An Inspirational Journey: Gaining Experience in CSR

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Editor’s Note: As our amazing interns transition out of their roles at VolunteerMatch, they’re reflecting on what brought them to work with us, what they’ve accomplished, and where they’re headed. We hope you’ll be as inspired as we have been by these “ultimate volunteers!”

An inspirational journeyWhy I Love VolunteerMatch

First of all, I would like to say that VolunteerMatch is awesome and the people that work here are an inspiration. Before I get into the details of where I came from, what I accomplished while I was here as the Marketing & Insights Intern, and what adventure I want to embark on next, I must share some details about my fellow colleagues. I learned so much from each one of them.

From the organization’s President to the amazing communications team and everyone in between, each of them played an important role in the joy and learning journey I experienced while I was here. Each person at VolunteerMatch is unique and has inspired me in some sort of way.

From my first day within the VolunteerMatch walls I was blown away by their kindness, generosity and how much they genuinely liked being around each other. Most of my experience in the working world wasn’t quite like this. The people that work for VolunteerMatch are authentic, highly intelligent and interesting people. How much better does it get than to work every day to connect good people with good causes and to be constantly reminded of it? I couldn’t think of the people at VolunteerMatch more highly and I truly enjoyed every single day I spent working here. And honestly, I don’t want it to end.

My History and Experience in CSR

Before VolunteerMatch I was working for another agency doing corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability work in San Francisco, which was where I got my first official exposure to CSR. Before that I served as a Business Manager for a natural body products company headquartered in San Francisco, where I became an ardent promoter of safe and clean cosmetics.

And prior to that during my time at University of California, Santa Barbara I led grassroots efforts and coordinated campaigns and media coverage for the Forest Awareness and Clean Energy Solutions Campaigns with the California Public Interest Research Group. Initially I got led into CSR because of my passion for environmental awareness and my desire to make a positive impact on social causes.

At my last agency I began working intensely to help them cultivate themselves as an organization at the forefront of sustainable marketing communications. When my time there was up, I found VolunteerMatch.

As a long-time committed volunteer for many social and environmental causes and having had a working knowledge of CSR, I was intrigued to think about why volunteering isn’t something CSR professionals talk about more. I knew immediately that it is an influential piece of the CSR puzzle and I knew I wanted to help convince people of that, which is exactly what the communications team at VolunteerMatch is already doing.

Why VolunteerMatch?

From the moment I came to interview at VolunteerMatch and started talking to Casey Brennan, the Marketing and Insights Manager, I knew it was meant to be. We understood each other’s lingo, and we instantly connected. I knew the opportunity was great given her vast knowledge of CSR. Casey is a great leader and manager, she is intelligent and engaging and I truly enjoyed working with her every day. I learned something from her, even from our very first conversation.

So when I found out the next day that I got the internship from Robert Rosenthal, another extremely insightful individual, I was ecstatic. Having looked for Sustainability and CSR related positions quite intensely for the last 3 months, I was jumping for joy.

There is something about a career in Sustainability that just makes me want to run with it and never look back. I think it’s due to my undeniable passion for environmental causes and my desire to be at the forefront of emerging media, thought leadership and technologies that are better for our planet and for society. Yes, the field is in its infancy, but somehow that draws me in even more because the work is so vital in today’s world and I want to be one of the enthusiastic individuals to help see it grow.

Engaging Projects

VolunteerMatch Insights

One of the biggest and most exciting projects that I worked on while I was here was titled “VolunteerMatch Insights: CSR Data, Trends & Resources.” I took this project from a concept with the brainstorming collaboration of Casey, to a finished product containing an 83 page slide deck, a 27 page InDesign presentation and a 2 page Excel document containing citations. The resource will be used as a toolkit for staff to streamline the abundance of research studies available in the field.

The work I did on this project was in depth and extensive and I enjoyed every minute of it. I began by researching and reading every study that I could find related to CSR, volunteering and employee engagement. I weeded through what was most relevant and then pulled statistics, graphs and stories that helped to depict a total of 18 themes I created demonstrating why volunteering is a necessary part of CSR and employee engagement.

After the project was completed I also created a 1 pager that will be used at the 2012 VolunteerMatch Client Summit this week, pulling in a few of the most influential statistics from the project. Overall this work made me extremely well versed in issues of employee engagement, corporate volunteer programs and CSR industry trends. And most importantly for my fellow colleagues at VolunteerMatch, it demonstrated why their job is so awesome and so important.

Blogging and Additional Projects

While I was at VolunteerMatch I also wrote several articles for the “Volunteering is CSR” Blog. Before I came to VolunteerMatch, although I was already a Twitter user, I had never written a blog post. With the insightful help of Shari Ilsen, the Online Communications Manager, I quickly learned that the most important things about writing a blog post are knowing your audience, being concise and using hyperlinks. I also wrote webinar recaps of the Best Practice Network Webinars.

Additionally, I got to know the ins and outs of 3BL Media as a resource and uploaded numerous pieces of content from the communications team’s blog posts and my other fellow intern Cristopher Bautista.

After attending the 2012 VolunteerMatch Client Summit on May 17-18, the last project I will work on here will be to create a survey to be taken by VolunteerMatch corporate clients about their employee volunteer programs. Through that survey we will learn the details for effectiveness at each program and the best practices that are being utilized by each one.

Do I Have to Go?

Like I said before, I wish I didn’t have to leave VolunteerMatch. The people here are inspiring, and although they are intimately completing the details of their job everyday, I truly feel that each one of them wants to make the world a better place and that’s why they are here. And that to me is what it’s all about.

So where will I go next? Well, I still want to work in CSR and sustainability, just like I did when I got here. I envision my next adventure to be a lot like my work at VolunteerMatch, but with a greater emphasis on environmental sustainability because it’s my true passion.

I am looking into the following opportunities:

  • An environmental NGO or nonprofit
  • A company whose mission is environmentally driven or who offers environmental or sustainable products
  • A company not initially centered around sustainability but who has environmental or socially conscious initiatives

If you’re reading this post and you know of an opportunity for someone who is extremely passionate about sustainability and is willing to go the extra mile every time, or you just want to chat, please contact me at (805) 452-7585, carleyklekas@gmail.com, my Linkedin profile or follow me on Twitter @theearthygal.

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