How One Employee Volunteer Can Launch Company-Wide Community Service
This post was featured in The Huffington Post.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), over 1.5 million non-profits are registered in the U.S. While many of them receive assistance through corporate philanthropy and employee volunteer programs, in general all of them compete for a limited giving pool. So how can nonprofits stand out among all the noise, especially if you’re a small, grassroots organization championing an underserved and mainly unnoticed population like foster children?
“One person, one volunteer, one company at a time,” says Zaid Gayle, Executive Director of Peace4Kids (P4K), a South Los Angeles non-profit that provides programs and services for foster and at-risk youth from ages 5-18, and after they transition to adulthood until age 24. Because foster kids rarely have a permanent home or family, Peace4Kids is dedicated to empowering foster and at-risk youth by providing its own community as family. The P4K creed is that no matter where their foster kids are moved or what challenges are thrown their way, P4K wants them to feel that they will always have a family at P4K.
Small steps, big impact
Since funds remain a never-ending need for this grassroots non-profit, the small P4K staff is constantly brainstorming charity fundraising ideas. Due to cuts in government funding, P4K's financial livelihood relies heavily on the personal networks of its volunteers and supporters. These jolts of support usually start with one person who is so passionate about P4K’s work that he encourages and recruits his friends and co-workers to get involved.
For example, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, a Los Angeles-based coffee franchise, began its relationship with P4K in 2006 by simply donating coffee and pastries to P4K events at the request of one of the company's employees, Joe Ponciano, a P4K volunteer and board member. Coffee Bean is proud of its longstanding prioritization of bold corporate social responsibility programs, such as building schools in the overseas countries where they buy coffee beans and launching employee engagement activities where team members take non-paid days to do community impact volunteer work. No surprise, then, that when Joe introduced the Southern California district of Coffee Bean to P4K, the company welcomed the opportunity to support kids in need.
As P4K grew, Coffee Bean’s involvement with P4K evolved accordingly. One of Coffee Bean’s corporate fundraising campaigns involved donating school supplies to P4K, where the company provided new backpacks and encouraged various stores to set up donation centers for customers to drop off school supplies. Employees later filled the backpacks with donated supplies and presented them to the P4K kids, enabling the kids to meet the new school year fully prepared.
In another corporate volunteering effort, Coffee Bean managers participated in several workshops to teach P4K teens such real-world skills as interviewing, presentation and job-seeking strategies. The managers role-played with the teens, gave them feedback and professional advice and taught them how to fill out Coffee Bean’s online application. And when employment opportunities opened up at local Coffee Bean stores, some P4K teens even found themselves with new jobs. For many foster kid youths, this was their first job, and for those transitioning out of foster care to life on their own it was a vital step towards financial stability.
Coffee Bean is P4K’s longest contributing corporate sponsor, and over the years individual employees have also donated time and money. As Joe puts it, “Zaid just has to ask and if we can do it, we will.” As the Executive Director of a small non-profit with a big mission, Zaid is more than appreciative. “We are so proud of our relationship with the Coffee Bean. They have impacted hundreds of our youth and have been the greatest support in giving our older foster youth work opportunities, which has literally prevented many of our kids from being homeless. Joe and the Coffee Bean have been shining examples of what I think corporate social responsibility should look like in communities.”
The relationship between P4K and Coffee Bean proves that sometimes it takes the infectious enthusiasm and passion of just one company employee to make a profound difference in the cause of a non-profit, no matter how large or small.
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