Volunteering Now for Our Common Future

Each year on December 5, the United Nations (UN) Volunteers organization hosts International Volunteer Day with the goal of recognizing and promoting the dedication of volunteers around the world.

Most of the world’s volunteering happens informally and cannot be tracked, but the documented economic contribution of time and support that volunteers deliver globally is estimated to represent the work of approximately 61 million full-time workers monthly.

In a world struggling to combat seemingly insurmountable issues like climate change, a global health crisis, and growing inequality, even millions of volunteers are not enough. While it is easy to focus on the problems, International Volunteer Day represents an important opportunity to appreciate and reflect on the efforts of the incredible commitment and passion of those at SAP who dedicate their time and talents as volunteers to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.

As non-profit partners in residence working with the SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team, we offer a unique perspective on days like this. While we live and breathe the value of volunteering, we know that our experience is not shared by everyone. Volunteering helps others while also promoting learning, personal growth, and community. Together we bring our non-profit organizations’ — Realized Worth and HandsOn Bay Area — extensive experience in social impact and volunteer management alongside our own, collaborating for sustainability with employees directly.

As the newest members of the SAP CSR team, we have learned so much in a short time about what it means when companies like SAP provide skills-based volunteering services to non-profits and social enterprises, and just how valuable it is to the underserved communities that SAP volunteers support across 113 countries.

Why Volunteering Matters

A common misconception about volunteering, especially skills-based volunteering, is that the engagement only delivers value to the organization and its respective clients being served.

One of the most significant reasons why corporate volunteering matters is that it is an experiential leadership opportunity. It offers employees a chance to build new skills and put current expertise into action while also satisfying a non-profit or community need. Ultimately, this helps employees explore and fulfill career goals, and gain exposure to different perspectives as well as business-relevant experiences to grow personally and professionally.

Beyond personal growth, corporate volunteering is good business. Companies benefit from employee participation in many ways. For example, when employees volunteer through work, they can become more engaged and connected and experience greater personal fulfillment.

The various skills-based volunteer opportunities available at SAP all offer meaningful ways to strengthen inclusive and empathetic leadership, communication, and teamwork among so many other important career- and company-building skills.

Chris Jarvis, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Realized Worth, confirms this: “The contribution of time and other resources to charities and their communities is profoundly valuable. Without these contributions, our world would have a grave deficit of social, human, and physical capital. But the power of volunteering lies in more than its utilitarian application. As passionate volunteers will profess, it is not the transaction that motivates them; rather, it is the transformation that occurs in their own lives.”

This year, after more than 15 years of focused volunteer engagement each October, SAP evolved its signature volunteer campaign to Moments of Service. With the shift, SAP is enabling its more than 105,000 employees with varied and valuable skills to connect to causes that matter to them personally. Through skills-based volunteering opportunities, they can create sustainable, long-lasting change in their communities and across the SAP ecosystem.

Volunteering Now at SAP

Building on more than a decade of success in our pro bono volunteering portfolio, we are honored to work alongside the SAP CSR team to diligently transform programs like SAP Social Sabbatical and grow new ones including Pro Bono for Economic Equity, a response to SAP’s social justice commitments, and the virtual pro bono Acceleration Collective initiative.

“Working alongside MovingWorlds to serve young social entrepreneurs from the ChangemakerXChange, Social Shifters, and We Are Family Foundation communities, we are hopeful that we can improve the experience and most importantly the social impact of virtual pro bono volunteering,” shares Jennifer Beason, global program director of SAP CSR. “We are honored that more than 60 expert volunteers and certified coaches are working with us to accelerate the success of 25 outstanding social businesses like Durian, a Nigeria-based social enterprise that is building communities of the future – circular, creative, and empowered by rural women.”

The company’s longest running pro bono portfolio, SAP Social Sabbatical, which is executed in partnership with PYXERA Global, has embraced local roles for employees to help tackle global goals right in their own backyard. By keeping employees and programs closer to home, SAP volunteers were able to continue delivering impact despite the pandemic. Working with diverse teams and matched with nonprofits and social enterprises, employees like Esteban Samartin dedicated an estimated $450,000 (estimated USAID value) in pro bono consulting services to solve strategic business assignments in 2021.

Pro Bono for Economic Equity, also in partnership with PYXERA Global, follows a similar structure to SAP Social Sabbatical. Small teams of SAP employees are paired with Black-owned businesses to provide their professional skills as pro bono volunteer consultants. At a recent closing event for the U.S. arm of the program, a key theme was that SAP groups offered frameworks and scalable solutions that the businesses can use again and again. A favorite example was a team that developed marketing strategies and templates for baking mix company Sugarless Keto. Initially launched in the U.S., the program expanded to Brazil, South Africa, and the UK in the second half of 2021.

Joining the SAP CSR team with nonprofit backgrounds, our view of corporate volunteerism was very different than the reality of what we now experience and observe every day. The global scale at which SAP’s portfolio of programs and partnerships operate is greater than we imagined.

It might be difficult to comprehend the difference that SAP employees are making to the more than 1,500 organizations they are serving, but the connections being made are providing the building blocks for more resilient communities. We have seen firsthand that impactful and meaningful work through volunteerism does not just benefit the recipient non-profit organizations – one employee’s contributions to one project can affect thousands of people.

‘Tis the season for good news and it brings us great joy knowing the work that we are a part of is changing lives for the better. To share how you are making difference, tag us on social media using #SAP4good and share how you are helping your community run better.


Heidi Pio and Atalanta Kyriazi are non-profit partners in residence with the SAP CSR team.