Volunteering with Purpose: Creating Collective Impact Our World Needs

“Unprecedented.”

“Unparalleled.”

“Extraordinary.”

Most of us have found ourselves saying and writing these words a lot lately, using them to describe what is new and difficult about the circumstances we are living in, to articulate what is different and challenging about the world around us.

When used positively, they could also be used to describe the impact that each of us is capable of making  when we step into the role of volunteer and engage in our communities with the same spirit that guided Nelson Mandela’s work.

Here at SAP, there is a distinct enthusiasm that bubbles up from our employee base around giving back and connecting with purpose. Last year alone, our employees dedicated more than 270,000 hours to volunteerism, and even though we are not able to gather in groups and volunteer side-by-side right now, their desire to make an impact has found new paths to action.

One of those paths came earlier this year when SAP launched our three-pronged response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That response allocated emergency donation funding to non-profits with both global and local reach  and also gave us the opportunity to support our strategic non-profit partners as they made the often-difficult transition to hosting volunteer programs  in virtual environments. This kind of online engagement rendered borders invisible, and SAP employees across the world beginning looking for ways to lend their time and skills to help solve the unique challenges that non-profits and social enterprises are experiencing.

As one example, coming up on Mandela Day this Saturday, SAP employees have the chance to participate in a virtual design thinking activity to support Rays of Hope, an organization based in Alexandra, Johannesburg, in partnership with Siyafunda Community Technology Centres and the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town. SAP has also invested in the creation of the Rays of Hope #Hope4Alex programme office and will undertake a continuous digital skills development program with the organization to stretch the impact far beyond the month of July.

The ways that we volunteer are evolving, yes, but so is our sense of ourselves as volunteers and community contributors. The recent movement towards a more socially just world has pushed us all to consider what role we can (and must) play to become positive changemakers. As a result, SAP has re-affirmed our commitment to diversity & inclusion, and is committed to increasing investment for inclusive education, economic opportunity, and social justice reform. Employees are also encouraged to practice empathy, to listen, and to contribute small actions towards a collective impact for the communities where we live and work.

Today’s world needs enthusiastic advocates AND active volunteers to build the kinds of bridges that change perspectives  and make the kind of impact that lasts generations. If we each honoured the 67 years that Nelson Mandela dedicated to the service of others by carving out 67 minutes and dedicating that time to a cause that matters to us, imagine the ripple effect that could have?

67 minutes spent in thoughtful conversation with someone whose perspective is different from ours, 67 minutes spent educating ourselves on the experiences of Black communities, 67 minutes spent dedicating our skills to a non-profit or social enterprise as a virtual volunteer … it just might create the kind of unprecedented, unparalleled, and extraordinary collective impact our world needs.