Thoughtful & Strategic Corporate Community Investment in 2020

So you’re thinking of planning a corporate away day in the community? The benefits to your team’s health and wellbeing, in addition to their sense of connectedness to their community, is well documented and it really does seem to tick all the CSR boxes: squeezing all your team’s, or even your company’s, volunteer hours into one day; mucking in with our local community; physical activities for a largely sedentary office lifestyle (tick, tick, and tick). But let’s turn a corporate eye onto the project itself and ask ourselves some key questions before we plan, yes plan, our CSR engagement. 

Are you clear on why you want to engage with the community and what you would truly like to achieve through this engagement? Does your company usually go into projects not knowing if they will be completed within the timeline? Does your company consider the efficiency and effectiveness of employee contribution to projects? Is it necessary for projects to have clear KPI’s, milestones and deadlines before they begin? Is it important for your company to develop sustainable projects? Does your company continue relationships with project partners after the completion of the project?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, read on for our perspective on engaging with communities.

1: Maxing out volunteer hours

“What does it matter that you’ve come to paint our community centre? You didn’t finish it in time and the paint job is pretty shoddy; no one from your team has any experience in commercial painting and decorating! How did you think you were going to paint the whole thing in half a day?”

This is a dramatized account of a commonly known encounter between a team of corporates, a community hall, and some paint. For those that haven’t heard, the paint job that was done on this particular corporate away day needed to be re-done, paid from the pocket of the charity who were receiving the help.

Lessons to be learned: be realistic with what your team can and can’t do with their volunteer hours. In other words, don’t max out volunteer hours before the project is completed. It seems like common sense, especially in a world where time is such a valuable resource, but leave some breathing space in the time-budget so that you actually get the job done. Also, remember sometimes things are left better left to the professionals. Painting without proper guidance can make a real mess!

2: Is it the right fit?

Is this the right project for our employees? OR is it the first one I found that could accommodate numbers on the day that we have allocated for our work in the community?

Imagine a group of 20 descending on a strip of a canal network to do some litter picking. Half of them don’t want to be there, and 2 didn’t even show up. Somewhere along the line, someone has made the decision to run with this and it did not gel with the employees wants. If the project doesn’t seem the right fit, what preparation can you make before the actual away day to make sure that your team is more prepared?

3: Are you adding value?

So you’re working with a charity that manages local gardens. The whole corporate IT team is ready to pop their gloves on and get started planting and mulching. Have you considered that your staff may be more useful if they spend the time updating the charity’s IT systems, fixing their website, improving their cloud based storage? Did you actually consult with the charitable organisation on what they need? 

Many charities struggle to access experienced professionals who can help improve their back of house systems and give them the targeted support they need. Making the most of your team’s volunteer hours is best done when their skills are used to address a pressing need of the charity that will help them do their work better. This may be HR, accounting, legal advice, marketing, PR, photography or anything that helps support the systems within an organisation.  

4: Sustainability

Here we want to move away from ideas of ‘corporate sustainability’ and green thinking and instead think towards longevity of impact. What will happen after the project? Is the valuable time-budget of volunteer hours being spent on something that will continue to have an impact on the organisation long after you’ve wrapped up at the end of the day? Charitable organisations are required to constantly prove their worth to funders, stakeholders, and members of the public, how can they justify spending a day working with volunteers that has nothing to show at the end of it?

Some will argue that through engaging with a corporate body any form of relationship could contribute to this sense of sustainability, being able to strike up a conversation in the following year for support. This does of course depend on how corporate bodies treat these away days…

5: Relationship building and management

Repeat away days, year after year can be boring. So, what is the point in maintaining a working relationship with a charitable organisation? Another question can be thrown back in answer to this: How can a corporate body claim a gold standard CSR programme if they don’t have relationships with these charity partners? If every member of your away day can’t name a single member of staff or in house volunteer of the charitable organisation, something has gone wrong. It’s in these human relationships that you begin to see a genuine connection to communities, and in a world that is increasingly disconnected, this becomes even more important.

How can Link UP help?

We can connect your business and your staff with meaningful volunteer opportunities supporting charities and community organisations. Whether you have a few hours over a day, or several days split up over a number of months, we can work with you to create a charity engagement strategy and put it in to effect. 

We offer Flash consulting sessions where professionals can offer valuable feedback on a key issue facing a local charity; we can match individuals with charity leaders to mentor them and help them grow and expand their vision; we can place volunteer consultants for short-term flexible projects; we can match trustees with local organisations to make sustained and significant contributions to the community. 

Get in touch if you would like to discuss how best we can work with you and your team to make a real impact on the local community!

February 2020

Interested in finding out more? Get in touch with Beau at hello@linkuplondon.org!