Photos by Chris Parkes for Street Child in Nepal
3 min read
Anyone who has volunteered can tell you the value of the experience, both in terms of how it benefits others but also how it benefits those doing the volunteering.
I’ve volunteered prior to this year, but the experiences I had this year had a profound effect on me, and not only did I produce some of my best work, I did it supporting something I really believed in, and beyond that, sharing my experiences inspired others to start their own volunteering journeys.
As an example, Reward Gateway wants to lead with great benefits (fitting for an employee engagement company!), so it has introduced three paid days off to go volunteer in addition to their paid leave: this enables those who may have been on the fence and mobilises those who are keen volunteers already.
I used part of that benefit for my time to support Street Child’s new projects in Nepal, where I took the photos you’re seeing in this post. I find sharing my experiences valuable as it about the importance of volunteering so critical to share with my fellow employees.
Volunteering efforts are almost expected from companies these days, but done right they can add real value to the experience at work, adding layers of meaning and worth to our lives and the lives of others. It takes something that can be seen as a box to check or a “must have” to something that is a natural extension of the personality of the company, and can strengthen engagement and how you are perceived inside and out immeasurably. Here are a few ways you can get started with volunteering at your organisation:
Using flexible working to encourage volunteering
At Reward Gateway, we’ve talked about how flexible working helps with life obligations such as parenting or even a better commute to work. But when I first started here, I used flexible working to arrange my schedule to allow for a few hours here and there to volunteer.
Make volunteering voluntary
Just like employee engagement, I believe that convincing someone to volunteer can’t be forced: that would completely defeat the point. But it can be part of an ongoing conversation. Keep it in your employees minds by making time to chat about your experiences through a volunteer-focussed group at work and share your stories on an internal communications platform, at lunchtime or through a quick video update.
Realise that volunteering isn’t just about helping beneficiaries
I can’t build a house. I’m not great at math. I don’t have a teaching degree. But I’ve been a photographer for 18 years so I shoot to a good standard. Every organisation needs to tell a story through their brand, so photography is a great fit for charities who are trying to communicate the challenges their beneficiaries experience: to add perspective, my work would have normally cost around £4,500.00, money which now can be channeled back into the charity’s work.
So ask yourself and ask your staff: What are you good at?
It could be something like helping a nonprofit with their bookkeeping, or their social media or even volunteering to help them with their onboarding training materials. Everyone has a skill (that’s why your organisation hired you!). So use that skill and translate it to help.
Since volunteering for the Street Child of Sierra Leone and Nepal, I’ve gotten more involved with them becoming an advocate for their cause. I’m always here to chat about my own volunteering experience or how you can make volunteering more prominent at your own organisation. Find me on Instagram as @chris_parkes_esq or Twitter @chris_parkes_ .