Glasgow-based professional services firm Morton Fraser was one of the first businesses to sign up to the Social Good Connect portal in June 2020. With 280 staff across Scotland, the company was looking to make new connections and give back to the community in practical ways beyond fundraising and one-off events. Since joining, staff benefit from two days a year volunteering on work time.
In 2020 Morton Fraser sought to extend its community reach and social impact beyond choosing an annual charity partner. But searching around online for suitable volunteering options brought “more headaches than solutions”, according to HR manager Lynda Clark.
“The difference between Social Good Connect and other sources of volunteers or other platforms is that it takes time-consuming admin away from us and we can rely on the team to keep us informed of new applicants. It’s so useful to have someone to manage the journey with each volunteer who applies. It’s the perfect ‘managed’ scheme because it allows our employees to choose their causes freely and decide how much time they want to commit and on what basis.”
Attracted to the portal by the range of 100+ charities on board, Morton Fraser describes the partnership as a timely boost to staff morale while many staff were furloughed. “We wanted to help our people feel connected and useful. 28 of our employees registered straight away, so that’s almost 10% of our workforce.”
Employment lawyer Andrew Gibson found the ideal long-term commitment through the portal. Looking for something completely different from his working life, he’s been helping an elderly couple through Scottish charity Food Train. The portal offers plenty, if not mostly (for the time being) of virtual volunteering roles such as befriending, but many employees want time away from their screens and gadgets. Food Train has 45+ staff and relies on the continuous help of more than 2700 volunteers. Andrew volunteers weekly with the charity’s Connects service, designed to match volunteers with an older person needing shopping support.
“You need to be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit and how far you’re prepared to travel if it’s not an online role. I had more time to contribute recently and wanted to help people outside my working life as a solicitor. I do weekly food shopping trips for a couple in their 80s, where the wife is housebound. The husband calls me with his list and we always chat on the doorstep when I arrive with the shopping. They’re a lovely couple who’d been seeking help for a while and they’re clearly very grateful.”
“It’s a nice feeling to be helping someone who so obviously needs it and I’m glad to be useful. Another unexpected perk is that got my vaccine early! Under a new Scottish law the Food Train asks every volunteer that works with them now to have it. I wouldn’t be able to carry on volunteering without it.”
Forming new connections with companies like Morton Fraser gives charities like Food Train access to whole new groups. Fundraising and marketing manager Emma Black told us that when Covid struck, the demand for their shopping and delivery driver services, one-to-one pairing opportunities and branch services increased hugely. Sourcing help through Social Good Connect sees them reaching a wider audience of organisations.
“It’s hugely important that we make new connections all the time. Volunteers come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and we’re always seeking new avenues to find them. The more avenues we find, the more exposure our charity has to new sources of help.”
As restrictions on our movement and lifestyles ease, more employees at Morton Fraser will be encouraged to apply their skills and time to physical and virtual volunteering activities.
“We’ve revised our volunteering policy to give all staff two days volunteering time each year to use in chunks however they choose. With the help of our internal comms team we’ll hopefully see more people finding placements that suit their interests and skills. Taking a time out to step off your own wheel and give back can shift your mindset and recharge and refuel you to face your own life challenges. Devoting some headspace to something other than your own issues can bring unexpected rewards.”
“We need to maintain our volunteer levels throughout the year to enable us to deliver to the communities we support in Dumfries & Galloway, West Lothian, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Dundee, Stirling and all the surrounding areas. The actual number of volunteers fluctuates all the time, which means we always have opportunities available.”
“The beauty of this relationship is that the portal helps us find people who are happy to volunteer despite having incredibly busy working lives, because they can do it flexibly and on terms that fit their work and their lifestyle. Small acts make a massive difference to someone’s week and it doesn’t take up much time. You quickly get to see the impact of your help and for most people, even those with busy lives, it motivates them to give back a bit more.”
“I think more companies should do it. It’s quite a brave thing for a busy law firm to commit themselves voluntarily to helping others through a partnership like this. Often where corporate social responsibility strategies fall down is that companies donate to a charity and then feel they’ve ‘done their bit’. With volunteering, employees get a lot out of it and it’s great to be able to help people and feel equally useful outside of work!
“You can choose what level of support you want to commit. You might just drop some food off to an older couple and quickly get back to your own life, or you might choose to stay around for that extra half-hour and chat to them. It’s what you choose to make it.”