How can volunteering help to shape our teams and local communities?

3 min read

With the importance of responsible business behaviours now widely recognised, companies across the globe are encouraging their employees to do more volunteering and fundraising – but few industries have the opportunity to make such a significant impact as construction. 

Nick Hoffman, Contracts Manager from Mace Interiors, explains the transformative impact that volunteers from the built environment sector can deliver – and the huge benefits it can bring to the business: 

Mace offers every person who works for the company a free volunteering day each year, and we support people who are looking at doing more significant volunteering activities. At the start of 2019, my team and I got involved in delivering a transformational project for a local London charity Coram’s Fields Children’s Charity, which organises sports and youth programmes for young people, and it desperately needed a modern and exciting café for all its staff and visiting families.

It was a fantastic example of the way in which construction teams can mobilise and use their expertise in helping charities improve and redesign their spaces, public areas or extend and add new facilities, benefitting the disadvantaged groups they support. Doing so also empowers our people, who are able to use their skills to add value to communities around the areas they work as well as helping to build cohesive teams. It’s a benefit for everyone. 

Transforming a small place can make a big difference 

One of the ways we can engage with people is by enhancing the spaces where they work, live and learn. As a construction company we often partner with charities to help them improve their facilities, amenities, create new public areas or improve existing ones. 

During my career I have seen how better design, architecture and landscaping can make a huge difference to the health and wellbeing of communities. Often third sector organisations can struggle to secure the capital to deliver such projects – but with our sector’s unique expertise in design and construction, we can deliver safe and positive environments for vulnerable groups of people at a huge cost saving for charities.

Mace volunteers collaborated with our local supply chain partners to renovate and refit the Coram’s Fields Children’s charity café in Bloomsbury, over three months at the start of 2019. 

The project began with a conversation between myself and Ed Packshaw, Mace's volunteering manager. We were looking for charities in the local area around one of our projects, and selected Coram’s Fields as the partner that could help us continue our commitment to sustainable development. 

Speaking to the charity we found out that their café was closed in 2013, putting huge financial pressure on the organisation and limiting its ability to engage with the families it supports. The aging structure meant the building lacked proper capacity to support a modern coffee machine or café fixtures and it had fallen into disrepair.

After consultation with the charity, we offered several volunteers at Mace Interiors the chance to use their expertise to design, plan and deliver an innovative and highly impactful project. By mid-May 2019, we handed over a refurbished café, and were even able to secure most of the white goods as donations from our supply chain partners, including display fridges, coffee machines and an ice-cream freezer. 

Taking time to improve people’s lives 

The refurbishment of the Coram’s Fields café was valued at £70,000 in materials and pro-bono labour – but the value to the charity is significantly larger and will be long lasting. The Coram’s Fields café is now expected to generate £100,000 annually, which will be used to create a new park and play area for the children that the charity supports.

The impact of this project went beyond our expectations and it was selected as a finalist for the Mayor of London’s Dragon Award for Social Impact.

But volunteering is also about improving the wellbeing of our people and helping them to engage as a team. The results they achieve by volunteering together can give them a sense of belonging to a community and sense of meaning from making a positive contribution to other people’s lives. 

Personally, I’ve seen huge benefits from across my project team and our suppliers. The volunteering project gave us something tangible to deliver together; something that would change lives for the better. By identifying group volunteering projects that leverage people’s existing skills and talents, we can make a real difference to employee engagement and ensure that our entire team is working together effectively. 

Whether it’s the refurbishment of a café or converting a tube carriage to an exciting new school library, thoughtfully created and designed spaces can change people’s lives. As a construction company we have this unique opportunity to volunteer our time while doing what we are best at - designing and building.