Fairtrade Staff in Banana Costumes at Tower Bridge London 2019

Volunteers Week : shining a light on the impact of volunteers

To celebrate Volunteers Week 2022, Fairtrade volunteer Lami Abrahams shares her reasons for volunteering and the value volunteers bring to an organisation.

Why are volunteers so important?

Claire Booth, Fairtrade’s Volunteer Development Manager answers:

Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has catapulted an awareness of the importance of volunteers into the limelight. This simultaneously ignited a sense of purpose and community for those undertaking the volunteering. This is not a new phenomenon and volunteers have always been and will continue to be a fundamental part of life.

Without volunteers, some charitable organisations could not operate, and some are entirely volunteer led. However, volunteers bring so much more than being able to extend the budget. Volunteers bring fresh ideas and perspectives, drawing from their own personal and professional experiences. They can bring diversity to an organisation, as well as raising awareness of the cause.’

Why I volunteer for Fairtrade

We’ve progressed through the Stone Age, the Middle Ages and now to our Modern Era where technology and society has evolved enormously. Yet, with all that advancement, we haven’t advanced in ensuring food producers are paid fairly for food they grow and harvest for us to eat.

I’ve struggled to comprehend it, and still do today.

I joined Fairtrade as our desires for a fairer world aligned. I wanted to help create awareness and change so that food producers earn secure and sustainable livelihoods.

I love writing and offered to write blog articles for the digital team where I’ve been able to blend my two passions. It’s my hope that while doing so I’ve played my part to help make some sort of difference.

Why others volunteer for Fairtrade

Charities like Fairtrade typically attract volunteers who share beliefs in their mission. Introducing Vedika Mathur: a Fairtrade Business Volunteer in the Commercial Directorate. When asked why she became a Fairtrade volunteer, she replied:

Hearing Anna Barker, the Head of Responsible Business, talk about her experience with Fairtrade Foundation at a university careers event was inspiring – it motivated me to apply. Working with Fairtrade aligns with my pursuing a career in the sustainability and positive social impact sector. Specifically, as an ESG consultant, helping businesses to be more conscious of their socio-environmental impact.

I’m originally from India and before Covid we used to visit family there quite often. Seeing the staggering levels of poverty and injustice…has been a defining motivator of working towards a systematic shift to equality in all sectors.

The core values of the Fairtrade foundation really resonate with me, especially regarding equality, diversity and sustainability. I conscientiously work towards these goals in my life, through my degree and extra-curricular commitments.

With passionate volunteers like Vedika, Fairtrade’s like-minded community continues to grow. It’s also further supported, strengthened, and able to experience increased opportunities for outreach.

Volunteers bring fresh ideas

As mentioned at the beginning, volunteers bring a wealth of knowledge that help charities flourish.

Hannah Dunne, Flowers Supply Chain Sustainability Volunteer, is on a short placement at Fairtrade. When asked how she’s brought experience from her professional career into her volunteering role, she replied:

I used my experience and knowledge of the floristry sector to support Fairtrade’s work in flowers, and to develop an engagement strategy for florists. I shared my insights of the sector with the Fairtrade team by explaining the market segmentation and key industry stakeholders. This included suggesting strategies, opportunities and entry points Fairtrade might have into this market.

I developed an engagement strategy for targeting the sector, to help Fairtrade meet the objective of reaching and raising awareness of its work amongst florists. I also used my experience in communication and writing. I helped draft messaging and communication materials, tailored to these different stakeholder groups and audiences, and begun to engage industry through existing contacts and networks.’

Courtesy of Hannah’s insight, Fairtrade has been enriched with key information, tools, and networks it may have been without, helping it to succeed in the floristry sector.

The mutually beneficial relationship

Fairtrade is fully aware of the importance of the volunteering experience being mutually beneficial. Under the volunteering site, it reads: ‘At Fairtrade Foundation we are very proud of our Volunteering Programme. Volunteers have always been an integral part of the organisation working and supporting staff across all departments. We recognise the huge contribution our volunteers make and make sure to reward this through training & support; offering clear and defined roles; integrating all volunteers into office activities and keeping them well informed of what’s happening in the organisation at every level.’

Claire Booth also adds: ‘Our volunteers bring key skills and experience to help achieve our mission and we work with our volunteers on development and motivational needs, providing access to resources such as LinkedIn learning and our EAP provider.

I can attest to this. As a volunteer, I’ve gained insider knowledge, learning how Fairtrade is tackling fair pay and workers’ rights.

At the same time, I’ve received feedback on ways to improve my writing and had articles published. I’ve then shared my article links with my family, friends, work colleagues, and on Twitter, resulting in increased engagement. This also helps spread awareness of Fairtrade’s mission to spheres the charity may not have reached.

The flexible nature of volunteering

I’ve been invited to numerous I-wish-was-there office events. From the invites alone, they seem nothing short of fun – if only my full-time job allowed me to join!

Speaking of full-time jobs, here’s another volunteer perk: I fit writing Fairtrade’s blog articles around my schedule, courtesy of the flexible nature of volunteering.

Due to job and other commitments, I had an open chat with my volunteer manager on how often I could write, without it infringing on my schedule. In the year I’ve been with Fairtrade, it never has.

Results of the volunteer survey

In 2021, the result from the Volunteer Engagement survey on volunteering roles offering flexibility for other commitments came in at an incredible 97%.

So, it appears that other volunteers are happy with the flexibility too. I can’t speak on behalf of all volunteers, but with Fairtrade respecting my schedule, the organisation has one more dedicated volunteer.

The power of volunteers

Whether it’s virtual or face-to-face or people volunteer every day or once a month, there’s strength in volunteering.

Fuelled by passion and compassion, we serve the community and help charities such as Fairtrade achieve their purpose. No matter our professional or personal background, we volunteers all try our best to make the world better, giving freely of our time, skills, and resources.

It makes me believe that Vedika’s words can be found somewhere in all of us volunteers: ‘Beyond what one might initially see on paper, I just really care – to put it simply…I am always ready to get stuck into unfamiliar situations and start making a difference, and I care deeply about having a positive impact on people’s lives.

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