What are the types of activities that a company might be able to support through Virtual Volunteering? The possibilities are almost endless. Here are just a few short case studies of how BITCI member companies have used Virtual Volunteering to maintain their previous CSR activities and Community commitments – and to develop new initiatives.
BT Ireland has been a long-standing supporter of BITCI’s employment programmes. Since 2008, they have been providing IT training to groups of up to 12 jobseekers every 3 weeks, providing training to over 1800 people so far. When Covid-19 put an end to the possibility of face-to-face gatherings, they were able to quickly transition the training to a virtual setting.
This worked much better than originally anticipated and paved the way to explore other opportunities for BT staff to engage with vulnerable jobseekers. This has led to their support of BITCI’s Women@Work programme, involving CV reviews and feedback as well as a workshop offering tips to stand out during the recruitment process. Ollie Corbett, Talent Acquisition Manager with BT Ireland, virtually volunteered with the delivery of this workshop and was delighted he could contribute to the programme: “It was my pleasure, I loved delivering the workshop and already have ideas for the next one!”
BITCI member company KPMG has also been able to offer virtual support of BITCI’s employment programme clients during the emergency lockdown. This has involved business volunteers from KPMG providing virtual mentoring and career advice to clients on BITCI’s EPIC programme (Employment for People from Immigrant Communities), many of whom have experienced heightened levels of social isolation and anxiety during the lockdown. Virtual Mentoring potentially allows jobseekers and employment programme clients to be matched with a business volunteer who might be working in their targeted career sector. Vulnerable jobseekers can now virtually network with a business volunteer – or meet them for ‘a-virtual-cup-of-coffee’ – despite being confined to their homes.
Virtual Volunteering has also been a valuable tool for supporting vulnerable isolated elderly people during the Covid-19 pandemic (particularly those who might have been living in care homes or socially isolated, and so unable to see their families). For example, after the onset of the pandemic, BITCI member company KPMG launched a new volunteer initiative called ‘All Write Together’ to help tackle the isolation and loneliness many local elderly people were experiencing.
‘All Write Together’ is a pen-pal style initiative, involving KPMG volunteers being matched with old folks in their local community. The KPMG volunteers then write letters to their ‘pen pal’, providing them with moral support during a time that so many of the elderly are finding challenging. Over 50 KPMG staff have signed up to the programme since it was launched. KPMG were also able to support older people through a new virtual initiative with ALONE, where KPMG staff who previously enjoyed individual interaction with the local community were able to use technology to do befriending calls with the elderly. Karina Howley, Head of Corporate Citizenship & Diversity at KPMG Ireland, says that Virtual Volunteering has allowed their organisation to maintain previous community partnerships and forge new ones: “In KPMG Ireland we focus on skills-based volunteering and our people typically enjoy hands-on engagement in volunteering. In spite of the recent restrictions, our volunteers were still eager to engage in activities and give back to their communities in whatever way they could. Like many organisations we pivoted our engagements online so that we could do new initiatives safely from home”.
Gas Networks Ireland is another BITCI member company who have applied Virtual Volunteering to help elderly people (perhaps the group most at risk of social isolation and loneliness during the lockdown). Gas Networks Ireland had been partnered with Age Action Ireland since 2016 on a number of impactful initiatives including donating carbon monoxide alarms, vans and fundraising. When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the country into lockdown, Age Action launched a new Tech Tutoring programme for their services. Gas Networks Ireland threw their full weight behind this Tech Tutor initiative, matching GNI volunteers with older people, giving them virtual support on smart phone use and video calling. Volunteer tech tutors from GNI were able to help these older learners discover how to navigate the internet, upload apps on their phone, and how to use programmes such as Skype and Zoom. All of this virtual support enabled Age Action’s service users to keep in touch with their friends and family while staying safely at home.
This partnership between Gas Networks Ireland and Age Action has helped promote the issue of digital literacy, and also tackled the ‘digital divide’ that has been exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic (and which older people are at particular risk from). Christina van der Kamp, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Gas Networks Ireland, says that the volunteer tech tutor initiative has proved hugely popular with GNI employees: “We’ve seen great employee engagement benefits too, our colleagues have really appreciated the time out of their working day to take a break from the usual and support our communities, and make such a simple but meaningful impact on people’s day to day lives”.
Some other examples of how member companies of the BITCI network are putting Virtual Volunteering into action include:
So, now that you know the benefits it can have – both for your workforce and for wider society – how might your organisation put Virtual Volunteering into action? Follow these initial steps:
If you’re a member of BITCI , talk to your BITCI Account Manager about your objectives for Virtual Volunteering, what positive social impact your organisation wants to achieve through it, and what skillsets your staff might be able to contribute to it. Your BITCI Account Manager can then help you identify suitable Virtual Volunteering opportunities that make a meaningful impact in Irish society during the Covid-19 emergency, while also providing engaging experiences for your employees. With our unparalleled contacts across the Voluntary and Education sectors, Business in the Community Ireland is ideally placed to provide engaging Virtual Volunteering opportunities for your company.
From befriending an older person living alone to chatting to a vulnerable job seeker about their career path; from hosting a workshop on personal brand to advising on a new communications campaign for a charity that has seen fundraising decimated; the opportunities to get involved and make a difference are limited only by your imagination. But the impact of your efforts can be profound!
BITCI has been supporting business to make lasting positive impact in their communities for the last twenty years. If you would like to learn more about how your company could make a difference though Virtual Volunteering contact Joe O’Donnell at firstname.lastname@example.org.