In most business sectors, the attributes of efficiency and effectiveness are key drivers for measurement and change. We’ve seen incredible technology and automation advances that have improved productivity and profit as outcomes. However, it is sometimes worth having a look at these drivers through an alternate lens for a different point of view.
The social enterprise movement is still not widely understood but it’s all about combining social impact with commercial activity. That social impact may be all about the way you employ or contract with people, who those people are, it could be about the products and services you provide or about all of these together.
I’m preparing for our charity’s next board meeting, one of the items I have to provide is a people chart for volunteers, contractors and so on. We have 7 part-time people contracting the number of hours that just under 4 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE’s) would provide. We also have a few volunteers. This does mean that there are more people to manage with the messages and emails between us all being a higher volume than if we just had 4 full-timers. Our current structure is therefore not the most efficient it could be.
However, this would miss one of the social impacts that the benefit of hindsight enables me to see. When we started our social enterprise, I found that on the school run for my own primary school children, there was a ready and willing market of people who would really love to use their skills to help TheGivingMachine on a part-time basis. This has grown over the years but the feedback I’ve had is that it is not easy to find flexible work that fits in with the demands of being the primary parent of children during the day and especially during the holidays.
Children (especially young ones) have a habit of hurting themselves or becoming ill. Their schools have inset days, holidays and various other activities that make the availability schedule for someone trying to balance their personal and work commitments difficult. Fortunately for our charity, technology and realistic expectations make that relatively easy. If a query is submitted to our website, the auto-responder explains that we are mostly working parents and we’ll get back to everyone as soon as possible. Over the thousands of queries we’ve handled over the years, no-one has had a problem with that. If we can’t answer an incoming phone call, the recorded message is sent into our systems for someone to pick up and respond to as soon as possible.
Most of the activities that need to be done for TheGivingMachine can be done within a wide window of time so it means that work can fit around things like looking after children, being available for the delivery between 9am and 5pm, getting your car serviced and so on. The ability to work like this seems to really help foster a happy and balanced team that I love being part of.
We have also had several young people come and volunteer and work with us over the years. It is incredibly rewarding to see them develop confidence and skills as well as just enjoy their time and share in the laughter that we often have. Many have moved onto full-time roles elsewhere while some continue to work with us on a part-time basis or as volunteers.
As you now know, TheGivingMachine is not necessarily organised in the most efficient way possible but we have found that creating a community of people that enjoy working together to help other schools, charities and community groups is a social impact in itself and one I am so so grateful for on a personal level. Thank goodness for technology that makes it easier to work this way. Anyway, I’ve got to dash now as the doorbell just went – that will be the washing machine engineer I expect…
By Richard Morris, Founder and CEO TheGivingMachine