At the beginning of lockdown, millions of people began volunteering in whatever capacity they could – from signing up to the NHS volunteers’ scheme to fetching shopping for elderly neighbours or relatives who were shielding. It was a real joy to behold and I hope that this crescendo of altruism has not already come to an end as there are so many personal and professional benefits to volunteering.
A few weeks before we went into the first national lockdown in March, I had a call from a former client about setting up a Good Neighbour Scheme for our market town and its neighbouring villages. She was assembling a group of like-minded people with different skills to get it off the ground and wanted me on board to help with comms. I was more than happy to help.
After that initial call, it became clear that I was going to be unbusy for a while and I poured my new-found spare time into garnering local support for the scheme via social media. It gave me purpose and kept me focused on something other than my own anxieties about the pandemic and made me feel like I was contributing in some small way to my community.
I imagine this story will be similar to millions of other people’s tale of ‘what I did in lockdown’. Volume one.
But truth be known, it wasn’t my first rodeo as a volunteer. A couple of years ago I responded to an advert for my local RSPB group, who were looking for someone to take over as their magazine editor. Upon meeting the group leader, I discovered they also needed a bit of help with their publicity.
As the offspring of a family of twitchers and a bone fide nature lover, the volunteer role was right up my street and as well as offering the group my skills and experience, I also benefited from it massively.
I taught myself Publisher and redesigned the member magazine from scratch. I learned how to do page layouts and how to project manage the production process from design to print to distribution; I joined the group’s committee and learned more about the birds and nature in my local area. I also met new and interesting people – most of which are of my parents or grandparents’ age.
What I do for the RSPB gives me an extra dimension to my world, and it repays me ten-fold in new practical skills and connections that I can use to improve my business. And of course, I get that lovely feeling that I’ve made a small difference to something I care about – and you can’t put a price on that.