Celebrities have long known the power of “stepping up” for charitable causes. We’ve previously highlighted Angelina Jolie and Stephen Fry as examples of celeb brands that are strongly associated with their charity work. They can teach us that social responsibility is not only a great way to help individuals and our society as a whole, but also helps build a strong personal brand, networks and experience, making it a win-win situation for everyone involved.
As part of our Step It Up Campaign, we’ve spent the last few months of 2015 interviewing people from all walks of life on the ways they volunteered their time for charity. We also heard from the charities themselves. All of our interviewees, without hesitation, claimed it was a win-win situation, with them benefiting from the experience as much as the charity or cause itself. On a personal level, these takeaways included personal satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and new friends. Professionally, charity work was seen as an effective way to expand a skill-set, get noticed and make new connections.
The range of rewards that volunteers described in our campaign was far reaching:
- Tapping into a passion and sense of purpose
- Expanded professional area of expertise and raised profile
- “Seeing a radical transformation in other people’s lives and knowing that you had a part in it”
- Satisfaction of being there for a mentee
- Experience working on an international stage
- Gaining new skills such as public speaking
- Travel opportunities
- Met new people in a new area
- “It shed light on how great my own life is”
- The satisfaction of seeing children be part of an activity (e.g., football club)
- “Increasing technological knowledge and keeping on top of my game”
- Helping abused or neglected animals “walk into a brighter, love filled future”…and the list goes on.
Many volunteers emphasized taking time to get the right fit and chose a charity that suits your needs. Insights from charities and their volunteers revealed the following themes for successful charity involvement:
Choose a charity you have empathy or passion for
Chef Hulya Erdal of www.madebythechef.com works with the homeless, deprived families and people recovering from addictions by helping them prepare hearty and healthy meals on a budget. She finds her personal experience directs her passion “I’ve grown up in a deprived area of London, I’m working class and have experienced some of what these people have gone through (domestic violence for instance). I can empathise with them and relate to some of their difficulties.”
A love for dogs led Adam Baxter to both set up his own company, Running with Dogs and volunteer at the Dogs Trust. “I have always loved dogs. I’ve grown up with them and had a family dog since being 4 years old…I have always been interested in helping them whenever I can.”
Do a little research
Charities have to adhere to strict guidelines and it’s worth just researching, as much as you are able, to make sure the charity of your choice is above board. Lawyer Peter King is the legal adviser for a number of charities of varying sizes. He suggest that “It’s certainly worth doing some due diligence on the charities with which you are involved first.”
Chef Simon Boyle, the vision behind the Beyond Food Foundation and Brigade Bar & Bistro agrees research is important: “Think about what you want to get out of it as much as what you want to put in. There’s no need to rush in all guns blazing. Think about initially just having a coffee or face to face meeting to see if there are gaps that you can fill.”
Take it seriously
Many of our volunteers made the point that many charities don’t have the time and resources to train or retrain you. They want and need people who can hit the ground running. Michael Linnington of the iconic V & A says “My main piece of advice is to take it seriously and treat it as you would employment. Charitable organisations, especially in the current climate, function as businesses do and are under immense pressure to perform; it can be condescending to think of charities otherwise.”
Annie Brooks, director of www.sistersnog.com also reiterates this message: “Treat it seriously, just like paid work. You must be reliable because as a volunteer you have a responsibility to the organisation you are working for.”
Be a team player
Annabel Kaye of Irenicon shares her professional knowledge on disability rights with sufferers of Endometriosis. Her advice is get used to the idea of teamwork: “I am big picture and it suits me to work with detail people to get things happening. The best results are a team job so become a team player. It will take about twice as long as you imagined – but it will be worth it – not just the fund raising but the people who work alongside you make it worthwhile.”
Do as much as you can
A resounding theme is that little donations, whether it’s cash or time, do add up. The Rev Ingrid Scott who runs her own charitable trust makes the point that “Anything, however small, is needed. You may think giving £5 is hardly worth the bother but £5 can feed 50 children a bowl of rice for a day.” Presentation and public speaker Susan Heaton Wright of Executive Voice echoes that with “Even an hour a week could make a huge difference to someone else, and the rewards for you could be immense. Go for it: volunteer and step up!”
We hope that by sharing these collective experiences, our campaign has provided some inspiration for your own “stepping up“! We also hope that the words of wisdom offered by our interviewees will serve as a guide in connecting with a charity that strengthens your personal brand, while at the same time enhances your reputation, experience and overall personal satisfaction.
You can read all the stories now over at www.goldennotebook.co.uk/news/step-it-up-campaign-launch/