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Blog | neighbourly

How To: Help Your Local Animal Shelter

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Britain is a nation of animal lovers and if you're anything like me (jumping for joy at every dog you come across in the street), then helping out at your local animal shelter is a great way to spend some free time.

Unfortunately there's a variety of reasons a pet can end up in a shelter. The obvious ones are the worst: cases of abuse and neglect. But sometimes it could be that the owner has passed away and there's nowhere left for their pet to go. The owner might have developed a serious or long term illness which means they can't care for them properly anymore.

There are often more of these cases than there are spaces in animal shelters. Staff at these animal shelters rely on donations to help keep doors open and volunteers to help them with their day to day care of the animals.

So what can you do to help?

Social media: they say charity starts at home, or in some cases, wherever you are with your mobile phone! You can start by sharing updates from your local shelter or adoption profiles on your social media channels. We know that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc. are huge sources of information for most folks these days. Imagine you share little Bubbles' adoption profile on your Instagram tomorrow and next week she's off to her forever home because of it!

Photography: another useful and super fun activity you can volunteer for. For every pet up for adoption, a new mugshot is needed. Pets need to look their best for their adoption profiles and your photograph might capture the smile somebody has been looking for. Good quality photos of day to day activities, staff, volunteers and housing at the charity will also be really useful for the shelter to use for their own social media channels.

Transport: do you have a car? Transporting animals is a key need for charities - they need transport to get to the vet or maybe their new foster home. What better companion on the road riding shotgun than a four legged friend?

Socialising: this one is everyone's favourite! Dogs and cats need socialising to help them alleviate loneliness and distress that often comes with the shift from home to shelter life. Dogs will need exercising and cats will need cuddling - this human contact also helps them build on becoming more comfortable with new and different people.

Donating items: by donating stuff this means the charity doesn't need to use hard earned monetary donations on the purchasing of items when it could be used towards something crucial like vet bills. It's always best to check with your local shelter what they need, but they will always welcome beds, blankets, toys, cat litter and food etc. Well loved and used items are fine but make sure they're still in a relatively good condition. I'm sure you wouldn't want to sleep in a bed that's been chewed to pieces either!


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DIY skills: if you're good with your hands or have a group of friends willing to help, then skills like gardening and carpentry are always appreciated. There will always be bits that need mending - fences to put up, walls to paint, plants to prune! Gardening will also help the premises look more homely for its residents and provide lots of smells for the ones who like to follow their noses.

Laundry: this is probably one you haven't thought of before, but can you imagine how many blankets, towels and beds need washing? This one is sure to score you some brownie points, even if it's just volunteering half an hour to come in and throw a few loads in the washing machine. It means another member of staff can use that time to exercise a few extra animals - or just give them a well earned break.

Fundraising: this is obvious but vital to keep a shelter running. More often than not they rely on donations from generous donors and fundraisers or local grants. But with budgets being cut all over the nation, it's getting increasingly more difficult. These donations help to feed animals, pay for expensive vet bills and keeping the premises warm and running. Most staff work on a voluntary basis because there just aren't enough funds to go around, but these people give their time to work each day around the clock. There are a million ways to fundraise! From a bake sale at your local supermarket (remember to ask their permission first) to an epic skydive wearing a cat costume - it's all for a great cause and you'll have a blast doing it.

Fostering: this comes with some measure of responsibility and won't suit everyone. You'll likely need to be someone who's home a lot so that when your new furry housemate comes to stay, you can help them adjust and relax. Fostering is a great way to get animals used to human contact and the comings and goings of home life and is vital when the shelter runs out of room for the next animal who needs it. Who knows, you may find that having them around isn't so bad and they might be able to join your family full time :)

Take a look at some of our animal rescue on projects and see how you can help!


About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can lend a hand. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.


Sophie Cook

Community Manager

Feb 1, 2018

What Is Micro Volunteering?

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Have you ever considered volunteering but find the same old reasons keep holding you back?

You can't find the time. You can't commit to anything long term. A disability or health concern is stopping you from taking the next step..

Ever heard of micro volunteering?

Micro-volunteering is bite-size volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality, involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete”

It's the perfect way to do something good or give back, largely from the comfort of your own home! In fact, 80% of micro volunteering takes places online meaning you need look no further than your smartphone, tablet or computer.

In a lot of cases, you can do it anywhere, anytime. After all, many people doing small actions can make a big impact. Here's a couple of ideas:

  • Share a cause or campaign you support and care about on your social media channels.
  • Perhaps a #2MinuteBeachClean.
  • Pick up litter you come across on your next countryside or seaside walk.
  • Got less than an hour? RSPB provides ways for you to still give nature a home from your home, garden or office.

