We talk to Sanjay Lobo of volunteering app onHand about helping local communities and employee wellbeing.


“We’re in a new working world,” says Sanjay Lobo, Chief Executive of volunteering app onHand. “Many of us are working from home, which makes group-based or office-based volunteering much more difficult. At the same time, we’ve never had such a need for local help for the elderly, people isolating, the homeless, the young.”

That’s where onHand comes in, designed to make volunteering accessible, flexible and engaging. Founded in 2017, the app gives employees a way to complete volunteering hours offered by their company. Volunteers can help with grocery shopping or walking someone’s dog. They can mentor young people, deliver to food banks or organise regular phone calls with someone living alone.

The team at onHand use Starling for their business banking. They also recommend Starling’s Connected card to the people they help. The Connected card is an additional debit card you can give to a trusted neighbour, friend or volunteer to buy groceries or essentials on your behalf.

Blue door and plants
Volunteering app onHand offers a range of flexible ways to help, including buying groceries on someone’s behalf.

Boosting employee wellbeing

According to Sanjay, the onHand app addresses several challenges often linked with traditional volunteering. Sanjay says: “It’s not that easy to volunteer - there’s high demand, there’s often training involved and you have to commit to the same time each week or month.”

Through onHand, employees can complete volunteering hours allocated by their company in a flexible, trackable and intuitive way.

Sanjay says: “We know that employee mental health has massively dipped during lockdown. We also know that volunteering and doing good in your local community really helps with mental health. We see that every day but the studies also tell us that.”

One survey by the NCVO (National council for voluntary organisations), who represent more than 16,000 voluntary organisations and charities, reports that 77% of volunteers feel that volunteering improves their mental health and wellbeing. Volunteering has also been linked to the release of hormones associated with happiness. Businesses that encourage volunteering could see a rise in employee wellbeing, in addition to having a positive impact within local communities.

Be on Hand

Since the start of the pandemic, onHand has helped thousands of people, adapting volunteering options in line with social distancing and shielding measures. 

The free onHand app works by location, both for the person who needs help and the volunteer. Individuals can request help. Charities, councils and family members can make referrals. Whomever is receiving help, simply selects the service they need and the frequency, for example shopping twice a week. The team and app then matches the person needing a hand with a local volunteer. 

The services onHand volunteers provide are free for the person who needs them. Revenue is generated from individual donations and company subscriptions. Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer, subject to an ID check and a DBS check. Those who want to volunteer can either go through their company, if subscribed, or sign up as an individual.

Proactive banking with Starling

“For a portion of volunteers, money’s too tight for them to pay for someone’s shopping and wait for the refund, which can take a few days,” says Sanjay, 45.

Starling’s Connected card is a simple and secure solution that benefits both the volunteer and the person receiving the shopping. Starling customers can apply for a Connected card through the Spaces section of the Starling app.

Sanjay set up a Starling business account for onHand in 2019. “The instant notifications mean that I don’t have to worry if someone has paid or not. I can see when a payment is made. And the classification of outgoings is super helpful,” he says. “Starling has a great reputation for making banking easier than everyone else.”

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