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Meet July’s Volunteer of the Month: Claire Cunningham

09 August 2019


Every month, we celebrate a colleague who’s taken time to volunteer for some great causes. July’s award went to Claire Cunningham, Investment Administrator at Octopus Ventures, in recognition of her incredible participation in all kinds of charity work with Octopus Giving. Claire now gets to donate £500 to a charity of her choice.

Why did you decide to start volunteering?

Charity work has always been very close to my heart. I’ve tried to incorporate volunteering into every job I’ve had. It’s so important to get outside of your personal bubble and think about ways to help others. Encouraging volunteering in the workplace not only enhances the culture, but helps people understand the importance of giving back.

Did you volunteer at a particular event to earn the Volunteer of the Month award?

There’s been a few! Volunteering is an ongoing thing for me, and I’ve been involved with Octopus Giving since its inception five years ago.

Until recently, I was a coordinator for two main charities:

  • Greatwood: which uses ex-racehorses to educate disadvantaged children and young adults with special educational needs
  • Downright Excellent: which helps children in London with Down syndrome reach their full potential.

And in March I spent a month volunteering in Zambia with TIE, working with Barefeet Theatre to help disadvantaged children through art and performance.

Were you surprised to win Volunteer of the Month?

Absolutely. It’s incredible to even be recognised. Working as a charity coordinator can be a tough job, you have to really show people how beneficial volunteering is.

As a coordinator for Octopus Giving, a lot of my time was spent fostering relationships with charities and encouraging other Octopus employees to get involved. It’s led to some amazing opportunities for Octopus Giving, and we’ve worked on some incredible charity projects.

After five years, I’ve decided to give up the role of coordinator so I can spend more time hands-on volunteering. I want to get more involved! I think my time in Zambia really showed me how much value you can add to people’s lives by taking time out of your day to help them.

Was there a memorable moment from your volunteering?

When we first put Octopus Giving together, we weren’t sure how to get started. We wanted to be as hands-on as possible, but we weren’t qualified to help the kids with classroom activities at Greatwood. Instead, we organised a biannual day where a team would go down the Greatwood barn and look after the facilities. I was surprised how enthusiastic people were to muck out horse stables!

It was great to see everyone putting the effort in – and it helped kickstart a wonderful relationship between us and Greatwood.

Have you decided where you £500 donation will go?

Yes! I’m delighted to give it to Barefeet Theatre. It’ll go towards their Annual Youth Arts Festival, which I helped raise funds for while I was there.

I received the sweetest video from them saying how thankful they were. The money means a lot to them and will help them put on an incredible festival. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

And finally… what’s your message for anyone who hasn’t volunteered before?

It’s so easy to give excuses for not volunteering. The reality is that all of us can spare half a day to help others. You get so much out of it, and the benefits transcend into your daily life.

One helpful gesture can go a long way – so get out there and do it!