Are you ready to ELBA? Making meaningful matches

 In Blog, CEO's blog

Supporting our corporate partners with their volunteering in the community is a significant part of what ELBA does. It covers a huge range of activities and organisations, some of it is short term and some more sustained over quite a significant period. We were pleased our most recent survey of participants showed that 100% of beneficiaries had a positive experience and 91% of community organisations were able to improve their products and services.

But we are always looking to get better and this week ELBA hosted a forum for the Corporate Social Responsibility practitioners from our partner businesses. These are the people who lead their organisations’ efforts to have a beneficial impact on East London communities.

Jan Levy from our friends Three Hands took us through their fascinating new national research about how community organisations experience corporate volunteering. 80% of their sample of organisations had a genuine need for corporate volunteers, which is a good start, and 68% would benefit from more. But it’s not always a match made in heaven – there are discrepancies between the type and duration of what is offered and what would be most useful. The preference from community organisations was for skills based volunteering – such as financial and funding support; help with marketing, governance and leadership; and for this support to be of a sustained duration, not one-off.

The most worrying finding is that 42% of the Three Hands sample sometimes feel obliged to accept an offer of volunteering – even if it is not really what they need at that moment in time. That doesn’t sound like a good use of anyone’s time or goodwill.

ELBA business partners, almost by definition, are leaders in this field, but in a lively debate it was clear that our practitioners face a tricky juggling act, and the research found resonance with them. Some of their teams just want to have a short, sharp experience; others are able to commit to a longer involvement – but all want it to be needed and to have a beneficial impact. And the needs of community organisations change from time to time as well – sometimes a quick input of willing hands or reflective minds is just what is needed. Other times, it needs to be highly skilled and sustained.

We generated some great ideas about how to do the juggling – more in future blogs. But we all could see that it is no surprise that community organisations have moved on from always being happy to accept simple, unskilled volunteering. Why wouldn’t growing numbers of these highly competent organisations and leaders be facing many of exactly the same organisational issues facing colleagues in our businesses, and seek the benefit of their experience?

But it’s ok, sometimes a wall just needs to be painted, a pond cleaned or a garden renovated, and a team of volunteers can have a fun day doing it, and you know, that can improve peoples’ lives too. It’s all about matching the right volunteers to the right opportunity with the right organisation (and at the right time and in the right place) and preparing really carefully.

Getting that match just right and laying on the preparation for everyone involved – that’s ELBA.



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