Team & News

Team Spotlight: Team CSR, Giving Back Around the Holidays

6 min read

The holiday season tends to bring out the best in people. This past year, Usabilla formed a new group for the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee, in an effort to bridge the gap between business and community by giving back to people in need around us. 

What is CSR exactly? While there’s no clear definition, it can be understood as an organization’s efforts to benefit both business and society through charitable initiatives.

Although Usabilla had been engaging in community service since 2017, it was important to create a formal committee to grow the scope and size of our efforts. Seven Usabillians from all over the world volunteered to join the committee. They came together last fall to plan the first initiative, a Holiday Giving Tree Project.

Why CSR?

Teun Zengerink, Product Owner and CSR Committee member offered,

For companies, it’s important to give back to the community. We all come here to work every day and that tends to make it all seem normal and basic. But still, a part of our society simply doesn’t have the same opportunity to get a good job and part of the community we live in falls behind. If a corporation can take on initiatives that help those in their community, then a larger part of society benefits from that company’s existence.

Domna Dali, Business Development Representative Americas, and CSR Committee member posed,

Other than my own personal desire to give back, CSR is really important for a company. If you’re going to take, then you have to give. It’s not about standing out, it’s about being more than just a business. Usabilla’s mission is to help companies in digital transformation, and we wanted to carry that emphasis on helping others to the larger community. 

While CSR gives back to those in need, there are also internal benefits for the organization. Hannah Trone, Recruiter and CSR Committee member said,

It’s a really rewarding process, and I get to bond with colleagues I otherwise don’t always work with. It’s fun to work on a goal together, and the giving initiatives bring a good feeling to the entire organization.

Holiday Giving Project: Big Brothers Big Sisters Amsterdam & Welcome Home Jersey City

In honor of the Holiday season, the committee chose to provide Holiday gifts for two local organizations. In Amsterdam, they found a list of children in need from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Amsterdam organization (BBBS).

Big Brothers Big Sisters works from the idea that every child has the opportunity to develop and to achieve success in his or her life.  According to BBBS, 1 in 5 children in Amsterdam lives in poverty. BBBS matches adult volunteers, the “Big,” with underprivileged children, to meet once a week, undertaking activities together focused on broadening horizons, developing talent and teaching social skills. The “Big” becomes a friend and role model who can provide the child with special, individual attention.

With over 100 matches in Amsterdam alone, BBBS Amsterdam needed help providing Holiday gifts for the children.

The mentoring relationship between Mentor and Mentee sustains several years and sometimes even a lifetime.

Inez Maessen, Match Coordinator at BBBS Amsterdam

Meanwhile, in New York, Domna Dali researched local organizations in need of support. She came across Welcome Home Jersey City, an all-volunteer organization devoted to helping newly-arrived refugees, refugee families and asylees to begin their lives in the greater Jersey City area. Welcome Home sponsors the Jersey City Fun Club three Thursdays a month, which allows for a ride, dinner, and homework help for refugee students, as well as English-as-a-Second-Language help for refugees and asylees. The aim of Welcome Home is also to aid newly resettled refugees and asylees with accommodation, schooling applications, job opportunities and other support necessary to establish a life in Jersey City.

Both organizations had a database of children in need of gifts, with information like their name, age, and personal gift “wish-list”.

The CSR Committee placed the information inside of ornaments hanging on our holiday trees, called Giving Trees, in both Amsterdam and New York. They asked colleagues to choose an ornament (which all contained the child’s name, age, and “wish-list”) from the tree and to purchase the child a gift. 

I saw one of our colleagues in Amsterdam pick a name on the first day. The next day, I saw her pick another name, and then she went again to pick a third. It was very fulfilling to see that people were so enthusiastic.

Chadhlia Mazouz, Business Development Representative France, CSR Committee Member

Feedback about the Holiday Giving Initiative from non-committee members was exuberant. Everyone enjoyed buying the gifts for the children, whether it was a doll from Frozen, a soccer ball, or a book on Astronomy.

In Amsterdam, Usabilla collectively provided 100 gifts for the children in BBBS Amsterdam. In New York, they gave over 30 gifts to refugee children in need. It was extremely rewarding for everyone, bringing the team together in a shared mission.

We are thrilled that Usabilla took the time and effort to donate over 30 new toys to the children of Fun Club. Welcome Home looks forward to having a continued partnership with Usabilla. In the current climate of suffering people and the diminishing amount of allowed refugees in the US, companies like Usabilla are lauded for the concern and effort made to ease the lives of those who have already expended vast energy to come to a safe place.

Betsey Barnum, Volunteer at Welcome Home New York

Advice for Companies Starting CSR Initiatives

As CSR grows in popularity, larger organizations are hiring dedicated teams whose responsibility it is to manage CSR programs. I asked the CSR Committee what it was like launching a CSR initiative with volunteers at a smaller company. Teun said,

There is no being too small or too big when it comes to a good initiative. To a certain extent, I think all of us are focusing on our own jobs: we have people selling Usabilla, building the Usabilla platform, or running the office, but despite these different occupations, we all come together in the CSR committee to give back to the community.

What made it possible to get so many colleagues from different countries interested in the Giving Tree initiative? One factor: Support from executives.

Our management team’s strategy pushes for a culture where employees can take their own initiatives and they supported what we wanted to do. Even small companies can do that, you don’t need dedicated CSR personnel, just a few hours a month generating ideas and getting things done! commented Teun.

CSR initiatives create an opportunity for employees to step outside their usual roles, take on a leadership position, and cross-collaborate with their colleagues in other departments. Hannah Trone affirmed,

As for me personally, this was the first time I was involved in a project outside of my role in recruiting. It’s so rewarding when you see people’s passions come out when giving back to the community.

CSR remains active throughout the entire year, and as we speak they are making their plans for a Spring Initiative. Rumor has it, a bingo night with our senior neighbors might be in store!

There is no being too small or too big when it comes to a good initiative.

Teun Zengerink

Thank you to our CSR Committee:

Hannah Trone, Recruiter, Amsterdam office
Domna Dali, BDR New York office
Fabian Porst, BDM Berlin office
Sophie Corlay, Marketing, Amsterdam office
Teun Zengerink, Product Owner, Amsterdam office
Chadhlia Mazouz, Customer Succes, French market, Amsterdam office

If you’re interested in getting involved with BBBS of Amsterdam or Welcome Home Jersey City, click on the links to learn more.

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