by Peter Stein

Many Ways to Giveback

When I was 17 years old, I was faced with a decision that I was probably too young to make. I did not realize it at the time, and I certainly never would have admitted it, but I did not truly understand the impact of my decisions about how and where and when to gain a college education. Now, this is not an article about higher education, and surely many people had different experiences than I when choosing if and when to get a college degree, but I do find that the decisions I made during this time in my life shaped how I think about giveback.

Fast forward a few years, as I’m getting ready to graduate, and I had spent a lot of time volunteering with various organizations through programs at my university. I knew volunteering and being a part of charitable work was extremely important to me. I think this is something that to a lot of IBMers can empathize with. However, when I was starting to think about life after college, I was shadowed by the decision that my 17 year old self had made. I was about to graduate with 5 figures of debt. I felt a lot of pressure to pay down that debt as quickly as possible, and I didn’t know how to reconcile that with my feelings about the importance of giving back. I knew volunteering would always be an option, but frankly, I didn’t know how to make significant contributions to nonprofit organizations without dedicating my career (or at least most of my free time) to one.

One organization I had been particularly close with throughout my college career was the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, wherein you are matched with a “Little Brother” or “Little Sister” in a mentoring relationship. I very distinctly remember me expressing my concerns regarding career choices to one of the leads of the Boston area Big Brothers Big Sisters program. This was a man who had dedicated his professional life to helping the organization flourish, so the response I got from him surprised me: Peter, there are two very important assets every not-for-profit organization needs to succeed: its volunteers and its donors. Without both of these integral assets, no nonprofit can truly meet its mission.

That statement has stuck with me for a very long time because it fundamentally changed my perspective. On the face, it’s obvious, but I think people often forget that there are many ways to giveback that don’t necessarily involve on-the-ground volunteering or even significant investments of time. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do still believe that volunteering is tremendously important, and even fun, to take part in, but I also understand that the life of a consultant isn’t always conducive to regular volunteering opportunities. We all work long hours and (usually) travel quite a bit.

We all got into this business for different reasons, but I can tell you this with certainty: I never envisioned what I’m doing now when I was in college. I didn’t even know the industry of SAP consulting existed! I am amazed at the opportunities I am afforded in my role, however, and I’m grateful to have a job that challenges me every day. While it is tough to spend as much time volunteering as I used to, I still think about that comment from my mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters a lot, and I am grateful to work at a company like IBM that appreciates the importance of donations and has many programs to benefit great nonprofit organizations.

As we enter the final month of a tumultuous year (to say the least!), I’d encourage you all to take a look at IBM’s resources for giveback. Check out the 2020 Employee Charitable Contribution Campaign for an opportunity to take part in IBM’s annual employee giving program. The IBM Volunteering and Giving Portal is another helpful tool employees can use to track their volunteering efforts as well as easily search for organizations that are eligible to receive matching gifts from IBM. This year more than ever, there have been significant constraints on all of our time, but please don’t forget that there are many ways to make a difference!

Reflecting at the intersection of corporate responsibility, sustainability and technology

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