IBM volunteer in Mexico goes behind-the-scenes to help charity

Story of service • Mexico • October 2013

David Gallardo
Service-delivery volunteers are vitally important, but David Gallardo learned that in addition to being an active donor, he could be equally impactful by using his business skills to improve the core processes of a not-for-profit organization in Mexico City.

Donors and volunteers are equally important to charitable organizations—both money and time are precious resources. In the case of David Gallardo, an IBM executive for systems and technology in Mexico and a donor to several organizations, he decided he was ready to apply his business experience and give his time to directly help a charity, in addition to writing a check.

“After doing some community work on the 100th anniversary of IBM, I wanted to become more involved,” says David. “I heard about Ednica from my niece and was impressed with the organization’s actual impact on the lives of the people.” Ednica—standing for "EDucacion para NIños en situación de CAlle”—is a private assistance institution founded in 1989 to help children, adolescents and youth in street situations in Mexico City. David was excited to help an organization that he says has “taken children and teens living on the street and helped some of them become university graduates.”

Not-for-profits need business processes too

The typical image of a volunteer is someone who mentors students, plants trees, serves meals or builds homes—someone directly involved in delivering services to an organization’s clients. Undeniably, these are vital and necessary roles. In the long term, though, in order for not-for-profit organizations to achieve their missions they must operate as institutions with processes and infrastructure that support accountability and transparency. Often charities can fail because they don't have administrative capacities. It is especially valuable when a volunteer is willing to work behind-the-scenes as David was. He met with staff members at Ednica and together they determined that his professional skills could help the organization close several critical process gaps.

“The team at Ednica recognized that their ability to document and share the results of their work could be better,” says David. “If they could improve in that area we could do a better job of growing the size of their donor pool and the size of the average gift.” David accessed IBM’s online On Demand Community and selected two Activity Kits from its library of resources: “Basics of Marketing” and “Measuring Success with Outcomes.”  Over the course of five weeks, David led Ednica’s donor relations and communications teams in a series of workshops using the IBM Activity Kits as guides.

“They now have a new corporate presentation they use with corporate donors, and marketing activities they do to increase the funding,” says David. “We’ve been able to improve communication with the stakeholders, impacting fundraising, identifying new donors and positioning the organization on the web and social media with a professional profile.” In addition, Ednica’s updated marketing plan and outcomes measurement will help them give input to a third-party organization that provides ratings and analyses about charities to the public and prospective donors.

A different perspective

While passion to serve a societal need—such as caring for children living on the street—will often drive the start of a charitable organization, it is business acumen that will help to sustain and grow the organization. In that way, business professionals can be enormously helpful to not-for-profits.

David acknowledges, though, that the for-profit world can also learn lessons from the social sector. “I think it's important that business professionals volunteer,” he says. “It gives us a different perspective on society, different than what we get dealing with corporations, but a perspective that helps us appreciate everyone’s contribution at home, in communities, and at work.”

David adds, "We all have something we can do for others that is not a big sacrifice for us. I’ve learned we can do more than just give a coin to the people who are on the street.”

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