When it comes to giving back, time can be much more rewarding than money
Kathleen Reid, founder and chief communications officer at Switchboard Public Relations, demonstrates how companies can help others.
In-kind giving is one of the most important aspects of Giving Tuesday (which this year falls on November 29), as well as philanthropy in general. Each year, around 40 percent of Canadians devote an average of 131 hours of their time to supporting charitable causes. That adds up to more than 1.6 billion hours, or about as long as it would take for me to hike from my Vancouver office to my colleague Alex’s in Ottawa 1.8 million times. That’s a LOT of bug spray!
Here at Switchboard, we’ve been contributing to that 10-figure total every year since 2016, when we started doing pro bono work through our Switchboard Cares program. We began by overhauling the communications strategy of Educating Girls of Rural China (EGRC), a registered charity that sponsors students through their high-school and postsecondary education. After only a few months, the Vancouver-based organization achieved a 167-percent increase in Instagram followers, a 70.1-percent jump in Facebook post engagement, and a 26.6-percent uptick in digital newsletter engagement.
Seven years later, it fills me with pride to learn that EGRC has sponsored over 1,500 girls and young women, with 99 percent graduating high school and many going on to careers in fields spanning science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). At the same time, every one of these graduates is helping to lift their families and communities out of poverty.
As our focus on B.C.’s tech sector has intensified, so too has Switchboard Cares’ engagement with organizations that support up-and-coming innovators in the province. On Wednesday, November 23, for instance, we’re donating services worth $15,000 to the 2022 Boast Pitch Competition, which is inviting companies in all industries to pitch their innovations for a chance to win prizes valued at more than $250,000.
Over the last four years, our team has poured 700-plus in-kind hours into other community events. These include the New Ventures BC Competition, which gives away $250,000 in prize packages to its top three finalists, plus sector-specific industry prizes; Vancouver Startup Week, which connects entrepreneurs, investors, community leaders, and friends to build momentum and opportunity around the tech community’s unique entrepreneurial identity; and the Technology Impact Awards (TIAs), which celebrate organizations that are transforming the province’s tech industry.
This year’s TIAs ultimately inspired us to work with Boast on the Pitch Competition. It was a real thrill to spread the word about the BC Tech Association’s first-ever Dragons’ Den Pitch Night at Microsoft’s offices in downtown Vancouver. The unique September 15 event saw the 10 B.C. companies competing in the “Company of the Year - Startup” category at the TIAs, and pitch their innovations to a panel of judges. Four emerged as finalists for the award. The dramatic event proved so popular that Carbin Minerals, Daanaa, MintList, and VodaSafe all repeated their pitches at the sold-out TIAs Gala. Eat your heart out, Arlene Dickinson!
We’ve also been helping the non-profit Employ to Empower (ETE) to support self-advocacy and empowerment through entrepreneurship among residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. A powerful blog post on ETE’s business skill education program, for instance, explores how mentorship is helping a budding entrepreneur turn her business vision into reality, one step at a time.
Then there’s the Vancouver-based Global Alliance to End Parkinson’s Disease, which engaged us to support the unveiling of “The Spark”: a new international symbol for Parkinson’s awareness. Inspired by dopamine, the electro-chemical neurotransmitter that people with Parkinson’s are striving to retain, The Spark is energizing a global movement to foster urgency, unity, and hope to end a disease that still has no cure.
Since we’re always on the lookout for new tech community events and organizations to support, I encourage organizers in the Vancouver area to reach out to my team at email@example.com. While we can’t always offer pro bono or in-kind services, which range from strategic communications and content creation to social media marketing and conference planning, I’m proud of what we’ve given back to a community that has given me and my team so much. I firmly believe that it never hurts to ask, so ask away!
Kathleen Reid is founder and chief communications officer at Switchboard Public Relations.