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A day in the life: Employee volunteering in action

31 August 2022

Here at Neighbourly we live and breathe local communities and good causes. So, naturally, one of our most cherished staff benefits is unlimited volunteering.

Yep, you read that right. Provided we get our jobs done, Neighbourly employees can take unlimited paid volunteering days every year.

It’s something we take huge pride in and, whilst we’re helping other businesses implement employee volunteering for themselves - it makes sense that we get stuck in too.

Shedding some light into what an employee volunteering day might look like, Alice - Neighbourly’s Digital Marketing Manager, shares her day in the life, volunteering at the Community Farm near Bristol.

Volunteering at the Community Farm

The Community Farm is a not-for-profit social enterprise and community owned organic farm based in Chew Magna, near Bristol. As well as producing and delivering nature-friendly and nutritious organic veg boxes to hundreds of people in and around the Bristol area, they run a huge number of educational and wellbeing activities for all ages.

9am - Travelling to the farm

Shadow of a person and their bike

The Community Farm is set amongst beautiful countryside, right by Chew Valley Lake - about 10 miles from Bristol. As I don’t drive, I hop on my bike and cycle over to the farm following a lovely quiet (and largely off road) cycle route (thanks Sustrans!). It’s about an hour's ride but the weather is sunny and I’m glad to be outside enjoying the fresh air.

10am - Meet at the community farm yurt 

About six people are volunteering at the farm today. Some have been coming for years and volunteer every week, others pop down when they can - but it’s rare to see someone volunteer for the first time and not want to keep coming back. 

We usually start our day by meeting at the yurt. The yurt is a space used for many different farm, volunteer and community activities. It’s a fantastic space and even has its own pizza oven outside. There’s lots to do today though, so we don’t hang about. 

Gardening gloves are donned, sun cream applied and water bottles filled, we get ready to start the day.

10:15 - Broadly speaking


The first big job of the day is picking the broad beans. Despite having been picked by volunteers just a few days before, the smaller ones are already plumped up. After a quick lesson on picking technique and how to spot the biggest and plumpest broad beans, we get to it.

There’s always some good chat from volunteer coordinator Ian whilst we’re working on farm tasks. Today he is telling us all about this book he’s been reading called ‘Immense World’ by award-winning science writer Ed Yong which talks about the amazing power of animal senses. 

His favourite fact from the book was the discovery that just 1mg of Atta Texana (Texas leafcutter ant) pheromone could theoretically lead a column of ants round the world three(!) times.

Ants aside, I find picking broad beans quite peaceful and meditative and before I know it we’ve plucked over 80kg of broad beans between us. Time for some well-earned lunch.

1pm - Lunch (and cake)

Volunteers sitting on log stumps eating lunch

Sitting under the garden shelter we eat our lunch whilst chatting to some of the farm staff, one of whom brought cake as this was his last day working at the farm before moving on to pastures anew. 

Not long into our lunch break, another team member comes rushing out of the kitchen. She’s found a baby shrew in the sink! The farm is full of wildlife but this particular find is especially cute. Whilst little shrew doesn’t seem too impressed about being removed from the sink, we feel it’s in its best interests.

2pm - Heave hoe


After lunch it’s off to the brassicas. In organic farming, some weeds can be useful as they keep the pests out - but these lanes of purple kale and cavolo nero have become a little overrun. Time to give them some space with a round of hoeing.

Hoes are a tool that efficiently scrape away the weeds in between the plants and, with weak roots, proved quite a satisfying task. In just a few hours, we’ve cleared the weeds and it’s time to wrap up for the day.

4pm - Get yer veg on the edge


The Community Farm aims for absolutely nothing to go to waste. Their walk-in fridge contains a shelf called ‘veg on the edge’ which is a free-for-all for staff and volunteers to collect anything that’s wonky or needs using up quickly.

I grab some courgettes, a green pepper, some broccoli and an amazing looking conjoined cucumber as my ‘earnings’ for the day.

Outside the fridge often sits a crate of veg that’s gone a touch too far or is a little woody. This gets sent off to be fed to the pigs.

There is also a community of pickers called ‘gleaners’ in the UK that come to the farm to pick whatever's been left in the field. Home growers know that sometimes you just get such a huge glut of something (courgettes and runner beans seem to be common ones) that you just can’t pick and use it all up - and it’s the same at the Community Farm. 

