Lessons learned from volunteering – experiencing the true value of corporate responsibility

By Pia Ward

Lessons learned from volunteering – experiencing the true value of corporate responsibility

One night last week I settled down on the sofa and pressed play on the Comic Relief version of the Great British Bake Off. If you didn’t catch it, picture Dame Edna Everage in full regalia attempting to recreate the Sydney Opera House with meringue… I know, what could possibly go wrong?

After watching Joanna Lumley accidentally dump an entire jar of instant coffee (rather than the required cocoa powder) into her chocolate cake, the hilarity was put aside for a moment when the presenter introduced a clip showing how proceeds from Red Nose Day were being used to support children in Uganda.

We’re all familiar with the standard format of Comic Relief, celebrities doing ridiculous and hilarious things to grab the attention of the public and make them stop for a minute, think about those less fortunate, and put their hands in their pockets.

But what happens after that? These brief reminders of those less fortunate than ourselves can have a real impact and do pull on our heart strings, but the fact is that shortly thereafter our own busy lives take over and we soon forget about them. Things like, “did I remember to pay the heating bill?” and “must not forget to collect the dry cleaning…” enter our heads instead, and before you know it, that feeling of wanting to make a tangible difference is gone.

While no one expects us to think about other people’s problems all of the time, it got me thinking about giving back and, specifically, corporate responsibility – a term which is now firmly on the agenda of most Irish businesses and I am pleased to say, many of my clients.

Last month, I got my own taste (quite literally) of corporate responsibility when our Dublin team packed up and paid a visit to the Ronald McDonald House in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. If you’re not familiar with it, the House plays a vital role as a place for the parents of critically ill children to stay while they are being treated in the hospital. It is a wonderful service, created specifically for parents who don’t live near Dublin so they can stay next to their children and don’t have to travel every day.

While we have supported many charities in the past, this was the first time that we were going to physically get involved in something where each and every one of us would get to see first hand the impact our support would have. As much as we had prepared by developing our menus, buying all of the food needed, and planning out who does what, we were not prepared for the pressure of cooking for so many people who were going through stresses far greater than the heat of the kitchen!

By the end of the day, I think all of us realised the value of not just giving money to a cause, but instead taking the time out to volunteer, and do something as simple as cooking a meal for a group of people going through a difficult period in their lives.

It also demonstrated to us the real value of corporate responsibility. Not only does it mean that you are able to help others and be a more “responsible business” but it also, selfishly, benefits your business. When it is the right fit, corporate responsibility will inevitably boost morale, foster a greater team spirit among employees and ensure that your staff have a sense of pride for where they work.

So while the fuzzy feeling I got while watching the Great British Bake Off last week has worn off, I think I can speak for all of us why I say we won’t forget our experience at the Ronald McDonald House in a hurry.

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