28 April, 2020

C19 may have turned business as usual on its head, but that’s not always a bad thing

Yes C19 is challenging, but there’s also plenty of inspiring stuff going on out there

As an Associate Partner in the Charities and Social Enterprise team at Green Park, I get the opportunity to speak to a wide cross-section of individuals on a regular basis. I have always been impressed by the fantastic work delivered with limited resources at any time, but the current situation has really brought home how crucial the sector is in times of crisis. Collaboration and partnership working, knowledge sharing and the tireless work of staff and dedicated volunteers has been a real inspiration.

There are many great initiatives springing up in the sector right now but one that has caught our eye at Green Park is Volunteering Matters’ #CharityConnect project. It’s all about bringing together charities that need some professional support in responding to C19 with businesses looking to offer their help. Having recently supported Volunteering Matters in their search for a new Chief Executive - Paul Reddish – we love the way they’ve repurposed their longstanding employee volunteering services and expertise to broker meaningful matches between charities and the business community.

And at a time of such acute community need and huge desire to help, their personalized approach appears to be paying dividends.

What help and support do charities need right now, and what is business offering?

Though needs vary, some trends are emerging - right now, many charities are asking for support with their marketing, communications and digital functions. For example, one animal welfare group in Ealing is getting help from a digital content specialist to produce educational videos to be used during the lockdown; and another supporting adults with autism in East Sussex is receiving guidance from an award-winning integrated marketing expert in moving their educational courses and wellbeing group services online.

What’s encouraging is the scale and diversity of offers of support from the business community. From blue chip companies to freelance entrepreneurs, pledges to donate professional skills in virtually all areas of business overlap with everything from fleet and logistics expertise to innovative IT software and hardware solutions.

And with many others also connecting businesses with local emergency response partnerships, Volunteering Matters has also invested time to map the response networks and, as well as brokering, is signposting onto others and feeding data on needs and trends through to central government.

“There’s certainly enough crisis for everyone” says Head of National Programmes Gethyn Williams, “but what’s also evident is the value of human brokerage in making sure charities get not just the right professional skills but the right person, for them, to deliver them. It’s not simply a question of plugging them into an industry and expecting an immediate result. All volunteering is highly relational, and often that requires the kind of nuanced support you just can’t get from a matching algorithm or online marketplace alone.”

Everything feels different in a crisis, and yet some experiences are universal

This insight – the value of a human interaction as well as a digital connection – really struck a chord with us at Green Park. We know the value of taking quality time at the start of our client process to really understand their needs, and that by working together to ensure there is genuine equity for all candidates we will get the best results. Clients will have great instincts, but we also have a key role to play in guiding them through those instincts to the place they need to be. At times of crisis when need is acute and we naturally want to move at pace, getting this stage right is critical.

The matching up of a person’s skills and experience, the alignment to mission and values is as critical in recruitment practices as it is for volunteering. As Gethyn says, it is about nuanced support. Patience at the outset will save time and trouble later down the line. In our world that translates into the need to be a trusted advisor, a challenger and a true partner for our clients. For the #CharityConnect project it’s all about matching the right organisation to the right charity.

Whatever else we learn from C19, at least it’s proving to be a great opportunity to show  just how well commercial businesses and charities can work together with the right tools.


Jaimi Shanahan

Written By

Jaimi Shanahan


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