Empowered to engage: SanDisk hits high marks for volunteerism

Editor's note: SanDisk Corporation is a client of SVCF. This feature first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of SVCF magazine.  

VolunteerFor employees at SanDisk Corporation, volunteering is not an extracurricular activity to be squeezed in on their own time. It is an integral part of their work life, something the company not only encourages, but also fully supports. As a result, 92 percent of workers participate in volunteer activities. 

This high level of volunteerism didn’t happen by chance. In 2013, SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra announced a corporate goal of 100 percent employee volunteer participation. At the time, the rate was 14 percent.

“I think one of the reasons [the initiative] was so successful was because it was such an audacious goal,” says Gisela Bushey, director of the SanDisk Foundation and of Community Relations. “It was going to require everybody’s participation and consideration to pull this off. And it was truly a sight to see to watch this become a reality.”

Below are a few ways the company boosted engagement:

1. Lead by example

Leadership didn’t just embrace the concept in the abstract; they also served as role models. “All of our executive leaders participate,” says Kelly Petrich, a former community relations manager at SanDisk. “They roll up their sleeves and they volunteer, and they do it alongside employees.”

2. Offer a support structure

SanDisk established the infrastructure to support the volunteer efforts of its large international workforce, including a matching program that donates $45 to charities for each volunteer hour. This benefit quickly adds up. In one project for a community services organization, a large group of employees spent four hours landscaping, painting and sorting food and clothing — and raised $60,000 in matching funds in the process. 

3. Focus on the purpose

Although volunteering yields teambuilding and economic benefits, the program focuses first and foremost on community impact wherever SanDisk is located, says Bushey. “We’re trying to weave this tapestry that wraps itself around the world and creates a different kind of community,” she explains, “one that really says we may hold different opinions, we may focus on different things … but when it comes to meeting the needs of our neighbors in need who depend on us, these are opportunities for us to stand together as one.”