People want to work for companies that care and promote a culture of positive impact. Any business in competition for top talent knows that employee giving and volunteering programs are essential to creating a great company culture.
On Thursday October 26, over 150 of Toronto’s most talented tech workers put away their laptops to reconnect with their local communities. Techies from a variety of companies – from established players to small start-ups and entrepreneurs – took part in a city-wide event called T.O. Tech Gives Back. The event encouraged tech companies to empower their employees to volunteer at local non-profits for a day. A day of doing good.
The goal of the event was to foster connections between Toronto’s tech and non-profit sectors. The co-founders of the initiative, Yiorgos Boudouris and Naresh de Silva, facilitated these connections by matching tech companies with nearby non-profits.
“We started T.O. Tech Gives Back because we recognize that tech companies and nonprofits alike have a lot of ongoing responsibilities, a lack of time and resources to plan such an activity,” says Boudouris. “So we wanted to make it easier for these organizations to set aside one day to engage with each other.”
“The idea behind the event was born from a desire to get the tech and non-profit sectors working closer together, to unlock opportunities for making our city even better,” says de Silva. “And what better way to spark ideas for collaboration than by spending a day at a non-profit, contributing to the incredible work been done by them.”
T.O. Tech Gives Back hopes to inspire long-term partnerships that encourage and support non-profits to introduce more technology into their day-to-day operations, thereby growing their impact and benefiting the whole city.
“As Toronto continues to bolster its credentials as a tech hub – from Sidewalk Labs partnering with Toronto to create a ‘smart’ neighbourhood, to Toronto’s growing reputation for AI innovation, we thought it timely and relevant to ensure these positive impacts are felt by all members of our community,” adds de Silva.
For the tech firms involved, the event was not just about giving back; it was also about encouraging teamwork and camaraderie. As Boudouris shares, “We know that workplace-endorsed volunteering opportunities help team members contribute to the overall success of the organization. Research has shown that corporate volunteer programs increase employee engagement, and in turn, increased employee loyalty and retention. So it’s a win-win all round.”
The event wrapped up with a panel event at Lighthouse Labs Toronto to discuss the different ways tech companies and non-profits can be partners in impactful corporate social responsibility projects. The speakers included Narinder Dhami from LEAP: The Centre for Social Impact, Cam Gordon from Twitter Canada, Dan Kershaw from Furniture Bank, Paul Nazareth from CanadaHelps, Julie Whish from Uberflip, with the panel moderated by journalist Stefan Palios.
One thing panelists and attendees alike agreed upon was that if Canada, and Toronto in particular, was currently ‘having a moment’, it’s because people aren’t waiting for others to solve the problems they see around them. On a day that showcased the readiness of both non-profits and technology companies to build connections in order to increase positive impact and outcomes for our communities, this was an especially relevant comment.
The initiative was run completely pro bono, with Boudouris and de Silva voluntarily undertaking all the planning, logistics and administration required to get tech volunteers to their non-profits of choice, while maintaining their day jobs (Talent Acquisition Specialist at Moneris and Digital Communications Manager at Right To Play respectively). They hope to grow T.O. Tech Gives Back across the GTA, add a larger event in Spring 2018 and continue to provide avenues for the city’s tech and non-profit talent to unlock big, positive changes for Toronto.
“At the end of the day, we think it’s important for companies big and small to come together for activities that include volunteering together,” say Boudouris. “When companies demonstrate a commitment to social good, the impact on their company culture and the wider community is positive.”