This two-part excerpt is from How Tech Gives, Philanthropy Front and Center-San Francisco 's new blog series that features interviews with Bay Area tech leaders about philanthropy news, trends and opportunities among the region 's tech companies. This series is done in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF).

Anubha Jain

Gisela Bushey

In Part 1, Anubha Jain, SVCF 's manager of corporate responsibility, and Gisela Bushey, director of SanDisk Foundation and Community Relations, talk about the company's grantmaking activities. In Part 2 below, they talk about how corporate volunteerism is a critical part of building a relationship with a company.

Anubha: Since stories really make this work come to life, can you share a story from SanDisk 's recent community engagement work that illustrates the kind of nonprofit partnerships you are seeking? Can you explain what makes it a good partnership, and what the organization did right in terms of making its case for support a compelling one?

Gisela: Our partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank (SHFB) has steadily grown over the years, from an occasional employee volunteer site to one of our five Signature Partners, for several reasons:

They helped us understand the realities of hunger in our community in educational and concrete ways. This level of informational engagement helped lay a solid foundation from which we were able to identify specific ways SanDisk and our employees could help SHFB provide their services and extend their reach.

SHFB has always worked to accommodate our volunteers. Whether an individual volunteering monthly or a team of 120, they have always made us feel welcome and appreciated.

SHFB has included SanDisk in their strategic planning, development of goals and objectives, and educational forums concerning local, regional national and global hunger. They have recognized the value-add of our company 's processes and our operational skills, and we have been able to work closely with them on supply chain and distribution efficiencies to better serve our communities.

They have engaged us as thought partners and community leaders, and make excellent use of our funding support. Second Harvest Food Bank and SanDisk 's working/volunteer relationship is an excellent example of the power of charitable/corporate partnership in making a meaningful difference in our communities.

SanDiskCares logo

Visit SanDisk's website to learn more about its grantmaking programs.

Anubha: Since a critical pathway to building a relationship with a company is through corporate volunteerism, can you talk a bit about that in terms of what kinds of activities you want your employees to engage in, what constitutes a good volunteering experience, and how an organization would contact your company if it would like a team deployed? And tell us about one or two examples of exemplary corporate volunteer experiences and what made them especially meaningful.

Gisela: Our employees are interested in volunteer opportunities that have tangible results, and where the volunteers leave feeling that they have made a difference and their efforts are valued and appreciated. Volunteer opportunities which are high-impact and make use of their personal and/or professional skills are a real “home run.”

For example, SanDisk is heavily engaged in supporting Habitat for Humanity (HfH). Our local chapter has a Playhouse Program, whereby volunteers construct, design, and decorate playhouses that can be donated to a charitable cause or a program of particular interest to the volunteers. In the case of our Worldwide Operations team, they elected to have their playhouses donated to Blue Star Moms (BSM), an organization that supports struggling families of active duty personnel deployed overseas.

HfH and BSM worked together to identify families who wished to be a recipient of such a project, and to obtain any specific themes the children provided for their playhouse design and decoration. Their advance planning helped the volunteers focus their efforts so they would have meaningful results.

HfH brought potential stencils for the volunteers to use or helped them find stencils that could be downloaded and projected on the playhouse walls. (These are engineers and artists, after all!) This flexibility helped the volunteers use their creative skills as well as their sense of personal whimsy.

When the volunteers were finished, HfH and BSM arranged for the families to come to campus with the children to receive their playhouses. The connection between our volunteers and the children and their parents was palpable. And, it was pretty fun to see our normally staid engineers and computer scientists crawling in and out of the playhouses showing the children all of the “amenities.”

Anubha: Thanks, Gisela, for an immensely useful overview and for reminding us of the importance of employee engagement. One can hardly overemphasize the benefits employee volunteerism can bring to a nonprofit. Some diligent effort on cultivating these relationships could even mean additional financial resources for nonprofits.

As a general best practice, when nonprofits work with individual volunteers, systematic tracking of volunteer hours and volunteer profiles could help translate these individual relationships into ties with the company where these individuals are employed. In fact, there is also a place in the SanDisk grant application to mention a SanDisk employee engaged with the nonprofit 's work (of course, with the permission of the employee).

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Visit SanDisk 's website to learn more about its grantmaking and employee engagement programs. See one of SanDisk's playhouses in the video clip below. Then explore our Corporate Giving and Voluntarism galleries for more info on these topics.

What's been your own org's experience with employee volunteers? At what stage of your relationship with the company did it happen? Share your stories in the Comments area below.

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