All about OVO Gives Back - How we’re lending a hand to 4 great local charities

07 June 2016 | OVO Foundation

What’s it all about? 

OVO Gives Back is our scheme that supports local charities through volunteering – and what we’re calling the ‘OVO Community Chest’. That’s a huge £100,000 of funding, ready to spend on projects to improve outcomes for our communities in Bristol and London.

OVO Gives Back is powered by OVO Foundation – OVO’s charity – and is set to make a big difference to four great local causes. We set up the foundation in 2014 to expand OVO Energy’s charitable giving and bring caring closer to home. Get the full story over on the OVO Foundation page.

OVO Foundation Manager, Gaby Sethi explains why she’s so excited about OVO Gives Back: 

“There’s a real giving spirit at OVO and our employees are always keen to getting stuck in with supporting local causes. Whether they’re fundraising with events like with our Sleep Out, or teaching local children, as we do with our CoderDojo coding sessions, the generosity I see in the team around me is inspiring. OVO Gives Back will go beyond the great things our people are already doing, and support volunteering all year round.”

How does OVO Gives Back work?

You can read about in it detail in this ‘What is OVO Gives Back?’ article, but in summary, each year we're supporting four local charities that work in one of OVO Foundation’s focus areas: education; youth poverty; and energy and the environment. And OVO employees are at the heart of deciding our charities ...

People-powered from Day 1

With so many good causes in need of our support, time and funding, we wanted our employees’  local knowledge, ideas and community connections to shine through. After all, our people are the ones getting hands on and helping out, so we want to tap into their passions we know that many employees already volunteer for good causes outside of work.

As well as the opportunity to nominate charities they feel passionate about, OVO employees also make the final selection – from a shortlist of 12, over 500 people voted in the first year for the projects they wanted support.

Volunteering and funding

The chosen charities each enjoy a big cash boost of £20,000 – and we’ve set aside an additional £20,000 to match fundraising our people undertake! 

And as well as a financial support our charities also enjoy lots of hands on help from an army of OVO volunteers. What’s more, for every day our people give up to do good using their holiday leave, OVO Energy gives a second volunteering day at full pay.

This is because, as an organisation, OVO really believes in the power of volunteering to do us all good. And we’re not alone – a research review published in BMC Public Health showed that people who volunteer have a 22% lower mortality rate than those who don’t!

So without further ado, let’s meet the OVO Gives Back charities for 2016 / 2017...

Bristol – education

We looked for charities that give a leg up and level the playing field a bit by providing the confidence, skills and knowledge to become great leaders – most of all for young people from underprivileged or underrepresented backgrounds. The chosen charity in this category is St Werburghs City Farm. It was nominated by Demand Forecasting Analyst Barney Scott because: 

“For thousands of visitors each year, the Farm is a vibrant green oasis in the heart of Bristol; a real community focal point known and loved across the city. In fact, it does so much more. The Farm’s education and training services offer a lifeline to over four thousand disadvantaged young people and adults each year, with work placements for kids struggling in mainstream education, fun outdoor sessions with local schools and support and outdoor training for adults with learning difficulties. Please help them to continue their essential work!”

Over to St Werburghs City Farm to explain what they hope to achieve with OVO Foundation’s support: 

“Your support will launch the 'Get Outdoors' project – engaging 500 disadvantaged children and young people in activities that inspire, educate and connect them to: nature and wildlife; food and farming; and growing and cooking. Outcomes include: increased skills, knowledge and interests; improved educational engagement; and greater health and wellbeing”

Bristol – youth poverty

Homelessness can all to often begin with youth poverty, but early positive intervention can make all the difference. That’s why we want to support charities who lift young people out of poverty, and help them avoid it in the first place. The chosen charity in this category is 1625 Independent People. It was nominated by Complaint Resolution Specialist Leo Zarkow because: 

“1625 Independent People are a homelessness charity that supports young adults in the Bristol area. I discovered the truly amazing work that they do through taking part in the OVO Sleep Out last year where we raised over £25K for the charity! We also heard from a former homeless Bristolian whose life was literally turned around by their dedicated care and support.”

Pilar Garcia at 1625ip tells more about their plans for the next year:  

“There are volunteering opportunities for everyone at 1625ip, from team challenges and exciting fundraising events, to jointly facilitating skills workshops, like cooking, art, music and sport. Volunteers can also train as a one-to-one mentors or share professional skills in strategy and  development, HR, admin, finance and marketing.”

Bristol – energy and the environment

We looked for projects that improve local green areas and neighbourhood spaces, rejuvenating places for people to meet, learn and play in the great outdoors. The chosen charity in this category is Forest of Avon Trust. It was nominated twice, first by Transfers Agent Afsara Chowdhury:

“I nominated Forest of Avon Trust because they inspire the young and old to care about and look after Bristol's local woodlands. This includes tree planting, engaging adults with learning disabilities by bringing them closer to nature and giving advice on woodland management.” 

Second nominee Hannah Baker – who’s an Erroneous Transfers Agent – added: 

“This charity has a proven track record of engaging projects that we could potentially get involved with. They have many training days available, both for adults and children, encouraging people to learn more about their local environment, and how they can protect it.”

So what will the Forest of Avon Trust  achieve with OVO Foundation’s support? Jon Clark explains: 

“We’ll be working with landowners to improve Bristol's 500ha woodland, which contributes so much to the city. To achieve this, we will be training people to undertake woodland conservation work in their local area and supporting woodland owners in generating sustainable income from woodlands, helping to establish a woodland enterprise culture”

London – youth poverty and education

The chosen charity in London is Depaul UK. It spans two focus areas, and was nominated by OVO Foundation’s very own Kat Gulyas. She says: 

“It's easy to forget or look past the challenges young people can face when they are at risk of, or experience homelessness. I nominated them, because Depaul is doing a fantastic job to help these young people to get back on their feet, feel safe, secure and valuable. Their programmes address short, medium and long term solutions for homelessness and change the lives of those who are most vulnerable.”

So what will Depaul UK achieve with OVO Foundation’s support? Well, alongside vital skills-shares and volunteering support, funding will help Depaul open the doors of a new ‘Day Stop’ centre in London which will include: laundry/shower facilities, wifi, and a café, for young homeless people in crisis who are being supported by Depaul’s services. We’ll be contributing towards vital furnishings and equipment for the new centre.

Want to do your bit to help?

The best way is to donate to OVO Foundation. Every penny donated is matched by OVO Energy – so it’s a great way to double your impact!