Naveen Kumar was first inspired to volunteer in his college years during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake in India. Two years later, his volunteer spirit was reignited while, as an employee of HP, he was taking information and communications technology (ICT) into rural communities in India. When a woman confronted him with the question, "How can computers give me food?" he determined to help her and her family to solve their problem of accessing the food ration cards for which they qualified; he did this online. Seeing the needs around him, Kumar also determined to engage himself and his coworkers in volunteer service.
How does a company recognize employees who volunteer to help others? HP, for one, gives $50 GlobalGiving gift cards in recognition of employees who record 10 or more hours of volunteer time per quarter. According to Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president of sustainability and social innovation at HP, "the redemption rates are incredibly high and employees around the world really enjoy continuing to give back to causes they care about. This process creates a virtuous circle of giving."
Kumar is regional manager for Hewlett Packard Financial Services. By leading others in volunteering, he also became HP’s country lead for social impact in India. "My team was curious about the gift cards I was receiving and enjoying. So I took them all to an old age home for women where we spent the entire day," explained Kumar. "These are employees who normally spend their days in front of computers." After volunteering and then receiving the gift cards, the members of my team have been delighted. "I get so many thank yous. They are so happy. ‘Not only did I make a difference, but now I can help more people with the gift cards,’ they tell me.’"
Caroline Barlerin, who runs volunteering activities for HP worldwide, pointed out that Kumar has contributed to at least a dozen nonprofits with the gift cards he has accumulated. A few of the them are: The Child Brides: Send them to School Instead, Solar Lamps for 1700 Students in Sundarbans, India, and Microloans Create Opportunities for Indian Women.
"We don’t need the $50 for ourselves to get rewarded," said Ori Milstein, digital marketing manager for HP in Israel and the Netherlands. "The gift card is such a beautiful way to recognize us for our service." Milstein donated his card to assist Ethiopan Jews to bridge socio-economic gaps. He also described the delight among his colleagues worldwide who have also received the gift cards.
At first, Frances Edmonds, director of environmental programs at HP Canada, was surprised by her gift card since she would volunteer and contribute regardless. Then she realized a number of values and opportunities. First of all, "I realized that the gift cards will help us to get others onto the path of service" said Edmonds. Second, when she went onto the GlobalGiving site, "it opened my eyes to the vast variety of projects around the world. For example, I found a project that was so perfect for my interests—to stop cookstoves from killing in South Sudan." And finally, with the gift cards, "I found another way to engage my teenage daughter in giving."
Each of the HP employees I interviewed expressed their delight in working with a company that values their volunteer service and provides additional opportunities for them to help others with the gift cards.
Liquidnet, Facebook, and Discovery each give GlobalGiving e-gift cards for holidays and other special occasions, to clients as well employees. GlobalGiving works with each company to customize its approach to gift-giving for holidays and other special occasions. For example, Facebook gives GlobalGiving e-gift cards to clients for the holidays. Discovery gives the cards to over 4,000 employees in five continents for the holidays.
Liquidnet, a global institutional online trading network, uses the gift cards to welcome each and every new employee. "For Liquidnet, engaging our employees in giving back is a core aspect to our company culture," explained Brian Walsh, Executive Director, Liquidnet for Good at Liquidnet, Inc. "We use GlobalGiving gift cards as an important component to our employee on-boarding process, ensuring that new employees understand the value we place on giving back, and our expectation for them to take an active role in our corporate social engagement." Walsh is such an advocate for GlobalGiving that he co-chairs the organization’s New York Leadership Council, together with me.
GlobalGiving vets the nonprofits that are presented on its site. "We offer the option to contribute to both domestic and international charities on one platform," explained Donna Callejon, chief business officer at GlobalGiving. "So the recipient of a gift card can support both a locally run tutoring program in California and a locally-run tutoring program in Hyderabad."
Perhaps most importantly, Callejon pointed out that "GlobalGiving’s vetting ensures that the organization meets all the IRS/Treasury department guidelines for international grantmaking and is able to report quarterly on their project to GG donors."
"Linking corporate campaigns to great nonprofits around the world is part of our mission," said Mari Kuraishi, cofounder and president of GlobalGiving. "This year alone, these programs have generated more than $14 million in contributions to nonprofits globally, including one million in gift cards. Tens of thousands of employees, suppliers, and customers will have had a chance to contribute to programs in 125 countries through GlobalGiving."
Fundacion Calicanto is one of the many nonprofits that benefits from GlobalGiving. "It all started with one HP employee who contributed $50 to our organization just 18 months ago," said Dalys Rodriguz, executive director of Fundacion Calicanto in Panama. The word spread, and donations soon "snowballed," said Rodriguez. Today there are teams of HP volunteers who provide vital job training and preparation skills to the women in our CAPTA program, and computer skills to the children in our CONEXION program. "They developed everything including course content," explained Rodriguez.
Combining gift cards and corporate giving, HP has provided $32,000 out of the organization’s budget of $217,000 in the past year. "The volunteering and the funds help give the people who come to our organization the tools to get jobs and an education to make better decisions about their futures," explained Rodriguez.
You can give GlobalGiving gift cards to family and friends as well. It's a meaningful gift and it's simple; just go to GlobalGiving.org.
"I’ve had struggles in my life. And I’ve learned that when you do something good, it comes back a thousand-fold," explained Kumar to me. "It’s not what you do for yourself in life that’s important. It’s how much you can do to help someone else. How many people’s lives can I make a difference in is what I think of."