When supply meets demand for volunteering

The first week of June was dedicated to celebrate the work of millions of volunteers across the UK. Similar celebrations are seen in other countries: the National Volunteer Week in Australia, Canada and Scotland; and the Obair Dheonach Éireann in Ireland, for example.

It is impressive how much work is done in the third sector through volunteers. The figures speak for themselves: GlobalGiving UK has a ratio of 10% staff to 90% volunteers. Citizen’s Advice reported that in 2016 “volunteers gave an estimated £114m of worth of time“.

Volunteering can serve many purposes. It can be a stepping stone to enter the development sector. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Bo Sundström, head of EU Programmes & Finance at the UK Department for International Development (DfID). He was a guest speaker at a training event for the GlobalGiving Evaluation Program in June.

He explained that his career started as a financial controller in Sweden, but he managed to volunteer as a ‘side career’. From the controller position, he transitioned to a brilliant path in international development, working for the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, before joining DfID. He did not say that, but my interpretation of the facts was that his previous work as a volunteer was a key factor to a smooth job transition.

Volunteering is also a way to really get to know a country. Tom Ashcroft, a GlobalGiving Evaluation Program alumni, used his blog to share his views on how volunteering afforded him a chance to “really get under the skin of a country” combining travelling with “a greater sense of purpose“. After staying in Kenya and India, Tom has recently arrived in Mongolia to volunteer with a nomadic family.

If you are not intending to join the development world, or to live among the nomads, volunteering is still a valid option and combining your daily job with activities that can make a difference to non-profits is possible.

I volunteer

It is true that today many companies do have their own volunteering and community ‘outreach’ programs. Law firms normally run pro-bono activities, tech companies tend to support programming courses and financial institutions sometimes provide mentoring to SMEs. However, although there are many people willing to donate their time and skills, my impression is that there is still room for improving the ways volunteering can be more ’embedded’ in our daily careers.

In fact, it is almost funny to note that there is ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ for volunteering, but they seem not to fully meet. A report produced by the research and creative agency ‘Achieve’ in 2015 measured the volunteering potential of millennials – which comprise the age group born between 1980 and 2000 – and concluded that they are not only open to volunteering (something like 70% of millennials volunteer their time each year), but they would do so particularly if they could leverage their skills during the experience:

“Most Millennial employees volunteer between 1 and 10 hours a year. These are employees who will get the most from programs like company-wide days of service. Since we also found that Millennial employees are more likely to volunteer if they can leverage their skills or expertise, companies should incorporate skills-based volunteering to increase participation and maximize the value of the volunteer experience”

There are many ways that your ‘career skills‘ can help to match supply and demand for volunteering. Take the private sector for example. An auditing company could support charities with organising and providing them with independent financials. Considering that most funding applications require at least independent audit reports, this is a real need for many non-profits. Bankers could use their knowledge to help designing microfinance programs or to give valuable insights to social business concerning long-term sustainability. Insurers could help building resilience to non-profits and their recipients by developing new products, such as micro-insurance for example, that are more tailored to the reality of the third-sector. Lawyers are crucial to secure access to justice and, in today’s digital world, marketers and communications professionals are essential for social media impact and online brand awareness.

Doing fundraising for a charity, I soon learned that we should always be on the look out for potential partners for the charity. It is something I referred to in my previous blog: mapping your network so you can identify potential donors or partners that your organisation can benefit from. But why not reverse the reasoning? Why not expect from private companies (and universities as well) to do the same and identify local organisations that need support and research? There are many ‘transferrable skills’ used in our daily careers that can transform the realities of small charities and organisations. Making this strategy consistent, not promotional and part of the ‘business as usual‘ would really embody the purposes of corporate social responsibility.

If you want to kick-start yourself, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer remotely. The UN keeps an online platform with various opportunities, ranging from translation services, research, art & design, strategy, technology development and marketing, just to name a few. It is just a matter of applying. By doing so you will help ensure that supply meets demand for volunteering.

 

Network mapping and a brave new world

To say that everybody is connected seems almost commonplace in today’s global and integrated world. Internet, social media and smart devices created a level of connectivity never seen before. It is a ‘global village’ of 7.5 billion people wirelessly linked.

But, if it is true that we stay on-line virtually all the time, it appears that we may not be using communications technology to their fullest potential. One thing is to use the internet to stay in touch with friends, to follow your favourite celebrity, or to advertise and buy on-line. A different thing is to use technology and communications tools to enhance the power of human networking.

global village

It was Eleanor Harrison, CEO of GlobalGiving UK, which opened my eyes to this potential. During last training event for GlobalGiving Evaluation Program, she explained how charities and small organisations face major challenges to raise funds and to stand out in the crowd. It is to overcome these challenges that our field visits to grassroots NGOs will include the application of a tool called the ‘Network Mapping’.

The name is pretty self-explanatory: it consists of mapping all the contacts of your network. The idea is to identify all possible interactions that a person or organisation can have, starting from immediate names (1st level networking) and growing into contacts of contacts, and so on (2nd and 3rd-degree contacts). The purpose is to see ‘beyond the surface’, being able to pinpoint new contacts and to connect them with areas of shortage within the organisation.

The impact for fundraising is obvious as the mapping identifies new potential donors. But it also allows the organisation to develop different strategies for growth based on opportunities uncovered and new sources of skills, expertise and influence identified in the network.

With technology, creating a network map is much facilitated. Facebook and LinkedIn offer a starting point to identify valuable contacts, not to mention that online platforms even provide the structure for drawing the map. The website Bubbl, for example, helps to brainstorm, using bubbles and arrows that help the mapping process.

Working in the private sector for so long, I used to think of networking always in terms of potential new clients. But in actual fact, after the map is done, the networking potential is much greater, uncovering new opportunities and resources that were apparently non-existent. The process of doing your map even leads to a ‘self-discovery route’, where it is possible to create interactions between people and organisations that would never encounter, opening new networking circles. Quoting a recent article that I read on career networking, you can introduce people who would typically never meet and unlock value for everyone“.

The network mapping also contributes for development policies. The International Food Policy Research (IFPR) uses a similar tool – the ‘Net-Map Method’ – to design participatory policies, ranging from nutrition-related programs to climate change. According to the Eva Schiffer, who developed the tool for the IFPR: “Net-Map helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes. By creating maps, individuals and groups can clarify their own view of a situation, foster discussion, and develop a strategic approach to their networking activities“.

Net Map
Source: Eva Schiffer blog “Net-Map Toolbox – Influence Mapping of Social Networks” 

So, whatever the purpose you have in mind – fundraising for your charity, assembling contacts to raise your personal profile, identifying new opportunities for growth, or designing a participatory policy if you are a policy-maker – the true is that it all starts with exploring your human network.

I am currently preparing my own map, making the most of Facebook, LinkedIn and social media. So, thank you Eleanor for showing me this new form of ‘networking capital’. It is a new world indeed.

A Green Light

I don’t see myself as a tech-geek. In the ‘technology adoption lifecycle’ curve, I would probably be within the 68% majority, sometimes in the ‘early majority’, sometimes in the ‘late majority’. But, I would rarely be in the 16% of innovators or ‘early adopters’. Not because I don’t like technology or that I resist change and evolution. I just need assurance that the new technology doesn’t arise to cause more harm than good. And assurance comes with time and the knowledge gained from the experience of the 16% in the front-end.

Being in the majority does not make me less appreciative of technology. On the contrary; I really enjoy seeing how technology changes (and shapes) people’s habits and behaviours. I believe that technology holds an immense potential to be an unprecedented driving force of institutional change. 

Say for example the digitalisation of courts and how it has improved values of openness and transparency. In Brazil, for example, the average citizen can watch the depositions being taken in criminal lawsuits under the Lava Jato operation.

This is part of the ‘tech for good’ movement that intends to use technology to tackle social and economic challenges. Or, in sum, ‘to do some good‘. I remember an LSE Professor, Silvia Masiero, now at the Loughborough University, telling us successful experiences of using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to manage humanitarian emergencies. Or other cases of how mobile phones were used to reach financial inclusion.  

tech-for-good

Recently I started looking into crowdfunding experiences and how it changes old development concepts. This is how GlobalGiving came to my attention. Working as a global crowdfunding platform, GlobalGiving makes possible for grassroots organisations to be seen and, as a result, to gain an additional source of finance.

I really like the idea of using crowdfunding for development purposes. The reason for that, I believe, is because it challenges the idea of aid. Yes, with crowdfunding initiatives ‘aid’ is no longer only achieved by means of big multilateral organisations which nobody (or almost nobody) can access or participate. 

Please don’t get me wrong: the World Bank and other multilaterals are still important international players in terms of aid, development and policy research. But what I consider a game-changer in GlobalGiving model is that it puts the individuals in the ‘driving seat of development’.

I will explain: looking into the GlobalGiving website, I could see the real stories and needs behind the projects available for funding. And seeing the power and the positive impact that crowdfunding can have for such projects, I felt empowered. I realised how you and I can make a real difference for local development projects and for individual trajectories. It is technology changing the traditional concept of aid. 

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This blog was created to follow my participation in GlobalGiving’s Evaluation Program, which started in March and will finish in October with an in situ placement with GlobalGiving’s partners in Cambodia. 

I couldn’t be more excited with the whole experience. As a ‘majority’ in the technology cycle, I am assured that crowdfunding has real benefits. It is technology linking people and causes for development. 

Well, the light is green. Let’s move!