Helping communities with skill-based volunteering

A growing number of businesses in New Zealand are making a conscious effort to encourage and facilitate their employees’ volunteer activities in their own communities. At Microsoft New Zealand, some employees have chosen to use their three days of paid volunteer leave available to them each year to share their significant professional and technical skills with community organisations.

Plunket is the largest provider of free support services for the development, health and well-being of children under the age of five in New Zealand. The non-profit organization has been undertaking a technology transformation over the past 18 months, which Microsoft has been supporting with a significant software grant. Microsoft New Zealand employees, as enthusiastic supporters of the work Plunket does in the community, were eager to devote time and resources to work together with Plunket to ensure that they were able to maximize the value of the investment they received.

“Expertise in skill areas that Plunket does not currently possess, but Microsoft has in spades, is highly valued,” said Craig Le Quesne, General Manager, Information Communications Technology, Royal New Zealand Plunket Society. “A key deliverable for me was the development of an Information Systems Strategic Plan (ISSP) for Plunket. Volunteers from Microsoft New Zealand have provided guidance both to me and indirectly to our senior management team about the most appropriate way to approach this work, while recognizing where Plunket is on its technology journey.”

The collaboration with Microsoft had enabled Le Quesne’s team to attain a better understanding of the business outcomes that Plunket ultimately aims to achieve, resulting in a more active exchange of business ideas and planning between the different organizational units at Plunket. “Microsoft’s involvement has helped to fast-track Plunket’s maturity in this area, with the realization that technology can support good ideas, not necessarily drive them,” Le Quesne added.

“The Microsoft volunteers have been able to mentor and strengthen the skills within Plunket, and we have set a challenging program of work that builds on the contributions made by the volunteers. They have played a key role in helping us develop a technology vision that will help achieve the best start for every child,” said Jenny Prince, Chief Executive, Royal New Zealand Plunket Society.

For me, this project brings to mine the Maori proverb, Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi – ‘with your food basket and my food basket, the people will thrive’. It is a testament to what can be achieved through cross-sector, cross-discipline collaboration and the goodwill of volunteers who bring their time (and where possible their expertise) to help community organisations achieve even better results from their work.

Article by Belinda Gorman, Citizenship & Community Affairs, Microsoft New Zealand Limited

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