Volunteering in general and volunteering through a corporate social responsibility program can bring you great rewards and make a difference to others. But what can you actually do in such a program? And how does it work? Let’s take a look...
Improving Your Wellbeing
“I’m passionate about wildlife and conservation in general, but don’t have the opportunity to focus on this in my job. Volunteering allows me to make a contribution.” ~ Helen Beal, Chief Ambassador of the DevOps Institute
Helen is a volunteer warden at the National Nature Reserve in West Sussex not far from her home. It’s a special place with an amazing history (from the Bronze age to the Vikings to WWII). It houses one of the finest yew forests in Western Europe, beautiful orchids, and butterflies, newts, bats and other wildlife.
In a non-pandemic year, Helen spends 2-4 hours a week at the reserve helping with anything from newt surveys to litter picking to making sure people aren’t camping and lighting fires. Her partner often joins her at the reserve, taking advantage of the volunteer days off his company offers, and Helen encourages others to get out there and do the same.
“Walking and having fresh air and looking at the sky is good for our wellbeing,” she says.
Catchpoint’s Volunteer Time Off Program
Thanks to its Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program (a key part of Catchpoint’s Corporate Social Responsibility program), Catchpoint employees can take up to two days a year volunteering for a cause they care about. Catchpoint’s founders and people operations teams are passionate about promoting wellness for employees, and the VTO program is part of that goal. Research has shown that volunteering provides benefits to people’s well-being and sense of purpose, as well as their mental and physical health. Increasing numbers of companies are leading volunteer initiatives and/or offering their employees the chance to take days off to volunteer.
I spoke with several employees at Catchpoint to find out why they volunteer, what causes they’re passionate about, and the activities they’ve taken part in, and I uncovered so many interesting stories. People are participating in a broad range of activities, from installing fire alarms in Brooklyn apartment buildings to setting up lending libraries…
What is clear across all the stories is the way in which volunteering can allow you to renew your own life while making a wider contribution.
Giving Back As a Family With the Scouts
One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic has been the inability to spend time with other people and really build community in person. For Roman Kurjewicz, SRE Manager, volunteering is all about “interconnectedness” and giving back.
“Something small for you can be monumental to someone else,” he shares. “I regularly volunteer with my son and daughter who are both Scouts. One of the projects we’ve been part of is creating a lending library with book donations that would otherwise go into a landfill and instead were able to make a change in someone else’s life.”
Another volunteer experience Roman recently took part in was going to the Chattahoochee River with his daughter, who is passionate about the environment. Roman’s daughter, Bronwen, said that she volunteers because “any positive change, no matter how small, makes life better for someone and that is important.”
Roman and Bronwen went into the Chattahoochee marshland to collect garbage and improve the health of the wetlands.
“It was shocking how much we found… everything from candy wrappers to TV sets. It was depressing, but good to be helpful.” Being Part of a Wider Community
Devan Gotowka, Product Manager, has taken part in three events since joining Catchpoint almost ten years ago. One was for “Rings the Bell,” during which she partnered with the American Red Cross to knock on doors in Brooklyn to ensure people had smoke alarms.
“If they didn’t, we installed it for them. It mattered to me because I lived in a building where we didn’t have them! It was quite a funny day drilling holes in people’s walls,” she said with a smile. Another event Devan took part in was delivering lunches to homebound seniors. She and three other Catchpointers pushed a cart around the city to deliver meals.
“It was intense because we were doing it on a cold-ish day. We asked ourselves how does this happen every day in the rain?” She sighed. “There were so many people being fed.”
Across November and December, Devan spent her remaining paid time off (PTO) days of the year working in different foodbanks with New York Cares.
“I had two weeks of vacation to take, and I needed to get out the house,” she laughs, “but it’s also important to help when you can. It’s a moral that I try to live by.”
Connecting And Contributing With the Breast Cancer Walk In Central Park
When Mandy Hills, a manager in the Sales Deal Desk, joined Catchpoint a couple of years ago, one of the first activities she took part in was the Breast Cancer Walk in Central Park.