The gleaners that come to the Community Farm come to pick all that’s left and transport it to be distributed by local food banks and community kitchens.

4:30 - Rolling home


It’s been a tiring but fulfilling day at the farm and I leave for the cycle back to Bristol with a smile on my face. 

With the heat of high summer, I can’t resist a little stop for rest and water at the top of this hill - plus it gives me time to enjoy the view.


Being able to volunteer is incredibly important to me as an employee at Neighbourly - enabling connection to my local community to be something I can experience not only in my spare time but as part of my working life. At the same time, it's extremely concerning to see and hear about the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on the most vulnerable people and the organisations that support them.

The Community Farm has been hitting the local headlines of late. Having lost 50% of its organic veg box subscribers in the last year, as many households cut down on spending, they are now on the brink of closure. Along with the thousands of small charities and good causes across the UK and Ireland, this crisis is already taking its toll - and it’s the contribution of volunteer time, funding and the support of customers that will help prevent the collapse of this incredible web of community support.

It’s also why it’s ever more important for businesses to embrace or further embed their employee volunteering programmes. Not only so that staff can see that their employer is invested in the causes they care most about - but to enable real action by real people in communities during a time of immense suffering and hardship, allowing us all to weather the storm.

This year Neighbourly has released a brand new guide ‘Volunteering: The Key to Employee Engagement’ - if you’d like to find out more about employee volunteering or how to create scale and maximise a corporate volunteering programme, it’s a great place to start.

How to build an engaging volunteering programme

20 July 2022

An evident rise in social consciousness is intensifying the war for talent; transforming workforce expectations and driving an increasingly urgent need to improve employee engagement. 

Employee volunteering programmes are being used to drive this engagement - and unsurprisingly so. Saying that your business has helped 100,000 people is a powerful way to show employees the impact they’re making, in turn helping them to feel more connected to the programme.. 

The most effective volunteering programmes enable staff to better connect with their local communities, igniting a sense of satisfaction from supporting those in need. In fact, YouGov research commissioned by Neighbourly in 2021 found that employees in organisations that offer volunteering programmes are happier and more likely to trust and recommend their employer to others. 

However, recognising the link between volunteering and employee engagement is only the start.

Employee volunteering strategy


To move from planning to activating a successful volunteering programme requires a multifaceted strategy. The more that volunteering and community action are ingrained in the culture of a company, the easier they will be to execute and, in turn, foster greater employee engagement. Aligning a volunteering programme with company values will ensure it’s an integral part of your ESG plan as well as serving as evidence that the business is living its values. 

At a time where businesses are often faced with staff shortages due to the ongoing impact of covid and Brexit, it’s important to consider how you can build an inclusive volunteering programme. For example, micro-volunteering takes into consideration that time-poor employees are more likely to volunteer their skills in small, convenient chunks, allowing them the opportunity to contribute to a larger community project in a flexible way. Remote volunteering gives employees who can’t or don’t want to leave their house the chance to make a difference in a way that is comfortable and, equally as valuable.    

Companies that are particularly good at this will often include their volunteering policy in the job descriptions of all employees as well as job adverts, therefore new joiners know from day one that volunteering is important to their employer. 

Overcoming barriers to employee volunteering

volunteer 2

One blocker to the uptake of such programmes is the sense among employees that they require permission to take time away from their main work responsibilities to volunteer. However, the more they feel their manager is behind their volunteering efforts, the more engaged they will be. 

Including these programmes within the KPIs that line managers actively and regularly check on further encourages employees to put themselves forward for volunteering opportunities. 

The KPIs used to evaluate the success of employee volunteering programmes can also influence overall success in relation to employee engagement. The most successful programmes tend to report on the number of lives they have been able to positively impact, rather than focussing on the number of employees that have taken part or the hours they have clocked. 

By focusing on human impact, rather than raw numbers, employees will feel more connected to the cause, fulfilled by their experience and thus motivated to partake in the programme repeatedly. 

The benefits of an engaging employee volunteering programme

Creating a volunteering programme that your employees care about is an effective long-term strategy that improves talent recruitment and retention over time by demonstrating that the business values are integral to the culture. This ultimately feeds into the bottom line by ensuring that employees are better connected, happier, healthier and more trusting of their employer.

The corporate giving campaigns supporting local communities this Giving Tuesday

30 November 2021

Today is Giving Tuesday - an international day where people are encouraged to take something positive from the year and make a difference by giving back to charity.

