Hunger exists all around you. As a volunteer, you can make an impact. Whether ensuring that children aren't hungry at school or providing the elderly with at least one hot meal a day, we invite you to join us.
Check out hunger-related opportunities at VolunteerMatch.
Zurich North America Employees
As Jillian Walsh, Director of Community Investment at Zurich North America, described her company's comprehensive employee engagement program, she spoke with a level of pride that could easily be heard over the phone.
In North America, Zurich is a leading commercial property-casualty insurance provider, also offering life insurance products and services. 2012 marks Zurich's 100 year anniversary of insuring in America, and Jillian and her team came up with the perfect way to celebrate.
The '100 Ways' program is a key part of the 100 year anniversary, and focuses on the company's commitment to community, employees and leadership. To design the program, they asked: What do we do well? Where do we want to grow? And the answer: volunteerism.
So Zurich is encouraging its employees to complete 100+ service projects during 2012 throughout their communities in the U.S. and Canada.
"Our biggest concern," Jillian related, "was time. Our employees are busy!" So she and her team designed a program that would engage employees where they were, and allow them to commit the time they had available.
They recruited 17 manager and employee "champions" from the manager set to provide feedback and help design the program, spread the word to local offices, and keep everyone motivated. They also had 100 on-the-ground coordinators named the Community Impact Team from each office to organize the projects, help spread the word and keep everyone motivated. They created a toolkit for employees with ideas and templates, and partnered with nonprofits like the United Way and HandsOn to provide further resources for employees.
The three major cause areas for the project mirror the priorities of the company overall: Health and welfare of kids in need, health and safety (including disaster relief), and sustainable community development.
Zurich maintains an impressive website with the stories of every project completed to date, and it's tough not to notice the large number of projects related to hunger relief. Since fighting hunger is a particular interest of VolunteerMatch right now, here's a look at the impact created by these hunger-related volunteer projects, each of which has unique and instructive elements for other groups trying to make a difference.
Employees Fighting Hunger
As part of their annual Halloween celebration, the Zurich Orlando office decided to allow people to wear jeans for a three item food donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank if they didn't want to wear a costume. They delivered 151 pounds of food and a donation check for $166, and demonstrated the power of creativity in running volunteer food drives.
Members of the Zurich office in Framingham, Mass. devised a friendly internal competition to motivate them as they inspected and sorted donated food items at the Worcester County Food Bank. In three hours the team ended up with a total of 3,000 pounds of sorted food. "I think it's important for employers to give back to the communities in which their employees work," said one volunteer after the event.
In Philadelphia, members of different business units came together to run a food drive for the organization Philabundance, a large agency network supporting local families by supplying nonperishable items to food pantries, soup kitchens and churches in the Philadelphia area throughout the year. At the end of the energetic drive, 1,550 pounds of food and $238.00 had been collected.
Zurich employees in the Las Vegas office morphed into volunteer fundraisers to raise money for the Three Square Food Bank of Nevada. Not only were they able to collect $1,700, but they took advantage of Zurich's matching grant program to double the donation to $3,400. This provided 10,200 meals for those in need in the area.
In Schaumburg, Ill. team members spent two hours filling meal bags for Feed My Starving Children. The group packed 71 boxes, which is approximately 15,000 meals. The employees were impressed by the organization's model, and awed at the impact they could make in such a short period. "Great project to help others in the world – very moving to know that contributing two hours can go a long way," said a Zurich volunteer afterwards.
30 volunteers from the Brea, Calif. office collected 400 pounds of food for a weekend nutrition club in Orange County called "We've Got Your Back." The food is used to provide motel-friendly nourishment for homeless children in the area. These kids face a greater risk for mental and emotional stress, worrying about when they will eat their next meal or where they will sleep at night, and the volunteers learned that fighting hunger is not just about the physical, but the emotional well-being, as well.
The New York City team took this lesson a step further, and spent time at the West Harlem Food Pantry educating local residents on nutrition and how to prepare well-balanced meals. After all, teach someone to fish, and you feed that person for a lifetime, right? "When our day of volunteering was coming to end," related one volunteer, "We all felt proud that we played a very small role in a very meaningful program."
It Doesn't End with '100 Ways'
Anecdotally and in terms of numbers, the '100 Ways' program has been a great success for Zurich North America, the communities in which they work, and the causes, like hunger, that they care about. To date, Zurich employees have completed close to 400 volunteer projects this year, helped 245 nonprofit organizations with over 21,000 volunteer hours, and generated almost $450,000 in social value through employee volunteer activities.
According to pulse surveys conducted by Zurich Communications, employee pride stood out. Pride in the company and in their teams increased across the board. Feedback from the Community Impact Team showed that the employees are thirsting for "what now?" They want to see the program continue, and they want to do even more. Jillian said Zurich intends to continue their commitment to volunteerism, focusing on developing even more volunteer leaders within their company.
Based on the success of '100 Ways,' there's no doubt they will succeed and only create more impact for their company, their employees, their community and critical issues like hunger.