It’s in March that we welcome back our volunteers with open arms… and the atmosphere here on the flower plot takes on a bit of a special buzz. Bek has her team of horticultural volunteers here on a Wednesday, whereas floristry volunteers – often those needing work experience – tend to come on a Friday.
Either way, those days are a high point of the week, and a reminder of how important our little ‘BG’ community is to us. We have sometimes joked that we should be known as ‘The B-Gs’ – though I am not sure we have the teeth or the chest hair for it!
Volunteering, for both Bek and me, has always been a very positive concept, whether we have been volunteering ourselves – or guiding volunteers who come to us. But, occasionally, you read some negative comments about companies or organisations who have volunteers alongside their paid workforce.
Is volunteering just about labour?
Sometimes people see it as exploitative or as free labour. There are certainly some industries, such as the media, where this can be the case. But that’s not what we have experienced, or how we see our volunteers. For us, it’s very much a mutual and happy exchange and one that was initiated by people coming to us, asking if they could volunteer or gain some hours of work experience to go towards their floristry training.
We have had volunteers from every walk of life: former nurses, former accountants, teachers, those who have retired… and students from Hadlow, who fall into the work-experience category. Irrespective of their professional background, some people come to us purely for their emotional well-being and mental health.
Works both ways: what can we do for you?
In return, we take their care and / or learning very seriously. Everyone fills out a volunteer agreement which outlines both their and our responsibilities and we have to be mindful of GDPR. We want to find out why they are coming to us, so that we can endeavour to provide what they need. It’s kind of a: ‘Is it working for us? Is it working for you?’ dialogue, which is ongoing.
For those out there thinking about involving volunteers in their venture, whether that’s a charity or a business – we’d recommend budgeting for your management time, tea & biscuits, PPE and perks such as parties and social events. For this reason, and for the time and energy you will invest in your volunteers, it is not free labour – either monetarily or in terms of the effort and time you will need and want to spend on your volunteers.
A few of our former volunteers now work for us; namely Laura, Emily, Sarah & Kim. Some volunteers come back after volunteering or working elsewhere and others have been coming for years and enjoy the routine and consistency – it can be hard discouraging them from coming when we’re closed! Volunteering is a subject close to our hearts and an intrinsic part of our business – as well as being at the root of many of our friendships, new and old.
We’re looking forward to having some new faces this coming flower season, some familiar faces, as well as employing some of the talented ‘workees’ from last year, as freelancers. Either way, it looks like being another dream-team who will bring and share some of the pleasure of working with flowers to 2022.