Incorporating volunteerism in the workplace is both an impactful way to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and an important effort towards improving the overall workplace experience. Providing time during the workday for employees to volunteer in the neighborhood your business operates in has two primary benefits.
- Contribute and connect directly to your surrounding community.
- Provide an opportunity for employees who might not otherwise interact frequently at work to organize and engage around a shared goal.
As an Envoy employee, I’ve been able to experience the benefits of building volunteerism into the workplace experience firsthand. My first day on the job, I was delighted to see a volunteer opportunity on my calendar with an organization I know well, St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP).
Initiated in February 2019 by Bri Beaudoin, Mid-Market Account Executive, and former Product Engineer Jennifer Wong, the volunteer partnership pairs 3 – 8 Envoy employees with SVDP’s lunch program at the MSC-South location in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. This is SVDP’s largest shelter in the city, and provides an array of social services including career skills development, temporary housing, a computer lab, and educational training.
Located within walking distance from the Envoy office, the lunch program volunteer shift is scheduled during lunch time on the second Monday of each month. Together, Envoys signed up for that day’s lunch service shift walk over and prep the dining area for the lunch program’s guests, typically between 50 – 80 people. When the guests arrive, we serve lunch cafeteria-style and make sure water cups are full.
Smiles, conversation, and second helpings––the SVDP and Envoy volunteer partnership has evolved into a standing event. We look at the journey to the partnership, the impact on Envoy and SVDP, and how organizations can get involved in corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Why volunteering should be a part of company culture
The modern world provides plenty of opportunities to disconnect. But companies can’t afford not to connect in a visible way to making the world a better place. Consumers and potential employees alike are increasingly making patronage and employment decisions based on corporate affiliation with their own values around sustainability, community engagement, and social causes. Does your company take a stance? If not, it’s time to think about how to invest in a corporate social responsibility plan.
When strategizing on how to design and implement corporate social responsibility roadmap, start local. Volunteering is a manageable and especially meaningful way to give back to your community and for your organization to ‘walk the walk’ in terms of investing in better alignment between brand and employee experience.
Inspired by the idea that volunteering should be an integral part of the company culture at Envoy, Bri and Jenn reached out to Michael Alvarenga, Volunteer Coordinator, at SVDP MSC South, to begin a conversation on what might be possible.
Bri recalls that she and Jenn felt strongly about finding a way to actively engage with and give back to the community that Envoy operates in, year-round. “Being a tech company in SOMA, and knowing there were a lot of nonprofits around us, we wanted to give back. SOMA is a complicated area with a lot of people experiencing homeless. We wanted to be a part of creating a company culture where people can be involved in the community on a consistent basis.”
“We’re building a partnership with SVDP, connecting more to our community, and learning about the neighborhood that we’re in. SVDP has a reputation for serving high-quality meals and doing exceptional work in the city. I’m thrilled with how well-organized the partnership is. In terms of a company partnership, I can’t recommend it enough.”
–Bri Beaudoin, Mid Market Account Executive, Envoy
Looking ahead: sustaining community engagement and corporate social responsibility year-round
The holidays tend to be a particularly active time for volunteering––but Bri and Jenn are quick to note that they wanted Envoy to commit beyond that. “It’s a bummer to see organizations drop off after the holiday season with their volunteer efforts,” says Bri. “We knew we needed to find a way to sustain our involvement in the community beyond the holiday season.”
The feedback from Envoy employees that have gone has been positive, too, according to Bri. “The fact that we keep coming back is really important to sustain the relationship. In addition to giving back to the community, another benefit is that employees get to know each other better. It facilitates team and cross-team relationships.”
The long-term goal, according to Bri, is to have every Bay Area-based Envoy employee volunteer at least once. Upon reaching a year with the partnership in February 2020, Bri is excited for the first year milestone: “We hope the sustained partnership model we have developed with SVDP inspires more employees, and companies, to do the same.”
A day in the life of SVDP’s volunteer coordinator
On the SVDP side, I spoke with volunteer coordinator Michael Alvarenga. With SVDP for 2.5 years, Michael acts as a liaison between the organization and the people donating their time.
The relationship between the tech world and volunteering is one that Michael is well-equipped to manage. “After working in various small startups in Silicon Valley over the years, I came upon SVDP through a family connection. I was looking to explore something new, and I came across the volunteer program. I love what SVDP is doing in San Francisco, the mission statement, and the direction they take to end homelessness in SF. I wanted to be a part of that.”
Michael’s number one north star in his work at SVDP? Empathy and respect.
“It takes a lot of dignity for a human being to walk through our doors and ask for help. That step alone takes a lot. Empathy, understanding, and respect are values that I apply to my relationship with everyone at SVDP,” shares Michael.
Like Bri and Jenn, as the volunteer coordinator, Michael was interested in initiating these partnerships. He knew that the tech industry is a huge growing industry, and that this growth unfortunately has led to housing market crisis. Wanting to link these ideas, he saw an opportunity to connect these tech companies to SVDP’s efforts. “You always hear about the negative effects of tech coming into SOMA and affecting homelessness here. But you never hear about the positive side of this. There are lots of people who are excited and open to contributing to SVDP and the community. They are here in the city and I want to make sure they are part of the community as much as we can.”
The best way to get involved with your community? Donate time.
Want to get involved? Volunteering for even a few hours has a huge impact. “It helps us out tremendously to give someone experiencing homelessness a great meal for the week,” says Michael. “I always stress that with our volunteers. Just being there and having you help to bus tables, hand out food, and help operate the program goes a long way.”
Michael is thrilled with the volunteer partnership thus far, and is excited to expand it. “I think Envoy is a great example of how these partnerships can and should function. I want to thank everyone who has donated their time. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing return volunteers.”
Now, two of SVDP’s location use Envoy’s sign-in app to help track volunteers and for other visitor management needs.
Ulises Zatarain, SVDP’s Director of Program Operations, echoes this sentiment. “Any amount of time, talent, and skill that individuals and groups want to contribute to our mission is more than welcome. We encourage people to reach out to Michael, to come out, and to engage. We would like to continue having partnerships with tech and other community partners.”
Michael’s call to action for the community when it comes to getting involved and giving back to the community?
“The battle SVDP is up against in helping confront homelessness is visible. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make San Francisco a home for everyone.”