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Did you know June is full of opportunities to make a real difference for the planet and your community? Forget summer barbecues for a second – June is full of awareness days and campaigns designed to ignite action for a healthier planet and a more just society. From Volunteers’ Week to London Climate Action Week, the month is packed with ways to get involved. That being said, it is a wonderful time for people to give back to society and undertake a volunteering activity.

What is Volunteering?

Volunteering is about pouring your heart and skills into a cause that makes a real difference. It’s all about choosing to give back, using your talents to empower others or tackle environmental challenges you care about. It’s a win-win: you contribute to the community or environment, and you gain a sense of purpose and connection.

Why is Volunteering Important?

People involved in these activities find it to be an important and rewarding experience for several reasons, these include:

  • Make a real impact: Volunteering lets you give back to your community, whether it’s a local cause you care about or a global issue that ignites your passion.
  • Boost your well-being: With the previous point in mind, helping others has a powerful effect. It can elevate the participant’s mood and feel good about themselves, contributing to their well-being.
  • Gain experience and meet new people: Volunteering isn’t just about good deeds. Participants can look at such causes and activities as opportunities to build a skillset and network for a cause that they’re passionate about.

With the last point in mind, let’s go beyond the feel-good factor and explore the powerful advantages volunteering offers businesses. Here’s how your company can reap rewards by getting involved:

  • Increase employee engagement: Involving your team in volunteering activities or a charitable cause can help harness a sense of group culture and camaraderie within your workforce. Aside from its teambuilding properties, company volunteering programmes, when executed successfully, can improve morale and job satisfaction, which can reduce the urge for employees to seek jobs elsewhere.
  • Enhance public image: Partaking in volunteering activities can enhance a company’s public image, which in turn can appeal to both consumers and investors. Research shared by Harvard Business School Online suggests that 77% of consumers are keen on purchasing products from ‘companies committed to making a world a better place’. This is further supported by 73% of investors stating that ‘efforts to improve the environment and society contribute to their investment decisions’. Having said this, it makes the benefits from companies gaining strong volunteering or CSR credentials to be increasingly evident.
  • Build community ties: Through volunteering, your company becomes more deeply woven into the fabric of the local community, fostering positive relationships with potential customers, partners and stakeholders.
  • (Increasingly) Attract top talent: Volunteering and CSR activities are becoming increasingly important as a recruitment tool. A 2022 Gallup survey revealed a significant generational gap in prioritisation of social impact when selecting an employer.  Among respondents aged 18-29, 71% indicated a willingness to switch jobs for a company with a stronger positive social impact. This figure dropped to 62% for those aged 30-44 and 55% for the entire survey population exceeding 5,700 participants. As Millennials and Gen Z’s become an increasingly dominant portion of the workforce, it is increasingly necessary for companies to adapt to these preferences to retain leverage when attracting top talent.

With these figures in mind, it’s a no-brainer for businesses to leverage volunteering and CSR activities to benefit their operations. The question for organisations now is which activity to pick, and what is the best way to undertake it?

Volunteering Opportunities: How to Get Them Right

At Bywaters, we’re passionate about environmental responsibility and giving back to the community. Our commitment to volunteering and CSR has not only fuelled our eco-conscious practices but also provided valuable insights we’re eager to share.

We are always looking for more ways to make a difference, including encouraging our partners to take part in our diverse network of activities. Bywaters strives for sustainability in all aspects of our operations, including helping our local community and environment.

From cleaning up the Thames through litter picking to clothes drives supporting communities, we have learned a lot from the volunteering sessions we undertook. We wanted to share with you what we’ve learned from these activities, and hope to provide you with insight from our abundance of experience.

In this article, we will list some activities we frequently undertake, their purpose and benefits, as well as our advice on how to organise and undertake them.

5 Examples of Volunteering Activities

Tree Planting and Conservation Activities with HandsOn London

Tree Planting Volunteering

Tree planting makes you cool, not just figuratively. A study published by ScienceDirect found that around two-thirds of survey respondents considered that more government and business funding should be used at least partly to enhance tree planting and care, demonstrating prevalent public support. Moreover, they offer shade on hot summer days, making streets and parks more comfortable for pedestrians and reducing energy consumption in buildings by blocking harsh sunlight.

Tree planting is a fantastic way for companies to showcase their environmental commitment, whether in bustling cityscapes or rural havens. Additionally, nature conservation initiatives are an effective way to similarly revitalise green spaces. In London, there are several fantastic charities like HandsOn London, that offer these activities for both individuals and organisations.

In relation to tree planting, our experience suggests autumn to spring is the ideal planting window for many species, as long as the ground isn’t frozen or soggy. Avoid planting trees in hot or dry weather. Furthermore, freshly disturbed soil tends to settle, causing shrubs and trees planted too deeply to be prone to root rot or disease. Additionally, planting trees and shrubs on shallow raised mounds prevents them from becoming waterlogged in wet soil. Lastly, remember that plants can die from over-watering (drowning), as well as underwatering, so keep this information in mind if you plan on maintaining your trees.

