Spotlight: Lessons learned from packing perfume into gift bags

April 6, 2016 Jamie Serino

Last year, when I first walked into my company as a new employee, I did so knowing that joining the organization meant making a commitment to service.  And I was totally OK with that.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons I’m here.  Giving back is a part of our DNA.

But knowing that I wanted to serve and actually serving are two different things.  That’s why I’m so glad I took the opportunity to join my colleagues in the New York office to volunteer with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), a great nonprofit that also happens to be a customer (that’s the other thing that attracted me to the company – we provide technology solutions that power philanthropy for nonprofits, foundations and corporations, which is very cool). 

BCRF is committed to being the end of breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research. We helped them prepare for their Hot Pink Party, which takes place on April 12 and is their largest fundraising event of the year.  Always a star-studded affair, this year’s event is hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, honors philanthropist Melinda Blinken and features a performance by Sir Elton John.  They raised a record-breaking $7M at last year’s event.

We used our own technology (called AngelPoints but internally branded as the Blackbaud Cares Center) to mobilize people to volunteer with BCRF. We posted the opportunity on our Volunteering page, sent an email to our colleagues to encourage sign ups, managed the event information and volunteer roster, and did post-event follow-up all through the platform.  I also personally used the solution’s new mobile app to see things like how much time I volunteered; how I compare to the company average and to the company’s volunteer rock stars (I need to step up my game!); and also how much money I’ve donated and how much of it Blackbaud matched.

I didn’t know that something like this existed before working here, and now that I’m using it, I can’t imagine not having it for both organizing volunteer efforts with fellow employees and for managing my own giving and volunteering.

The volunteering event was very straightforward.  It was an assembly line of 200 people packing items to create 1,300 gift bags for the Hot Pink Party supporters and attendees.  I’ve been part of and volunteered for these sorts of things in the past and what struck me about this one was 1) how efficiently it was run, and 2) how many volunteers there were! Apparently, this year was the quickest they assembled so many bags.

While there, I had the opportunity to meet Mary Greene, Manager, Development and Events for BCRF.  I followed up with Mary after the event to learn more, such as:

  • They were able to get so many volunteers for this not-so-exciting task because they have a database of past volunteers, BCRF friends and supporters. Mary said that they built this database by asking team members to reach out to friends and family members who might like to volunteer and then building a network from there.  We weren’t the only team of people from a company. Like ours, many corporate groups were there because one person corralled a bunch of their co-workers, so when it comes to reaching out to grow a volunteer base, it’s a reminder to find that connector! This is also informative for corporations running CSR and employee engagement programs – find those nonprofit organizations in your community and raise your hand.  They’re looking for you.  And ask your own employees which community organizations they are connected to, as that’s a great way to engage your employees in ways that are really meaningful to them.
  • BCRF specifically tracks how much money their events raise (vs. their other efforts) and then how the money is spent.  For example, last year, BCRF hosted events in New York City, the Hamptons/Long Island, Westchester, Boston and Palm Beach. This raised more than $14.7 million which funded 59 cancer researchers. Way to measure and tell a story!
  • BCRF’s corporate partners contribute 50% of their revenue through employee engagement and engaging communities across the country.  I think this shows CSR professionals and those that participate and contribute to CSR programs that you’re having quite an impact!  And again, a reminder for nonprofits to get connected with corporations; and for corporations looking to build or run CSR and employee engagement programs to look in your communities and raise your hands.  You are each looking for each other.

Bottom line?  You can each help each other meet your goals.

Volunteering with BCRF was a great experience, a win-win scenario for nonprofits and corporations running CSR programs. It was rewarding to be able to help such a wonderful organization, but it also provided us the opportunity to spend time and bond with fellow colleagues with whom we don’t usually get to connect every day.  Coming together around a common cause helped grow relationships within our own organization, and it helped create more connections with BCRF, which already seem to be paying off – several in the group have already signed up for more volunteer opportunities with them!

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