel a little less alone.”

HEINEKEN UK is now one of a number of other companies, including Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Aldi, Danone, giffgaff, Southern Coop and Coca-Cola, to contribute to the fund - ensuring these incredible charities can continue to provide support where it’s needed most.

Steve Butterworth, CEO of Neighbourly, said: “It’s great to have HEINEKEN on board. As lockdown continues, their donation will ensure even more local charities get the funds they need to help the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

Neighbourly named among 50 global tech start-ups powering the new retail world

28 April 2020

We're delighted to reveal that Neighbourly is among the top 50 retail tech start-ups operating globally, according to a new report published by RWRC – home of Retail Week and World Retail Congress. The Discovery 50 report showcases the world’s top tech start-ups and shines a light on innovative solutions that can support the retail sector – both during the pandemic and in the future.

Why The Discovery 50 was created

Retailers worldwide are scrutinising their business models more closely than ever, as they grapple with the impact of the coronavirus crisis and seek to deliver sales and maintain relevance among consumers. There is a growing realisation in boardrooms that collaboration with start-ups and third parties is crucial to achieve these aims and to better position businesses within the new post-Covid-19 world of commerce.

Profiling the top 50 global retail tech start-ups, the Discovery 50 report analyses the influential role start-ups, including Neighbourly, play in this new world.

How the report was compiled

The entries for the report were judged and shortlisted by a panel of retail and business experts including retail consultant Ian Shephard, retail analyst Natalie Berg, former Morrisons CTO Anna Barsby, Co:Cubed chief executive Jeremy Basset, Retail Week head of insight Lisa Byfield-Green and more.

All the businesses listed in the Discovery 50 started trading in the last seven years and have worked with a breadth of retailers and brands to help transform their businesses, either through a pilot or full-scale solution.

Who are the other 49?

Many of the start-ups in the list have helped brands to leverage their online presence, support the development of tribes and communities and take costs out of a business – all areas that are front of mind as the sector enters uncharted coronavirus-influenced waters. Several others specialise in in-store solutions, some of which will be redundant for retailers right now, but which have the potential to help non-essential shops bounce back when the crisis passes. The report also offers advice on how leaders can open themselves up to new and different ways of thinking and the benefits this can have on the bottom line. Access the Discovery 50 report in full here, or have a quick look at the list below.

What Retail Week said

Retail Week commercial content editor Megan Dunsby told us: “The Discovery 50 shows how start-ups can offer a lifeline for retailers. Now is the time for businesses to think about how they could work differently with the start-up community and build synergies; from creating a fast-track, light-touch process for forming contractual relationships to pre-allocating some funding that can be used for trials. Many start-ups in the Discovery 50 have implemented pilot schemes within weeks of starting conversations with a retailer, while others have been able to integrate full-scale solutions in a matter of months that have delivered major return on investment. Retailers should look to the Discovery 50 as a directory of the best start-ups to work with.”

The 50...

Aura Vision • Avasam • Catapult • Clearpay • Common Objective • Donde Search • Duologi • DynamicAction • ElizaSixtyFour • Engagement Agents • Flux • Gophr • Hurr Collective • Hyper • Increasingly • Intelistyle • Karakuri • LiSA • LovetheSales • LoyaltyLion • meepl • Mercaux • NearSt • Neighbourly • Nextail • Ometria • Omnia Retail • Onvu Retail • parcelLab • Peak • Personify XP • PlanVault • Quorso • RevLifter • Scurri • Shopper Intelligence • SignStix • Smarter Click Technology • Sook • Sparkbox • Spoon Guru • StorIQ • Stuffstr • Thyngs • TokyWoky • VeeLoop • VoCoVo • WiseShelf • ZigZag Global • Zoovu

giffgaff launches ‘goodybank’ with a donation to the Neighbourly Community Fund

22 April 2020

We're delighted with the news that giffgaff has launched ‘goodybank’ - a brand new initiative to help local communities in Britain and members of the giffgaff community facing hardship during this difficult time.