And if you want to find local volunteering opportunities near you - take a look at what's going on at Neighbourly.

About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can lend a hand. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.


Sophie Cook

Community Manager

Nov 14, 2017

Neighbourly survey finds employees that volunteer through work are 13% happier

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We recently commissioned a survey to gain greater understanding of the attitudes around happy, healthy communities and the value of volunteering, with a number of questions addressing employee volunteering and happiness. Carried out by an independent research company with 2,000 people across the UK, this survey found that employees who have volunteered with their company are 13% happier than those who have not - suggesting that employee volunteering is the route to a happier workforce and as important as benefits or environment.

A happier workforce brings a number of bottom line benefits to a business, including better staff attraction and retention; improved cost savings thanks to lower staff turnover and a reduction in lost wages; as well as a positive culture and an improvement in productivity. Our survey also found that employees who volunteer are 15% more satisfied with their lives, and that they are also 15% more likely to recommend the company they work for, helping to support the recruitment of top talent.

We've found that the benefits of a happier workforce are backed up by research by other bodies. The University of Warwick1 found that being happy made people 12% more productive, whilst a CAP study2 found that replacing an employee costs approximately 20% of their annual salary. In addition, the Centre for Mental Health has just released updated figures for the estimated cost of mental health problems to employers3 which now equates to around £1,300 per employee.

Whilst the link between happiness and volunteering may not be a new one, the benefits and wider implications for employees, employers and the community cannot be ignored. So having greater insight into the positives of volunteering couldn’t have come at a more crucial time - when smaller community projects and charities are more in need of help than ever due to the reduction in funding from the government.

With 75% of millennials considering the potential to contribute to society when choosing an employer4, the possibilities for employee volunteering are huge. As well as supporting their local communities, 85% of businesses find volunteering advances talent as part of the learning and development strategy5.

Neighbourly helps businesses to activate their social purpose at a local level by aggregating charities and community projects and creating transparency around their needs through our interactive platform. We've worked with a number of retail and FMCG brands, whose volunteers’ responses also echo the findings of the nationwide survey:

  • 72% feel volunteering allows them to apply their skills
  • 80% said the experience made them feel happier
  • 86% said it raised their company’s profile
  • 89% want to take part in more events
  • 100% said volunteering made them feel proud to work for their company

Carmel McQuaid, Head of Sustainable Business at M&S, who have just completed a burst of over 340 volunteering hours as part of their 1 million hours 2025 commitment told us; ‘Our goal is to create a positive impact in society and improve peoples’ lives wherever we touch them. That’s why we encourage our employees to give up their knowledge, time, and energy to volunteer in the communities where we operate. We know from our own experience that the value of volunteering goes well beyond the impact of a single task, it actually improves employee well-being and happiness in the process.’

Find out more about employee volunteering with Neighbourly.



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References:
(1)  University of Warwick, Happiness and Productivity, February 2014
(2)  Center for American Progress, There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees, November 2012
(3)  HuffPost UK, Mental Health at Work: What No Employer Can Afford to Ignore, September 2017
(4)  Harvard Business Review, What Do Millennials Really Want At Work?, April 2016
(5)  Deloitte, Impact Survey 2016

Jane

Content Manager

Oct 25, 2017

6 steps to reduce plastic waste

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As humans, we leave our footprints wherever we go. Be it our carbon or ecological footprint - everything we do on this planet has a consequence. Sadly, plastic pollution is one of them. And it's a big problem, especially for our oceans.

Plastic is everywhere. If you're reading this on your phone - chances are your phone is protected by a plastic phone case. Reading this on a laptop? Your keyboard, track pad and mouse are probably plastic. As well as your headphones, your monitor, your glasses and sunglasses, parts of your clothing, your shoes and the container you're eating out of. It's everywhere and it's unavoidable. But what happens when we don't want it anymore and throw it away? While we hope most of it is sent off for recycling or even upcycling, a lot of it ends up in landfill where it will take hundreds of years to degrade. Then a lot of it ends up loose in the world, and ultimately in our waterways and our oceans.

So how can you help reduce the amount of plastic polluting our oceans? Here's our 6 easy steps:

  1. Carry a reusable bottle - firstly, plastic bottles contain chemicals that can seep into your drinks. Ew. Nobody wants that. It's not yet clear how harmful these chemicals are but is bottled water really worth it? It would be better for your health to carry a stainless steel bottle which is reusable as well as durable! Secondly, 35.8m plastic bottles are used every day, but only 19.8m are recycled each day. That's a staggering amount of unnecessary plastic left behind!
  2. Carry a reusable coffee cup - we're a nation of caffeine addicts and an incredible 7 million coffee cups are used everyday in the UK! Many of us will throw these coffee cups in the recycling bin, but did you know that most of them are in fact not recyclable? This is because polyethylene is used in the cups to keep them water tight. It would be much greener to carry an alternative - your own reusable coffee cup. They come in all designs, shapes and sizes and can make you look so much more cool on your morning commute ;)
  3. Buy loose fruit and veg - fruit and veg are naturally wrapped in their own sturdy skins designed to protect themselves, so why do we need to individually wrap these items in sheets of plastic? You'll be sure to see it commonly done in supermarkets but is it necessary? Packaged fruit and vegetables also come with the issue of food waste. Have you ever gone shopping for a courgette only to find you HAVE to buy 3? Often, these unwanted extras end up in the bin which contributes to the UK's ever growing food waste problem!
  4. Say no to plastic straws - a guarantee find in the waste on any beach are plastic straws. From tiny pointless cocktail straws to super big bendy ones - they are one of the most hazardous litter substances in the ocean. In 2015, a horrifying video of a turtle with a plastic straw being removed from it's nose went viral. While heartbreaking to watch, it raised awareness of a very dangerous and real threat to our marine life. If you must drink from a straw, there are such things as paper or even titanium alternatives.
  5. Say no to disposable cutlery - it poses much of the same problem as straws and other plastic litter and like most of these there are alternatives. Vegware make catering disposables that are low carbon, made from renewable or recycled materials, and all can be recycled along with food waste.
  6. Carry a reusable bag - plastic bags are a nightmare. Since the 5p charge of plastic bags came into effect in the UK back in 2015, the number of bags used has gone down by 80% which is equal to 9 billion fewer plastic bags! Next time you go shopping, take your own! We all have old plastic bags hiding in cupboards at home - so use it and reuse it. Then use it again. Take a tote bag, or a rucksack or a gym bag! All of these are less likely to split on the way to the car too.

But hey! Here's an even better suggestion: why not take part in a beach clean? It's a great excuse to take your friends, family or dog down to the coast for a day out. Along with your picnic and windbreakers, bring along a few rubbish bags and collect any rubbish you find. Do be careful though and wear some protective gloves as some plastic debris can be dangerous, they can have sharp edges and it's not uncommon to find used needles mixed in with a pile of old seaweed and sweet wrappers.

The local wildlife will definitely thank you. They're most at risk from plastic waste which often ends up being washed onto our beaches. According to research, 700 marine species are threatened by plastic debris. Fish mistake small pieces of plastic as food. Sea birds will scavenge for food along shorelines and eat almost everything. Whales have been killed from eating plastic bags and turtles have been found to inhaled plastic straws - it's horrible to think about but it's a very real problem.

You can also join a group of likeminded people for a Great British Beach clean! Marine Conservation Society are passionate about protecting marine wildlife and our beaches with their Beach Watch programme. We teamed up with MCS to clean one of our nearest beaches in Portishead but you can find your nearest beach clean event here.


About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can lend a hand. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.

Sophie Cook

Community Manager

Sep 13, 2017

Why Giving Can Be So Easy

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When somebody asks you to help or to give, does your mind automatically flash with pounds signs? The rattling clamour of collection buckets? Most people aren't willing to part with their cash unless it's for a cause that specifically relates to them in some way e.g. cancer respite or homelessness. And that's understandable, but there's more to giving than just donating to that special cause. What if someone in your local community asked you for a hand? What if all they wanted were an extra pair a hands for an afternoon?

Giving your time to someone who needs it is invaluable and rewarding - you know you feel better about yourself when you helped that elderly lady carry her bags down the stairs to the tube. Maybe someone in a hurry dropped their boarding pass at the airport and you hurried to catch up with them to return it - hero of the holiday! Why not take it a step further?

The word volunteer means different things to different people: it doesn't have to mean a 6 month unpaid position in a faraway country. Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes, the actual definition is to freely offer to do something. There, not so scary is it? It could literally apply to anything!

So what do you get out of volunteering? Here's just a handful of benefits:

  • Gain confidence - you'll boost your confidence trying your hand in something new, it doesn't matter if you're any good at it! As long as you've tried, you can be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone to help somebody else.
  • Make new friends - the great thing about volunteering is how you end up with the most unlikely bunch of people and can form real bonds over your shared interests and an experience you can all enjoy. Who knows, maybe you'll want to volunteer together again sometime?
  • Learn new skills - you're bound to pick up something new, especially when working in groups, that's the beauty of working together.
  • Make a difference - no matter what your contribution is, you gave your time to somebody who needed it. Guaranteed, that will mean more to that person than a few pounds in a collection tin.

