As a long-standing charity partner, COPE Galway was invited to participate in a pilot of the Medtronic Foundation Spotlight Volunteer Programme, an initiative that encouraged Medtronic employees to get involved in volunteering opportunities in their community.
Beginning December 2020, Spotlight developed through 2021 into a hugely successful collaboration for both organisations, with 590 Medtronic employees giving their time to a range of different projects.Three members of Medtronic’s Philanthropy Team, Síle MacMahon, Pauline Joyce and Patrick Curran, sat down with Lucia Canavan, Volunteer Coordinator and Sharon Fitzpatrick, COPE Galway’s Head of Development to talk about the project.
“The natural synergy between Medtronic’s mission to be responsible community citizens and COPE Galway’s services helped to build a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship between our organisations,” said Síle. “Spotlight gave us the opportunity to support our community, expand the scope of our volunteering and deepen our relationship with COPE Galway.”
Christmas giving during a challenging season
Spotlight was originally intended to be an in-person volunteering programme, with the Christmas hampers the first in a series of ventures. But like many projects in 2020, the programme needed to adapt as both organisations navigated the hurdles of the pandemic. While the Christmas hamper project came with some logistical challenges, the Philanthropy Committee was blown away by the huge desire from Medtronic staff to help in any way they could. As Pauline described, “We all felt vulnerable during the pandemic, and there was a heightened desire to do whatever it took to complete the project.
The Philanthropy Committee introduced a time slot booking system for volunteers for the hamper project which they shared with Medtronic staff on a Thursday evening. By Friday morning, every single slot was booked. “There is such respect and two-way commitment between Medtronic and COPE Galway,” Pauline said. “Throughout Covid we saw everyone at COPE Galway turning themselves inside out continuing to serve, and that motivated us to work hard too.”
For Medtronic employees working remotely across Galway and even further afield, the volunteer slots doubled as a welcome opportunity to see friends and colleagues they hadn’t seen (except via Zoom) for eight months.
Volunteer ambassadors help to create change
As 2021 approached it was clear that the Spotlight programme would have to go online and the two organisations together created a series of inspiring virtual volunteer projects that would both engage Medtronic staff and support COPE Galway. The Advocacy Programme was the first virtual project delivered under the Spotlight Programme – COPE Galway created and delivered three advocacy sessions to Medtronic employees, with each session focusing on one of COPE Galway’s services.
Medtronic staff were invited to become volunteer ambassadors for COPE Galway by attending these live sessions. All three members of the Philanthropy Committee said they were deeply moved by these sessions. “I don’t think we can underestimate the impact of the advocacy sessions,” Patrick said. “They showed our employees the services that are available to them in their community.”
This was exactly what COPE Galway had hoped to achieve. “The advocacy work was significant for us because it allowed us to raise awareness of important social issues with a wide audience,” said Sharon. “If we want to achieve a society where domestic abuse is not tolerated, we need to talk openly about the issue. The opportunity to discuss domestic abuse with 600 people sparked many conversations, and this is what creates societal change.” The advocacy sessions were just the start. A total of nine projects ranged from problem solving and IT skills sharing, to donations of Easter eggs and cards. The Philanthropy Committee emphasised how Medtronic employees also benefited, with Patrick speaking about the value of sharing his professional skills and seeing them make an impact elsewhere.
“We are also seeing employees’ philanthropy and volunteering work receive more recognition within the company, including in performance reviews since the Spotlight project” he said. Both organisations gained significant learnings from the Spotlight programme to bring to future projects. “Skills-based volunteering can be a difficult nut to crack, but this project offered such a large-scale trial of skills-based volunteering, which seemed to be received very well. That’s because COPE Galway was very clear about what they needed and wanted,” Patrick said.
“The Charity relationship doesn’t end at the end of a year or a programme,” Síle said. “We joke when the year comes to an end that it’s going to be like a divorce, but the truth is that doesn’t happen, relationships continue. She added the relationship between the two organisations is “very highly regarded and is what I would describe as the essence of value exchange.”
Lucia agreed that the partnership has grown and developed. She noted, “There is such responsiveness and positivity [at Medtronic], we always feel we can pick up the phone and ask for what we need. The trust between our organisations is what made the project so successful.” According to Síle, the success of the Spotlight Programme has made the Philanthropy Committee more ambitious and “has opened up a whole new landscape of things we can do”.
“We have teams of people in Medtronic who just love to volunteer and are willing to give themselves to a mission of improving their communities. We want that to continue always,” Síle said. In many ways, Medtronic Galway has become an extension of COPE Galway. This partnership story is a wonderful example of how a Corporate Charity alliance can create connections based on meaningful engagement, positives outcomes and real impact for everyone involved.
Medtronic plc is the sole funder of Medtronic Foundation, whose focus is on improving lives for underserved and underrepresented populations worldwide, and supporting communities where Medtronic employees live and give. For more information, please visit medtronicfoundation.org.