Giving time alongside money can be a powerful way to make your giving more rewarding. It fosters a deeper connection with the cause, detailed understanding of the challenges the organisation faces, and an opportunity to share in its achievements. For many charitable organisations, particularly smaller and underfunded organisations, the contribution of skilled volunteers is hugely valuable, and can sometimes have a greater impact than donations of money.
Giving time needn’t mean participating in an organisation’s regular volunteering programme. It could involve contributing professional legal or financial expertise; mentoring the charity’s senior staff; fundraising through your networks of contacts; or becoming a trustee.
The starting point for giving time is to consider in broad terms what you want to get out of your giving (see your objectives). This will help you assess whether you want to give time, how much you want to give, and in what capacity.
Deciding how to support a charity
In some cases you may feel that financial support is the best way to contribute to a charity that has impressed you. However if you feel passionate about a specific social problem, you may find it rewarding to volunteer in a role which involves direct contact with the charity’s beneficiaries. Maybe you know of an organisation which is doing great work but struggling in some capacity, and you can see ways in which your skills could help them address these difficulties. Or perhaps you have spare time and would enjoy the challenge of applying your skills in a different context, while making a real difference to a cause you care about.
Before you begin exploring opportunities to give your time, first assess what commitment you can make and over what period. If your commitments are unpredictable it is vital to be clear about this and plan your engagement accordingly. Trustee or board positions should be a longer term commitment as the charity will need to invest resources in your induction. However the charity may benefit from shorter term support such as business planning or strategy coaching.
Support at a strategic level
If you decide to donate your skills by supporting the senior management or strategy development of the organisation, ensure that you jointly set clear objectives and establish when you want to achieve them. This helps set expectations of all parties, and provides opportunities to celebrate achievements.
It is important to recognise that charities work differently to businesses; charities often need to move more slowly as a result of the complexity of their work and the number of stakeholders involved. Make sure you take the time to understand the real issues, and recognise that significant change doesn’t happen quickly.
Finally, it maybe more helpful for the charity to focus on advising and coaching the charity’s management to learn valuable skills (such as writing a business plan), rather than doing it yourself; this will ensure that your contribution makes a lasting change as the charity becomes increasingly independent of your support.
See trusteeship for finding an organisation to support at a strategic level.
Glossary: in-kind contribution