Building a strong work culture is more important than it ever has been before.
88% of employees believe that distinct team culture is important to an organization’s success. While there are many ways to build team culture, perhaps the way that brings teams closest to each other and to their communities is through volunteering. Volunteering has been one way for companies to participate in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and another way to enhance your team culture while engaging in CSR would be team volunteering.
Team Volunteering is when employees of an organization from either one or several departments come together to work on a volunteer project together.
This week, we spoke to Tomiko Liu, an employee at MeaningfulWork to ask about her experience with team volunteering over the summer. Tomiko found working at MeaningfulWork while volunteering for WomenPalante allowed her to connect with her coworkers on a personal and professional level and work together for a common goal.
Could you introduce yourself and the nonprofit you volunteered for?
My name is Tomiko Liu and I work on Product and Data at MeaningfulWork. This summer, I volunteered for WomenPalente, a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurial initiatives for mothers and children with early business education. Their goal is to build entrepreneurial spirit at a young age and provide children with business opportunities.
Could you tell me more about the scope of the volunteer project you worked on?
During this project, I worked with 3 other team members from MeaningfulWork. A co-worker and I worked on Impact Measurement Support and the other two team members worked on back-end Design and Web-developer roles. WomenPalante wanted to focus on impact measurement because their organization was growing and they wanted to track impact for annual reporting and internal growth. They wanted feedback and recommendations on what kind of data they should be collecting for their organization. Furthermore, they were hosting an event and they wanted to know how they could utilize their data to create a successful event. They provided us with the event data and their program mandates including their “Six Pillars” that they follow and implement through all their programs. We took a closer look at what the Six Pillars meant to WomenPalante and how we could utilize the data we gathered to support the pillars.
What were some of the highlights of your team volunteering experience?
I really enjoyed working with my coworker. One of the best parts was getting to know her better and work with her more extensively. Even though MeaningfulWork is a small corporation, we don’t have the chance to work with everyone and since we are working from home, we do not get to have that in-person interaction with one another. Not only were we able to call and work on the project together, but we also got to talk and get to know each other more and it helped build our team chemistry.
In terms of the project, it was nice to see how our skill sets complemented each other. An example of this was my coworker had experience in annual budgeting and reporting while I had experience in event data management and we were able to not only help and guide one another but understand how the information can be used together to help organize an event.
How was your experience working and communicating with your team?
With my coworkers, we set up a slack channel where we provided updates on the project and organized meetings. We also created a Google Document where we added dates of all our meetings with WomenPalante and we would update the document with information and notes collected from the meeting.
One of our roadblocks was time management, as some of our time during our meetings was not used productively and our meetings went on longer than they should have. We noticed that we had to balance our work and meeting times and over time, we began to solidify our workflow and have more efficient meetings.
What kind of feedback did you receive from your team?
We were asked to create a survey for one of our projects and sometimes when I write the questions myself, they may be too complicated in wording. Because the survey had to be translated from English to Spanish, we wanted the survey to be as simple as possible to translate. During my feedback session, my coworker asked me “are these the right questions to be asking for the data that we want to obtain, or are they too complicated and can be simplified to be better understood?” The feedback I received allowed me to gain a different perspective and I was able to make the questions more simplified.
We also communicated to each other what the expectations were for each milestone and gave constructive criticism on each part of the project before we submitted it. We were all really open to feedback, as our goal was to provide the best possible work for the nonprofit, and feedback would help enhance our work.
What skills were you able to develop while working in a team?
Soft skills wise - I was able to improve my communication skills. Communicating between one of my group members was entirely different from communicating with all of them. When working in a team, you have to know your audience well and being mindful of who you are speaking to. Furthermore, some members are more open to speaking than others and sometimes, you have to go take everyone’s opinion into consideration and ask them directly what they think.
In terms of hard skills, I did not have prior experience with impact measurement but I knew my coworker was very knowledgeable on the subject. As we worked on the project together, I would develop a better understanding of impact measurement and how the data we collected work would be used with the other information gathered.
What were your main takeaways from team volunteering?
When we think about group projects, we usually tend to gravitate between people we know or work closely with. However, it was nice to work with people with who I did not work closely before. Furthermore, it was nice to have a common purpose and come together for that purpose and learn about each other through our volunteer journey. I got to know what they do more in-depth and learn to appreciate other people’s work. Moreover, since we all work at the same company, it was nice to know how other people’s work, goals, and achievements contribute to the overall purpose of the company.
Thank you to Tomiko for sharing her experience with team volunteering at MeaningfulWork with WomenPalante. If your organization is interested in getting started with team-based volunteering, we’ll love to hear from you. If you are interested in getting started with your volunteer experience, sign up for MeaningfulWork today.
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