5 dos and don'ts when organising an awesome volunteer day

— Eloïse Guibourg 

March was the Month of Giving at WE Communications.

Every year, offices around the world volunteer their time to valuable causes, and this year was no exception – well, apart from the fact that I was in charge of organising the event in London. As a member of the Healthcare team, working with clients that aim to support people in need, I felt that my passion and commitment to giving back, paired with my organisation skills, would make this Month of Giving one the entire WE-UK office could get behind.

We split into three groups, to be able to volunteer with three different charities under the overarching theme of tackling loneliness in vulnerable people. Across the days, we cooked, cleaned, helped sort clothes donations, picked up food donations from shops and restaurants, packed up ahead of a location move, played games, and spent time with elderly, visually impaired, and homeless people. The entire WE UK team are incredibly proud to have been able to support Divine Rescue, Age UK, Blackfriars settlement, and their communities in need. I learnt a huge amount in the process. Here are five top tips to help you to organise a successful volunteer day for your company:

Do take your colleagues’ wishes into account

Your company and its employees are key to running a successful day, so you should listen to them, and understand what they want to do. Is there a passion for gardening in the office, or would people dislike getting their hands grubby? Would they rather run a fundraising day, or volunteer with people that would benefit from their time?

Understanding your employees’ needs and wishes will not only help you direct your research and choices, but the day is more likely to be a success if it is organised around something that matters to the volunteers.

Do accept help

When Forbes recommends 14 ways to be better at your job, you listen. One of the key skills they recommend is asking questions. Taking on the challenge of organising a volunteer day, there was a lot to learn and a lot of parameters to keep in mind, while still meeting deadlines at a high standard on my day-to-day work. It’s safe to say that it wouldn’t have been such a successful initiative if it wasn’t for the people who helped me, either by sharing their experiences organising such an event, advising me, or simply allowing me to bounce ideas off them. Asking for, and accepting, help will only make a good experience even better.

Collaboration was incredibly important. My colleagues Ruth Allchurch, WE UK Managing Director, Reena Sharma, EMEA Senior HR Advisor, Sam Whitby, UK Operations Manager, Rhian Rotz, Director of Corporate Citizenship and Employee Engagement, and Nel Rajakaruna, Senior HR Coordinator were a huge help, and very kindly put aside their time to discuss the Month of Giving with me. The team from Hands On London were also fantastic in the lead up to, and during, the Month of Giving.

Do take part in the activity

I believe that passion and commitment to helping others and giving back is critical to organising a successful volunteer day. The experience as a whole was extremely fulfilling for me, and the entire WE UK team. It was great to see people who work on completely different areas of the business back the next day with newfound friendships.

Work can be stressful, and it is important to remember to take a break and do something for yourself.  Involving yourself in a volunteer project you care about will help give you that break and peace of mind you need to recharge. 

Don’t send one email three months before and hope everyone remembers

Persistence is key to ensuring attendance. Volunteering means committing a certain number of hours to being offline, which is significant in a client-facing role such as PR. While there is a need to plan the day early enough so people can block out the time and reschedule any meetings, the workplace is a busy environment and one email can often be lost amongst others or forgotten.

Some things that worked for me are:

  • Creating Doodle polls to check availabilities and where they would like to volunteer
  • Making sure they have a placeholder in their diary, so it is on their radar when they schedule meetings
  • Sending several waves of email to keep them in the loop of how the process was going
  • Sending a final reminder 24 hours before the volunteering day itself.

Don’t make it a one off

Engaging people and having them volunteer is about lighting up the charitable flame within them. Fortunately, WE Communications as a global company does have this spirit engraved into its core, and we believe it is critical for companies to show proof over promise: we are all given 16 hours a year to do any volunteering of our choice, and every year, the company spends a month working on a pro-bono case for a charitable cause.

In the UK, we also try to keep this momentum going at a local level. We ran potlucks for Red Nose Day and Action Against Hunger, raising a whopping £485. We participate and donate to Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper every year, we recently started a coffee cups recycling scheme, we are protecting an acre of the rainforest in Peru, and sheltering 245 types of animals, 22 of which are endangered species… These are just some of the ways WE commit to making a difference, with many more initiatives planned in the future.

The list could go on, as any experience comes with a handful of learnings. I look forward to seeing how these learnings impact my day-to-day work, and I’ll close this blog with a bonus advice: don’t let the lack of experience stop you from volunteering for a project you care about. When the email first landed in my inbox, I hesitated, thinking someone more senior might be better placed for it, but then I decided to apply for it anyway, and ended up delivering a great Month of Giving, and building new relationships throughout my office and with colleagues in the US. Everyone was once inexperienced, it only changed when they took a chance.