Golf course assistant Bruce Allan has worked at the renowned 600-year-old public golf complex at St Andrews Links for seven years. Through Social Good Connect he volunteered as a vaccination steward at Caird Hall in Dundee. His skills and experience at the legendary Old Course first tee served him well in greeting and directing nervous vaccine-receivers…
Head of Comms at St Andrews Links, Laurie Watson, is a strong believer in finding new avenues to create opportunities for employees to do different things and have a positive effect on others.
“We want our people to feel that employee volunteering opportunities are always at their disposal. Joining Social Good Connect was a way of formalising what we can offer them AND the local communities we serve. Using the platform takes any potential hassle or obstacles to volunteering away. Once you’re signed up and start to hear stories of other colleagues volunteering, it feels tangible, feasible and real. It doesn’t create work for us to join, it does the opposite! It’s seamless and almost ‘plug and play’.
Volunteering is an important part of our values – responsibility, entrepreneurialism and passion – and we want to embed the idea so that it becomes part of who we are and what we do. We introduced a new health and wellbeing agenda before the pandemic. Encouraging employee volunteering is now a key part of that.
The pandemic caused us to reset our internal comms. Around 10% of our workforce have already registered interest in the platform and we’re increasing that through sharing stories of volunteering placements via meetings and revamped bulletins and newsletters. We have quite a family-minded culture despite having over 250 core staff, so people love to hear about and respond to their colleagues’ interesting new experiences.In fact,the recent call for vaccination hall volunteers by the Dundee voluntary services was a powerful trigger for some employees. I think it really brought the benefits of volunteering to life.”
Bruce Allan, golf course assistant at St Andrews Links, says that various roles on the platform matched his profile, but the vaccination programme request really stood out. His day job greeting players from all over the world at the first tee requires all the qualities needed to welcome hesitant first-timers to a Covid vaccination centre…
“During the pandemic we signed up to Social Good Connect and it was an ideal opportunity to offer my time in the community again. In 2014 during the Scottish Referendum campaign I’d helped voters with disabilities and/or lack of transport get to their local polling stations and cast their votes. The realisation that such a seemingly small act could make such an important difference to someone else’s life gave me a taste for volunteering and made me want to offer my time again.
I later volunteered for Dundee Community Cars, but until now hadn’t done any more placements. With this new volunteering role, I knew I’d be able to lend some transferable skills and help people from all walks of life to feel reassured and at ease as they arrived to receive their Covid 19 vaccine.
As a journalist for 33 years before I joined the golf complex, it was second nature to converse daily with a surprising variety of characters from all regions and backgrounds. That experience lent itself aptly to a stewarding role where people are unsure of what’s ahead and worried about the process they’re about to go through. It feels great to know that an even better good has come from greeting and directing nervous people than completing a challenging round of golf!
It also feels right to be giving something back to the community after a long and varied career and with grown-up kids now out in the world. I was amazed how well organised things were at Caird Hall when I arrived for my first shift and there’s a powerful feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’. And I got my vaccine a few weeks early too!”
Robyn Donoghue, Communications and Monitoring Officer at Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action (DVVA), said the timing of this new partnership was perfect.Demand for volunteers was high in March, they needed a quick response, and the turnround from the platform was fast. As a third sector umbrella organisation, the DVVA supports the voluntary sector and volunteers right across Dundee.
“We’d heard about Social Good Connect through various sources including the Chamber of Commerce. Just after we’d put out a call for more volunteers to join us at Caird Hall we received a message from Megan offering help through the platform. We heard from several volunteers within a week, including two from St Andrews Links. The initial responsiveness was impressive and just what we needed for the vaccination programme.”
The City’s Covid vaccination rollout created a volunteering challenge very different in scale and nature to almost all previous projects the DVVA has helped to coordinate.
“We needed self-starting, personable, welcoming, customer-facing stewards and through the platform we found them. This was an unusual situation where we needed to widen our networks fast and on a massive scale. Social Good Connect helped us reach our recruitment targets quickly and opened up a new opportunity to increase our numbers later on for this and other projects.
“The platform has given us a new avenue of skilled support in Dundee and really importantly, has created a useful new set of relationships that we can draw on in future. It’s unique in that it focuses on skilled volunteers, and opportunities can be matched based on relevant professional experience as well as interests.”
“We’re creating a roadmap to embed our community commitment and bring it to life as we recover from the lockdowns and make the transition back to working together in person. Most of our volunteering before was informal or was more about helping to solve issues in the surrounding areas that were linked to our natural areas of interest, like coastal erosion and golf course preservation. Volunteering through the platform and its wider geographical options and variety of charities gives us the chance to engage in something new AND diversify from our usual day-to-day community activities.
We have a diverse workforce who not only do a wide range of jobs in different parts of the business, but who also often live outside St Andrews. Seeing the locations of the placements people are interested in on the platform shows that our opportunities to make a difference aren’t limited to St Andrews. It helps us appreciate the true breadth of the workforce we have. Our employees live between five and 75 miles away, so our future community impact doesn’t have to be in the immediate vicinity of our golf courses.”
“It’s good to see profits from golf going back into our community. We’re putting something back and helping communities and projects far beyond the golfing world. Joining Social Good Connect supports this whole ethos, and it’s good to be part of that future.”
“The USP for us is the connection to the business world. We don’t normally work with businesses, so it’s a great new tool and route to support for us. The potential for a bigger scale of skilled help is huge. What sets Social Good Connect apart is the professional skills and qualities that come with the employee volunteers. They already work in business and their various specialisms are exactly what we’re often looking for. The majority of volunteers on our books are less experienced and don’t always have quite the required skills for certain projects when they first come to us.
Working with your team means we will continue to have easy access to skills and qualities we need for more specific placements. One area we’re particularly interested in is trustee and governance recruitment. We think the platform could be really useful for that.
Also, when restrictions ease and we need physical volunteers for big events, we now have a bigger pool to draw from!”
Caroline has made it her life’s work to help people make more meaningful decisions to support their communities and she’s learned some golden nuggets along the way!
So, join Caroline each week for her ‘Thursday Thoughts’ on all things people, planet, philanthropy or purpose all served with sprinkle of fun (but unfortunately no prosecco) to inspire you.