Giving Back: Faith, Hope & Charity

Signing cheques, bidding at charity auctions and attending charity events might be your go-to method of giving to good causes, but, as Anna Tobin reveals, there are other ways that you can gift your free time to help enrich the lives of others.

Your time is just as valuable as your money when it comes to charitable giving, and the rewards you receive from seeing your actions having a positive impact on the lives of others is immeasurable. Here’s where to start looking for rewarding volunteering experiences.

Inspire school children
If you work or have recently retired from an interesting job and career, why not go into a school and inspire children to follow in your footsteps? Inspiring the Future is a national organisation whose mission is to encourage people from across the career spectrum to go into state schools and colleges to awaken pupils to the job opportunities available to them.

It’s vital to give even very young children realistic role models, explains Nick Chambers, CEO of Education and Employers, the parent organisation to Inspiring the Future.

“Having the chance to meet people doing a wide range of jobs is a simple and effective way to open children’s and young people’s eyes to the opportunities available and the skills they need to succeed. It’s particularly important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who have fewer successful role models, either at home or in their local communities.

“From apprentices to CEOs, from architects to zoologists, everyone has something to offer,” says Chambers. “We work with employers to help them set up volunteering schemes and, through our online match-making site, we make it easy for schools to connect with volunteers in their area.

“Volunteers are asked to give at least one hour to visit a local school or college to talk about the job they do; opportunities to get involved range from careers talks and CV workshops to enterprise competitions and job shadowing. Volunteers can even opt to become a school governor and have a more long-term impact on the success of the school.”


Mentor a disadvantaged child
Many children grow up without positive role models to look up to, but by becoming a mentor you can provide a lifeline to a vulnerable child. Geethika Jayatilaka is chief executive of London-based child mentor charity Chance UK, where mentors commit to meeting with their matched child once a week over weekends or after school for between two and four hours.

“Mentors plan fun, yet purposeful activities each week, designed to build the child’s confidence and help them develop the social and emotional skills they need to be resilient. Sessions should be a ‘problem-free’ time for the child, away from the pressures they face at home and at school,” she explains.

Mentors at Chance UK have to write a session report for their programme manager each week and they meet with their managers monthly for a supervision meeting. It’s challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Jayatilaka adds: “As a Chance UK mentor, you’ll make a genuine difference to a child’s life. Over the course of your time together, you will have the satisfaction of seeing your matched child grow in confidence, overcome challenges and making positive choices. Mentors tell us that this is the best thing about their time with us!”

Become a charity trustee
A charity’s trustees have overall control of the charity and are responsible for making sure it’s doing what it was set up to do. Charities are often on the lookout for talented trustees able to give them their time and expertise. It can be incredibly gratifying, but it is also hard work, emphasises Michelle Wright, the CEO of Cause4, an organisation that she set up to help charities to thrive.

“Not all charities need a large time commitment, whereas others need an ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” she explains. “The key thing to look at is where the charity is in its life cycle before deciding to join. A charity in crisis or without many paid staff may require more time than one that is more stable. Choose your charity wisely and be clear with everyone on your expectations.

“Committing to attend meetings is a start, but keep in mind that you will need to spend time between meetings too. I’d say you should expect to work at least one day a month as a trustee, but most of this time will be outside of meetings, attending events, writing emails, researching on behalf of the charity and being an ambassador.”

Trustee openings tend to be advertised on charity websites and social media. Wright tips: “If you are interested in a particular cause or charity it can be really beneficial to join them as a volunteer or on an advisory board first. Get to know them, their strengths, weaknesses and culture and see if you might enjoy a role there.”