This Christmas is expected to be one of the busiest yet for the food banks, good causes and community groups looking after those most in need in our local communities - with rising fuel costs and the removal of the Universal Credit uplift tipping more families and vulnerable people into crisis.

Here at Neighbourly, we’ve been working with businesses like Aldi, Samsung, Sainsbury’s and Heineken to help them make a difference this festive season.

To celebrate Giving Tuesday, we’re highlighting some of these giving campaigns to help share what is being done - along with some tips on how individuals can offer a helping hand in their communities too.

Aldi - 1.8M meals 

With a little help from Kevin the Carrot and Marcus Radishford, Aldi has pledged to donate a huge 1.8M meals through the festive season, made up of surplus food donations to the causes that are linked to individual stores, as well as financial donations to causes supporting families.

You can hear more about Aldi’s pledge (and see the Neighbourly delivery cart!) in their pun-tastic Christmas ad.

As well as Aldi’s individual pledge, supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Lidl and M&S will continue to run their food surplus redistribution programme through the Neighbourly platform - donating thousands of meals worth of food over the festive period, with extra donations on Christmas eve and New Year’s eve.

Festive Employee Volunteering


Christmas is often a time when people consider giving back by volunteering. But through Neighbourly’s employee volunteering programmes, staff from the likes of Danone, Samsung, Cocacola EP, Cadent and M&G have been offering their spare time to local good causes throughout the year. As we enter winter, many are encouraging even more employees to get involved and make a difference.

Staff at M&G will be partnering with causes supporting those experiencing loneliness and isolation this Christmas - taking part in Covid-safe card and letter writing to boost people’s wellbeing and make them feel cared for.

Meanwhile Cadent’s new social value volunteering scheme, launched this November, will see employees volunteering on everything from packing festive food parcels and restoring peatlands to transforming spaces into hubs for education.

Find out more about Neighbourly’s employee volunteering programmes here.

Heineken - Brewing Good Cheer


As the UK’s leading pub, cider and beer business, Heineken is a passionate supporter of the great British pub and the important role pubs play in communities all around the UK. 

Following a pause during the pandemic, Brewing Good Cheer is now in its fifth year, and is one the longest running community giving campaigns Heineken has run through the Neighbourly platform.

This year’s Brewing Good Cheer programme will see Heineken working with their pubs and with 140 good causes and their beneficiaries to support people that have experienced social isolation in the last year.

Penguin Book Donations


Since 2020, Penguin has been donating books to good causes, community groups and food banks to help provide equal access to reading.

So far Penguin has donated over 120,000 books and they are not stopping there. The publisher has already connected with a number of causes through the Neighbourly platform and will be donating hundreds more books to supplement festive food parcels this year.

Grants and funding


On top of donating surplus food to good causes, Sainsbury’s ‘Helping Everyone Eat Better’ grants programme has been supporting hundreds of local food charities and good causes as nominated by Sainsbury’s staff. These grants will continue to be paid out through December and beyond, helping good causes meet the demand of the festive season.

But as any hard working volunteer or charity staff member will know, funding and grants offer critical sources of financial support to keep services running throughout the year. In 2021 alone, Neighbourly has facilitated a number of grant and giving programmes, partnering with the B&Q Foundation, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Heineken, Virgin Media O2, Southern Co-op, RSA, Cadent, Coca-Cola EP, Danone and M&G to distribute vital funds to local communities covering a wide range of impact themes.

If you’re a good cause or charity that wants to stay up to date on new grant opportunities, register on the Neighbourly platform for free.

How can individuals support their local communities?

As an individual, there are plenty of ways you can support local good causes and people in your community. Here are two easy things you can do this Giving Tuesday:

Make a donation

Last year, following the success of the Neighbourly Community Fund which supported over 3,000 local good causes through the Covid-19 pandemic, we set up registered charity - the Neighbourly Foundation - which continues to channel funding and grants to Neighbourly’s network of over 18,000 local good causes. 

If you usually make a charitable donation on Giving Tuesday or over Christmas, but aren’t sure where best to donate this year, donating to the Neighbourly Foundation is a great way to ensure you are helping local communities and people in need across the UK and Ireland - supporting everything from mental health services to food poverty and homelessness.

In addition, if you're an M&S Sparks member or card holder, you can set the Neighbourly Foundation as your charity of choice. Then, for every purchase you make at M&S, a donation will be made.

