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Changing lives by being Good For Nothing - Jon Dytor on volunteering

At Close Brothers Asset Finance, we actively promote a culture of volunteering and take a flexible approach to allow our people to contribute back to the communities in which they both live and work, and it’s something we’re very proud of and like to celebrate.

In the latest instalment in our focus on our employees’ voluntary activities, we speak with Jon Dytor, Senior Digital Manager, about his work with Good For Nothing (GFN).

Tell me about the charity you volunteer for and what its aims are…

GFN is a civic-partnership that aims to use the skills and expertise of local people to help local charities, businesses and non-profits to achieve things they otherwise couldn’t do. Our motto is ‘doing not talking’. They have chapters all over the country, and I am a member of the Chester GFN chapter.

The majority of members are creative people; we have writers, architects, marketers, designers, artists, and developers – but anyone can join from any background. Most things we are asked to help with are usually marketing-related, e.g. help creating a brand, a marketing plan, or a new website. It can; however, vary widely, ranging from helping to design a new roundabout to planning an event to inspire high school students to pursue a career in the creative arts.

It works by doing ‘hacks’ – these last 24 hours, and are similar in style to the old ‘Challenge Anneka’ TV show (one for the 80’s kids!). Everyone will meet on a Friday evening and present three to four key problems they need help to solve. We then have an hour to ask as many questions as we can to get all the information we think we need to help them.

We then split into different groups with each tackling one question/problem - and we have 24 hours to achieve their goals.

Food and drinks are usually provided free of charge by local bars and restaurants to keep everyone fed! Then, 24 hours later, we present our finished project(s) back to the organisation.

What do you do for them – what’s your role?

I’m a ‘hacker’ so I take part in the hacks as a volunteer. My expertise is digital marketing, so I tend to get involved in anything digital related. This could be helping to build a website, create a social media presence, or put together a marketing plan. I tend to work closely with some of the developers and designers in the team but it does vary depending on what the goals are for that specific hack.

Why did you decide to join – what appealed to you?

I first joined because I was new to Chester, and I wanted to meet creative people and helping the local community was a bonus! Since then, though, I’ve really enjoyed seeing my work and effort put to good use.

I’ve always enjoyed what I do as a living (I’ve been working in digital marketing since 2006), including working with many charities early in my career, so GFN is a great way for me to combine the two again.

Not only is it a great way to meet like-minded people, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see the work we do actually come to life! A lot of the places I’ve helped on hacks I now visit regularly and it’s great to see them implementing the ideas and plans I helped to create.

What do you, personally, get out of it?

Quite a lot. Satisfaction of being able to help people who need it, the camaraderie of working as a team to a shared goal, but also the pride of seeing ideas and projects I’ve been involved with make a positive difference in my community. 

Do you think it’s important to give back to the communities in which we live?

I really do. I must admit, I never really understood that until I joined GFN, but now I realise just how many people there are out there wanting to make a difference but who may be lacking the skills or resources to make it happen. Places like GFN gives them that chance, and I would recommend joining it to anyone.

For the organisations we help, they get 30+ creative consultants focusing on their project for 24 hours. That is something they just can’t afford.

What example does volunteering give to others – what message does it send?

I think it’s a very positive message. Giving your time to a cause or a project that will help others is such a commitment and can really make a huge difference.

Plus, if you’re a small charity then every penny counts. Having skilled volunteers available is a big deal and could mean the difference between a project being a success or not. 

What are some of the projects GFN has been involved in?

If you'd like to find out more about Good For Nothing: