Interview with Changeboard: Creating social purpose & the benefits of volunteering

May 23, 2018

How can volunteering enhance your career? 

We wanted to evolve our social responsibility. Last year, having looked at how we could evolve our social responsibility programme and develop initiatives to align with, and leverage, our HR network, we launched our HR volunteering network, Team Up. This free skills-based volunteering initiative supports charities with an annual turnover of less than £1m. Charities that need crucial HR market insight and support can access HR professionals in our volunteer network who offer their time and resources. We have more than 350 volunteers registered and support 25-plus non-profit organisations.

It’s about purpose and legacy. Candidates have been super supportive and Team Up is enablin real growth. Some charities initially think it’s too good to be true, but discover the partnership is of enormous value with no costs involved. This isn’t about business, it’s about our purpose and the legacy we want to leave in our community.

Step outside the corporate bubble. To potential volunteers, I’d say think carefully about the cause. You are about to give up a considerable amount of your free time, it’s important you have a genuine interest in their work. Do your research, consider its financials, leadership and board and really get to know them. Trusteeships are a great step towards non-executive director posts. You will gain knowledge and experience around governance. Skills-based volunteering can enhance your CV, especially when applying to organisations that value social purpose. Both provide incredible perspective and enable you to step outside the corporate bubble and have genuine impact.

Millennials are driving social purpose. Millennials want to connect with employers who have an authentic purpose and a genuine commitment to corporate responsibility – it’s not just about making money, but how an employer is changing the world. Value proposition and brand are shaped of several significant messages and social purpose must now be a consideration.

Small charities may struggle to source business talent. Small charities don’t have the funds to take their board vacancies to market, nor time to create formal job descriptions, conduct skills audits and prepare for a comprehensive recruitment process. They default to word of mouth referrals from within their immediate network, which may result in a lack of diversity and business talent on boards.

We need genuine two-way partnerships. We should have more conversations about the exchange of skills, time, expertise and long-term, collaborative, two-way partnerships. Although 97% of the charity sector is made up of small charities – that’s over 160,000 charitable organisations with an income of less than £1m – one in three of us can’t name a local charity, we don’t know where to start the process of ‘giving back’. Charity partnerships have to become more strategic and not just focus on money. The sector holds expertise that corporates could benefit from and the corporate world has talent desperately trying to find its way into the non-profit space.

The Charity

Yvonne Thomson – CEO, UKHarvest

We launched on 21 March 2017 with a mission to eliminate hunger and food waste in the UK through education and the redistribution of quality surplus food. As a new charity, it was difficult to attract the right skills and range of experience to our board, so we began with just three trustees.

Our trustees help shape our direction. By using a skills matrix and working with Frazer Jones, we gained access to top-calibre trustee candidates and were fortunate to secure the services of the exceptional Vani Kalai. She has been an incredible resource for us, providing guidance around HR and OD, and another perspective for our board of trustees, which has added incredible value. From the start, we’ve been able to ensure all our employment processes, from interview through to appointment and beyond, are governed well. I have also worked with Vani in planning for the future and auditing resources. Her skills and expertise have helped shape the trustees’ decisions about our future direction.

Volunteering brings new skills and satisfaction. Volunteering experience will not only broaden your horizons but open up other career avenues. Working within an organisation that is completely different from your day job and exploring areas outside your normal area of expertise can provide a real sense of personal achievement, while learning experiences from working with a board of trustees will provide personal and career development. I‘m also vice chair of a charity that supports homeless people and a school governor; the personal satisfaction from volunteering is immeasurable.

The Volunteer

Vani Kalal, global head of Hr for asset management, BNY Mellon Investment Management

I get to work with an inspiring CEO. I was introduced to UKHarvest by Frazer Jones and I’m on the board of trustees. Its CEO, Yvonne Thomson, is a strong and inspiring woman and my role involves regular interaction with her and the other trustees. She shares business ideas and plans for driving strategy, provides updates and seeks input and approvals on various issues from fundraising and marketing to operations and general management. Each trustee bring specific experience to the table and makes recommendations, and the board works collectively to evaluate these and ensure governance is in place before making final decisions.

Volunteering provides perspective. Giving back to the community and making a difference are key drivers and it’s very rewarding. Charities have limited resources, and helping makes me a happier person. It’s fulfilling to be part of UKHarvest which has a purpose I believe in. I feel I have an overall responsibility in achieving its mission. It also helps me put things into perspective when comparing how corporations and charities run. I grow as a person and continue to learn, building on skills I already have to benefit the organisation. I’ve broadened my experience and met interesting people.

I bring my business skills to the table. I’ve expanded my knowledge of the role of a trustee and the impact it has and I’ve helped provide governance and oversight in reviewing and creating HR-related contracts, policies and procedures and provide advice and support to the CEO of UKHarvest, on a regular basis, around various HR related resourcing matters. Having experience of being on boards and committees has helped me in this role and I get to improve my skills in communications, coaching, organisation, writing, people management, negotiation and influencing. The experience brings personal development.

Understand the risks and responsibilities. I would encourage HR leaders at all levels to explore volunteering; however, it’s imperative to understand the risks and liabilities. There’s no financial reward for being a trustee or volunteer. You must be genuinely passionate about the organisation you work with and willing to commit time to make a valuable contribution. It’s important to understand your purpose, role and what’s expected of you. Charities find the support and networks volunteers bring invaluable – their ability to connect opportunities and share knowledge and expertise – while volunteers can expand their networks while improving social and leadership skills. From an HR perspective, you can bring focused expertise in resourcing, L&D, legal issues, governance and policies, providing sound advice. You can strengthen your self-confidence and further your career or even change direction. Helping to drive a charity’s strategy and enhance the value it provides to society is enriching.