Lessons Learned While Walking for Charity
The Positive Impact of Engaging Your Employees or Volunteers
I recently had the opportunity to be a part of a fundraising campaign that took place in over 160 communities across Canada. While our local charity fell short of our financial target, other noteworthy goals were met. Specifically, we experienced an increase in the number of teams, walkers, volunteers and sponsors. Achieving these goals were actually more meaningful as it provided momentum for future campaigns. It also raised awareness about our charity and what it provides - assistance to the homeless, the hungry and those living at the edge (and below) the poverty level.
During this walk we had the opportunity to have genuine, heart-to-heart conversations about life, work, home and relationships. These insightful exchanges between new and old friends is where it sparked three “Ah,ha” lessons for me. 1) The Importance of Community. 2) The Importance of Staying Connected and 3) The Importance of Encouragement.
Lesson #1: The Importance of Community
During many of my conversations, (and admittedly overhearing others), I often heard, “it’s so nice to be with each other; face to face, finally!, in-person; being with others in the community”. It goes without saying how after two years of various degrees of isolation that we long to be together again. In community.
Whether in our neighborhoods or work environments, the sense of community has been severed. The cracks in our relationships, at home and work have left many vulnerable, confused, anxious and depressed. Just the simple act of walking and talking together for a common cause taught me how important and how necessary it is to regain this sense of community at work and play.
If you’ve never experienced a ‘culture of community’ in your workplace, then perhaps this would be a good time to investigate the positive impact it can have on your organization. A sense of community and belonging is tied closely with employee morale, retention, engagement and turnover. Productivity will increase, and so will the company’s profit.
Lesson #2: The Importance of Staying Connected
At the beginning of the fundraising campaign, I recognized the name of an individual who signed up and set a target, which was slightly above the average of others. Since I was one of the administrators of the event I had access to the “dashboard” which monitored all teams, walkers, amounts, etc. When I saw Sally’s (not her real name) goal I decided to pay closer attention to her numbers daily.
Over the weeks that followed, she emailed me asking some very good operational questions. I emailed her back with my solutions, but then it dawned on me, “pick up the phone and call her!” I did exactly that. After clarifying her questions, we had the greatest conversation. I heard how her work was going, how her family and friends were doing. How much she was looking forward to traveling again. We ended the call on a positive note.
Towards the end of the campaign she again reached out with another question which I was able to help her navigate through. Similar to our last phone conversation, she shared more on how important raising funds for our organization was. I could sense a new level of enthusiasm in her voice. She thanked me for the few minutes we spent on the phone and signed off with, “now I must get back to work!”
Coincidently, it was one week after the fundraiser that I read an article published by Dr. Paul White (Author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace) titled, ‘How Training Focused on Connectedness Improves Talent Retention’. He writes, “Communication should branch away from work-centric topics, to conversations about leisure and recreation. As more and more workplaces are migrating to some form of hybrid working models, “a critical component to supporting connectedness via a remote team is involving communication at a personal level.”
That day I learned the importance of staying connected.
Lesson #3: The Importance of Encouragement
Our event’s weather for the day was damp, chilly and windy but with clear skies. A perfect day for a walk and to experience conditions others experience while sleeping on the street. You could not help but be inspired and encouraged by the many people who came out to enjoy the camaraderie, food, music and unity. It was written over everyone’s face!
It was during this “festive-like” atmosphere that a young man approached me and posed the question, “how do you achieve this same type of atmosphere at work?” He shared how his organization was struggling with a high rate of turnover. He was not looking for a carnival atmosphere but one in which there was unity, mutual respect, authentic appreciation and encouragement.
His work environment is not too different from many today as a result of the pandemic and other social factors. Turnover is an epidemic. In his book, “7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave” by Leigh Branham, he states that 79% of employees who quit their job cite a lack of appreciation as a key factor for leaving. Global research based on a survey of 200,000 employees found that feeling appreciated was the No. 1 factor for job satisfaction (1).
As the walk came to a close, that same gentleman approached me again and shared how he felt encouraged by simply talking about encouragement! He had come up with some ideas and was anxious to share them with his team.
Remember Sally, with whom I spoke about earlier over the phone? She actually exceeded her goal! When I called to congratulate her, I asked how she was able to do it so late in the game. She responded, “thanks for encouraging me”.
My lesson learned? The powerful impact of encouraging one another.
If you would like to learn more lessons I learned from our fundraiser walk and how to implement the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, please send me an email or even better, call!
(1) Source: Dr. Paul White. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.