Some of our SMEs tell us they find it hard to encourage employees to use the volunteering time they offer, as people are worried about juggling volunteering commitments with their jobs. This month we’re focusing on businesses supporting their communities, so we asked our Foundations for Responsible Business Programme Manager, Kate Finnis, to tell us how she makes working and volunteering work.
“I’ve been volunteering as a school governor for the past eight years; the first two I chaired committees, then became the vice-chair before moving to Chair of Governors in my fourth year. I’m now also a trustee for the Education Trust our school has joined during my time on the board. Alongside these roles, I’ve also worked full-time and juggled my home-life commitments, and it’s do-able if you’re really committed (notice I said do-able, not easy!)
While the role has come with its challenges, I obviously enjoy it, as I’m still there.
Expect to make good on your commitment. The other volunteers I work with who stand the test of time are committed too. In my role that means reading documents, prepping for meetings and keeping up to date with training and changes within the sector. I prioritise voluntary meetings in the same way I do my work ones.
Don’t underestimate the warm fuzzies – and hold on to them. As with most things responsible business related there’s a chance to really get the feels. For every late evening meeting or difficult decision there are five conversations with our children, staff or community that reiterate why this is such a great role and how much the school appreciates my contribution.
Tell people about your involvement. During my time on the board, I’ve had three different jobs. Each time I’ve interviewed for a new role I’ve had up-front conversations with potential employers about my volunteering commitments. And I have a wider range of skills. In interviews I’ve used examples of achievements and learning I’ve gained as a school governor – I wouldn’t have those experiences without volunteering.
People ask me:
Why do you give so much of your time up for this? Simply because I believe in what we’re achieving and how vital the work we’re doing is.
How do you manage with everything else you’ve got going on? Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure. There have been some pinch points, mainly during new Head Teacher recruitment, when I was heavily involved daily. I was very honest with my line manager at the time about the fact that this was going to be a priority. I explained the situation, reiterated the experience it would give me and asked for their support.
What’s the best bit? Lunchtime! On days when I’m there during school hours (only about once or twice a term) I take my lunch into the hall and sit with the children. There’s nothing quite like lunchtime chat with year 2s to put things in perspective. At the end of the day, I’m there for them, and hearing how they are and what’s on their minds is what this ‘job’ is all about.
What’s been your greatest achievement? That’s hard to nail down; good Ofsted reports, successful Head Teacher recruitment, being able to showcase what we’ve achieved to other schools…and so many more!
So, I hope that’s made you want to volunteer your time in your community! If it’s inspired you, here are some questions I think you should ask yourself when thinking about where and how to volunteer your time:
- Do I understand the time commitment?
- Will my contribution make a difference?
- Will I gain skills, knowledge or experience that will help me elsewhere?
If the answer is yes – go for it!
It’s also a great idea to have a conversation with your line manager if you’re considering any volunteering which may fall within working hours; great organisations will see the benefit your experience can bring and work to support you where possible.
Check out this article on the 11 benefits of volunteering for more inspiration!”