Di’s CSR: the final countdown

Dianne

Week 4 started really well with Boots the Chemist joining our Charity Volunteer Recruitment Day. I spent the remainder of my 20 hours voluntary work on the Newbury High Street obtaining further contact details from the participants and ensuring they had all the details about the event.

On the 5th June 2010 the Volunteer Recruitment day was finally held in Newbury. In total, there were eighteen shops and banks each hosting a different local charity looking to promote themselves and recruit volunteers.  Local MP Richard Benyon was the star attraction and kicked off the event outside a branch of HSBC Bank.  I felt so proud to be a part of this event.  Knowing that as a result of my efforts, 25 new volunteers where recruited on the day made all the hard work worthwhile.

At the end of my 20 hours I asked myself what I had gained from this experience what can I take back to the workplace that will benefit my employer?

I believe this experience has built my confidence and improved my communication skills.  It also increased my determination and commitment to a project.  There were times out on the Newbury High Street that I just felt like giving up!  There were plenty of rejections, along the way, but with determination, perseverance and a positive attitude I was able to see a fruitful end result.  It is this positive attitude I will take back to my work place, and apply to any projects that I undertake in the future.

I used to think that the correct approach in organising an event is to sit behind a computer and dash off a series of emails and expect action.  I am now aware that there is no better form of communication than getting out and away from my desk and making contact with people, face to face.  I discovered that if you take the time to do this, you gain so much more. 

One particular business I approached felt that they were unable to participate because of lack of space on their shop floor, so instead, they offered to make a monetary donation to the Volunteer Centre.  It must have been the look of disappointment on my face when they told me they were not participating that compelled them to offer to help in different way.

At times, I found that my approach had to be modified according to each Manager I met, in terms of understanding their expectations about the event and their appreciation of time factors involved.  I would often check if it was convenient to speak to them and if not, I would offer to return at a more convenient time. 

Some Managers wanted to know in depth about the Volunteer Centre and others were interested in gleaning the bare essentials.  I am sure I couldn’t have established this level of rapport via email.  By varying my approach and bringing my own unique style and enthusiasm to the project, I feel I was able to help make this event a success.

I hope my success has inspired my colleagues at Appletree to engage in a project of their own.

CSR – My different approach

Dianne

The following week, I was back pounding the streets of Newbury town centre again. My task was to recruit local shops and banking halls to host a local charity event for the day in order to raise awareness of local charitable work and to recruit more volunteers. I would need to speak to Managers face to face and win them over to the concept, getting as many as possible on board for the event taking place on the 5 June 2010.

I had a plan; I decided to divide my time between revisiting those businesses that had shown an interest and were waiting for their respective Head Offices to give approval and visiting new businesses in order to win them over to the idea. 

Some of the Managers I revisited remembered me from the previous week. On this occasion, I was able to create some sort of rapport.  They asked how my campaign was coming along and wanted to know more about the Volunteer Centre.  At this stage, I was beginning to feel more confident.  I was able to make a note of first names and request email addresses so that I could update everyone about the campaign as the weeks progressed. 

The rest of my time was devoted convincing managers to get onboard, informing them about the forthcoming charity event and the publicity that was planned.  The event is being covered by West Berkshires own radio station – Newbury Sound and by the Newbury Weekly News.

When talking to Managers about the event, I no longer stood in the doorway looking awkward and uncomfortable, but walked boldly into premises, with an optimistic approach, a smile and head held high, I spent some time browsing their stock and complimented individuals on the quality, layout and goods on display. 

At one stage I was invited into the offices of one particular business owner, in order to meet her staff and inform them about what I was trying to achieve and the progress I had made so far.  This Manager was keen to be included on my list of participants. Her team were very encouraging and wished me well as I left.  It was all about my approach, I felt that I didn’t need to be quite as forceful as before.  I would impart information and wait for a response.  I didn’t feel that I had a 5 minute slot and had to blurt every fact out as quickly as possible.  This more relaxed approach might just work, I thought to myself.

The following day I phoned the Volunteer Centre and spoke to Garry, I needed to know if we had any more positive feedback.  The response was good; gradually one by one business owners were contacting Garry and requesting that they be included.

Dianne’s next CSR step: a positive attitude

Dianne

I work as an Administrator and Customer Services Assistant for Appletree based in Compton.  When my boss Chantal gave me the opportunity to go out and help Garry Poulson, Director of the Newbury Volunteer Centre, to organise a charity event, I was really keen to get involved, giving 20 hours (my working week) of my time to help launch a project. 

This would be a worthwhile thing to do and would involve me giving something back to the community.  It was good also to have a specific project with a beginning, middle and an end.  I could almost picture myself celebrating success.  Perhaps there would be a write-up in the local paper, my name would be mentioned and the name of my company.  I was very excited and proud to be linked to a company who felt so strongly about CSR and the benefits for all involved.

My task was to recruit local shops and banking halls to host a local charity event for the day in order to raise awareness of local charitable work and to recruit more volunteers. I would need to speak to managers face to face and win them over to the concept, getting as many as possible on board for the event taking place on 5 June 2010. 

I am used to sitting behind my desk writing emails or phoning customers who approach me for my help. I felt nervous and unsure about the task and how I would manage going out onto the High Street in Newbury and using my powers of persuasion to convince managers to participate in this event.  I armed myself with lots of information about the Volunteer Centre and the work that they do.  Garry gave me a letter of introduction to leave if I could not speak directly to individual managers. On my first contact my aim was to come away with a firm ‘Yes’ plus an email address or telephone number.

I had decided that I would need a positive attitude and approach if this was going to work.  It was not just about imparting information, it was the way the information was delivered that would win through.  I was acting as a representative of the Volunteer Centre; managers would make a judgement on my appearance and voice and then content of the information given to them.

So it was with a positive attitude that I stepped out onto the High Street of Newbury town centre.  How did I fair?  I will update you next week.

CSR – the next step from Dianne, Admin Assistant at Appletree

Dianne

I was welcomed to the Newbury Volunteer Centre by Garry Poulson the Director.  I was hoping that he would be able to come up with a project for me to work on, a project that I can call my own.  Whatever Garry had in mind for me I was hoping that it would be a challenge and that I could see a clear beginning and end with a sense of achievement.

I made a list of key points for consideration.

  • Make sure there are clear objectives for the project so that every one knows what success will look like.
  • Be clear on how much time I can devote to the project.  Things have a habit of expanding once you get started.
  • Be clear about where I will carry out this work.
  • Put the basics in writing so there can’t be any disagreements later.
  • Keep communicating – there is always some potential for things to go awry, but if everyone is talking to each other major problems can usually be avoided.

I was made to feel very welcome at the Centre by Garry, his colleagues and team of volunteers.  The Centre runs the much needed Newbury Handybus scheme, it operates a small fleet of specially adapted vehicles that takes groups of people on regular shopping trips and other excursions.

Shopmobility provides manual and electric wheelchairs and scooters to enable people with permanent or temporary mobility problems to go about their business in Newbury with complete independence. They also run a Car and Driver Scheme that takes people who are unable to use public transport to appointments of all kinds. 

The Volunteer Centre also 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. 

Gary 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.

I must admit the words “go out” filled me with dread.  I was used to sitting behind my computer screen, making contact with the outside word via email and the telephone.

My first question was how many retailers would I need to contact? He suggested about 40, “but don’t expect each one to participate, you may have to visit more than once and gently encourage them to get on board”.  I asked if it would it be quicker to phone? “It might be, but in my experience face to face contact is the best approach,”  said Garry. 

“Go out” it is then. I will let you know how I got on in my next instalment.

CSR – An Admin Assistant’s view

Dianne

How this Administration Assistant became aware of Corporate Social Responsibility:

 “I will set you a challenge” said my boss. “I would like you to go out into the community, find yourself a job and volunteer your Administration services for one week.”

I thought this a stiff challenge. I might have to leave my comfortable office, meet new people, take on a task and successfully complete it within a given timeframe. Success or failure, how will I fare? How can I combine this with helping within the community? Where can I look for such a task, and who will help me? With all these thoughts running through my mind, I turned to the one source I usually turn to when I need information and set about searching online using key words such as volunteer, charities, events. There were pages and pages of these so I decided to take down telephone numbers and a few contact details of local charities in my area. 

I considered emailing the various charities with details of when I would be available for work but this would take time. The only course of action was to pick up the phone and talk to someone. It is now March and I needed to get things moving quickly if I was going to get involved in a key event being held this year. 

After many phone calls I discovered the Newbury Volunteer Centre and spoke to Garry Poulson the Director. I outlined briefly what I would be able to offer in terms of admin support, and my time. As a result, I am due to meet Garry to discuss a project that he has in mind for me. After our meeting I hope things will become clear. I want to feel a sense of achievement at the end of my task. I will ask myself, has this work been worthwhile? Who in the community will benefit? How can I spread the word about this? What have I gained from it? I will keep you posted. 

Are you doing anything similar with your company?