My night speedmatching. You know – speed dating for volunteers

After my recent blogs on my problems getting started with my new year’s resolution to volunteer, I was asked by the Media Trust to one of its ‘Speedmatching’ events –  you know, speed dating, but for would-be volunteers.

The aim of the event is to put charities that need advice in touch with eager volunteers who are skilled in PR, comms, or journalism.Intrigued, I decided to attend, and roped in my colleague Dave to come along too.

Beforehand, we were asked to supply a short biog that would be given to the charities, and we were furnished with a brief description of what the charities do and what they were looking for help with.

Being a bit of a geek, I decided to check out the websites of the charities on the list before attending so I knew a bit more about what they did and could help with any website-related queries.

At the Media Trust’s headquarters last night, we were offered a glass of wine, given a sheet to keep track of who we spoke to and told what would happen. The media people among us were asked to take a seat next to someone from a charity and we’d chat for five minutes until a bell rang, at which point we’d take the next seat along next to another charity person. And so it continued until we’d done the full round. After each one we had to write a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ next to their name if we wanted to speak to them again, while they did the same about us. At the end, the Media Trust gathered together our papers and promised to be in touch with contact details if the ones I’d said yes to would like to see me again too.

What struck me as I moved around, was how inadequate five minutes felt with some people, and how interminably long it felt with others. Which I guess was the point – I was never going to be able to help all the charities present, given the myriad of skills they were looking for. From help with social media, to redesigning websites, through business planning to securing celebrity patrons – we weren’t expected to know it all, and most were just grateful that we were trying. I apologised for being honest about some of the websites I’d seen, though the charities seemed to appreciate the research I’d done and for an outsider’s point of view.

After 45 minutes, the round finally came to an end and we handed in our sheets.

I really enjoyed the experience, and think it’s a great service that the Media Trust is offering. It helps would-be volunteers put their skills to good use, and provides charities with access to professionals that they otherwise might not have the money to pay for.  Once initial feelings of embarrassment and nervousness are overcome, it’s  also more personal than searching for volunteering posts over the net.

I’ll confess, I’ve optimistically said yes to most of the charities I spoke to as I feel I may be able to help in some very small way;  but it remains to be seen if they felt the same. I’ll keep you posted.