Founded on giffgaff’s principles of community and choice, the goodybank allows their members to help in two distinct ways - the first being a hardship fund for giffgaff members. Over the past few weeks, giffgaff has been supporting vulnerable members, many of whom have contacted the mobile phone network as a result of the current crisis. Acknowledging that its members are passionate about supporting each other, the goodybank will now allow members to purchase additional credit in the form of minutes, texts or data that will then be donated directly to other members facing hardship and giffgaff has committed to matching donations made by members. As phones become increasingly important throughout COVID-19 and for many the only means of communication with the outside world, giffgaff and its members want to ensure that everyone stays connected.

Ash Schofield, CEO of giffgaff said, “At giffgaff we have always had community at our heart and never has a sense of community been more important. We are already helping vulnerable members, many of whom contacted us as a result of the current crisis and will continue to do so. However, our members are an altruistic bunch, and the goodybank allows them to get involved should they be able to help. Even if we’re far apart, we want people to know they can ask for help and someone will always be there to offer that help and keep them connected.”

The second exciting option within goodybank is for members to make a donation directly to the Neighbourly Community Fund, into which giffgaff has already pledged £75,000. Through the partnership with Neighbourly giffgaff hope to maximise the amount of people it can help at a local level and guarantees that the right people in communities will be given the help and support they need. In our recent study we found that many of the charities in our network were worried about the closure of normal services like lunch clubs for the elderly and emergency food parcels, whilst at the same time needing to support an average of 180 people per week in the community with emergency provisions. The fund is giving micro-grants of £400 to these frontline groups so that services can continue.

Alongside goodybank, giffgaff has also made access to NHS websites free of charge free for every giffgaff member.

Neighbourly and its national partners increase emergency grant funding for community causes across the UK

17 April 2020

As the coronavirus crisis continues to increase the strain on communities across the UK, Neighbourly and its partners M&S, Lidl, Aldi, Nutricia (Danone), giffgaff and Southern Co-op are extending their Community Fund so that more hyper-local causes can extend their services to help vulnerable people in need.

More than 1,200 community causes within Neighbourly’s network – including foodbanks, homeless shelters, elderly care, community support groups, youth groups and health charities – have already been awarded emergency micro-grants of up to £400 from the Community Fund since its launch four weeks ago.

Phase 2 of the Fund will widen eligibility for the grants so that local charities and community groups who are supporting those who are suffering economically, socially or from ill health can continue their work. As before, the micro-grants will be provided quickly to avoid any service disruption.

M&S, Lidl, Aldi, Nutricia (Danone), giffgaff and Southern Co-op have contributed a combined total of £450,000 to Phase 2 of the Fund, in addition to almost £500,000 which was made available in Phase 1 with donations from M&S, Lidl, Aldi, Danone and Coca-Cola European Partners. M&S have also added the Neighbourly Community Fund as one of their ‘Sparks’ charities so that customers can support the fund when purchasing from the store.

More than 2,500 charities and community causes have already applied to Neighbourly’s Community Fund, highlighting the urgent need for emergency support at a grassroots level.

Steve Butterworth, CEO of Neighbourly, said:

“We have already seen the immediate difference that these micro-grants have made, with the community causes receiving the money within days. As lockdown continues, we want to ensure that as many eligible causes as possible benefit from the Fund, so that the most at-risk people receive urgent help. This is real time grant making in action, and we are calling for more national businesses to join us and help organisations working at a hyper-local level by contributing to the Fund. Together we can get support to those people in most urgent need.”

Caroline Henderson, Founder of Food and Friendship in Brighton & Hove, said:

“We’ve been significantly impacted by Covid-19 and the donation has enabled us to buy equipment needed to convert our lunch club to a delivery service providing hot meals to very isolated and vulnerable people.”

The extension of the Fund comes as a new survey of more than 900 of the community causes in Neighbourly’s networks shows the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their services. More than 80% have adapted their services to continue to provide a service to vulnerable individuals, while 75% are struggling with funding, and 65% say they would use additional funding for emergency food provision. With the additional pressures created by coronavirus, Neighbourly’s community partners estimate that they are now each supporting an average of 260 people every week.

Chris Williams, Head of Community & Events at Richard House Children's Hospice from London, said:

“If we don’t receive financial support in the coming weeks, we could face having to stop providing end of life and emerge respite care. Without our hospice, the families we support will simply have nowhere to turn.”

Gustavo Hildenbrand, Managing Director, Nutricia, part of Danone Specialised Nutrition said:

“Looking after the elderly and those at risk in our community is at the heart of what we do as a business, and this has never been more important. That’s why Nutricia is proud to make this further contribution to the Neighbourly Community Fund, helping local groups who are doing an amazing job of serving the most vulnerable in our communities during these difficult times.”

giffgaff are contributing to the Community Fund as a new partner for Phase 2 along with Southern Co-op who are contributing to the Fund in support of local causes including the charity partners nominated by their store teams. Southern Co-op will make a donation for each member vote that is cast as part of their Board of Directors vote this year. The National Emergencies Trust is also a supporting partner of the Community Fund.

For more information about the Neighbourly Community Fund, and to find out how you can contribute or apply, visit the campaign page.

Pt 2. Ways to be Neighbourly during the Coronavirus outbreak

27 March 2020
four ways to be neighbourly during the coronavirus outbreak

Here at Neighbourly, we’ve been inspired and amazed to see the incredible efforts from local communities across the country in the last week.

Since the first edition of our blog ‘Pt 1. How to support your local community during the Coronavirus outbreak’, M&S, Coca-Cola European Partners, Danone UK & Ireland, ALDI and Lidl have put a total of almost £500k into our new Community Fund which is providing micro-grants to over 1,000 local good causes registered on Neighbourly, during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Lidl has also set up customer food donation points in stores and begun work on putting together food and supply boxes to be distributed to those who are vulnerable during the outbreak through its Feed It Back Campaign – and that’s just the news at Neighbourly.

Out there in the community, nearly half a million people have signed up to volunteer for the NHS during the crisis and we’re hearing and seeing hundreds of heart warming stories of people supporting others in a myriad of different ways – from virtual dance parties to stop loneliness to neighbourhood groups dropping supplies to those in need.

We know so many people want to get involved and help in as many ways as possible, so we’ve put together our “part two” of tips for how to best help your community.


For anyone wanting to lend a hand to help the NHS, the way to sign up is via Good Sam. Once you’ve signed up to volunteer, they will alert you on opportunities to help in your local area with everything from transferring patients home once they’re well enough to be discharged from hospital, to assisting pharmacies with medication delivery.

If seeing all this volunteering happen has inspired you, you can also sign up to become a Red Cross Reserve Volunteer to help both now and in any future emergencies.

(Please note: Volunteer Red Cross and NHS Responders are no longer being accepted at the moment but check back again in the future.)

Neighbourhood groups

With so many amazing people keen to help, some streets can have multiple volunteers willing to go out of their way to help neighbours in need.

To help create a more collaborative and joined up approach, many of these volunteers are coming together to agree on one person being the main point of contact for their neighbourhood or street. This makes it much easier for those who are vulnerable to know exactly who to contact if the need help.

Using social media and chat apps, the main point of contact can coordinate within their volunteer group for each task that comes in.

With one point of contact willing to link with multiple people offering help, problems can be solved much more efficiently.

If you don’t know of any other volunteers in your area and still want to help, we’ve created a Neighbourly card you can print out and pop through your neighbour’s doors to let them know you’re there for them.

self isolating coronavirus help card neighbourly

Virtual fundraising

If you’re one of the many people left saddened by a cancelled fundraising event you’ve been working hard on, don’t despair. Try taking to your webcam and coming up with a whacky idea to raise funds for local charities from your sofa. There are plenty of free tools out there to help such as Zoom video conferencing and Facebook Live.

We asked the Neighbourly team for some of their ideas for virtual fundraisers to get you started:

  • Virtual quiz or ‘pub’ night
  • Virtual talent competition
  • Virtual fancy dress contest
  • Back garden marathon
  • Street sing-off (from your windows!)

To find local charities and community groups that need your best fundraising efforts, head to the Neighbourly website.

Community Kindness

Finally, you may have noticed rainbows appearing in the windows of your neighbour’s flats and houses. This was started to bring cheer for children on walks round their neighbourhood.

Popping a rainbow in your window is an easy way to make a friendly gesture to your neighbours.

Just remember, you don’t have to be an artist to draw a rainbow – and you don’t need to be a child to go rainbow spotting either!


(Image Credit: Rowan Clark)

If you liked this blog and want more advice, check out part one of how to help your local community during the Coronavirus outbreak. If you share it on Twitter, don’t forget to follow and tag us @nbrly.