I took part in #BlogHour this week and I asked if people would find a blog post about using your skills to do social good useful. The answer was a resounding yes, so here it is!
I’m sure many of us want to help out charities, but struggle to find opportunities or to know which they would be best suited to. I’ve written a guide crossed with my experiences this year.
What is Social Good?
First, I’d better start by defining what I mean by Social Good. The simplest way of describing it is by talking about the work of charities. Charities exist to address a social or health-related issue, and direct all their efforts and capital towards solving it.
There are other structures that organisations can adopt to address an issue – Social Enterprise, Not for Profits… the long and short of all three of these structures is that they are set up and geared towards delivering positive societal results, or positive social impact – ergo, Social Good.
Volunteering your time
Operating Capital, or cash to spend, can often be hard to come by for these organisations, and they often solely rely on donations coming in, and heavily on their fleet of volunteers. Cash is the main challenge for charities, to ensure a constant influx of income to remain sustainable.
I often wondered, as I met with lots of enthusiastic representatives from charities, or founders of Social Enterprises, how I could help them with my own time and my own skill set.
Volunteering can get a bad rap – think of those mac-wearing ‘hippy-types’* who accost you in shopping centers and make you feel guilty that you have somewhere to be – even though you know you’ve got a list of Direct Debits each month going to charities like those they represent. Volunteering isn’t often glamorous, either, and I can’t really blame people for not being enthused , in spite of stabs of guilt.
Time is precious, right? You want to make sure that any time you give is put to maximum use, and has the highest impact it can.
Charities are often capital strapped, and therefore believe it or not their focusses are in the wrong place. Getting money trough the door is and will always be a struggle. But the problem will still exist and need to be fixed.
It’s a circular problem.
How you can use your skills to best effect
Something in my brain clicked in May this year, when talking to a lovely Lady from British Bee Keepers Association at a conference in London.
“Surely,” I said. “There are ways that you can sell what you are doing as a service, so that you can move on to bigger and better things?”
Her eyes lit up, we started chatting and before I knew it we were in planning workshop meetings with trustees, building a commercial model that might become a business case in the future.
That was me, doing what I do on a daily basis, but helping a cause I was passionate about. It didn’t feel like traditional volunteering. I felt useful.
What are your skills? Are you a great negotiator? Are you good at debating, at selling an idea? Then there’s definitely a charity that can use your skills. You just need to put yourself in front of the right person.
Are you good at planning? Is organisation your thing? Are you a social butterfly? Then maybe charity events and fundraisers are your bag!
Are you a blogger (I know many of you are!). Do you get a lot of readers? Large social reach? Charities often don’t have the time or capital to invest in social media – could you help them there?
Look out for smaller charities, or new campaigns and initiatives on social media or local community message boards. Connect with the campaign leaders and reach out with a friendly ‘hello, I’m happy to help!”.
A conversation over a coffee lead me to agree to working with a campaign leader for Cats Protection on their strategy and community engagement plan.
Another conversation and I was helping a social enterprise Cathartic on investigating Crowd funding as an option to seed-fund the business.
To summarise, thinking laterally about what you are good at and the problem that needs to be solved can often throw up very interesting and highly rewarding opportunities for you and for charities and Social Good organisations. Donating your time pro-bono can be very rewarding, anfd who knows, it could lead to something wonderful!
Have you got charities you’re passionate about? Drop me a comment and we can chat about how you can get involved!
*I do not mean offence by this generalisation!