The following is the first post in a series of four that will appear every Thursday throughout March.
Softchoice’s corporate giving program, Softchoice Cares, is led by an all employee board. Over an 18-month term, the board supports all employee philanthropic programs in the communities across North America, and they plan and execute an international mission in support of computer literacy in an underprivileged community overseas.
The current Softchoice Cares board’s tour of duty is coming to an end this month. Before they hand over the reins to a new group of volunteer leaders, I asked them to reflect on their experiences, lessons learned, and advice for the incoming board and other organizations.
What was the single most rewarding experience during your time on the Softchoice Cares board?
“Our mission to Kenya had an overwhelming impact on me, but it was actually the day I left the Chicago office that was truly special. We were packing up items donated from our employees and people around the community. The amount of books, toys and clothes was staggering. It felt very special that I was ferrying the collective goodwill of our employees and our local community across the world with me.” — Alex Drozd, Regional Ambassador (US Central)
How has serving on the Softchoice Cares board given you new skills or abilities that you apply to your daily work?
“Running the monthly board meetings definitely helped me improve my public speaking skills in front of large groups (not one of my favorite activities!).” — Diane Rodriguez, Regional Ambassador (US West)
How has your experience on the Softchoice Cares board better connected you with colleagues and the company’s overall mission, vision and values?
“The trip to Kenya certainly helped us get more connected with the company values piece. When you are in a foreign country, with people you’ve worked with but don’t really know, you can either sink or swim. Because we shared the same values, I think we thrived in that environment.” — Craig Bator, Vice Chair
What is the one thing you learned from your time on the board that you wish you knew on day one?
“There is never too much help when it comes to a program like Softchoice Cares. People want to get engaged, but don’t always know how. Engaging new employees, as well as tenured ones, is very important, but they shouldn’t always be communicated to the same way. You have to know your audience.” — Ian Zagrodney, Volunteer Lead
Based on your experience in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, what is your Number 1 tip for the next group going on an international mission?
“Take the time to get to know people. My best memories in Kenya are the ones where I strayed from the group to talk to someone working at the hotel, in a shop, at the construction site, and the charity we worked with. It helps you understand why you’re there. Something that might seem small to you might have a great impact on them.” — Jen Wood, Regional Ambassador (Canada)
What advice would you give to another company that is looking to form an employee-led philanthropic initiative like Softchoice Cares?
“It’s important to stay true to your company’s values and core area of expertise. As a technology company, our Softchoice Cares endeavors really clicked when we aligned them with supporting computer literacy programs in our home communities and underprivileged communities around the world.” — Heather Brown, Chair “All board members should be ready and able to represent the board in any given situation, and be able to vocalize the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ you do.” — Ian Zagrodney, Volunteer Lead
What advice would you give to the incoming Softchoice Cares board?
“Set goals for yourself and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You’ll surprise yourself with what you can actually accomplish! — Jen Wood, Regional Ambassador (Canada)