Commitment to giving back makes volunteerism a key value for company and employees
Recently, one of my articles highlighted the value that corporate volunteerism could create for organizations. Then by chance, I was invited to attend a fundraising dinner in support of the Samantha Mason Foundation, a group that I was totally unfamiliar with. However, by the end of the evening, I learned the event not only raised money for youth mental health initiatives but was also an excellent example of both personal and corporate volunteerism. And it all started with the Brad Mason family searching for a way to find some kind of greater good from their daughter’s suicide.
The Mason family lost their 15-year-old daughter as a result of relentless bullying at school. They saw her go from a happy, boisterous, and spirited youth to a distressed young lady with quickly depleting self-confidence. Even a change of schools didn’t help as the parents had hoped. Then, in spite of counselling, their daughter Samantha chose to end her life. It was a devastating time for the family, a time for questioning why and how this could have happened and what could have been done differently. Their loss was devastating and so they began to search for a way to help the family through their grief journey. First on their mind was the potential of starting a foundation whose aim would be to help youth experiencing similar mental health issues from bullying and other personal crises.
However, it just so happened that three years prior to this tragedy, the Mason family, kids included, had volunteered with an organization called LiveDifferent. They travelled to the Dominican Republic and participated in building three houses. Whereas they continued their friendship with the organization and the executive director, Charles Roberts, it was only natural that he reached out to the family in their time of grief. He invited the Mason family to learn more about the organization’s programs for at-risk youth. After seeing the staggering success LiveDifferent has had helping children in crisis all across Canada, the family knew they had found a way to honour their daughter.
Since then, the Samantha Mason Foundation has provided financial support for LiveDifferent’s mental wellness peer support program which has been modelled after the Indigenous talking circle. They also supported a unique ice road tour to help bring mental health support to youth living in the north. And today, the foundation also works in partnership with the Toba Centre, a child abuse response centre located in Winnipeg.
While youth assistance for mental health issues started as a personal issue because of their family tragedy, today the family company, Servco is fully involved in all these volunteer initiatives. The owners’ dedication to mental health and volunteerism is woven into the mission and values of the company. They think about their employees as “family” and they work hard to attract potential employees who espouse both the value of family and of giving back to one’s community.
When the original fundraiser concept was presented to employees, the idea simply snowballed and led to a group of more than 17 employees who raised their hand and asked to participate. I interviewed three of the Servco staff for this article. Each of them stated that the value of volunteerism was front and centre in their own candidate interview and played a role in their decision to apply to the company. And since they already had personal experience as a volunteer, they immediately felt comfortable and gladly accepted their job offer.
Since joining the firm, Crystal, the human resource manager, and Jamie, the marketing co-ordinator, are both strategizing on how to capitalize even further on the volunteerism values of the company when recruiting new staff and engaging employees. Rowena, a project co-ordinator, is happy to apply her skills on such an important project and is happy to see her colleagues learning new skills while embracing volunteerism.
The now annual Butterfly Ball fundraising event honours Samantha Mason’s memory and raises funds to support mental health services in Manitoba. Each of the key employee volunteer leaders already had personal experience and were excited to take on these new challenges. Not only that, but the purpose of the cause was personally very meaningful for these volunteers.
Organizing a fundraising event that attracts a crowd of 1,100 people is no small feat. To accomplish this, the volunteers set up a structure including an oversight committee, team leads that were assigned specific duties and then held meetings on a regular basis. After a three-to-four-month timeframe, everything was ready, and I can readily attest to the fact that the event was not just well organized, it was an overwhelming success.
So, what did the employee volunteers get out of this corporate social responsibility initiative? First of all, the volunteers shared that this memorial project helps to cement the idea that Servco’s employees are indeed a family. The volunteers learned more about each other than they would have done in a normal workday situation. They also found much more commonality than first believed and gained a new respect for each other and the type of personal challenges people encounter. Finally, the volunteers appreciated being introduced to the resources at LiveDifferent and Toba Centre, because now they know where to refer people for help.
A project such as the annual fundraising event is also an opportunity for the volunteer participants to learn new skills while building on their current natural skills. Some individuals strengthened their negotiation skills as they reached out to solicit gifts for the silent auction tables. Others learned better teamwork skills, they experienced and learned why project management is so important, and they learned the value of strategizing and keeping the big picture in mind.
So, what does the corporation get out of this level of social responsibility? First of all, as was demonstrated by the volunteers, the sense of family and giving back are accepted by everyone as the corporate values that are to be practised every day. Overall, the owners, employees, vendors and customers see and know that Servco stands for giving back. Not only that, the company has proven that corporate volunteerism, strong relationships, community collaboration and a common goal are powerful tools for helping others.
Source: Brad and Judy-Lynn Mason, Crystal Goodick, Jaime Hasiuk and Rowena Herana
Barbara Bowes, FCPHR, B.Ed, M.Ed, CCP is a human resource professional, author, radio personality, speaker, executive coach and workshop leader. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working World, Winnipeg Free Press
By: Barbara BowesPosted: