“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew
Volunteerism and social responsibility should be an important part of a company’s culture. Giving back provides opportunities to connect with the community, increase employee engagement and morale, promote teamwork, and strengthen public relations. When I started at Array, I asked if there was a volunteering program in place. I was informed that while there had been ad hoc volunteer activities in the past, there was no formal dedicated committee to plan and encourage volunteer activities. I expressed interest with the help of some colleagues to start a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee. Our goal is to plan and promote a different volunteer opportunity every month to the company.
Our first company volunteer opportunity was on the stormiest weekend of April. A handful of dedicated Array employees weathered the storm to volunteer with our community partners United Way of King County and City Fruit to plant more than twenty trees along the Burke Gilman trail in Wallingford. In the future, the fruit from these trees will be sent to the local food banks. It was a fun and meaningful experience where we learned how to plant trees as a team in the worst conditions.
The next opportunity drew even more colleagues to volunteer at the Seattle YWCA Angeline’s Center for Homeless Women where they offer a safe and welcoming place for women from the uncertainty of living on the street. Together we gained a sense of gratitude and appreciation after this opportunity. The Array team, including our very own CEO, mainly worked in the kitchen where we prepared and served hot meals to about one hundred women. Everyone even helped clean the kitchen before and after lunch, sliced boxes of apples, sliced bread, cracked hundreds of eggs, and lifted shelves. This opportunity to give back to the community was a meaningful experience for everyone involved; the staff was helpful, engaging and helped provide us with a better understanding of homelessness in Seattle.
Our latest volunteer opportunity was a clothing drive for Providence Regina House. We made it into a company-wide competition to see which team could donate the most clothes. In total, we collected 1,131 articles of clothing. We filled up an entire Providence van! It was a huge success and the friendly competition made it all the more fun and encouraged our colleagues to clean their closets with the purpose of giving back to the community!
Through this experience of starting the CSR Committee, I learned a few things, tips I’d like to share with others who are thinking of doing the same in their office or company:
Tip #1: Find out what’s been done in the past
Before embarking on setting up a CSR Committee, it is important to first gauge what the company or office has done in the past. It could be that there are other employees who have tried to set up similar groups and talking to them to see what worked and what didn’t is very helpful.
Tip #2: Get the green light from company leadership
While you may think it’s a no-brainer to have a CSR committee, if your company doesn’t have one, it is important to talk with your leadership to make sure they are on board. In the case of Array Health, everyone was very supportive of this initiative, but you never know until you ask. Also, by getting leadership involved in the early stages, you can get their support which will only strengthen the effectiveness of the CSR committee.
Tip #3: Be as inclusive and transparent as possible
It is important to communicate to the entire company what you are doing and invite everyone to CSR Committee meetings. By being open and transparent you’re likely to get a greater turn out and buy-in from the company. We set up an internal page on our Confluence site with photos, information, upcoming meeting information so that everyone has a central place to go to see what the committee is doing. We also use company-wide emails and announcements at company meetings as a way to keep everyone informed.
Tip #4: Be thoughtful about which volunteer opportunities you choose
Not only do you want to choose volunteer opportunities that align with the overall mission and vision of your company, but you also want to pick a variety of activities that appeal to different people in the company. A good mix of events in the office, like clothing and blood drives, as well as “off-campus” activities like serving food at a shelter, is a good idea. This variety of opportunities allows a greater number of your colleagues to participate.
Good luck launching your own CSR Committee! It has been a wonderful experience thus far. Through our three volunteer activities to date, we have already increased awareness of the needs in our wider community and helped strengthen the Array Health community in the process.