How Good Food Matters engages with volunteers to get outdoors and give back

Monica Uprety August 02, 2022

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About Good Food Matters Benefits of working with corporate volunteers Activities posted on Alaya by Benevity How to boost volunteer support and donations

“Working with corporate volunteers is a win-win for all. Our nonprofit benefits from their support and hard work, whilst the corporate social responsibility (CSR) groups get closer to nature, get to learn about gardening and work together as a team. It’s a fun day out for everyone.” Colin Gordon, Corporate Volunteering Manager at Good Food Matters. 

Good Food Matters is a nonprofit based in Croydon, South-East London that teaches people in the community to grow and cook healthy nutritious meals. The nonprofit supplies produce and meals to local food banks, homeless shelters and community drop-in centers for those in need.

The organization welcomes companies with a focus on corporate social responsibility to volunteer at their 1.5-acre community project site. 

This summer, Brendan Earley from Alaya by Benevity spent the day volunteering at Good Food Matters. Between the gardening, harvesting and cooking, Brendan had to the chance to sit down with Corporate Volunteering Manager Colin to learn more about their mission and how the nonprofit runs corporate volunteering days. Here’s a summary of the interview:

Thanks for having us today Colin! What inspired you to start at Good Food Matters?

Colin Gordon, Corporate Volunteering Manager at Good Food Matters. 

I started volunteering several years ago for the first time. Back then, I was just really looking to get my hands dirty and a do bit of gardening as I had a lot of spare time, and as time went on the place really grew on me. Nowadays, I am in charge of organizing and overseeing the corporate volunteering days. 

What is the mission of your organization?

Our mission at Good Food Matter is pretty simple – to provide the space, knowledge and support for our local community to come together to grow, cook and enjoy healthy and nutritional foods.

How many beneficiaries do you support on average per month?

The greenhouse at Good Food Matters where the nonprofit grow organic vegetables

We normally support between 100 to 150 beneficiaries a month, but it really depends on seasonality, as it tends to fluctuate in the summer months when we grow more produce. We have a garden where we grow all our vegetables and a kitchen where we prepare all the food we’ve harvested. 

How many volunteers do you need to keep things running?

Every Friday, we have a regular group of around 10-12 volunteers who come here to help out for the community garden day. With corporate volunteers, we average about one group a week. During the summer months, we tend to get more volunteers coming in, around 15 people in a group. It really supplements the manpower that we need to keep this place going, although during the winter months we receive less volunteers. 

How important are volunteers to the smooth running of the operations?

Volunteers are absolutely vital to our nonprofit. Without volunteers, we would really struggle to function here or worst-case scenario, even cease to exist. It’s really important that we maintain volunteer visits and attract more, because the actual physical work is too much for just the regular volunteers and the part-time employees that work for our charity.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing at the moment?

Funding is really the top challenge here, like most small charities we struggle for funding, so it really does become a petrol problem for us. We are always seeking funding, we’re applying for grants and funds all the time, through government agencies, local authorities, local businesses, etc, but it’s very difficult to predict and forecast when we’re going to be successful in that regard. 

Nonprofits can create fundraising appeals on the Alaya by Benevity platform to receive donations from corporate employees worldwide

Donations from corporate volunteering groups are extremely important to us. In 2019, for example, 10% of our operating costs were met by that kind of income. Unfortunately, that dried up tremendously over the last couple of years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems to be coming back now thankfully.

What are some of the benefits of working with corporate volunteers? 

We like to see it as mutually beneficial, in the sense that it’s good for the volunteers and it’s also good for us. Our nonprofit is benefiting from the help that they’re giving us, for example, the physical work in the garden, keeping things maintained, fixing and repairing things. And of course, receiving donations is extremely helpful for our survival.

In return, we’d like to think that they’re getting a fun day out, getting closer to nature by getting their hands dirty and learning about gardening. As we also have a kitchen facility, occasionally we offer some activities in the kitchen, such as cooking and preparing meals. The volunteers get to enjoy a healthy and nutritious meal too while they’re here with us!  

What kind of activities do you post on Alaya?

We post field-work activities on the Alaya platform. The activities entail actual physical labor in our garden. Sometimes we have volunteers come in with gardening skills which is a plus, but more often than not, most people don’t have any gardening skills so they learn it on the day. The tasks they typically do include weeding, digging, planting, watering and harvesting.

The nonprofit posted an field-based volunteering activity on Alaya by Benevity to recruit corporate volunteers

Although it can be a bit of a challenge for some people, once they get into it, they actually have a lot of fun doing it. Most importantly, it’s about working together in a team, doing something they wouldn’t normally be doing. For the corporate volunteers, it’s a break from their of day-to-day lives in the office or working from home, so it’s nice to see them get out and enjoy something new. The volunteers who come in are always super keen to help and roll up their sleeves and get on with it. 

How do you find the matching process on Alaya?

The matching process is great! We receive contact from Alaya when corporate groups are interested in coming along to volunteer. They’ve obviously learned about us on the platform which is great for our exposure.

The volunteers are very much aware of what they be expected to do before they arrive. On the actual day, we provide a briefing and outline the different types of tasks they will do. Naturally, the activities vary depending on the weather that day. We are fortunate to have greenhouses and polytunnels where work can ensue even if the weather is not too kind to us. 

Thank you so much for having us today Colin, it’s been such a fantastic experience, and luckily it did not rain today! 

Boost volunteer support and donations with Alaya by Benevity

Did you know that your nonprofit can increase donations and attract more volunteers by simply creating an activity on the Alaya by Benevity platform? We connect nonprofits like yours with corporate employees around the world who are looking to donate their skills, time and funds. 

Choose from one of the following activity types to gain support for your organization:

  • Field-based volunteering – create an appeal to recruit corporate groups volunteers seeking to volunteer for the day 
  • Skills-based volunteering – get help on specific projects from skilled employees such as web development, translation or copywriting
  • Goods donations – in need of canned food, new kitchen equipment or clothes? State your drop-off point to receive donations
  • Fundraising – create a fundraiser to raise money for your nonprofit 

Create your first activity today by telling us your needs, and we’ll take care of the rest:

Create an activity 

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