CSR: Dianne becomes streetwise


I work for Appletree as an Administration and Customer Services Assistant.  A few months ago Chantal Cornelius my employer set me a Corporate and Social Responsiblity challenge to spend a week of my time helping a charity in my local area.  I found the Volunteer Centre in Newbury and was introduced to their Director Garry Poulson.

The Volunteer Centre  acts as a Volunteer Recruitment Agency for local organisations who need volunteer help. The computerised Job Shop for volunteers now carries details about more than 220 volunteering opportunities in West Berkshire. 

Garry suggested that I could help with this aspect of their work.  He said that he would like me to help organise a town centre event and go out and recruit local shops and banking halls to host a local charity for the day in order to raise awareness of local charitable work and to recruit more volunteers.

This was the first day out and about in the Town Centre of Newbury armed with a handful of leaflets and an introductory letter.  Would I be able to encourage high street retailers to participate in the forthcoming event taking place on 5 June.

My first port of call was an Independant Opticians, I asked to speak to the Manger. He greeted  me with a warm smile and a handshake.  He ushered me aside and listened attentively as I explained my mission and the aim of the Charity Event.  I was thrilled when he said he would consider hosting a charity for the day and that he would make a decision the following week when he has spoken to his colleagues.

This wasn’t going to be so difficult after all, I thought as I left the premises and headed over to a well known clothing retailer.  My experience in this particular outlet was as diverse and far removed from my expectations.  On asking to speak to the Manager, I was left to wait on the shop floor for 10 minutes.  As soon as the Manager appeared, I could tell that my warm smile wasn’t going to cut it with her.  She looked me up and down, listened to me for a minute and then hit me with a flood of questions.  “What exactly does the Volunteer Centre do, I’ve never heard of it,” she said.  “I cannot see the purpose of a Volunteer Centre, if I want to give my time to a charity then I would contact a charity myself.”  I didn’t expect this response and felt uncomfortably hot under the grill.  I did my best to explain, offering my letter of introduction in the hope that it would make things clearer.  She was bored with my explanation and before I had time to finish she interrupted again and said that her Company only supports a charity chosen by Head Office and so it would be against Company policy to allow a representative from another charity on to the shop floor, end of, time for me to go. 

I think that was a ‘No’.  Her attitude certainly made me sharpen up on my facts about the Volunteer Centre their work.  I carried a little notebook with me and made notes about the various shops I had visited as I went from shop to shop along the High Street.  I also discovered that timing was all important.  At mid-day the general public were out and about on the streets and eager shopkeepers didn’t have time to listen to me, they were busy looking over my shoulder trying to catch the eye of the elusive shopper.  Newbury town centre has been experiencing building and renovation work over the past year and a half, causing so much disruption for shoppers and retailers alike. 

The present economic climate hasn’t helped either. One Manager said that he would like to help, but when I gave him the date of the charity event he said it was their last day of trading, they were closing down and he did not feel it would not be appropriate. 

I continued with my quest, I had been out and about now for 5 hours and was starting to feel rather tired, it was hot and my feet were hurting.  I took a little detour off the High Street and called into a small gift shop.  The Manager wasn’t available, but the assistant was willing to listen to me.  When I finished she said she would pass on the information but sadly hardly anyone came into the shop any more, so what would be the point of hosting a charity.  I came away feeling quite sad and deflated. 

Morale was so low out on the street and I had no idea.  Along the way I had encountered Retailers who were worried about Health and Safety issues, and were asking question such as “would a representative from a charity prove to be a hazard or put customers off entering the shop”.  Although I had explained this was not a fund raising exercise and there would be no shaking of charity boxes, this was purely a volunteer recruitment, and raising the profile exercise, anyway I had tried to explain to those who would listen. 

 At the end of my first day, I returned to the Volunteer Centre, my notebook contained the names of 15 Managers who were thinking about supporting our charity day and just one definite “Yes”.  I was very worried that I was not going to recruit enough Managers to make this event a success.   Garry was hoping to have approximately 40 shops and banking halls participating.  I would just have to wait and see, would the responses come rolling in next week, had I done enough to convince them?


One Response

  1. just be careful with some recruitmet agencies because some of them are scammers too *

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