Corporate Responsibility

Committing to Volunteerism in All Its Forms

By: Joan Christel, head of Corporate Citizenship and Global Inclusion at State Street

April 2021

Our values and behavior create a culture that has a profound impact on our business and the communities where we live and work.

This ethos was more important than ever in 2020, and I’m proud that our employees around the world maintained a steadfast commitment to their local communities. As the impact of the global pandemic began to take hold in the early part of 2020, we saw dramatic shifts in how employees were able to give back.  

For most of us, volunteering pre-COVID-19 could happen anywhere an organization needed a helping hand. But as the need for support grew during the pandemic, many organizations made the difficult decision to shut down their volunteer opportunities. While where and how we volunteer has changed, the need is stronger than ever.

Prior to the pandemic, an estimated 80 percent of volunteers participated through in-person activities according to research from Fidelity Charitable. As the virus spread, those numbers dramatically shifted. Of those who continued volunteering during the pandemic, 65 percent engaged in mostly virtual activities.

Despite the shift in how people gave back to their communities, the desire to make a difference didn’t stop.

Reimagining Employee Volunteer Programs

At State Street, we’ve seen the power of remote volunteering firsthand. We’ve learned that we can do a lot more virtually than we ever thought possible, and our employees have been really creative in finding new opportunities to help those in need.

Before COVID-19, we had already been identifying new ways to engage employees and find opportunities to better use their talents. We piloted a skills-based volunteer program where employees volunteered their professional expertise to directly support nonprofit organizations. The pilot program was a great success and has expanded in 2021.

In June 2020, we held our first-ever Global Virtual Volunteer Week. In total, 2,600 employee volunteers took on projects that included a hack-a-thon style skills-based volunteer event, career panels for students, virtual materials drives for nonprofits and mentoring students in a remote study environment. We’re proud to continue this new tradition and will be hosting our next Global Virtual Volunteer Week this June.

Through the work of our Corporate Citizenship team, we channel support through location-based Community Support Program (CSP) committees comprised of employee volunteers who advise on local grant funding decisions and lead employee volunteer efforts in their communities. In 2020, our CSPs in more than 30 offices around the globe made approximately $6 million in grants worldwide.

Building on our skills-based efforts, we’re further developing an employee volunteer program with offerings that resonate across our employee base. One component involves encouraging employees to join the boards of nonprofit organizations with missions that inspire them. Like any business, nonprofits need effective and creative leaders to help them get through this difficult period and deliver on their missions.

Our Employees Led the Way in 2020

As we reflect on the past year, one thing is clear: our people continue to make a huge difference in their communities. Our recent Volunteer of the Year Awards highlight the work of just three of our thousands of committed employee volunteers.

In Scotland, Zahid Hamid volunteered for nearly 100 hours in 2020 — supporting refugee families, food banks and many more organizations through a time of crisis. Zahid even ran a food bank from his garage when a local charity lost the space it was operating in due to COVID-19 closures.

In the Boston area, David Cote founded and now leads his own nonprofit, The Summit Project, a nationally recognized community service organization focused on military families. The Summit Project ensures that fallen soldiers are not forgotten by leading tribute hikes and creating conversations around legacy and remembrance.

In Bangalore, India, Sara-Jayne Wild helped publish a children’s book, the proceeds of which were donated to Headstreams, a State Street Foundation partner that focuses on food security, child safety and strengthening livelihoods.

Around the world, we’re working to bring resources where they’re needed most. We doubled the number of paid volunteer days from two to four, expanding the opportunities for employees to share their time and talent with State Street’s support. We continued our dollar-for-dollar match for employee donations and fundraising efforts for nonprofit organizations, and expanded to a 2:1 match for select organizations addressing the COVID-19 crisis and racial justice issues. And for every 16 hours an employee volunteers at a single organization, they can generate a $500 grant from State Street Foundation.

Looking Beyond the Pandemic

We are also proud to have launched programs that will continue to have an impact beyond the pandemic. In Massachusetts, we partnered with other businesses and community leaders to launch Small Business Strongan initiative to help small and medium-sized firms trying to survive and rebuild from the crushing impact of the pandemic. Volunteers from State Street and other local companies provide free resources and advice to small businesses, many of which are women-, minority- and veteran-owned, helping them with issues ranging from obtaining loans and grants to managing operational, legal and marketing matters. In 2020, the program provided assistance in eight languages to more than 1,226 small businesses.

As we look ahead, volunteerism will likely become a hybrid of in-person and remote activities. While 73 percent of those surveyed by Fidelity Charitable say they would return to in-person volunteering when it’s safe, there are others who found value and a better fit in remote volunteering. They might volunteer at a crisis hotline, tutor remotely, act as an interpreter or translator, or lend their legal, marketing or accounting skills.

The COVID-19 crisis is far from over for many businesses, people and communities. As we reimagine how our organization can continue to make a difference through volunteerism, we continue to support our employees in discovering their best fit.

Finding the way forward will look different but we encourage everyone to stay engaged and support nonprofit organizations in need. As a community, there is so much we can do — on the ground and from our desks.