Planting the Seeds of Giving

Over the past 6 months, I’ve been working to get my colleagues at the Singapore campus of James Cook University to be involved in volunteerism and acts of charity.

Here’s the story so far…

The Realization

After working at JCU for 18 months, I came to realise that a lot of the corporate giving was in the form of paying for tables at charity dinners and sending students out as volunteers, either performing at charity performances or providing labour. While it was nice that the university was buying tables at charity dinners, I felt that it was lacking in actually getting staff personally involved in acts of charity.

Sure, staff would attend the charity dinners, but who wouldn’t say no to a free meal at an upscale venue where you can network with the big bosses over free food and wine right?

I felt that this needed to change and so, I started planting the seeds of giving.

Leading by Example

To encourage staff to get involved in the act of giving, I planted six $10 notes around the JCU campus in envelopes with a note asking whomever finds it to do some good with it. Some donated the money to the Singapore Heart Foundation, while others like Dr Jose Domingos spent it on chocolates and sweets for the cleaners and security guards working on Christmas eve.

The First $500 Raised!

Fast forward to 2019, I was roped into the Social Committee at work. The committee is largely an extension of the HR department, helping it organise social events which usually end up being just about food and drink.

An opportunity arose during the planning for International Women’s Day which usually meant, cake and a tea party in JCU. I put out a suggestion of raising funds for a women’s charity, in particular, one that helps empower women. The committee agreed to this, but unfortunately, got black flagged just before the actual event.

But sometimes, you’ve got to be a little naughty. A few of us came together as private individuals and went ahead with the fundraising anyway. With no support from the university, we set up a campaign on Giving.sg, tapped into our resourcefulness to approach colleagues, family and friends to raise the funds, and eventually achieved our target of $500!

Make it a Double!

Building on that success, I managed to gather a team of outdoorsy colleagues to take part in PAddle for Good, a dragonboat event at Jurong Lake Gardens where $50 is donated for every 500m the team manages to paddle.

As many of the team members were brand new and had never been in a dragonboat before, I only committed 2000m. I clearly underestimated the group because the team managed to complete 5000m instead, raising $500 in total!

Positive Side Effects

Millennials will be the majority in workplaces come 2025. In fact, millennials have already started moving into managerial roles. This group has a very different set of values from their predecessors.

A survey by Deloitte has found that millennials want businesses to play a more proactive role in making a positive impact on society. While they still believe that profit should be the main goal of a business, they believe that success should be measured in broader terms, beyond just financial performance.

Given that this is a generation famous for quickly leaving jobs that are not aligned with their expectations and values, becoming actively and authentically involved in the community is going to have a positive side effect of talent retention.

Kenneth is an education management professional with a passion for the outdoors, coaching and adult education. He is currently promoting lifelong learning in the Singapore campus of James Cook University.

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