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Volunteerfest Challenge and Month of Service

After participating with 8,500 + other SAP employees in the “Month of Service”, I was reminded how every bit helps and that one needs to keep doing “every little bit”. In Canada alone, there were over 700 volunteers who contributed more than 3,100 hours or a total of 387 work days to 31 volunteer events benefiting 25 not-for-profit community organizations.

 

For my part, I volunteered with a team of 15 to help with the lunch service at Salvation Army Harbour Light whose “primary objective is to assist men and women over the age of 19 who are shelterless, incarcerated or whose lives have become dysfunctional because of addiction to chemical substances.” It is located in Vancouver, Canada in the downtown eastside, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Canada. After arriving at Harbour Light we were ushered into a brief orientation about the logistics of the lunch service – food preparation, distribution, and clean up. Over the next two hours we served by my estimate over 100 patrons, ranging in age from early 20s to mid-80s. My small group was responsible for clearing and wiping down tables and at times it felt almost competitive to see who could get to the newly occupied seat first. Hopefully we did not inadvertently pressure anyone to leave their seat before they were ready to do so…periodically a Harbour Light representative shouted “Let’s hear it for the volunteers!” which was appreciated although it felt awkward after the third, fourth, and fifth time but perhaps it was meant more for the patrons to know that people cared enough to be there that day.

 

So for two frenetic but short hours, our worlds intersected in brotherhood and sisterhood over a communal meal. Experiencing how much effort and resources are involved to feed people, I was reminded how important it is to give whatever time we have in whatever way we can. Sure (likely) no lives were changed but then again I think it’s the small gestures that can have the most impact: a smile, a kind word, or a welcoming tone in your voice. While the focus was on providing for basic needs, it’s also important to recognize the power of being a valued part of a community. It goes back to not just what you do but how you do it.

 

Some Lessons Learned

All this got me thinking about what lessons I could apply, if any, to my role in managing the SAP BusinessObjects Community. First off, it’s important to get out from behind my desk (kitchen) and spend more time on the front lines (the dining hall). Secondly, be more aware of “how I go about doing my job”. Finally, remember that our online community consists of real people and not just online accounts.

 

Here’s the (obligatory) team photo:

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The Next Step

Spending a few hours in a month volunteering is not about “checking off a box” but rather it’s about kick-starting continuous volunteering. To this end, I signed up for an upcoming micro-volunteering pilot project to enable employees to volunteer their skills in small time increments. According to the project information:

 

“Globally people play 24 million hours of Solitaire, spend 388 million hours using Facebook, and watch one billion YouTube videos… every single day. What if you could complete a useful volunteer task in that same amount of time? With our pilot micro-volunteering project, you can now fit volunteering into your modern, busy life. With the same amount of energy and time it takes to check Facebook, you could use your language skills to translate a blog post for a non-profit. You could use your marketing skills to brainstorm about how to reach new donor communities. You could use your logistics skills to help optimize food pantry distribution routes or use your tech skills to code a new widget. With our new pilot platform, there are thousands of ways that you can use your professional business skills to micro-volunteer entirely online.”

 

This sounds intriguing and I’m looking forward to launch of this innovative pilot program.

 

The Next, Next Step

Here’s another thing I’m excited about…following up on the success of Innovation Weekend at SAP TechEd Berlin and Las Vegas, I’m working with Steve Williams, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility to launch a pilot non-profit community area on SCN. The goal is to create a platform for users to discuss, share, and co-create (BI) solutions for the unique business issues in this sector. We hope to have a presence available by the end of the year and looking ahead to 2011, we’ll be working with various non-profit organizations to grow this area. I’m excited about this because the huge potential impact of BI on the not-for-profit sector is largely untapped.

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