She says, “It was a really nice thing to do as a new employee since I was able to meet and get to know people from other departments. Everyone traveled from all over New York to walk together. We got up very early and met at a coworker’s apartment for breakfast who lived near the park. I even took my dog Tau so she could get exercise at the same time. I was surprised afterwards that since it took place on a Saturday morning, Catchpoint encouraged me to take a day off at another time.”
Mandy also does lots of volunteering outside of Catchpoint, including for a cause close to her heart: a foundation called Lindsay’s Legacy Foundation that Mandy’s brother and his wife set up in honor of their sister, Lindsay, who passed away in 2017. Mandy has been helping them grow the foundation using Salesforce and skills gained at work. The money raised goes to the Yale Cancer Center to help fund the
clinical trials and drug development that gave Lindsey extra time with her family she would not have had otherwise.
48 X 48: Building Websites For Nonprofits Over 48 Hours
Yanbin Song, UX Designer for Product, hopes to get more people within Catchpoint involved in an exciting initiative she just took part in called 48 in 48. It’s an organization that gets people to volunteer for 48 hours across a weekend in small groups building websites for nonprofits that need it.
Song acted as a website builder. “Each group has different roles, from a digital marketer to a content manager to a UX designer,” she says. “It was really fun and intense. We built two sites over the weekend (for The Multi-Cultural Center of Sioux Falls the site: before and after, and for Vision Tutoring), working 13–14-hour days over one weekend.”
Turning the needs and requirements of two nonprofits into new websites was a satisfying way for Song to contribute her skills as a UX designer. She is working with Eva and Mehdi to see if Catchpoint can get involved in a company-wide collaboration with 48 in 48. Song would particularly like to help nonprofits
from the AAPI community given how many challenging incidents are happening right now, and she shared her appreciation for the support that Catchpoint has given in working out how best to do this.
Maintaining War Graves Under the Cherry Trees
After hearing all of these wonderful stories of how folks at Catchpoint have been volunteering through the Corporate Social Responsibility program, I decided it was my turn to learn about it firsthand.
Last week, I spent a day volunteering at the Abney Park Cemetery Trust, helping one of the park wardens clean up the Commonwealth war memorial. Blossoms from a beautiful old tree above had fallen onto the memorial below. We’ve been experiencing classic spring weather here in London recently – heavy rain alternating with glorious sun – and the blossoms were wet and sticky. In other words, it was a perfect recipe for creating a bit of a mess.
The cemetery, which is one of the “Magnificent Seven” parkland cemeteries created in the early Victorian period, celebrated its 181st anniversary last week. It relies on volunteers to help maintain the presentation of war graves and those frequently visited on walks and tours, including nonconformists, music hall entertainers and an infamous lion tamer.
Much of the cemetery is given over to nature. The site harbors a large collection of birdlife (tawny owls and sparrow hawks enjoy the large, old trees) and small animals. The volunteers and wardens must continually juggle the needs of nature vs. the gravestones. It’s a place where you can get lost. I enjoyed the respite of being nestled among the trees and the birds, grateful that Catchpoint had given me the opportunity to spend a volunteer day here in lieu of a day at work.
The Rewards Of Volunteering Through a CSR Are Clear
I loved hearing about everyone’s volunteer experiences and am already brainstorming how to spend my other VTO day this year. For me, having a chance to step away from the deadlines and day-to-day, both work and personal, to do something for a cause bigger than myself, was a surprisingly meaningful act. This is especially true after a year in which these kinds of small acts of togetherness and stepping out of the everyday have been less possible. It felt good to be a part of something bigger.
I hope these stories inspire you to find a cause you’re passionate about and start volunteering once the wider world allows it. And if your business is looking to set up a Corporate Social Responsibility program with an employee volunteer aspect to it, feel free to connect with us. We’d be happy to share more tips and ideas. Giving back is a job we should all share together.
Hit us up on social media to share your own VTO story! @Catchpoint