Enjoy yourself - the most important part of the journey. Volunteering is not a chore - it's a fun and social activity, why not bring a group of friends to the next one?

That's probably why 14.2 million people volunteered in 2016, and with such strong focus on social responsibility these days we can expect to see that number to rise.

Now you might be thinking "what could I possibly offer as a volunteer?". First step - click on to Neighbourly and have a look through the volunteer events happening in your area. Last year, I came across a volunteer event for The Food Jam. They needed a few volunteers that could jump on their bicycles and collect food donations from designated locations around Bristol. So I shared the event with a few friends and off we went on our bikes for a lovely cycle around the city, packing our tow crates with fruit and veg, ready to deliver to the guys at Food Jam who were cooking it up for an event. All we needed were our bicycles, they supplied the crates. We had a guide that took us to the stores and had a hilarious time trying to cycle uphill with a crate bulging with food! Overall it was a really enjoyable day for us and we all agreed we'd be happy to lend an afternoon to volunteer together again.

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Volunteering is better together! Rope in a few friends when you can for an even better experience.

Do you have a volunteer story you'd like to share with us? Let us know! You can tweet us at @nbrly or email us at hello@neighbourly.com, we'd love to feature your story!


About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can lend a hand. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.


Sophie Cook

Community Manager

Sep 12, 2017

Time for the ‘glass-half full’ society

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Every day, people all around the country are being neighbourly. 

People like Marva at the Globe Community Centre in Old Trafford, a partnership of organisations who run activities for local families, in a place where local people can enjoy a moment of peace away from the stress of daily life. “We believe Globe means somewhere they can belong to” says Marva. 

Marva’s work is about people, about all those intangible things that make the biggest difference. 

Places like the Globe Community Centre, people like Marva. This is what we’re calling the ‘glass half full society’.

And we need these people and these places, because sometimes it’s hard to be an optimist. 

This year’s NCVO Almanac, which monitors many things about the voluntary sector, found that we’re not making the time to help each other, with no material change in volunteering rates. And by far the biggest reason we are not volunteering more is because we feel that our work and home commitments mean that we don’t have the time. 

The Jo Cox Foundation, whose Great Get Together we are supporting this year has found that over 9 million people would describe themselves as always or often lonely. The answer to this problem couldn’t be simpler. But the reality is that we’re too busy to respond to this modern mental health epidemic, with one in five admitting to not properly listening to others.

And it’s not looking like it’s getting much brighter, with recent comments by the head of Ipsos MORI telling us that there is a sense of pessimism about the future in western Europe and increasing demands on our time, leading to a battle for attention.

Perhaps I’m being to harsh, taking a day out to volunteer might seem like a lot of effort, and maybe we don’t want to get caught up in each other’s troubles in case they end up taking up a lot of time. But how about the finding from The Eden Project Communities’ recent report that 53% of us have never said hello or good morning to a neighbour. When did we stop having the time to say hello?

This can’t go on. Disconnected communities are costing us £32bn. Which is why it’s not just a matter of doing nice worthy things in the margins, but vitally important to come together to solve this malaise. 

We know that with everything else on our plates, the red tape and apathy that holds us back, it’s not going to be easy.

But we are unbowed by the challenge. Because there is a way of living that means that we’re all more satisfied with our life. And it doesn’t necessarily mean eschewing everything we love for a simpler existence, but finding ways to be more neighbourly.

Essentially, we are social animals and our ability to empathise is core to our being. Societies have always survived and flourished by pulling together as a group, identifying our skills, strengths, expertise and combining these to be stronger together. And we are all capable of living together in harmony by working together to find a constructive way forward to meet our common needs.

There was something in The Big Society idea that can re-materialise. A way of working together that blurs the lines about who should be doing what and starts asking how can we make it happen together.

So we’ve set up a platform where each of us can act. And every day, we’re trying to find a way to make it easier to pull together, by giving people tools to be more, well, neighbourly.

We know that the debate rages about whether social media is connecting us or disconnecting us from each other, so why have we chosen to use technology to increase neighbourliness? Because it’s not enough to be connected, we need to have high quality relationships. And, to us, this means finding ways to not just donate once, but to give people the opportunity to act often to support each other. 

So, perhaps counter-intuitively, we’d like Neighbourly to help people get offline more, and to get involved in their communities. Our aim is to pull people together in the Cloud to bring them together on the ground.

