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Throughout the history of KaBOOM!, we have spoken passionately about community building – through the process of building playgrounds, our partners achieve something greater for their community. We have always believed that getting engaged through volunteer service matters. And now, more than ever, we are hearing from more organizations looking for ways they can join this game.
Many organizations tell you that this year is a challenge of extreme proportions. In many ways, I agree. But I prefer to focus on the silver lining.
Working hand-in-hand with communities nationwide, KaBOOM! corporate partners have always had an opportunity to do more than write a check. Our partners have the unique opportunity to participate in the creation of a tangible legacy project that is meaningful to both the organization it serves and the volunteers who help build it. On any given KaBOOM! project, the collective sweat equity of 200 volunteers literally builds a playground from the ground up - these spectacular days of service are days that our partners never forget.
During this troubled economy, people are searching for ways to make life better for others. I see the silver lining in that simple fact. People want to help and they are searching for ways that they can make a difference.
Over the past 14 years, KaBOOM! has harnessed this enthusiasm for giving and provided an outlet for making it happen - and we’ve done it in partnership with organizations that value the power of corporate volunteerism. Volunteers from The Home Depot Foundation have built 1000+ playgrounds, engaging over 100,000 employee volunteers… and they’re still giving! In fact, some of their employees travel hundreds of miles to volunteer on KaBOOM! builds – these folks know the importance of making sure that thousands of kids have access to play in their own neighborhoods.
When I speak of the silver lining, I also think about some of our newest partners. Organizations like Mutual of Omaha, that will engage close to 1,000 employees in volunteer service through KaBOOM! for the first time this year, recognize the opportunity to expand from traditional giving to volunteering at a time when it is critical for companies to re-double their support for their employees and their communities.
Sometimes, this call to volunteer is inspired by senior leadership – Disney CEO, Bob Iger, is a great example; each year he brings his direct reports together to teambuild and volunteer around a cause near Disney headquarters. Perhaps you don’t hear about this type of corporate leadership in the news, but it's there, it makes a huge difference.
Other organizations continue to see volunteering as part of their 360 degree brand DNA. The National Basketball Association espouses the value of getting their hands dirty and making a difference alongside their customers. They integrate days of service into key annual events like the All-Star Game and encourage their business partners and colleagues to participate as well. Sponsors volunteer during Days of Service, teams give back all season long and players, like Antawn Jamison of the Washington Wizards, take leadership roles in making a difference. When Antawn was asked why he works with KaBOOM!, he said:
I’m out here smiling, having a good time, but sweating as well! We’re providing the community and the kids with the opportunity to play and have fun. We’re doing something positive that’s going to affect a lot of people and that’s what it’s all about.
At the end of the day, that is what it’s all about, right? – getting outside the proverbial box, or office, and doing something positive that makes a lasting difference in your community.
Recently, the Conference Board surveyed 150+ companies about how the economic crisis is affecting their corporate social responsibility (CSR). 45% of companies surveyed reduced their CSR budget in 2009, and another 16% of firms were considering cuts. However, many companies surveyed are increasing the resources available for their employee volunteer programs.
… Which brings me back to the silver lining - its these new resources that create sustainable and meaningful volunteer programs that truly make a difference in our community.
So, I ask you... when times are tough, what can you do to make a difference in your community? What groups do you lead that would be made stronger by combining a teambuilding and volunteer event? And how can you encourage your organization to grasp the power of volunteering and elevate your brand to a position where consumers know that YOU stand for something meaningful? This is not the time to retreat – it’s the time to get creative and give back. The need, now, is greater than ever.