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Spinach and skills-based volunteerism – what a leafy green veg can teach us about the power of the collective

The future of volunteerism – and the secret to a successful CSI volunteerism programme

Pivot. Adapt. Agility. Arguably this past year’s three most overused buzzwords – and, if the countless pandemic-era think pieces are to be believed, the key to flourishing in the ‘new normal’ (another COVID catchphrase.)

Yet the truth is, we’re dizzy from all this pivoting. The demands placed on us by this fast-changing and uncertain new world are high, and we could be forgiven for failing to find the energy or time to help others. Yet, this very sense of emotional and mental fatigue is also the reason why we need to ramp up our CSI volunteerism efforts, says Charlene Lackay, Group CSI Manager at Momentum Metropolitan.

“Volunteering allows us to regain perspective through sowing seeds of goodness into the world. It forces one to step outside their everyday life and look beyond their own circumstances, opening up a world full of possibility and opportunity.”

Momentum Metropolitan Foundation’s Staff Volunteer Programme (SVP) harnesses the collective strength of the financial services provider’s strong workforce to uplift the communities in which it operates. And these are not only the communities where it does business, but also the same communities that are home to its employees.

Explains Lackay, “No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t have a clear vision for creating societal value, and this is ultimately vital to its sustainability. Employees who feel welcomed, seen and valued – because they are able to contribute to their communities as official representatives of their company – are also employees who are engaged.”

Lackay shares her learnings on what she believes is key to a successful volunteer programme, why she believes the future of volunteerism lies in the power of the collective – and what a leafy green vegetable can teach us.

Not everyone likes spinach

“It’s simple, says Lackay, “just as not everyone likes spinach, a certain cause may not appeal as much to one individual as it does to another. It was important for us to be inclusive, and for this reason, our SVP portfolio – a key pillar of our CSI programme – is dedicated to facilitating efforts to support those causes which are close to our employees’ hearts.”

However, Lackay admits that with this ‘freedom’ comes a certain level of administration. “We realised that we needed to centralise our staff volunteer programme, which we were able to do through the ForGood platform. There are currently over 450 non-profit organisations (NPOs) loaded on the system and they are able to connect with these causes through the platform.”

Will spinach grow in this environment?

It is important to create an environment that is conducive for volunteering to flourish. “Ensure that there is leadership buy-in across the full spectrum of the business, and that staff are enabled to successfully volunteer, says Lackay.

“For example, we don’t expect employees to put in leave to support our groupwide volunteer initiatives.  Ultimately, they are representatives of the organisation and thus the proof point of the heart of the company.”

Some people are good at growing spinach, others are better at eating it

It may sound obvious, says Lackay, but not all of us have the time or means to help others. “Previously, volunteering involved someone being physically present, which COVID-19 has made more complicated, given the understandable caution around being among others. 

“We all have different talents, says Lackay, “and with the sudden and rapid change to the volunteering landscape comes opportunity. We are now seeing a rise in skills-based volunteering, which involves leveraging the specialised talents of individuals to strengthen the infrastructure of NPOs, helping them to successfully deliver on their mandates.”

Lackay says that the advantage of skills-based volunteering is that a great deal of it can be done remotely, through virtual volunteering platforms such as ForGood.

“This has also created an interesting offshoot which we have dubbed micro-volunteering; easy actions that take less than 30 minutes to complete, allowing the volunteer to support in convenient, easy-to-manage chunks with no long-term commitment – for example, proofreading an NPO’s website.”

Lackay believes that skills-based volunteering is the future, and cites an example as a recent partner session hosted by the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation, where four NPOs presented a significant business issue that they were grappling with to a selected group of Momentum Metropolitan employees, allowing the NPOs to tap into the specialised skills of the staff members who were tasked with solving their unique challenge.

Lackay believes that being able to access these specialised skills brings immense value. “For a CSI programme to have impact, it’s critical to integrate all assets – and our biggest assets are our people. Through harnessing the power of the collective, we can tap into a network of critical skills and create the ‘Sharing Economy’ needed to upskill, problem-solve and to effect change.”

To find out more about the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation, please click here.







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