Take up the trek challenge

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Letting your employees go and raise funds for charity is a great way of making a real difference, says Anita Brightley-Hodges

Being the owner of a small business with a team of just six, I have always been conscious of how we can contribute to our social responsibility beyond turning the lights out and recycling the paper. I wanted to make a serious and significant contribution while raising the profile of Still Waters Run Deep as a consultancy that inspires and leads among the small business community.

I felt that with our 20th anniversary approaching, and as a consultancy that prides itself on being passionate and innovative, the time was perfect for us to launch a charity, My Ten Days. Inspired by my own experience of fundraising for London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital through treks to Namibia and Machu Picchu, My Ten Days is, we feel, an opportunity for employees in small businesses to do something amazing and worthwhile outside of their regular work life.

The aim is for consultancies to give one employee ten days paid leave to volunteer or fundraise for people in the world who face challenges in life bigger than most of us can imagine.

As I own my business I have the luxury of being able to take time off to go on my treks and raise money for charity, and I felt that it was only right that I give the same opportunity to the members of my team.

And so My Ten Days was born with a vision that it will be embraced by all sides – business owners, employees and charities – as a programme which will turn lots of little efforts into one big collective effort. Small business, big difference.

I believe My Ten Days can be incorporated into the corporate social responsibility strategy of any small business. From an employee’s point of view, what better way to visit such incredible places and be given the chance to make a real difference? Not to mention spending ten days out of the office.

Not only does the experience have benefits for the individual taking part, but it also helps to drive traffic to the charities that organise fund-raising activities. The My Ten Days initiative allows them access to a pool of volunteers who would otherwise not have been able to commit.

As the next generation of creative people emerges, it is becoming clear that, despite tough times in the workplace, these people have a refreshing, philanthropic view on life and are keen for some sort of engagement.

Unlike most charities, My Ten Days does not involve giving any money. What I’ve found as a business owner is that someone’s time, energy, passion and dedication can often be worth more than any amount of money. All you have to do is register online at www.mytendays.org.

When My Ten Days was just a concept on paper, people I spoke to said that they wish there had been something like it in their workplace. These are people who never took a gap year, but still have that sense of adventure, who have a conscience about the society they live in but can’t take time out to do more than the sporadic day here and there. The idea also appeals to businesses that refuse to stand still while the world is charging ahead.

As a small team there isn’t much we can do to make a significant impact on the world around us, but as a collective, the small business community can get on board and champion the charity to its full potential.

Hints and tips

For bosses
• Get the whole team on board
• If ten days seems a bit bewildering, split the time between two or three people
• It’s something to be proud of, so shout about it. Let your friends, clients and suppliers know that you’re involved with this incredible new charity and you will find that it is a great PR story

For employees
• Take the time to explore what you want to do. You’ve got to do it for ten days so it’s got to be something you really love
• If trekking to the corners of the earth doesn’t really appeal to you then find out how you can get involved with what’s going on in your local community
• Don’t be afraid to take the idea to your boss – after all, it’s a fabulous way for them to give something back

Anita Brightley-Hodges is creative and managing director of Still Waters Run Deep

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