Giving more than just money

Volunteers and staff at the Childline centre in Katlehong

Volunteers and staff at the Childline centre in Katlehong

Investec’s corporate social investment volunteerism programme has been running for almost 12 years. The organisation has developed a series of best practise solutions that ensures the charities selected by the company receive the right levels of support.

In 2008 the programme underwent a formal change as Linsey Sherman, from corporate social investment at Investec Bank Ltd, explains: “We started an informal volunteer programme about 12 years ago because we found that staff really wanted to give back time and get involved, but were not sure where to go or how to get started.

"About six years ago we made this a more formal process, using various platforms that allow staff to donate time, money and goods. We focus on organisations on our payroll giving programme called Touch By Giving where staff can register and select one of 13 charities that range from the environment to animal welfare, community care and crime prevention.”

“The programme is flexible and no matter how little they donate, their involvement makes a huge difference to the chosen charity. We use our discretion to occasionally match these donations. The Investec corporate social investment (CSI) division decided that they wanted to do more to develop these relationships for more sustainable results.

“We have strong relationships with each of our 13 NGO partners and after engaging with a few of them last year, we decided to select Childline as our beneficiary of choice of the majority of our staff volunteerism programme for 2012,” explains Sherman. “We met with Childline to understand their needs because we wanted to make sure that we were linking our staff with the right programme and that they could deliver what the beneficiary needs.”

A focused approach
Investec spent a substantial amount of time with Childline to ensure that their volunteer efforts would be a good fit and would meet the needs outlined by the organisation.

After intense analysis they established exactly how they could make a difference to the lives of the staff and children of Childine.

“Their main wish list item was to have a make-over of their offices and to ensure that each of their children had proper toys to play with,” says Sherman.

“They do a lot of play therapy and many of the toys donated to them were broken or dirty. We decided to step in and do a complete office make-over so that we could give people in horrendous circumstances a beautiful place in which to find support and healing.”

Investec visited each of the Childine offices in Gauteng, sat with the co-ordinators and established what they needed. The conditions in which Childline staff worked were, in many cases, unpleasant and difficult.

Some offices had no kitchens and staff kept water in a bucket on a table, others offered the children undergoing counselling little to no privacy with offices walls that did not go all the way to the ceiling and too many windows which detracted from their privacy.

“After a lot of meetings around planning for the project, the team started to work through the wish list and each office that needed renovations,” says Sherman, “In each of the townships they have face-to-face counselling programmes where children can come in with their parents or alone and receive one-on-one support. The team felt it was important to give them somewhere beautiful to visit. The children now have a play room where they can do their play therapy with new toys and the office. The office has proper walls and new curtains for privacy.

“We put in proper kitchens and lighting, we brightened up the paintwork and gave the incredible people at Childline the tools they need to do the difficult work they do,” says Sherman.

“I was involved with them on a one-to-one basis for six months, going backwards and forwards and in and out of their offices. We asked Childline if they knew anyone in the community who needed employment and who could do the things that our volunteers were unable to do, such as the tiling for the new kitchens. They recommended a gentleman who lives in Alexandra Township who helped with the tiling, painting and everything else our volunteers could not do. He made sure that the work was never half-hearted and done to professional standards.”

For Sherman the entire endeavour highlighted the importance of building relationships with the NGOs before handing over the keys to the CSI departments who might have a different agenda.

“You often hear that corporate dictates what needs to be done and I think that, for us, it should be about understanding what the NGO needs and how we are able to support that,” says Sherman.

“Rather than saying we have money and we want to do X, Y and Z, we have forged a relationship with Childine over the past six years and have a programme where staff can donate and participate on a tangible level, and there is understanding and trust between Childline and ourselves.”

Investec’s CSI division has made the decision to become more involved in volunteering. Every year staff will select one organisation to do focused work for and deliver precisely on the relevant organisation’s wish list requirements.

“We will continue to work with Childine. We can see how our work and partnership has empowered the organisation’s to continue with its great service to the community more efficiently. The image of a ‘broken’ child playing with a broken toy has been replaced with bright rooms and new toys and hope. We cannot ask for more reward than that.”

Lynne Cawood, director of Childline Gauteng, says: “Our children, staff, volunteers and management have been uplifted by the relationship with Investec. The Investec team has adopted the maxim popularised by Madiba that there is no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. We are all enriched knowing that Investec has a profoundly deep sense of South African soul.”