Why Companies who Emulate the Fairy Tale Nature of GKTW’s Work Environment will Improve their Employee Engagement Initiatives.

I recently spoke at The 2012 ACCP Annual Conference on Corporate Contributions In Orlando, Florida.  ACCP (Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals) is a nonprofit advocacy and continued education organization dedicated to helping corporations identify and adopt best practices in the field of corporate philanthropy. They provide professionals with education and training; develop and share benchmarking methods for analyzing elements of corporate philanthropic programs; and create relationship-building opportunities for contributions professionals by facilitating events like the ACCP Annual Conference.

During this year’s Conference, I had the privilege of speaking on “Employee Engagement” which is increasingly becoming a critical area of expertise in the CSR professional’s competencies (click here for a PDF copy of the presentation).  I also had the opportunity to interact with some of the country’s more progressive and innovative corporate contributions pros as they weighed in on the most pressing issues and opportunities facing their profession.  This is a field that has evolved dramatically in the past decade with more and more emphasis being placed on integrating traditional corporate contributions activities (workplace giving, grant making, employee volunteerism, etc.) with broader corporate social responsibility strategy.  While there was heady and thoughtful discussion about the future of corporate philanthropy and CSR, one of the conference highlights occurred when attendees toured the Give Kids the World (GKTW) Village in nearby Kissimmie, Florida.  GKTW is a long-time America’s Charities member charity that fulfills the wishes of critically ill children and teenagers who want to visit the attractions in the Orlando, Area (Disney World, Sea World, etc.). Another America’s Charities long time member, Make-A-Wish Foundation, is responsible for over 70% of all the wishes that GKTW fulfills. 

What better way to see the impact of employee workplace giving contributions as well as corporate sponsorships than to visit the Village, particularly on a Tuesday evening when GKTW holds it’s weekly pool party and night of fun for their visiting “wish” children and their families.  I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Village on several occasions over the years and each time am more amazed by the work that they do on behalf of critically ill children and their families.  GKTW President and former America’s Charities Board Director, Pam Landwirth, hosted ACCP and spoke eloquently about the critical importance of corporate giving on the success of GKTW.

Give Kids the World – Over 25 Years of Help for more than 115,000 Families.

Since 1986, GKTW has welcomed more than 115,000 families from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.  The organization’s sole purpose is to fulfill the wishes of children who have life threatening illnesses by treating those children and their families with weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations – complete with accommodations in whimsical villas, transportation, donated attractions tickets, meals, entertainment and other fun specifically designed for children with special needs.

GKTW is a truly exceptional non-profit organization and I was proud to be able to tell ACCP conference attendees that GKTW is an America’s Charities member. And in many ways GKTW and their sponsoring employers represent an excellent example of how employee engagement can effectively meet the needs of both employers and their employees.  GKTW depends upon employee volunteers from dozens of Orlando area companies including America’s Charities. Our own employee, Donna Chun, and her husband are regular volunteers helping GKTW maintain the excellence and quality they’ve become known for in their service to children and families.  That’s no easy task given that GKTW operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  They manage to fill more than 1,400 shifts solely with support from volunteers, many whom repeatedly volunteer at GKTW.  Donna has personally logged over 1,000 hours volunteering at GKTW.

So how does GKTW get employee volunteers so engaged and committed?  They’ve created a meaningful, emotional connection with their volunteers – one that makes them feel truly valued by connecting them directly and personally with children and their families.  In short, GKTW wouldn’t be able to serve the 7,000+ families that visit their village each year if it weren’t for the investment of human volunteer capital made possible by the types of employers and corporate contributions professionals represented by ACCP. 

Steve Delfin

Steve's BlogSteve has 30 years of experience working in and with major national and international not-for-profit organizations and socially-responsible international corporations, including a long history of engagement with and leadership around workplace giving and employee volunteerism programs.