My Volunteering Journey: As an Individual, an Employee, and an Entrepreneur (18th May 2017)
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Patrice Fanning founded TWi (Technically Write IT) in 2011, having recognised an opportunity for an Irish-based company to offer fully managed high-quality writing, editing, and documentation solutions to leading hi-tech multinationals. She tells the story of how volunteering has always been an integral part of her life and how it’s been incorporated into the ethos of her company.
Growing up, volunteering was very much part of family life. My Dad was heavily involved with St. Vincent de Paul, while my mother and her friends ran a Gorta charity shop, and both of my parents were habitually involved with other charity events and activities – anything from flag days to coffee mornings.
Encouraged to support causes I believed in, I participated in numerous initiatives throughout school and college: running a student chapter of Amnesty International, being a volunteer leader in summer camps for low-income families, carol singing at Christmas, participating in sponsored fasts, walks, runs, you name it.
After graduating, I began working with the software company SAP, and got involved in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme. During my five-year stint there, I volunteered with Junior Achievement Ireland, teaching local school children basic principles of business and the working world. I also took part in Ability West’s ‘befriending’ programme and was paired with an amazing girl with Down Syndrome who I met weekly for social activities like cinema, concerts, or shopping.
I started my entrepreneurial journey in 2011, when I set up TWi to provide technical communication services to multinationals. Luckily, incredible support was available through the Rubicon Centre, CIT’s business incubation centre, as well as local business networks such as it@cork and Cork Chamber. I’m incredibly grateful to the individuals who volunteered their time and skills to help me get started.
Initially, TWi had no formal CSR programme. We began with ad hoc donations or sponsorships, sporadic voluntary engagement in local activities, and a commitment to give a portion of our annual profits to charity.
In 2015, we set up an internal Charity and Community Involvement (CCI) group to develop a more structured CSR strategy. In 2016, we focused our support on Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland (AADI) and Cork Simon. This year, we continue to support Cork Simon, along with a new charity partner, Pieta House.
TWi employees have been integral to developing the company’s CSR strategy, volunteering their personal free time to partake in activities including maintenance days at Cork Simon residential properties, coffee mornings, flag days, supermarket bag packing, Cork Simon’s Christmas Jumper day, and the Pieta House’s Darkness into Light event. They’ve also engaged in ‘skill-based volunteering’, offering their core professional skills (writing, editing, and proofreading) to improve the quality of reports, funding applications, and software user instructions for our charity partners.
By integrating volunteering and CSR activities into our company’s culture, our collective contribution has far exceeded what any individual could have achieved independently. From a team-building perspective, we’ve gotten back as much or more than we’ve given.
Our CSR programme encourages volunteering and makes it more convenient. With all the competing demands on our time, it can be valuable to highlight and facilitate tangible volunteering opportunities for staff, along with any willing friends or family.
In my experience, volunteering can be immensely rewarding and have far-reaching and positive effects, regardless of our circumstances and whether we’re on the giving or receiving side.
*This is an abridged version of a longer blog by Patrice which can be found here.