Newcastle Building Society's volunteering scheme builds empathy and gives back to the community


Newcastle Building Society offers its employees two paid days of giving back to society per year. The scheme has won hearts and minds and powered engagement...

Volunteers’ Week 2024 runs from 3-9 June. Newcastle Building Society offers its employees two paid volunteering days per year to support good causes in their community. Donna Stubbs, Community Manager is responsible for engaging colleagues with the scheme and ensuring the Society meets its annual volunteering targets. She spoke to HR Grapevine about how the programme runs and what the benefits are.

Following successive Covid-19 lockdowns, Stubbs and the building society turned to volunteering once again as a way to get colleagues to connect and enjoy hard-won freedoms. “Before we began to take a more strategic approach to volunteering it was very much a scattergun approach with colleagues doing everything from community gardens to cat and dog shelters and really using it more as a team building exercise,” she explains.

Embedding strategic volunteering

“We recognised that although we had fostered a culture of volunteering within the business, we needed to coordinate our volunteering efforts in a way that was more focussed and created bigger impact,” Stubbs added. As time went on Stubbs began to sit down with the charities and third sector organisations that they were working with like the Community Foundation for Tyne and Wear Northumberland to bring out some great insight to look at some of the more shocking issues that were occurring in the region, including child poverty. Newcastle Building Society under Stubb’s guidance began to build their volunteering programme to align more strategically with worthwhile causes. They established five community areas that they felt were causes and issues the organisation wanted to spend their time volunteering within:

  1. Food poverty
  2. Debt management
  3. Work and opportunity
  4. Environment and sustainability
  5. Homelessness and insecure housing

The shift from the previous ‘scattergun approach’ had happened while being mindful of, ‘Not ripping the plaster off too quickly with this change.’

“You’ve got to get colleagues on the right page and get them to understand why we want to be more strategic, what we say is that out of the two days they get, one of them can be within the strategic choices and one a personal choice,” says Stubbs. To embed this, case studies are being published of the more strategic volunteering to encourage the step change.

You’ve got to get colleagues on the right page and get them to understand why we want to be more strategic, what we say is that out of the two days they get, one of them can be within the strategic choices and one a personal choice

Donna Stubbs | Community Manager, Newcastle Building Society

How it works in practice

There are 1700 employees at Newcastle Building Society and, with two days of volunteering allowance on top of annual leave days and bank holidays, ensuring the scheme works without unnecessary business disruption is paramount.

Stubbs says that the volunteering ambassadors that exist across the business are empowered to work the scheme in the way they see fit for their teams. “We’ve got a lot of colleagues that will be off over the six weeks of school holidays, we’ve put a blanket ban on volunteering in branches over that time, so they are fully staffed.” As one of few banks or building societies still with a heavy presence on high streets across the North of England, it’s crucial that branch locations are always staffed.

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