Interview with Kathy Gu
Program Manager, Living Progress, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & Manager, Corporate Responsibility, Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
After reading Kathy Gu’s review of Benevity’s 2016 Goodness Matters User Conference on the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) website, we thought it would be a good time to pick her brain for insights that are sure to be interesting to anyone running corporate giving programs. We got a chance to catch up with Kathy recently about workplace giving, employee engagement and the corporate responsibility field in general. Her replies paint a picture of the evolving world of the CR professional, and how both Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and SVCF are engaging people, connecting with communities and creating meaningful charitable impact.
1. Let’s start with a little background. What does your employee program, HPE Gives, look like now vs. three years ago? How has it evolved?
Quite a lot has changed in just the past year. Hewlett Packard Enterprise itself only came into existence in November 2015, following the HP separation. While this massive corporate event created uncertainty and challenges (especially since the timing overlapped with HPE moving to Benevity), it also presented a fresh start in many ways. The program got a new name, became available to all HPE employees globally (previously only available in the US) and incorporated volunteer time matching. And of course, a sleek new interface thanks to Benevity! The excitement and energy around HPE as a new company benefited HPE Gives, and as we approach HPE’s first anniversary, we are developing more programming to engage employees in giving (in a holistic sense of the word) all year round. Because HPE is such a large company with employees scattered throughout the world, the ultimate goal for HPE Gives is to drive local impact at a global scale.
HPE Bay Area employees raised over $40,000 for the National Kidney Foundation and participated in the Silicon Valley Kidney Walk
2. What appealed to you about Benevity over other software providers?
According to my colleague Lisa Conover, “Benevity stood out from other software providers in their product features, and their easy-to-use platform that has a clean look and feel. They are a company that truly believes in a mission of social good and purpose and are trying to stay on the forefront of the capabilities in global workplace giving.”
3. Why is it important to connect with your peers who are also running corporate responsibility programs at a conference like Goodness Matters?
Connecting with peers is absolutely critical. Corporate responsibility continues to evolve and become more complex; there isn’t a book written on corporate responsibility that has all the answers. This is both what makes the field so interesting and what makes it challenging. The best source of information and practices are current practitioners. While every company and program is different, my peers’ stories and experiences are still valuable in offering lessons and inspiring new ideas. Corporate responsibility is unique because while our companies may be competitors in business, CR professionals inherently have a unifying collective goal: to make the world a better place. I think this—the limited outside information and the mutual dependency of our success—is why most CR professionals are very open to sharing information and brainstorming together.
4. Raising awareness for your giving program is important in driving participation. How are you communicating HPE Gives and the program’s initiatives to employees?
Communications is a vital piece of the programming for HPE Gives and one that we continuously look to improve. Because all-employee emails are tightly capped at the company—and one can argue emails are not so effective in our age of email overload anyway—we have had to look for other creative ways to get the word out. Currently, our HPE Gives Champions around the world act as our megaphone at their local sites. We have also been speaking at various business unit or division meetings, which is great visibility and demonstrates the support of the leaders of those teams for the program. We utilize our internal Yammer to share announcements, success stories and even to host several “live chats.”
One area that is sometimes overlooked but really important is customer service. Taking a page from Danny Meyer and his book Setting the Table, when I respond to employee inquiries, I aim to create a “rave”—because this one employee who has a question or issue with HPE Gives is not just one employee. This employee has coworkers, supervisors, direct reports and friends at other companies. So it is really important that he or she feels listened to and respected, and walks away with a positive experience. Every employee we touch has the potential to be our next advocate.
HPE employees were all smiles while volunteering at a schoolyard renovation in Bucharest, Romania
In the next several months, we are looking to push out a new phase of HPE Gives, and for that we will be collaborating closely with HR and the corporate marketing teams.
5. What’s something everyone running a corporate responsibility program should be thinking about to get their people engaged this year?
There are serious and urgent issues facing the world: the largest refugee crisis we have ever seen, climate change at an alarming rate and staggering global inequality. Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations has put forward 17 ambitious goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The success of the SDGs requires a joint effort from government, corporations and individuals. This is a powerful framework for corporate responsibility professionals to keep in mind as they develop their programming. My colleague Patricia Nevers at SVCF has shared some great thoughts on where to start. The SDGs also present an opportunity for corporate programs to connect to and communicate about something much larger.
HPE employees and family fundraised and participated in the CN Tower Climb in support of World Wildlife Fund
6. If you had unlimited resources, what would you do with your workplace giving program?
Budget is a common constraint, even at large companies. One of the most common requests we receive is for HPE company volunteer T-shirts. T-shirts are expensive and even more expensive to ship to hundreds of different sites. However, there is no denying the powerful visual appeal of seeing HPE volunteers all in HPE T-shirts and what they do for team-building. With unlimited resources, we could also build out a more robust rewards and recognition program. I would also increase our volunteer time matching as I believe community involvement can be very rewarding both for a nonprofit and the individual volunteering. Finally, SVCF has a best-in-class corporate responsibility team—I would fully leverage their Customized Philanthropy Services and expertise!
Kathy consults on a portfolio of SVCF’s corporate clients, with a focus on Hewlett Packard Enterprise, through an onsite program manager role. Kathy supports the initiatives of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation.