The power of businesses giving their time My mission is for all our business supporters to have an insight into life here at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice so over the next year, I’ll be blogging about my experiences as we reach out to more corporate supporters to raise awareness of the great work happening here. Time is flying; this is already my third blog! Recently I’ve attended two events which have covered corporate social responsibility with an emphasis on corporate volunteering days. The trend and demand for company volunteering is still growing and opportunities to volunteer at a local charity can be hard to come by. From my office window I can see how often patients and visitors sit outside on the benches, have a walk around, look out from the conservatory window. My own experience echoes this, summer months tend to come hand in hand with enquiries from supporters who would like to volunteer at the Hospice with colleagues. We really value all kinds of support and are thrilled when people are interested in getting to know us. Volunteering to tidy up the gardens is always popular, and the gardens are an important part of the Hospice. From my office window I can see how often patients and visitors sit outside on the benches, have a walk around, look out from the conservatory window. The garden backs onto the park and it really does feel like the Hospice is rooted in our community. Our maintenance team look after the building and grounds but also take on the duties of porters, supporting our patients. This means that they have very limited time to look after the gardens too. Having groups of volunteers to help maintain the garden genuinely makes a difference to our patient’s experiences here, but we only have about six slots a year for this. Finding other meaningful, one-off opportunities for a group of volunteers can be hard. We always put our patients first so disruption of a group of volunteers in the building can be too much so we have to find other ways to get the work done, such as utilising the energy and commitment of our regular volunteers over a longer period of time. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need the support of volunteers from the local business community looking to use the time gifted from their company, in fact the opposite; we really need the support to continue to improve and develop our services for our patients! The challenge is creating positive experiences for volunteers that also support the Hospice. Our ‘Business Enterprise Challenge’ is just one of the creative volunteer opportunities we organise. The programme runs from October – March and sees teams of pupils from local schools becoming event managers, social entrepreneurs and business tycoons, to compete in raising the most for their local Hospice over a 6 month period. Whatever stage you are in your career, and whatever profession you are from, your contribution is valuable. The commitment from volunteers varies from signing up to be a mentor and working with pupils over six months as they aim to be crowned this year’s champion, to being a ‘Dragons Den’ judge for one day only. Both opportunities support us to make our Business Enterprise a successful programme. Whatever stage you are in your career, and whatever profession you are from, your contribution is valuable. The programme also provides the opportunity to be a role model to a future generation of business professionals, a champion for corporate responsibility within your office and for you to be a supporter of your local hospice. I love the programme because it’s a great to work with business to support the next generation. Mentors can support young people to build business acumen, put ideas into action and raise funds for a good cause. The Business Enterprise Challenge shows children that they can use their skills and successes to have a positive impact on their local community and builds on softer skills such as empathy as they learn more about the Hospice. And you never know, some children may be inspired to become a nurse, doctor, fundraiser or follow the career path of their mentor. And this time, we aren’t asking supporters to get muddy in the gardens, jump out of a plane or run a marathon! The Business Enterprise Challenge still comes back to an important fact: we need £16 every minute to offer free care for people with terminal illnesses and support their families. The fundraising that the pupils arrange as part of the Business Enterprise Challenge gets us a step closer to our target. And along the journey there is plenty of chance to get to know the Hospice and see how the money raised helps us. When people phone the Hospice offering their time, I want to be able to say yes please! And know that I am asking people to commit time to a project which really does support patients and their families, whilst also giving supporters the opportunity to feel as connected to the cause as we do. After all, that is the primary reason why people are getting involved in the first place.