Thorntons is one of Scotland’s leading law firms, employing around 500 staff. They describe Social Good Connect as a ‘natural fit’ with their company purpose. Since joining the portal when it launched in May 2020, they’re ‘in it for the long-term’, helping furloughed colleagues stay connected, and, beyond the pandemic, seeing volunteering as a way of life and part of their culture.
‘Go back to your ‘Why’, is managing partner Craig Nicol’s rationale for joining. “Our company purpose is simple: “to help clients, colleagues and our communities succeed”. Everything we do flows from that. The simplicity of it helps decision making whenever we take on a project or partnership or sign up to a new initiative. Once you have a clearly defined and clearly communicated purpose. There’s very little debate on “why?”
“Furlough has been horrendous, home-schooling has been horrendous. People having to navigate changed surroundings and circumstances whilst having to continue to work through the pandemic has been very challenging. These forced situations have a significant impact on people’s mental health. We asked ourselves, ‘how do we help them get through this’?”
“Joining the platform has channelled our community spirit in a more organised way.”
“Social Good Connect was ready-made and clearly fits our culture. Volunteering, especially with the support of your company, adds value to your job and your personal life. What makes the portal different and appealing is that it matches employees with causes that matter to them and helps them find specific opportunities to volunteer in that area. Half the work is already done for you once you’ve entered your profile.”
“Joining the platform has channelled our community spirit in a more organised way. As soon as we signed up, I sent various emails encouraging people to join and we quickly developed a comms plan around it.”
“Committing to volunteering isn’t a new concept for us, but certainly this initiative has made it easier. The firm is very supportive of related issues linked to volunteering, like extra time needed to train for the role. It can be a tricky balance when you’re busy, but it’s very rewarding and the firm feels that it’s important for us to do it.
“After the first lockdown almost half the firm was furloughed, and many of those people had never spent more than two weeks off work before. It can make people a bit lost. Not only did volunteering provide support to the wider community, but also provided a small element of support to furloughed colleagues.
“I have to make sure I’m in the right headspace for the role, as I wear many different hats as a lawyer and a mother and family-member, as so many of us do. Working in law you tend to be solutions—oriented, whereas befriending is about listening. It’s a useful distinction to make in life as well. The challenge of switching into the right headspace also inspired some interesting chats with my family about how we communicate with each other when we’re ‘off duty’ – it’s a good discipline!”
“It’s really satisfying to know for sure that I’m making a difference to someone who needs support. I get direct feedback on that and it makes me feel good. The person I support is asked every six sessions if they would like to continue.”
According to Linda Swan, chair of the Executive Committee at Tayside Cancer Support, hearing about the portal was “very timely, especially given our recent struggle to recruit befrienders for our clients. When you work for a charity, you need to keep an open mind for new ways of attracting potential volunteers.”
“Our clients are a mix of people who are living with cancer and family members who are supporting people going through that experience. It’s a delicate role that needs intelligent listening skills, empathy (as opposed to sympathy), an understanding of counselling techniques and an appreciation that it’s not about giving solutions, advice or opinions. “
“We had around 13 regular befrienders around 4 years ago. We’d managed to increase this to 17 before we signed up to Social Good Connect, but we needed more, as some longstanding volunteers were approaching the end of their commitment and it meant that those remaining were taking on 2 or 3 clients to fill the gap. Thanks to this partnership, we now have 21 trained, active befrienders, with another 3 in training. The 8 new recruits are providing invaluable support to our clients on a regular basis, and most of them come from Thorntons law firm!”
“When you work for a charity, you need to keep an open mind for new ways of attracting potential volunteers.”
“There are many skills involved in being a befriender. We recruit people from all walks of life. Not all of them naturally have all the required skills, which is why we run 15-20 hours training. It’s a happy discovery that the volunteers from Thorntons are well suited to the role and have been quick to adapt to the approach needed to support people who are struggling.”
“When a client is first referred to us, we spend time getting to the heart of what they’d want to from a befriender. We need to take great care over the ‘matches’ we create. Thanks to Social Good Connect we now have a much wider pool of potential matches. It’s enabled us to bring new, skilled people on board and get us moving quickly and efficiently. Our Befriender Supervisor has received consistently good feedback.”
Craig is confident that Thorntons’ engagement will continue enthusiastically beyond Covid. “We need an enriching and strong company culture that helps people do their jobs well. It’s about how you behave and how you choose to treat your colleagues and customers, even in tough times. It’s what makes a business’s heart beat every day.
“People are stretched in most businesses like ours, but if you look hard enough, pockets of capacity do exist in most in organisations to help the community in some way.”
“We’ve built in a new question to our annual staff survey about engagement with Social Good Connect. It will give us great feedback on the internal impact of having this partnership available to us all. “
“Our Director of People and our Head of Marketing are working closely with our internal comms teams to make sure people know about the portal. As well as emails and newsletters, I talk about it in my staff roadshows/Q&A sessions, where we open the floor to small groups to share what’s on their mind about life at work.“
“And it’s great to know that over time, organisations who are involved will be able to report the value of their contribution and start to quantify their social impact as well as enrich the lives of their employees and the people they are helping.”
“Joining Social Good Connect is a no-brainer for businesses and charities. I know from my previous role as a head teacher and employer that you have happier staff if they’re invited, through work, to get involved in fulfilling activities outside of work. It often increases empathy with people and situations that aren’t like our own, and it’s a great personal development tool.
“People feel satisfied by giving something back, as well as gaining new skills from their volunteering roles to take back into the workplace. No-one is ever worse off for having taken up volunteering and having helped someone in need!”
“Now that we’ve joined Social Good Connect, it puts volunteering at the forefront. It’s useful too for people who aren’t aware of just how many forms volunteering can take.
“Volunteering teaches you to step back and offers you wider life lessons. It’s a simple concept, and if everyone used it and did even a little more than usual, there would be a lot more help overall for the community. Although we all have different skills, interests, levels of experience and amounts of time to offer, everyone has something they can contribute. Small ripples can make really big differences!”