I’ve been part of the Society’s marketing team since June 2021, however this isn’t my first experience of working for the Society. I’d carried out some freelance work for Ipswich Building Society, as it was then, 13 years previously. At the time, I remember being so impressed that staff were given paid time off to volunteer. This, along with its friendly culture, really set it apart from other companies I’d worked for; that and the fact that so many charities and community groups benefitted from donations from the Society.
The Society’s Volunteering Programme
The new programme allows staff up to four hours per month, during office hours for volunteering. We are encouraged to use our time in a structured, effective way, that is most useful to the charity. Specialist skills such as HR, finance, and marketing, as well as mentoring and business strategy, are keenly sought after by charities and our volunteers can add real value by using their specialist skills and knowledge. If someone would like to do something totally different to their day job, such as gardening or befriending, that is great too!
The Society formed four official charity partnerships in 2022, committing ongoing financial and volunteering support until 2025.
Staff are therefore encouraged to consider a volunteering position with any of these four Suffolk-based charities:
Suffolk Wildlife Trust – safeguarding Suffolk’s wildlife and countryside.
Ipswich Housing Action Group – supporting people to take action to help themselves keep their home.
Emmaus Suffolk – working with vulnerable, socially isolated people and those at risk of homelessness across the county.
Lighthouse – supporting women impacted by domestic abuse.
It’s possible to volunteer outside of the Society’s chosen charities, as long as it is linked to one of the Society’s chosen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are:
Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing
Goal 10 – Reducing inequalities
Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
Goal 13 – Climate Action
My Volunteering Role
As soon as I met the passionate and ambitious CEO of Emmaus Suffolk, Claire Staddon, I knew I wanted to join them and use my volunteering hours to support their objectives. I’ve joined as a trustee with responsibilities for marketing, in addition to the legal obligations placed on all charity trustees.
Part of the Emmaus federation of 400 groups in 40 countries, Emmaus Suffolk seeks to tackle entrenched homelessness, isolation and unemployment across Ipswich and Suffolk. The charity enables and empowers people to help themselves through meaningful activity that will benefit both themselves and others.
This meaningful activity offers volunteering and work opportunities across its shops, hubs, craft workshops, home clearance service, and community café. Their One Pot Wonder project gives all a hot meal for £2.50 ensuring everyone has access to a delicious, healthy meal, and their warm hubs have proved a lifeline to many over the colder months. Beneficiaries of the charity include its volunteers, its customers, and the wider community.
I attend board meetings every two months, and interim meetings with the CEO and other members of staff. I probably spend more than my four hours a month, so I do a few additional hours in my own time, but I’m happy to do so. I’m acutely aware that anyone can find themselves at risk of homelessness and more and more people are facing poverty as a result of the cost of living increases.
I’m using my specialist marketing skills to support the Royal Oak Café, broadening, and enhancing its social media profile and helping to establish it on Trip Advisor. A monthly supper club has launched, and I’m using my network to promote sales. The Mayor of Ipswich selected Emmaus Suffolk as his Charity of the Year, and I attended the ball as one of the team administering the auction and being on raffle ticket-selling duty.
I’m extremely grateful to the Society for this volunteering time. It allows me to add value to the third sector alongside my day job, for a cause I’m passionate about.