Magazine article Workforce

Disaster Volunteerism Builds Companywide Spirit

Magazine article Workforce

Disaster Volunteerism Builds Companywide Spirit

Article excerpt

As many as 30,000 families in North Carolina were affected by Hurricane Floyd last September.

One of the towns in the flooded area received between 50 and 60 inches of rain. People scrambled for everything from financial assistance for rent to replacements of such personal and household items as bed linens, cooking and eating utensils and medications.

In the midst of all the turmoil, companies from every comer of the state came together to volunteer their money and services for some of the cleanup and relief efforts, including Cary, North Carolinabased SAS Institute Inc., a privately-held software company.

SAS Institute has long been recognized as the kind of workplace that values the personal and professional growth of its employees. This spirit is carried over into the community, as evidenced by the strong volunteerism exhibited by some of its 6,000 employees during Hurricane Floyd. For openers, employees donated more than $102,000 to the American Red Cross in response to the company's fundraising effort to aid flood-ravaged Eastern North Carolina. The Institute matched the donation, resulting in a total donation of more than $204,000.

In addition, the Institute and its employees were active in cleanup and relief efforts. Projects included assisting with the rescue of animals, removing fallen trees, cleaning houses, sorting supplies at the food bank, and moving families who lost their homes into temporary living quarters.

At many companies across the country, the cornerstone of community relations is often volunteerism. Done well, these programs can enhance a corporate image, boost employee morale and enrich the community-service experience. Done poorly, however, these programs can lead to frustration and lost productivity

To learn more about how to conduct disaster volunteer programs that work,

WORKFORCE interviewed Kat Hardy, corporate, philanthropic and external programs specialist at SAS Institute.

What sort of corporate volunteerism had your company done in the past?

Our volunteer programs have taken a wide scope in recent years. They've included such things as participation in Net Day, a nationwide project to wire schools for Internet access, mentor programs with at-risk students, and Special Olympics World Games this past summer. Overall, an extensive and diverse selection of volunteer programs that has grown considerably in the last two and a half years.

What precipitated the call to volunteerism for th flood victims in eastern North Carolina?

It would have gotten going even if we hadn't done anything officially. The minute we got back into the office after the flood, we started receiving hundreds of e-mails; from employees who wanted to know how we, as a company, were going to help. There's something about the employees here at SAS Institute, and I don't know if it's an outgrowth of the culture or what, but the employees see this as a place that's responsive to the community.

How much effort did it take to organize the SAS employees' contributions to the Red Cross for your Hour flooded neighbors?

None whatsoever. Once we got the OK from the company to do the collections program, we sent out an e-mail that went to all the employees in Cary, North Carolina. I sent that out around 11 a.m. one day, and by the time I returned from appointments a couple of hours later, I already had $2,000 sitting on my desk.

After that, we tried to get as much information to employees about what was happening in the community so they could tap into the volunteer programs on an individual basis.

We also did some really neat matchmaking. For example, one employee who said she was getting ready to move said she wanted to donate her fin-niture instead of holding a yard sale. We connected her specifically with the niece of another employee, whose apartment was wiped out. We tried to find opportunities like this. …

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