Building on the success of a winter coat drive, I took a risk by posting a sign in our company cafeteria calling for anyone who was involved with any kind of volunteer activity to attend a meeting. I expected about five people to attend and got twelve. 'Not bad', I thought, for a company of fifty.
We discussed what people were up to in their own lives, what organizations they felt strongly about and I suggested that their efforts might be intensified if they found others from the company to go with them on volunteer activities. The thought of something bigger, more opportunity to do good deeds, appealed to everyone, so we formed a small action committee to coordinate and communicate our activities and results.
Our first trip to a local food pantry had so many volunteers that they asked us to send some people home. Some chord had obviously been struck and for the next seven years, as the company grew to nearly ninety employees, we could often claim 100 percent participation in many projects. Not everyone got hands on, but each participated in their own way.
Our corporate culture was ripe for it: the company had a matching gift policy and a supportive leadership, but this was a true employee initiative, driven from the 'ground up. Our desire was to help, but we always favored activities where we could encourage people to get 'hands on', where we moved 'bodies into action' and where we stood together at or outside of the workplace.
We were rarely at a loss for projects and something big seemed to be in the works every month. Aside from the ongoing support to a local food pantry, we packed school supplies for kids in post Katrina New Orleans, sent care packages to soldiers abroad, bought cows from Heifer International, collected hundreds of coats each winter, knitted comforters for 'graduates' of the battered women's shelter to take into their new lives and more.
Some projects were anonymous and some were just offers of support. For example, one of our team had fallen behind in a home renovation and it was affecting her mood and work. Over the weekend about 10 of us moved furniture, painted and cleaned to get her back into her home. Those that couldn't work stopped by with food and drink and we all worked from the motto 'make it happen'.
During this time I was lucky enough to go from Sales Director, to General Manager, ending up as Chief Training Officer when the company was sold. As a company we grew sales 500 percent in under ten years, establishing ourselves as the industry leader and as proud as we were of our results in business, the best thing we ever did as a team, the thing I was most proud of, was the Volunteer Committee. It changed our company, created more pride and satisfaction in our employees than any mission statement on the wall ever could.
That was six years ago and now, as a corporate coach with my own company where I hold the position of 'Chief Possibility Officer', I still get involved with great causes (see Bookwallah) and am involved in community projects and volunteering. But since this is Random Acts of Kindness Week (#RAKWeek2015) I will make this offer: I will help any organization to create a Volunteer Committee. Employee ownership being key, I offer my services free, with no hidden agenda. Remember, no matter what position you hold in the company, you can make this happen. Think about what's possible: then let's get to work.
Contact me in the comments below, use @JamesLynchCoach on Twitter, or email me at james@JamesLynchCoach.com.
My thanks to all those who made the Vol-Com what it was: you made the world a better place. Keep on changing the world for better.