If you prefer, you can also donate directly to individual good causes registered on the Neighbourly platform. Have a look through the good causes that have set up fundraising pots.

Give to your local Food Bank


On your next trip to the supermarket, don’t forget to buy an item or two to pop in one of the many customer donation points available at Aldi, Lidl and Southern Co-op. 

Aldi’s donation points also accept items from any brand of supermarket, so are perfect for those unopened and in-date dry goods and tins you might have in your cupboards that would otherwise go unused.

You can also donate directly to your local food bank or community group. Use the Neighbourly search function to find your nearest good cause. Those running campaigns for donations of food or gifts often share exactly what they need most via social channels like Facebook - so don’t forget to check them out to see what’s on their wishlist.

Thanks for getting involved in Giving Tuesday. To find out the latest Neighbourly news this Christmas and beyond, follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Employee volunteering creates a happier workforce, research finds

4 June 2021
employee volunteering

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


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


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


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

Fuelling trust in businesses

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


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


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

A new generation of volunteers

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

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

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

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

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

1 June 2021
lasmin and beth volunteers week

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

lasmin volunteers week

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

Community Friendships

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 April 2021
remote volunteering micro volunteering day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To get your organisation started:

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

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

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

Read more about remote volunteering

Women lead the way in supporting our local communities

8 March 2021
international women's day 2021

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

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

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

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

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

7/10 IWD2021

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

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

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

IWD2021 female roles

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

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

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

Unofficial contributions

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

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

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

unpaid volunteers IWD2021

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

Full Time Community Heroes

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

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

Hours worked IWD2021

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

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

Mounting Pressure

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

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

covid increased hours IWD2021

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

Communities challenging inequality

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Central Government contracts must show Social Value

12 January 2021
government procurement social value blog image

From the 1st January 2021, the government has introduced a new ‘Social Value’ procurement policy meaning all businesses awarded Central Government contracts must demonstrate that they can offer social value in the delivery of that contract.

This represents an exciting step forward, highlighting not only the importance of businesses' economic value for money but also their ability to support the communities in which they are based - social value.

At Neighbourly we’ve already seen the phenomenal impact businesses can have when building social value into their brand and purpose. By supporting local communities via our network of thousands of local good causes, businesses have already proven they can build in scalable and meaningful impact through the donation of surplus food and products, employee volunteering programmes and financial donation management.

We're therefore pleased to see some of these methods and approaches to social impact adopted and recognised as important and measurable factors for government’s future contract assessments and are looking forward to seeing what kind of effect this will have on local communities and wider business communities in the coming months and years.

Measuring social value

The new social value policy will account for 10% of the score awarded to applicants looking to secure central government contracts.

Social value will be assessed with an emphasis on qualitative evaluation to ensure ‘quality over quantity’ - allowing commercial teams to be able to select objectives that are relevant and proportionate to their procurement.

The Social Value policy has been broken down and modelled using key themes, objectives and outcomes that help describe ‘what good looks like’.

The key themes are as follows: 

  • Help local communities to manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19

  • Create new businesses, new jobs and new skills

  • Increase supply chain resilience and capacity

  • Effective stewardship of the environment 

  • Reduce the disability employment gap

  • Tackle workforce inequality

  • Improve health and wellbeing 

  • Improve community integration

The future for business

It’s never been more important for businesses to take responsibility for ensuring community focussed policies are intrinsic to their purpose - creating a more sustainable and fairer society for all.

Whilst the government’s social value procurement policy is only one part of the puzzle, it is an integral step forward to formally recognising the importance of businesses in supporting the needs of local communities - including a structure for what this might look like. It also represents a telling sign that the economy is moving closer to a model where all types of business, not just those looking to secure government contracts, will need to show social value as well as economic value.

As the new policy comes into play through 2021, we will be continuing to support businesses that are evolving to offer social value to local communities as well as sharing knowledge and insights from this latest government move.

To stay up-to-date, follow us on Twitter @nbrly or via the Neighbourly LinkedIn page.

Danone trials Team Remote Volunteering to support local communities

23 November 2020
danone vounteer re,pte 1

Many who’ve worked in an office environment will be familiar with the concept of the ‘Team Building Day’. For Neighbourly’s partners, this is often the perfect opportunity for team volunteering. From revamping community centres to team litter picks, volunteering brings teams together in new ways, to build relationships and have a positive impact on the communities around them.

Yet with the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to keep teams separated and working from home, these kinds of activities just cannot be done in the same way.

