Social Good Case Study

Impact Story – Forth Valley College and Catesbi

13 May 2021

HR Business Manager Gill has worked in human resources at Forth Valley College for five years. Through Social Good Connect she found the ideal volunteering role as a non-exec HR director for children’s services charity Catesbi.

Forth Valley College: Why sign up your organisation for employee volunteering?

Forth Valley College logo

Ralph Burns, Head of HR at Forth Valley College, is clear about the mutual benefits of giving charities and local communities employee time as well as donations. “At the very least you’re helping good causes and at the very best you’re helping someone that you employ to feel better about themselves – they’re giving back, enhancing their skills and developing teamwork in a new way by doing something different. It’s always been our aim to go beyond monetary contribution to charities.

The two main reasons we signed up to Social Good Connect were to improve staff wellbeing and to enhance teambuilding. It may not be straightforward to quantify a business return from volunteering, but the emotional experience by staff who give it a go shows a clear benefit to wellbeing, and that’s why we got involved.

For any business thinking of signing up, it’s important to keep two things front of mind: keep awareness of the platform and its opportunities high internally and remind people they can get involved. Secondly, encourage staff to register their interest, so that even if the time is not right for them now, the range of volunteering roles that regularly appear in their inbox may spark interest later on. Finally, I think it’simportant for organisations to do things that don’t come naturally and not just to focus on your core business. Take it in faith that you’re doing the right thing.”

Who made the difference?

Gill Donald, HR Manager, Forth Valley College

When HR Business Manager Gill Donald returned from maternity leave she wanted to add something else to her mix after a year off work. A presentation by Social Good Connect at the college-wide Giving Back day motivated her to re-explore her past interest in volunteering.

Within six weeks of the college joining the platform, I found a role helping Catesbi as a non-exec HR director, advising founder Suzie and her board of three other non-exec directors. I offer practical guidance on all aspects of HR including employment policies, procedures and contracts. I want her to feel equipped to add structure to the charity’s operations and to be able to explore questions around unknown territory like self-employment Vs. payroll etc.

I feel as if this is the perfect match in that I’m lending my HR knowledge and skills to a small Board that welcomes the structure and expertise, but the nature of the role means I’m also learning new skills while I’m helping. I don’t know all the answers to the questions the Board has, but my experience means I know where to find them! I’m glad to be an enabler for someone who’s running a charity single-handedly with only part-time senior support, and I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zones, which is always good for people to do.

If we hadn’t signed up to the platform, I wouldn’t be volunteering now. It’s been amazing to be able to do it as a college employee. I’m proud to be part of an organisation that gives people the opportunity to do that. “

Catesbi CIC: What’s been the impact?

Catesbi logo

Catesbi founder Suzie Repova was seeking volunteers and board members to help her grow her social enterprise. Registered as a Community Interest Company since its creation three years ago, Catesbi exists to help and empower parents with young children’s behaviour and communication and social skills and is soon to become a charity.

“We needed expertise, structure and forward-thinking around our HR. Having Gill on our small board as our non-exec HR director helps us with all of those! Finding volunteers through the platform was, and still is, a big help in terms of time management, efficiency, and the ability to cover wider Scotland without going to many different platforms.

Gill has brought much more than I ever expected. Her HR expertise and input has been phenomenal right from the first meeting, and I know the other non-exec Board members feel the same way. She keeps us in check! She brought our board together in terms of not just understanding recruitment processes but with overall management, organisation & structure.  She’s dedicated, forward-thinking and so knowledgeable, helping us with job descriptions, new joiner booklets and our recruitment drive for admin staff and new therapists. Having her support helps us see things from a different perspective.

Having run the organisation alone for three years, I was worried about the process and challenges of bringing on new people. It’s daunting not knowing everything you need to think about. It really helps to have the support of the Social Good Connect team too, when I’m unsure about something or need help with volunteer role descriptions. “

What next?

For the business…

“We need to be proactive in sharing and promoting info about the good work that’s happening. Gill’s experience is a prime example of the benefits employee volunteering can bring. From an individual perspective, getting involved clearly re-invigorates a sense of purpose and reminds people that they’re about more than their day job and their family role.

From a team perspective, volunteering activity and the interaction that it brings can and does improve wellbeing. And it’s important to recognise that from a business perspective, people in your team are gaining more of a sense of purpose and getting as much out of it as they give.”

For the volunteer…

“I’ll enjoy continuing to help! This volunteering role offers me personal and professional growth. It’s quite different from my daily role at the college, where I’m very direct and definite in my style and where I’m used to well-established policies and procedures. This young charity is new to that and I’m helping to introduce some structure. As a non-exec advisor and mentor, I’ll continue to be supportive, suggest new ideas and help them shape the way they operate and grow. It’s rewarding to be able to act as an enabler in this way.

If you’ve been pondering about volunteering, or if you see an opportunity on this platform that looks interesting but you’re hesitant about the time commitment or the location, just throw your hat in the ring and do it! Ask questions about the role and be honest about what you can give. If you’re a good match and they have a serious need, you might be able to negotiate the hours and the nature of your contribution. Try not to pre-judge the role that’s in front of you, and don’t be afraid of taking on something different from your precise skillset – you can learn a lot from helping others and you can definitely grow new skills in the process.”

For the charity…

“To other charities seeking skilled volunteers, I’d say get involved with employee volunteering through this platform!  You have nothing to lose – it’s a straightforward process to get advice on role descriptions and find can-do volunteers quickly. Working with Social Good Connect feels more personalised and easier than other routes to securing volunteers. And most of all, I like its bigger vision to connect people, which fits what we do: connecting people with who they need most.

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