The season of goodwill is here and everywhere you turn you’ll see or hear charities appealing for funds – once you’ve got past the Christmas TV adverts and Black Friday events that is!

Giving Tuesday is an international day of support for charities and communities that runs in over 70 countries. The idea is to use the power of social media to encourage people to donate towards local needs, whether that is through volunteering, cash donations or materials. Our teams can get involved across the UK, Middle East and Canada – and the movement is growing.  Last year in the UK alone, organisations raised £6,000 a minute for charities, breaking the world record for the most money donated online in 24 hours.

Last year’s Community Life Survey found that 1 in 5 people, formally volunteered on a monthly basis, and 40% had volunteered in the previous year.  In the three years since Giving Tuesday started in Canada, donations through CanadaHelps have grown by over 300 per cent.

It’s encouraging to see that charitable giving and volunteering are embedded in cultures, even through hard economic times. More and more businesses are also recognising that corporate giving and volunteering offer great opportunities for personal development, and are a powerful currency for driving sustainability and community engagement.  Unlike the banks, the more you spend – the more interest you get.

Carillion allows up to 6 days paid time off to support volunteering causes close to our business operations – although just one hour a year can make a difference.  Estimates by Benefacto suggest that UK firms alone allow up to 11 million people time off to volunteer, but less than 1 in 5 seem to take it. So, why aren’t more people using this time to support local needs, and how can campaigns like Giving Tuesday help?

The biggest stumbling blocks I have come across are work pressures, family life and not emotionally connecting with the types of volunteering on offer. This can leave people feeling there is no time or no inclination to volunteer to paint a shed, dig a ditch or clear an overgrown garden.  However, there is so much untapped potential – especially when volunteer days can often be taken flexibly to support a range of activities. We need to be more creative in helping people find activities and ways of volunteering that suit them.  In the age of technology and crowdsourcing, charitable giving and volunteering can take as little as five minutes on a smartphone, or half an hour from your desk. However, technology should not be a barrier, as everyone has valuable skills which can be used to support charities and there’s real power in giving up just a little of your time.

The fastest changing trend is the move towards skills-based volunteering. For Carillion, this means understanding our employee’s skills and experience to help charitable organisations deliver solutions for pressing social needs. Not only do we want to share with those organisations, but we want to learn from them too.

In the Partnership of Equals research earlier this year we found that 57% of community groups and charities didn’t really understand how businesses could help them and 68% of businesses didn’t really understand what community groups and charities need.

Looking ahead to the future, my hope is that more people volunteer to help build meaningful sustainable partnerships that share expertise in the most effective and efficient way for all parties. And for those volunteers to see that their actions can truly have an impact on someone’s life.

Volunteering and charitable giving isn’t always easy but I can guarantee it will leave you with that fuzzy feeling.

So, let me leave you with this thought – What skills do you have and what can you do to help someone in need? It’s never too late – start today #GivingTuesday!

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