Make volunteering work for you – The Breakfast Club way

Do well by doing good. That’s the motto of The Breakfast Club (TBC) and while they are almost certainly too modest to say so themselves, the ten site all-day eatery appears to be doing just that. We might even be so bold as to say they’re making food good, very good – in a special, award-winning, community minded sort of a way.

Just last month, they fought off the likes of Co-op Food, Yorkshire Building Society and Nottingham Trent University to scoop the Best Employer Supported Volunteering Programme at the CIPD Awards. This was just the latest accolade for what is a truly innovative and clearly industry leading scheme that’s motivated staff and made a massive difference to all of the partner charities.

Like many good things, the success of TBC’s programme, lovingly called Good Day Productions, did not happen overnight. Initially, like many businesses, they supported one charity financially.

Then Eva Arnaiz, a waiter in the Hoxton café, started questioning this approach. She persuaded TBC’s founders that including staff in the choice of charity and using their skills to support the work of the chosen organisations would be a much more effective model. And, after a few early teething problems, so it has proved – and how!

Eva now coordinates the programme fulltime, liaising regularly with staff and the charities – they now work with a network with at least one near each café – to ensure that both parties are getting the maximum benefit. This involves establishing up front what exactly it is that TBC volunteers can most usefully do and match those as well as possible with staff members.

“First and foremost the success of Good Day is down to the quality relationships we’ve managed to form with the charities,” says Eva. “We’ve done it organically and the management have been incredibly supportive. Volunteering with all groups in society is really important, but it also has a hugely positive effect on people working in hospitality. As long as you get your work done, you volunteer as much as you like.”

One example of the impact it’s had on some of the 350 TBC employees is the increasing confidence it’s provided staff, particularly those that have delivered workshops. TBC is now planning an NVQ level 2 course which will include volunteering.

For those of you who might be wondering how TBC can support such a project, the answer is they’ve got it well covered. Donations from sales of their ‘green juice’ profits from their merchandise sales and special events helps pay for at least 100 volunteering hours a month (on London Living Wage), with salaried staff volunteering as part of their working week. It also finances charitable events and leftovers go to the charities, based on their needs.

Good Day Productions are now as much a part of TBC as its legendary breakfasts and new employees are given the full volunteering rundown as part of their induction, and the programme is open to any employee, full or part-time, from day one.

Whether hosting get togethers for older LGBT groups, cooking breakfast for the homeless, running a dance group with young carers or cleaning the canal, TBC’s volunteers are undoubtedly engaging with their local community and growing their team in every way.

Here are Eva’s tips for running a successful volunteer programme.

  • Pick a charity you believe in
  • Put the needs of the charity first
  • Set out the relationship clearly up front
  • Ensure an open and transparent relationship where both you and charity are clear about your needs
  • Play to your staff’s strengths – don’t have them volunteering at something that makes them uncomfortable
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