We want giving to be much more than a moment of worthiness where we might do a good turn, put a coin in a collecting tin or volunteer once a year. We want it to be a way of life.

And we think that the more we all do good things, the more we can propagate and hard code doing good, to the extent is becomes habitual, rather than exceptional. And that means we can get back to what brought us together in the first place, supporting each other. 

Day by day, each small act, done often, begins to add up into a place where each of us uses our resources to reshape how we live our lives. A chain reaction of good. Because we know that when you do just one thing, we’re more likely to do the next. As the Institute of Fundraising found 63% have taken additional positive actions as a result of donating to charity.

We want to find ways of making this our comfort zone, our ‘go to’ approach, for all of us, every day. 

So here’s our six point plan for the ‘glass half full’ society:


·        Get started: say hello to your neighbour

·        Get involved with your community and find out what you can do

·        Get connected to the opportunities that do good where you are

·        Give your time, your money, your surplus things

·        Do it again

·        Pass on the feeling


Perhaps that sounds too easy? Well that’s because we don’t think it is just about individuals digging deep - it’s about a more sustainable approach, a deeper connection with our community through everything we do, and pushing together for a more responsible approach to the world around us. And it’s better for all of us - the cost of isolation and disconnected communities is costing us £5.2bn on healthcare alone. Isn’t that much better spent on the things that bring us together?


Steve Haines

Head of Community Engagement

Jul 6, 2017

Want to get young people actively involved in your charity or community group?

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Want to get young people actively involved in your charity or community group? This is how you can. The Government’s National Citizen Service (NCS) gives young people aged 15-17 a once in a life time opportunity to develop their confidence and skills for work and life over a 4 week programme in July/August.

This involves them developing and delivering a project that will bring benefits to their local community. They do this by selecting and working with a local charity/organisation - it’s called their ‘Social Action’ phase.

Learn by Design, who deliver NCS, are keen to hear from community groups and charities in a number of areas in the UK that would be interested in taking part. You can get involved by having a stand at their Market Place or delivering a presentation/session about your community group/charity to tell the young people about what you do and how you’d like their help. The areas are:

  • Peterborough and Huntingdon - projects will happen during w/c 24 July, w/c 31st July or w/c 7th August.
  • Staffordshire - projects will happen during w/c 3 July and w/c 17 July. 
  • North Hertfordshire - projects will happen during w/c 10th July.
  • Oakham, Rushden and Stamford - projects will happen during w/c 17th July and w/c 31st July.

The young people could volunteer, put on an event or raise awareness for you. As well as the benefits your organisation will gain, you’ll also be helping young people to develop their skills and confidence.

To find out more, contact your local NCS Project Manager:

For Peterborough and Huntingdon contact Mike Pipe on mikepipe@bydesign-group.co.uk / 07551 170312

For Staffordshire, North Hertfordshire, Oakham, Rushden and Stamford contact Laura Price on lauraprice@bydesign-group.co.uk / 07584 190741.


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Jane

Content Manager

Jun 20, 2017

Becoming a neighbourly society - the time is now

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Now, more than ever, we’re hearing about the huge, ever-expanding gaps in UK public services that are going to need an army of new volunteers if the provision is to continue. Volunteers Week 2017 has rightly brought more of this crisis to our attention – after all, the week is (or should be) as much about recruiting new volunteers as it is celebrating and thanking existing ones.

As this Guardian article states, volunteers are now running libraries, maintaining parks and staffing hospital reception desks due to austerity cuts, and whilst this is worth and estimated £23bn a year in economic value, it’s still nowhere near enough. And the extent of charities’ work in delivering frontline services keeps on increasing. Included in the essential services run by the charitable sector are ambulance services, housing, health & social care, probation, community transport, mental health and search and rescue – to name a few.

The dream – where neighbourly communities are built with residents, companies, local government teams, charities and community projects, all working in unison like a well-oiled machine – seems ever further from reach. Delivering resources into places that they are needed, building funds where they are depleted and diverting helping hands to where they can help shouldn’t be so difficult. But it is.

Many of these problems could be helped if we, as a whole society, could more easily draw upon our neighbourly values and lend support within our means to ensure everyone not just survives but thrives. We are given some glimpses of hope – The Charities Aid Foundation’s annual UK Giving report, for instance, says that 89% of people “did something charitable” in 2016, including volunteering, which is a huge hike from 79% in 2015.

Official figures are less encouraging though. People reporting having formally volunteered at least once a month – through a group, club or organisation – has flatlined since the turn of the century, standing in the last Cabinet Office survey of 2015-16 at 14.2 million, or 27% of the adult population. Informal volunteering – helping people who are not relatives and doing so not through a group, club or organisation, at least monthly – stood at 18 million, or 34% of the population, in 2015-16. These numbers have stayed broadly unchanged since 2000.

But perhaps it is not a lack of desire, rather a logistical minefield, that stops more of us from contributing. What are we permitted to do? How should we organise ourselves?

And what about companies in all of this? The Guardian article states that ‘charities will have to do much of the heavy lifting on this themselves’ – the 2015 legislation promise of three days’ paid volunteering leave annually for all public-sector workers and those private companies with 250+ staff, remains unfulfilled (and isn’t in the Tory 2017 programme). Regardless of legislation, many businesses have already bought in to the well-documented ‘employee volunteering business case’ and there has been an astronomic increase in UK companies (large ones at least) engaging in some form of employee volunteering. However, The London Benchmarking Group reported that the average proportion of employees engaging in employee volunteering in their member firms was 19 per cent last year, but often uptake is much lower.

There’s clearly a multitude of barriers. Whilst participating companies do advertise the opportunities, it isn’t always enough to turn employees into volunteers. They need to understand what they can learn, the impact they can have and how it will make them feel. Some companies we speak to say they have tried to make this work but their employees felt they didn't want to take the entitlement because they didn't know what opportunities were available and what the business really wanted them to do with the days.

But we think there’s another major factor at play – and one that is not just related to the giving of time. Again and again we come across a snag with company contributions. VAT regulations on product donations, Health and Safety regulations around volunteering, not to mention the complexities of insurance. And of course, the legislation associated with passing on food to those in need, makes these human things extremely worrisome (and in some cases a complete blocker) for the companies that do want to contribute.

The Good Samaritans Act is an interesting concept. It takes many forms across the globe, but if you look at the US, where all 50 states have some type of Good Samaritan law, individuals currently have protection when they lend a hand in an emergency. Put simply, if you see someone in trouble and you stop to help, but inadvertently do more harm than good, you are protected from being sued.

Could the principles of this act be extended more broadly in the UK to companies to take some of the shackles off? Can we become a society where if we see a need and we want to help, then we can have a go – being sensible in our decisions and careful and respectful in delivery of course – but free from the fear of repercussions?

Something has to change, for sure. Let’s have a look at Edelman’s 17th annual trust and credibility survey: ‘We are experiencing a total collapse in trust in the institutions that shape our society.’ Trust in the UK is at a historic low at 29 per cent. There is an unprecedented feeling that life is not as fair as it used to be. And sadly, only one in nine of the UK population think that the system still works.

Business needs to lead, and be free to do so. The rewards could be huge – our recent research showed employer led volunteering as resoundingly positive (7+ out of 10 - from the individuals taking part). Those who volunteered with their company trust other people and companies more than those who haven’t, and are more likely to recommend their company to a friend. On top of this, the research shows they are happier and more satisfied with life.

Clearly Marks and Spencer get it: this week 7000 M&S colleagues from over 650 stores and offices will be donating their time and skills to over 700 local community projects. Their new Plan A 2025 #SpenditWell community transformation programme will support 1,000 communities, help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives and convert M&S into a zero-waste business.

There is, very definitely, huge untapped potential, a willingness to contribute and a glut of resources. Take a look at our Twitter feed if you ever need a reminder of the undying spirit of neighbourliness that defines our communities. Or this story of supermarket workers from Sainsbury’s donating food to police officers in the recent London Bridge attacks.

Let’s make the fabric of our society and the ownership of it a shared challenge where we all have and equal hand in helping it flourish.

Jane

Content Manager

Jun 8, 2017

#SpendItWell: why M&S staff are volunteering in every UK community this week (including yours!)

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You may have noticed teams of hard-working volunteers from Marks and Spencer out and about in a community hub near you. Perhaps you’ve seen them building a new accessible seating area at your grandchild’s school or decorating a local hospice that has earned the thanks of M&S customers and employees alike... Intrigued? Read on to learn the incredible story behind this UK and ROI wide celebration of community!

Good deeds build great communities. Every hour we spend volunteering for a community organisation is another hour they can spend helping someone in need.

During 1-10 June, 7000 M&S teams from over 650 stores are donating their time and skills to transform essential community projects up and down the nation. Many of the chosen projects have already received donations of surplus food or raised funds alongside their local store. Now they are going to benefit from some free helping hands, which makes all the difference in a sector where resources are being stretched further every day.

Here are just some of the inspiring causes that have been chosen to take part in the activity.