Community Cooking Sessions with FEAST With Us

Volunteering Activities Cooking Sessions

Moving from environmental to social sustainability, cooking sessions are a wonderful way to support the ones most in need in your community. By working with organisations that focus on distributing balanced meals, it is a great way to offer healthy nutrition.

Moreover, working with charities such as FEAST With Us, these activities can provide healthy nutrition from excess food, which would otherwise go to waste. This ultimately reduces food waste, whilst providing a circular and sustainable activity.

This is an activity that is available to do all year round, as well as being a widespread type of volunteering, with numerous charities offering it throughout the UK. It is a great way to highlight commitment to social harmony and inclusion.

Firstly, be sure to plan your recipes and ensure that their respective procurement is feasible. Based on our initiatives, teamwork is key. Similarly to hospitality, having clearly defined roles and stations will optimise organisation. Lastly, be sure to have your resources and ingredients readily available by placing them in clearly defined areas, as these activities can get busy, to avoid logistical confusion during the session.

Clothes Drives with HandsOn London

Clothes Drive with HandsOn London

Clothes drives are another great way to highlight your commitment to social inclusion and your community. It is another effective means to support the ones most in need in our society. It is also worth noting that these types of initiatives are most popular during the winter months when it is cold and it is the best time to help the most vulnerable members of society.

Aside from its social benefits, it also has some key environmental benefits as well. It stresses the importance of reducing landfill waste, which can be supported by diverting clothes that would otherwise go to waste. Furthermore, it lowers the demand for resources such as water, energy and raw materials to create clothes from scratch.

For offices, it is a great way to involve employees with charitable causes, without their active involvement. This can often be aligned with a fundraising initiative, to also provide funding for charities. Overall, clothes drives offer a simple yet impactful way to contribute to a more sustainable and supportive environment.

To successfully undertake this initiative, clear communication with your intended audience is key. Whether it be a series of email reminders, or a simple poster would suffice, your message should set a clear drop-off location, alongside a timeframe for donations. From our observations, the longer the timeframe, the better it is to maximise donations.

In the next step, be sure that you have a reliable means of transporting your donations to your selected partner. In the following stage, charities sort these donations for the intended communities. In many cases, when working with an established charity, participating in this part of the process isn’t necessary. However, it is beneficial to show that you’re a hands-on volunteer who is keen to make a real difference, so being involved in this stage is often appreciated.

Litter Picking with Bywaters

Litter Picking with Bywaters

Litter is an issue in any town or city. The problem with this in part is that not all of it is biodegradable, meaning that it is made from materials that can be broken down naturally by bacteria or other living organisms, reducing waste and environmental pollution.

The consequences of littering certain waste materials can often have a huge impact on its surroundings. Let’s take items such as batteries or electric equipment as an example. It is often made with toxic chemicals, which may unleash hazardous leachate into its surroundings. It doesn’t stop there, these materials can then travel through waterways or evaporate into the air, negatively impacting the ecosystem.

In response, litter picking is a great activity to take up at any time of the year. It is a straightforward act of volunteering, which doesn’t require much expertise aside from being cautious of what you pick up. Moreover, it encourages a positive cleanup culture among the public. Best of all, it can be done at any time of the year, as long as the weather permits it.

While we do encourage taking up litter picking to build a more positive community, safety is of the utmost importance when picking up unknown objects. To equip yourself adequately, be sure to get yourself some sturdy gloves, a bin bag and a litter picker. While these measures may seem excessive, they are reasonable means to ensure your safety.

With that said, Bywaters regularly organises river and beach cleans for its partners around London. Click here if you are interested in learning more about our activities.

Donate to an Animal Charity with Born Free

Born Free Animal Protection

Sometimes, finding the time to support the causes you care about can be difficult, making undertaking such a commitment strenuous. After all, time, skills matching with opportunities and flexibility factors tend to be the major barriers to taking up volunteering, but that doesn’t mean you can’t paws for a minute to help a cause you’re passionate about.

If you’re passionate about animal welfare and wildlife, we recommend checking out our partnership with Born Free. As like-minded organisations, we decided to join forces with this fantastic charity to conserve five of our planet’s most precious animals.

To show our commitment, we’ve revamped five of our signature vehicles to showcase the animals that Born Free works to protect. For every job completed by one of these animal-themed vehicles, Bywaters will donate £1 to the cause.

How to Assess a Charity

If you would like to support another cause, but are unsure of which UK charity to work with, the Charity Commission is a trusted government platform, which can help you find the perfect UK charity to partner with. This transparent resource lets you see how charities are structured and managed, giving you peace of mind about how your donations will be used.

Make a Difference: Start Volunteering Today

We hope this guide has been useful to inform you how to undertake a volunteering opportunity you’re passionate about.

Having said this, if you’re interested in joining our volunteering sessions, be sure to check out our sustainable activities, we work on a wide array of activities to promote environmental awareness and social harmony that might interest you. It is a great way to build your volunteering credentials and give back to our community.

Bywaters is a London-based recycler who is passionate about encouraging sustainability. We often work with partners of all sorts to achieve this and advance their volunteering credentials. If you’re interested in finding out more, contact us today.

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