BY ANNE W. NDEGWA, P.ENG.
Engineers Without Borders
On a sunny summer’s day along the banks of the Bow River, CH2M HILL engineering managers carried buckets of water on their heads, last year. It was part of their company’s annual fundraising campaign for Engineers Without Borders and Water for People.
But organizers say the event in Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park was
not only about raising cash for worthy charities. It was also about raising awareness,
in an engaging way, of the issues facing the one billion people in the Developing
World who lack access to safe drinking water.
There are many innovative and mutually beneficial ways Calgary companies can get involved with charities. Partnerships, creative fundraising, workplace giving — these and other projects all work well.
Workplace fundraising campaigns are a rewarding and fun way to motivate and engage employees. Employees, in fact, often cite pride in their company’s support for the community and other philanthropic activities as a factor that contributes to their job satisfaction.
Alberta companies are among the most generous in Canada. As a result of their altruism, benefits accruing to them include
increased employee satisfaction and retention
staff professional development opportunities in project management, leadership and organizational skills
a sense of accomplishment and pride for all involved
positive perception from the public — and employees themselves.
Workplace fundraising campaigns are about more than collecting money. Employees enjoy the opportunity to interact with people outside their regular teams and at different levels of the organization — while having fun and making a difference.
Canada appears to be entering a new age of philanthropy. According to Statistics Canada, taxpayers gave a record $8.5 billion to charities in 2006, an 8.3 per cent increase from the previous year.
Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
In recent years, companies have also found it increasingly beneficial to ally themselves with non-profits and charities. Many successful relationships between charities and corporations are mutually beneficial.
Microsoft is one of the best examples of effectively blending altruism and
capitalism. Microsoft supports and encourages employee involvement in numerous
non-profit organizations. Through its 2006 Employee Giving Campaign, employee
donations in the U.S. totalled more than $39.2 million.
Microsoft’s corporate culture reflects a refreshing direction in corporate philanthropy. The idea of a mutually beneficial form of charity is gaining momentum. A growing number of companies want a partnership with a charity that involves more than just handing over money.
Companies want to be active partners, help raise awareness about issues relevant to their employees and operations, invest in their communities and give their staff opportunities to support causes that have positive impacts around the world.
Companies looking for partnerships with charities should consider the synergy with their corporate culture. Many charities offer tailored programs to achieve mutually beneficial goals ranging from marketing to employee training.
In addition to raising funds, philanthropy has also historically played an integral role in raising awareness. In Canada, Engineers Without Borders is helping build awareness about global human development issues and, in turn, is raising the engineering sector’s public profile by showing how technology can drive extraordinary change.
Today’s university graduates are considered part of the most socially conscious generation since the Second World War. According to a Business Week article in 2005, grads are asking the question, “What can your firm do to help me lead a more purposeful and meaningful life?”
Money is often not the only major motivator for employees. Organizations can be more successful in cultivating a highly motivated and stable workforce by using non-monetary benefits and rewards to create internally driven inspiration.
Today, employees are increasingly seeking out philanthropic engagements as a way to use their professional skills to benefit society.
According to Imagine Canada — a non-profit organization promoting public and corporate giving — companies take a variety of approaches in supporting community organizations. These include making financial donations, donating goods and services, supporting employee volunteering, sponsoring charity events and matching employees’ charitable contributions.
In addition to traditional approaches, companies are increasingly looking for mutually beneficial ways to be involved, including hosting lunch-and-learns and workshops, implementing mentorship programs and supporting a variety of socially positive pursuits.
In 2007, Calgary companies such as Hatch, Colt and CH2M HILL held various fundraisers supporting Engineers Without Borders. Their golf tournaments, pancake breakfasts, art auctions and other events raised over $10,000.
The Calgary Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders recently launched a workplace partnership program offering local organizations the exciting opportunity to support local and global development initiatives.
EWB understands that poverty is not about weakness. For the 800 million people who go hungry each day and the one billion who lack access to clean water, poverty is an absence of opportunity.
EWB helps people in developing communities gain access to technologies that will improve their lives. Technology — when appropriately incorporated into each community’s social, cultural, economic and political context — can lead to self-sufficiency and drive extraordinary change.
It’s a sentiment recently echoed by an Engineers Without Borders overseas volunteer with Calgary ties, Thulasy Balasubramaniam, E.I.T. She says volunteering in Zambia has given her a new sense of optimism and an earnest view of what is possible for Africa.
Through her work — and that of over 200 overseas volunteers — Engineers Without Borders is quickly becoming an important part of a new global community that is thinking about the world in new and exciting ways. By partnering with EWB companies and their employees, we all help build a better world.