Building the Bridge to Finish
This is a guest post by Adam Harrell, an Emerging Leaders 365 donor who participated in the recent Connect for Good opportunity at Microsoft.
At Microsoft, especially during the official “Give Month” of October, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for volunteer events or opportunities to donate to an important cause. It is rare, however, that employees really take time to learn the context of where their dollars or time are being invested. Connect for Good was a unique volunteer experience in that before the participants gave their time or money, they learned from the experts on academic persistence and racial equity in the Washington higher education system and then took action on these learnings through fundraising and a culminating volunteer event.
Breaking down the structure of Connect for Good:
In three separate weekly sessions, a group of 28 Microsoft Emerging Leaders 365 unplugged from work midday to attend 1-hour seminars on the Bridge to Finish program. The content of these seminars was data driven and there were expressions of astonishment as the group learned the facts. Did you know that one in nine community college students report being homeless in the last year? How about that 42% of students report not knowing where their next meal will come from? With each statistic the group became more engaged and asked more questions. The United Way experts did a great job at tying these statistics to the purpose of Bridge to Finish, which helps community college students take advantage of the financial tools and coaching available so they can focus on completing their education.
The education component was coupled with a fundraising effort in which each participant created a fundraising page to raise money for United Way and Bridge to Finish. Leveraging the statistics learned in the seminars, each page was given a personal touch that displayed how the content they learned broadened their perspective. Knowing that 94 cents of every dollar would go directly to helping students, all the attendees reached out to their network to source donations, regardless of their experience fundraising. At the beginning of each session, the group shared their anxieties and learnings from fundraising and helped each other build this skill. By the end of the program, the group raised over $10,000 for United Way!
Connect for Good concluded with a culminating event at Bellevue College, where participants helped run a station for Benefits Hub, the formal United Way program to deliver financial assistance to nine community colleges in King County.
Connect for Good was much more than your traditional volunteer experience. Participants expanded their knowledge of how the poverty cycle relates to higher education in King County, improved their fundraising skills, and got to meet like-minded individuals that are passionate about service. United Way and the participants both gained from this program and the group finished hungry to do more for their community.
Sign up for the next Connect for Good opportunity to make a difference around the critical issue of homelessness in our community.
Learn more below:
The Emerging Leaders 365 Connect for Good program is an in-depth volunteer opportunity for young professionals to learn about the various programs and investments United Way is making in the greater Seattle area. The syllabus begins with a crash course on United Way’s mission and then goes deep in one specific area within this mission. This session focused on the intersection of poverty and higher education in Washington State and how United Way is partnering with AmeriCorps to increase college graduation rates with the Bridge to Finish Program. The program consisted of three weekly education sessions on Microsoft’s campus and a culminating event where volunteers ran a workshop at the Bellevue College Welcome Week kickoff event.