By Ebony Frelix, salesforce.com
There aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe the significance of giving back. Even the most simple acts of benevolence -- the ones we think of as "random acts of kindness" or "no big deal" -- are actually incredibly important. Volunteering in all shapes and forms strengthens our communities, brings people together and provides us with valuable experience and insight. And selfishly, when I give my time and energy to others, I just feel better -- about myself and my community.
I have to admit that I didn't start volunteering purely to help others. Initially, volunteering was a way for me to gain career experience, develop new skills and build my resume -- and that's all fine. But once I got going, (my first "job" was as a volunteer for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department) philanthropy began to mean much more to me. Some of my most memorable, rewarding and character-building experiences came from volunteering. I loved it. But I never imagined I could build my career around it.
Five years ago, I took a position in the IT department at salesforce.com, and everything changed. This is a company that lives and breathes giving back -- it's in our DNA. The salesforce.com Foundation is based on a simple idea: leverage 1% of the company's technology, people and resources to improve communities around the world. We call this integrated philanthropic approach the 1/1/1 model, and it means that employees are able to spend six paid days every year volunteering (we call it VTO -- Volunteer Time Off). Even better? Every employee that reaches six days is granted a "Champion" grant of $1,000 to give to a non-profit of their choice. Plus, the Foundation also matches any donation funds up to $5,000 for each employee. Needless to say, volunteering is a huge part of our workplace culture.
I immediately embraced my new job, my new company and my new volunteering opportunities. Everywhere I looked, my coworkers were enriching themselves and their communities by giving back. Whether it was an office food drive, a race for charity or a trip to Nicaragua to build schools, philanthropy was just as natural in the workplace as powering up our laptops. I began to notice that employees who volunteer are happier, healthier and more invested in their work. Giving back as a team connects us to each other and to our company and makes us look forward to coming into work in the morning.
I started in an IT position, and almost immediately was tasked with managing a small team of interns from the non-profit Year Up. The experience of working hands-on with such inspiring young adults and helping them learn the skills they need to succeed in the corporate world was more than just a feel-good experience... it went much deeper. And it ended up leading to my new role at the salesforce.com Foundation, where I am responsible for our volunteer programs in North America and Latin America. It's a huge challenge, a big responsibility and a path I am so proud to be on.
It never occurred to me that I could merge my passion for volunteering with my corporate job -- and for that I'm very grateful. But you don't have to work at a philanthropic company or a non-profit to be able to make a difference in your own way. Whether it's a few hours after work or one day on the weekends, I encourage everyone to discover the joys of giving back and see firsthand how it impacts your personal and professional life for the better. And at the risk of sounding corny... if we all just give back even a little bit, imagine what an awesome place this world could be, how much fulfillment we'd get, and how much happier we would be on Monday mornings!
Frelix is the Vice President of Programs at the salesforce.com Foundation where she manages the Foundation's programs and grants to advance the Foundation's 1-1-1 integrated philanthropy model. At the salesforce.com Foundation, Ebony and her team are responsible for engaging more than 14,000 employees in community service opportunities and administering millions of dollars in grants to improve communities around the world. Prior to joining the salesforce.com Foundation in April 2014, Ebony spent more than four years working for salesforce.com in various leadership positions in the technology division.
salesforce.com is the world's largest provider of cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software. Industries and companies of all sizes can connect with their customers using our mobile, social, and cloud technology to sell, service, market, and succeed like never before. We also put aside 1% of our equity, 1% of our employees' time, and 1% of our product, and formed the salesforce.com Foundation which has become a philanthropic model for other businesses to follow.
By Ryan Long
From an early age, I was taught that giving back to others is one of the greatest joys in life. My mother has always espoused that your life's work should have significant impact on the lives of others. It amazes me how giving back becomes contagious. One act of giving inspires others to do the same.
I remember when I was little, my brother and I collected our old toys and clothes and donated them to a women's shelter. As I grew, more opportunities to give back became available. I started giving blood every few months and volunteered at the Salvation Army in college. After graduation, I volunteered at a soup kitchen and tutored a man in math to help him get his GED. The day he passed the test and received his GED is still one of my proudest moments.
Last year, I became involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. If you're not familiar with the organization, it takes at-risk children and matches them with a mentor in their area. Then the "Big" and the "Little" get together every couple of weeks to do activities, talk, and build a positive relationship to help the child reach his or her potential.
Spending time with my little sister has become one of my favorite things to do. She and I have even talked about ways that we can give back in the community and are planning on volunteering at a local animal shelter sometime this summer.
I'm thankful that my parents passed the desire to help others onto me and I'm excited to pass it onto my little sister. When I was first looking for a new volunteer opportunity, I was surprised that some places said they didn't need any help. Keep looking, though, because there are many that do.
Here are three ways to give back to your community:
Soup kitchens / food pantries
They always need donations and usually need people to help organize the food or serve it.
Even if you’re not a member, you can still find out about volunteer opportunities that way.
Friends and family
Many times, someone you know knows someone or some place that is looking for volunteers or are a part of an organization that needs help.
Ryan Long began working with Vector in 2003 after graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree from Austin College in Sherman, TX. She also earned an Associate’s Degree from Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, TX. Ryan has held a variety of positions with Vector including FSM, District Manager, Campus Recruiting Manager, and Public Relations Manager.
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Category: Giving Back, Skills For Life