Despite this, for Danone UK and Ireland, who switched to virtual volunteering earlier this year, teams have been coming together remotely to share their skills with the local causes that mean the most to them - right the way across the country.

Keen to inspire more people to get involved with volunteering remotely, we caught up with three Danone teams who’ve already tried it - along with the charities and community groups they helped. 

The Melissus Project

danone volunteers remote 4

Over in London, Danone’s Corporate Affairs Director Matt Elder and Head of Social Innovation & Sustainability Chris Hillman signed up to volunteer with The Melissus Project - a Manchester-based community interest company that supports people with housing issues and complex needs.

“We spent a hugely rewarding day working with two amazing ladies, Sandra and Amanda, from The Melissus Project.”, they told us.

“The charity compassionately supports vulnerable individuals in Manchester and creates safe spaces run by a dedicated team who care about improving the outcomes for people with very few resources. 

“They provide food and an opportunity to talk and get involved in programmes that build confidence, improve self esteem and develop practical skills to help individuals move from the pavement to paid work.”

melissus project

Sandra and Amanda have backgrounds in Social Care and Nursing and were looking for help to tell their story to help them secure additional funding to help more people. 

Matt added: “All we had to do was listen to their passionate story and create a presentation for them. What is a regular task for us - creating slides - is not for them and they were very grateful for our support.”

And an incredible impact they had too, as Sandra and Amanda explained: “Vulnerable people can feel dehumanized and invisible. We learned from experience that a little time to listen can make a big difference. 

"What a wonderful experience collaborating with Matt and Chris has been. To see them in action working their magic whilst following our discussion was joyous. They have made a world of difference to us.”

Cork ARC Cancer Support House

danone volunteers remote 3

From Danone’s Dublin office, Director of Corporate Affairs Ireland Claire MacEvilly, Senior Regulatory Affairs Manager Aileen Connolly, and Social Innovation & Sustainability Team's Cáit Lynch all teamed up to volunteer at Cork ARC cancer support house.

Cáit explained: “Cork ARC is a wonderful charity that provides a range of services and support to cancer patients and their families. All of their services are free of charge and rely mostly on donations and fundraising to keep running. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, Cork ARC had to cancel most of their fundraising activities this year, so our team spent a day developing a proposal for various ‘lockdown friendly’ fundraising campaigns.”

"It was such a worthwhile experience”, Aileen added. “It was very sobering to think of the challenges charities face in terms of funding, especially now. The work Cork ARC does is inspiring. I hope they found our contributions on the day worthwhile and something they can use going forward. Thanks so much to Danone also for allowing us the time to do such valuable work."

Claire agreed: "It was great to think outside the day job, use skills to benefit others and work with my colleagues, while having a laugh."


Check out some of Cork ARC’s fundraising campaigning via their Facebook page here.

More Trees for Bath and North East Somerset 

danone volunteers remote 2

Meanwhile for Jemma Baker, Lewis Wallis and Amy Jane Valender from Danone’s Regulatory Affairs team, wanting to have a positive impact on their local environment was what got them involved in the More Trees for Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) project.

The community project was set up with the local authority, residents and businesses to make the region an even greener place to live, work and visit. Run entirely by volunteers, the project needed some help with its Community Tree Nurseries campaign this autumn which aims to encourage people to plant as many trees as possible in the region and beyond.

Jemma, Lewis and Amy came aboard in September to offer a full day of remote support on the campaign.

Jemma explained: “Our team had a lovely time helping the non for profit community group More Trees BANES, who work hard to protect and plant trees. We spent time researching avenues they could explore to raise their reach for volunteers and help them 'grow’. 

“As well as needing people to plant and grow the trees, they are looking for a wide range of support such as a project manager, volunteer coordinator, website content manager.”

more tree banes

Amy Jane said: "I had no idea that virtual volunteering could work so well! It was a really positive experience and it feels so good to give back to the community - more than ever in these uncertain times."

Lewis added: “Virtual volunteering was a great way to connect with colleagues whilst providing support for a good cause.”

Thanks to the Danone team’s for all their hard work volunteering and for sharing their experiences with us. You can find out more about Danone’s volunteering on the Danone One Planet One Health campaign page.

Samsung employees to send 1000 Letters of Love

9 October 2020
samsung 1000 letters of love cover image

For millions of us, the recent UK-wide and local lockdowns have given us a sense of what it feels like to become more isolated. But as many start to return to interacting more, there are others who still face ongoing isolation and loneliness.

In response, Samsung, whose staff have previously been involved in a variety of face-to-face volunteering programmes, wanted to find a way to connect with their local communities safely.

With that, 1000 Letters of Love was born - a campaign to get Samsung employees writing to people who are linked with good causes on Neighbourly - such as residents in care homes, homeless shelters and social groups in their local communities.

The response has been heartwarming, with over 60 members of staff signing up to take the time to write to those in their local community who might be experiencing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Samsung’s employee volunteers

samsung venecia

Already, kind employees have been putting pen to paper, such as Venecia Wong who was partnered with Tina, a resident at the Langley Haven Dementia Care Home just ten minutes drive from her home. 

Venecia told us: “I chose this cause because it’s both local and close to my heart. My grandmother also suffers from dementia so I can understand the heartbreak it brings. I just wanted to brighten up someone’s day.

“I’ve felt really happy throughout the whole process of being matched with Tina and feel really excited when I think about her receiving my letter.”

samsung charlie

Charlie Grant, another Samsung employee volunteer, has found the experience of writing to others so valuable that she has written three letters so far. She said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be taking part in the 1000 Letters of Love campaign. 

“I’ve already written two letters to two ladies who’d normally visit the United Anglo Carribean Society to socialise with their friends. However, during the pandemic they’ve been unable to do so and we know more and more that this pandemic has caused much loneliness and anxiety for people who are not able to reach out and see their friends as they normally do.

“So it was an absolute pleasure to be able to put pen to paper and reach out to someone to say hi, ask them how they were feeling and let them know that there are people out there that care.

“I was so overwhelmed by the feelings that writing these letters gave me that I also signed up to become a penpal to a lady at the Langley Haven Dementia Care Home. With that, I’m really looking forward to hearing back from my new friend.

“To my colleagues at Samsung, if you’ve not had the chance to do so, please reach out. It takes five minutes to put pen to paper and posting that letter is just the best thing to do at this time. Our world needs us and we all need each other.”

Penpal Partners

Surprise and delight are the two words most commonly heard by the recipients of the first wave of letters coming from Samsung volunteers.

samsung evelyn

Evelyn Murphy, a care home resident, used to write letters all the time and had a penpal in America, but had lost touch with others in recent years. She said: “I was surprised to receive a letter because these days nobody really writes letters. I found it particularly interesting to read because I know letter writing can be quite hard sometimes.

“It’s really nice to have someone writing to me as it’s difficult to be in a care home at the moment.

“I enjoy writing and always find something to write about, so now I have a penpal, I have a new interest again. I’m looking forward to receiving more letters and hope that we have many years of being pen pals to come.”

samsung martina

Fellow care home resident Martina, told us she’s always enjoyed writing and in the past had started writing her own children’s book. 

She added: “I had a very interesting letter from a lady who told me all about her life and the city she lives in which I enjoyed very much. The letter writing helps me a lot during the lockdown and I’m looking forward to getting a response. It’s just like meeting a new friend.”

Local community connection

For the Samsung employees, pen pal matches have been created through charities that are local to them, which offer support to older, vulnerable and isolated individuals. 1000 Letters of Love not only gives employees the chance to reach out to these individuals, but to know that their impact is felt in their local community.

Charities that have already taken part in the programme include the likes of United Anglo Carribean Society, MHA Communities and the Langley Haven Dementia Care Home.

samsung tania

Tania Jones, Manager at MHA Communities, explained: “Covid-19 totally dissipated our face-to-face services but we have been supporting our members with check-in telephone calls, weekly shopping and medication collection, online and telephone activities and our ‘busy bags’ which are full of activities to keep our members physically and mentally active.

“Samsung letters have really brightened the lives of our members by letting them know that other people are thinking about them.”

Letters of love

Throughout the next few months and beyond, Samsung employees will continue to send their first letters (for some, it will be their second or third) to their new pen pals, with the goal of reaching 1,000 letters sent.

It’s hoped that the 1,000 Letters of Love will help both employees and those in their local communities to feel more connected and less isolated as the months of uncertainty continue - spreading a little kindness in testing times.

To find out more about 1000 Letters of Love, check out Samsung’s campaign page on Neighbourly

If your organisation is interested in getting staff involved in remote volunteering programmes, such as letter writing, get in touch via our Remote Volunteering page.