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Taking a break from tech to give back

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In our busy, ever-connected lives, it can be tough to remember to stop and look around us. That proves especially true when you work in the tech industry. Mutual Mobile realized this year that we didn’t only want to help our clients get value from the software we build, we also wanted to make an impact on the Austin community and beyond. What did it look like when our company made volunteering a priority?

How We Started

Connecting our community with our employees began over a year ago with the initiation of a company Culture Club. The original focus was to bring employees together through fun bonding activities, like parties and sporting events. As more and more participants joined, we saw there was also a strong interest in volunteering to build culture. This sparked us to form a community service committee within Culture Club that’d be responsible for planning and organizing volunteering events.

That team started out by doing a company-wide survey on what type of events people would be interested in. We asked questions like: Which kinds of local causes interest you the most? Do you currently volunteer with any local organizations? We found the most interest in volunteering in these areas:

  • Pets (e.g. Austin Pets Alive!, Humane Society)
  • Children and youth (e.g. Big Brothers/Big Sisters)
  • Environmental causes (e.g. Keep Austin Beautiful, Austin Park and Wildlife)
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This survey gave us a lot of insight into how to plan for a year of successful attendance for community service activities. We made it a goal to stagger at least one in-office and one external event each quarter, and varied the days they occurred to accommodate schedules. For communication, we used the project management tool Slack to remind people of events, recruit volunteers, and follow up afterwards with photos. We also realized it was a good way to empower everyone in the company to pitch volunteering ideas as they had them.

How We Helped

Looking back on what we have accomplished in a year shows how much putting these plans in action fostered the dedication and energy of our employees toward service. Here are some of the activities we were able to do:

  • Had a “Souper Bowl” for Caring Food Drive
  • Made Valentine’s Day cards for hospice
  • Had a “Boxers & Brunch” event, walking boxers with Austin Boxer Rescue
  • Raised $1380 together for Amplify Austin
  • Hosted a company-wide spring cleaning stuff swap and donated leftover materials to Salvation Army
  • Created an iconic Austin scene with cans for CANville
  • Worked with Uber for the Dress for Success: On-Demand Drive
  • Helped clean parks during National Public Lands Day
  • Helped build a community at Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Community First! Village
  • Had developers teach schools how to code with Hour of Code
  • Helped with food service at ARCH
  • Helped box up gifts for Operation Blue Santa
  • Raised $3135 together for Operation Blue Santa
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Phew! That’s a lot, and we’re planning on doing even more in 2016.

What We’ve Learned

We’ve found starting something like this at your company takes a committee dedicated to handling the coordination basics. We learned it helps when you have a team that communicates with your employees to keep them interested in charitable initiatives. (Hint: tacos are the ultimate motivator for any event). It’s amazing when you encourage people to bond with coworkers from teams they don’t work with regularly. It lets them stretch their skills and come up with creative solutions–getting out of it what they put in. With this 2015 volunteering initiative, our employees have said things like:

“Not only have I had the opportunity to interact with my community, but I’ve also had the chance to meet new people with like-minded goals. I’ve learned new skills, made new friends, and experienced Austin’s warmth.” -Cassie Shankman, Marketing Coordinator

“With Mutual Mobile’s Culture Club working to provide regular opportunities, I’m happy to report that volunteering is in my life again. Beyond the philanthropic benefits of sharing our time, talent and treasure to better the community, volunteering also helps me professionally.” – Julie Lowe, UX Lead

“Volunteering with MM this past year has had a meaningful, positive impact on my personal life. It is hard to find time to take a moment and give back to the community; but working at a company that not only allows me the opportunity to serve but encourages it, is something really special that not a lot of people can say they have.” – Michael Murad, Associate Engineer, DevOps

“Watching my generous co-workers come together to brighten the holidays for hundreds of kids in our community has brought us all great joy. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together next year!” – Everett Lee, Project Manager

Overall, we’ve found community service is something completely valuable to dedicate the time and energy to as a company, and that it’s feasible when you make it easy for your people to give back. It’s a break that’s completely worth it.

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