News

Neighbourly Launch Volunteer-Driven Initiative to Bridge Digital Divide for Small Charities

23rd May 2024

Neighbourly, the giving platform which connects businesses with local charities and community groups across the UK and Ireland, has teamed up with Microsoft to launch a campaign to bring together corporate volunteers with the charitable sector, with the aim of helping to reduce admin burden and address the growing digital divide.

Through the DigitalBridge campaign, launching this month, charities and community groups in Neighbourly’s network, from youth charities to food banks, will be able to access support through Neighbourly’s corporate network, with volunteers from around twenty businesses including Virgin Media O2, Hays, Overbury and Morgan Lovell, Motability and Redcliffe & Temple BID helping charities with a range of digital challenges as well as facilitating access to AI resources to help them expedite administrative, strategic and creative tasks.

The campaign comes as research shows that spending less time on administrative tasks is a growing need for charities and that two thirds of charities are interested in making the best use of emerging tech such as AI and ChatGPT. In Neighbourly’s most recent community research, 64% said they don’t know where to start with Gen AI or haven’t spent any time on it. In 2023 the Communications and Digital Committee also highlighted high levels of digital exclusion amongst citizens, with the rapid shift towards online services deepening disadvantage for those who remain offline.

Microsoft is supporting the programme through the provision of online training resources developed specifically to help build knowledge and access learning pathways so that charity employees can use technology to drive greater impact. Employees from businesses in the Neighbourly community will utilise and signpost these resources as part of their volunteering activities, to help build confidence and skills in key areas. Charity staff and volunteers will also be able to take learnings to provide practical support and digital skills to beneficiaries.

Volunteer opportunities will run throughout June and into the summer, tying in with and celebrating other major volunteering calendar moments such as The Big Help Out (7-9 June).

Neighbourly has been working with Microsoft since 2023 as part of its Entrepreneurship for Positive Impact (EfPI) programme which supports tech businesses and entrepreneurs that are addressing urgent social challenges.

Charles Eales, UK Social Impact Lead, Microsoft Philanthropies, said:

“We’re excited to be working with Neighbourly on this important campaign aimed at bridging the digital divide and empowering charities with essential digital skills. At Microsoft, we believe in the power of technology to drive positive change, and through initiatives like this, we can be really targeted and help make a meaningful impact in communities where the need is greatest.”

Bev Sykes, Founder, Just Good Friends, said: 

“Our small charity would be really interested in learning more about AI and chat tools. We know we need to get more digital skills to take us further – we’re struggling to move forward in certain areas because of our lack of knowledge. I’ve done some initial reading about AI and it sounds interesting but I need some help understanding how it can be best applied.”

Steve Butterworth, CEO, Neighbourly, said:

“As a platform dedicated to fostering meaningful connections between businesses and local charities, we’re proud to collaborate with Microsoft and our valued client partners on this innovative volunteering initiative, through which we hope to reach at least 1,000 charity employees. By harnessing the power of corporate volunteers and technology, we aim to empower charities to navigate the digital landscape more effectively, ultimately driving greater impact and inclusivity within communities.”

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