Brixton Soup Kitchen

On 1st June, to kick off #SpendItWell, Brixton Soup Kitchen welcomed volunteers from M&S Brixton Road to make-over part of their building that had not been painted in over twenty years!

This is the second time the soup kitchen has received helping hands from their local M&S store. In 2015, a team of passionate local people and staff members helped to transform the food bank in just 24 hours. It was heart-warming to see the surprise and delight on the faces of people who rely on this community space for food and support.

In the words of Solomon, the dedicated Brixtonian behind this remarkable project: "This means a lot to the Brixton community because a lot of people don't believe that companies like M&S will come down and help them out."

Knowing that people from a nearby store are willing to give up their time to improve their environment makes a massive difference. It shows that people from all parts of society care about their well-being and want to come together to support them. This is a real boost for those experiencing food poverty and for the regular soup kitchen volunteers who give their time day in, day out to help rebuild the lives of their fellow Brixtonians.


Dalgarno Trust 

These days, even more ‘affluent’ areas of the country are home to families that are struggling to support themselves. The Dalgarno Food Bank prepares weekly bags of groceries to help people living in hardship in Kensington and Chelsea. You may be surprised to hear that the project regularly sees up to 90 recipient customers weekly. The inspiring team behind the food bank works tirelessly to help people find their feet again.

As George from Dalgarno Trust explains: “We live in an amazing society, but there are increasing challenges in making sure everybody has the chance to participate.” Collectively, individuals and businesses can give more people the opportunity to feel part of society again. Dalgarno receives regular help in the form of financial and surplus food donations from nine local M&S stores who have combined their support for such a wide-reaching cause in their community.

The volunteers visiting this important food bank as part of #SpendItWell are certainly not afraid of hard-work! They’ll be carrying out a deep clean of the 5000 square foot community building that houses the foodbank along with the Trust’s other essential projects. The team will also get stuck in clearing and maintaining bushes and creating a neighbourhood garden with surplus flowers from M&S that have been brought back to life with some green-fingered TLC. This just goes to show - all lives have the potential to thrive if they are given a second chance!


Royal National Lifeboat Institute

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute in Durham and M&S Dalton Park Outlet have been organising collections in the store for the last two years. Although this is only a small outlet team, they have raised an incredible £33k+ together, showing what can happen when different parts of communities come together for a common purpose.

At the helm of the RNLI branch in Durham is a heroic fundraiser named David, who remembers the first day he went into an M&S store and the manager told him he could collect there any time: “She may not have quite realised what she was letting herself in for!” David jokes. Since then, they have held 82 collections in the store and nurtured a friendship that will last well into the future.

To celebrate #SpendItWell, volunteers from M&S Dalton Park will join David and RNLI mascot ‘Stormy Stan’ at Seaham for a big beach clean to raise awareness of this essential charity that saves lives at sea. Good luck Stan!


Great Get Together for Jo Cox

M&S Birstall is working with the local community to run a Great Get Together inspired by former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was killed nearby in Birstall on June 16th last year.

As Jo Cox said at her first speech to parliament: “We are far more more united and have far more in common than that which divides us." The Great Get Together believes there is a groundswell of people who reject divisive politics and simply want to bring communities together and celebrate all that unites us. There are over 100,000 get togethers already planned for the weekend.

As part of Spend It Well, the Birstall store will invite customers and family members into the store for a delicious coffee morning with activities for all ages to enjoy. Bringing neighbours together in one place to make shared memories is how we can all play our part in helping communities feel closer and more united. Why not organise a gathering yourself?


Calum’s Cabin

This charity on the Isle of Bute was set up by the family of a courageous boy called Calum. Families can visit the cabin to make lasting memories and stay in a safe and warm place, which is important for children who have cancer and cancer-related diseases. The charity also pays for the ferry to Bute and makes it possible for them to take part in activities whilst they are there.

The whole thing was Calum’s idea. After all, he and his family lived in a beautiful part of the world. Wouldn’t it be great to have children suffering from cancer come to Bute and make special irreplaceable memories?

So his family set to work. They rallied the whole community to make Calum’s idea come to life. A local electrician donated his time to wiring up Calum’s Cabin. Lots of other people got involved by donating materials, time or gifts of money.

This week, volunteers from Marks and Spencer will be completely re-vamping Calum’s Cabin Charity Shop in Paisley, a busy store that raises a significant amount of money for the cause. Not only will they give the whole shop a new lease of life, but the volunteers will use their expert visual merchandising skills to make the most of every single donation ready for the grand re-opening.


