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?
“Organizing the Big Brothers Big Sisters holiday party. At the end of the night, one of the kids came up to me and told me that it had been the best day of his life. He said all he wanted to do was go home, put his pajamas on, and go to sleep, because it had been the perfect day. That really melted my heart.” — Jen Wood, Regional Ambassador (Canada)
How has serving on the Softchoice Cares board given you new skills or abilities that you apply to your daily work?
“I definitely approach my work and my interactions with others in a more compassionate and understanding way. It’s also helped me to empower others to get them out of their comfort zone and try things they wouldn’t normally do, or could not do, previously in their roles.” — Heather Brown, Chair
How has your experience on the Softchoice Cares board better connected you with colleagues and the company’s overall mission, vision and values?
“Serving on the Softchoice Cares board is a leadership program. Being the volunteer lead for the board, and being based out of Softchoice’s headquarters (Toronto), helped me get involved with and put me in front of business groups that I otherwise wouldn’t have interacted with in my day-to-day job. It’s also helped me develop leadership skills on a high level to plan and execute companywide initiatives.” — Ian Zagrodney, Volunteer Lead
What is the one thing you learned from your time on the board that you wish you knew on day one?
“It’s hard to come to a decision as a collective. Collaboration and clear communication is crucial.” — Craig Bator, Vice Chair
Based on your experience in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, what is your Number 1 tip for the next group going on an international mission?
“One of the biggest things you need to adjust to is going from North America time to their time, and I don’t just mean the jet lag! You have to be patient and adjust to their way of doing things. Getting picked in up 10 minutes might mean an hour. Getting building materials delivered today might mean tomorrow. You have to relinquish a little control and just go with the flow.” — Heather Brown, Chair
What advice would you give to the incoming Softchoice Cares board?
“Be accountable and hold others accountable.” — Diane Rodriguez, Regional Ambassador (US West)
What advice would you give to another company that is looking to form an employee-led philanthropic initiative like Softchoice Cares?
“It really takes community involvement to be successful, rather than trying to do everything in-house. Start early by introducing yourselves to a targeted number of charities and organizations whom you think would be a good fit to work with for events, charity drives, volunteering, etc. These people are looking for you as much as you are for them, and it can foster great lasting relationships.” — Alex Drozd, Regional Ambassador (US Central) “Being able to measure success and determine how to ensure a sustainable impact is also very important.” — Ian Zagrodney, Volunteer Lead