Certitude

M&S Head Office aren’t going to miss out on this opportunity to help their local communities! Volunteers from the London office are heading to Certitude’s Activity and Resource Centre, a space where people with learning disabilities can enjoy arts and crafts, music, cooking, gardening, sport and explore the local area.

Volunteers from M&S will help to develop the beautiful sensory garden and build a pizza oven that will be used to cook meals for Certitude’s Food for Thought group, a pioneering mental health project based at the ARC.

As Sam from Certitude explains, “If you have Down Syndrome or autism, that becomes a bit of a lightning rod for all your support; it’s all around that disability, because it’s the most obvious to anyone looking in. Many people we support find it hard to manage stress and bereavement, things escalate and someone’s quality of life can begin to deteriorate.”

Food for Thought is a small group of people with learning disabilities coming together with a trained therapist, making a meal from scratch together with food grown at the project and talking about their lives. During the sessions, they discuss coping strategies and how these can be applied to real-life situations. At a time when services for people with disabilities are becoming increasingly important, truly unique projects like these are worth shouting about.


LOROS Hospice – ColourFun Mile Run

The Colour Fun Mile in Hinckley is a fantastic example of how lots of people from different walks of society can gather their combined forces to make a big splash. LOROS has seen more and more people throw themselves into this fundraising extravaganza, somehow making it even more colourful every year!

The run has a real fun, family-friendly feel to it, with a focus on “brightening” people’s lives. This is something that LOROS rightly prides itself in being able to do for people who may be going through a very a challenging time. The power to bring a smile to someone’s face when they or a loved one is experiencing terminal illness is a very precious gift.

This year, the ColourFun Mile Run is part of #SpendItWell and it’s shaping up to be even bigger and better than before. We’re sure the M&S volunteers will do themselves proud by throwing even more colours into the mix!



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The volunteering events happening during 1-10 June are part of something very exciting. By 2025, M&S want to ensure that everything they do has a positive impact on people’s collective well-being, communities and the planet. Each store is committed to making a marked difference where its employees live and work - from helping 10 million people live happier, healthier lives, to helping to transform 1000 communities, to becoming a zero-waste business.

If you’re feeling inspired by the energy and compassion being poured into communities every day, you're not alone. Here at Neighbourly, we see more and more people signing up week upon week to support causes that mean something to their community. Could this be the perfect moment to think about how you could get involved in making your local area a better place?

You can help right now by getting these stories out there, making more people aware of the work being done to improve people’s lives. Follow these Neighbourly project pages to show your support and share their pages with your friends, family and colleagues.

Together, we can help everyone choose a way to #SpendItWell. Great communities are being built – one good deed at a time...

Beth Calverley

Community Manager

Jun 6, 2017

Breaking out of autopilot

SpendItWell_lunch

Today is 1st June – what shall now be known as ‘Make It Matter Day’ – the day when M&S is encouraging the UK to break out of autopilot, find time for the things in life that matter and make every decision count. Sounds good to me.

It’s also kick-off day for their new #SpenditWell community transformation programme which will support 1,000 communities, help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives and convert M&S into a zero-waste business.

It’s a big, ambitious social change programme that will initially be piloted in 10 communities over the next two years. They will trial a range of actions designed to tackle the issues that matter most to communities – like unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, mental health and wellbeing. Successful initiatives will be rolled out to a further 100 locations by 2023. You can read more about the pilot community programme here.

To deliver the pioneering initiatives M&S will work with local councils and partners including Neighbourly as well as Business In The Community, Royal Voluntary Service, The Silver Line, Power to Change and Frazzled Cafe. Each of the 10 locations will have a programme of activities including support for children starting school (10,000 pairs of plimsolls – we love this!), careers advice, friendship groups to tackle loneliness and exclusion, Frazzled Cafes for those feeling stressed, support for community businesses, investment in outdoor spaces, grants to support food surplus charities to fund fridges and cool bags, meals for the homeless and employee volunteering. It’s a major commitment and we’re so pleased to be a partner.

But for today at least, it’s all about breaking out of autopilot and finding time for the things in life that matter, making every decision count.

For us it’s about appreciating the people we have around us at work, the huge patch of green parkland that’s right outside our office (but we rarely spend time in) and saying ‘yes’ when our Neighbourly founder says, ‘down tools, we’re going for a picnic’.

It’s about shades on, good food in a bag-for-life, forgetting the to-do list for 30 mins, laughing loud, sharing a box of biscuits, leaving our mobiles in the office, dusting off our actual camera (remember those?) and just……. well………………….







Taking a breath. 





Yes, it feels good.


SIWPicnic


Jane

Content Manager

Jun 1, 2017