My Top Reflection on Seven Years of Volunteering

At GTRI, Giving back to the community that has given us so much, is a central part of our culture. Our own Rob Berger, Managing Director of Big Data and Analytics reflects on his work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado.

I find myself in a bittersweet mindset writing this as last week was my final Associate Board (AB) meeting at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado (BBBSC) after seven years. Clearly, I am older, hopefully a bit more mature (if not wiser) person. However, sitting with the other 20+ AB members and glancing around the room, I was pleased to see many of these amazing young professionals which allowed me to reflect on our 2017 accomplishments.

2017 was a great year for the AB and as the past chair, I was immensely proud to see that we crushed 2016’s fund raising goals by a large margin. We pivoted away from our traditional largest fund raiser of the year, “Bowling for Kids Sake,” to see if we could do more via “Top Golf for Kids Sake.” While the move was considered risky due to the sheer logistics, larger cost basis and generally just being something new, it proved to be the right move. Top Golf for Kids Sake was a run-away success, surpassing our stretch goal and netting over $120,000 for BBBSC. That is roughly 60+ new kids that can have a mentor next year in the traditional program or become a part of Mentor 2.0, where we have adopted an entire high school full of future leaders to mentor throughout their four formative years. We also added over a dozen new AB members to the board and celebrated afterwards with a Big Network event downtown.

However, as I looked around both rooms that evening, I realized I became a bit saddened to think I will no longer be a part of this amazing group of people donating their time, talents and treasure to the power of professionally supported, 1on1 mentorships that BBBSC enables. Sure, I will support them and BBBSC in the future, but working with them over the last seven years was an experience like few others I have had in my career.

I have seen so many great AB members come and go over the years and I am delighted by all that we have accomplished, spearheading new events like “Volley and Cards for Kids” and seeing AB candidates raising over $17,000 while vying for a spot on our board this year. We are now a board of choice in Denver and increasing the term to three years has made the competition more difficult each-and-every year while ensuring that those desiring to join are committed to the mission. All-in-all, 2017 was a tremendous year which provided ample reflection time, it makes me proud and humbled to be a small part of such an amazing organization like BBBSC.

For those of you who know me, I am a stickler for 3s, 5s and 7s when trying to boil down large tasks or undertakings into manageable chunks. As I look back, there is one “act” I am most amazed by that came to the top instantly and thought it would be great to share with those willing to take the time to read another Berger diatribe.

“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”. Wayne Gretzky

Case in point, I reached out to a CIO friend back in 2011 at SquareTwo Financial when I was an AB rookie trying to meet my time/talent/treasure goal for the AB. Although I had been in business development for nearly 15 years at the time and generally have no angst asking anyone for anything, this was different and made me a tad uncomfortable.

I emailed Bill and asked if he knew if their organization would be open to hearing about BBBSC and maybe getting involved (the often dreaded “ask” for most all volunteers at non-profits). I did not hear back for a few weeks and then Kristin, their SVP of HR, reached out asking to grab a coffee. I had never met Kristin before, wasn’t sure what the meeting would entail but was excited that my first corporate introduction “ask” was happening.

Long story short, not only was SquareTwo looking to adopt a non-profit, but also, looking to do more than write a check or host an event. Supporting BBBSC’s program at Ft. Logan lasted nearly six years and the progression is heartwarming, to say the least.

In the first year, they stuffed 50 backpacks full of school supplies for the back-to-school drive for one of the most underprivileged school districts in our state as a company team-building event of sorts. That event was so successful that the VP of Development for BBBSC asked if I would be comfortable reaching out to Kristin again to see about a holiday drive for the same group of students. Needless to say, the first ask was successful, but following up just a few short months later seemed too much to me……but we did it.

Kristin responded back and said she would think about it and get back to me. She reached out a few days later and said that they would do it, which was awesome in and of itself! However, her organization wanted to know how many total kids there were in those families to ensure that ALL the siblings in those families had a gift to open that holiday season. Both I and BBBSC were overwhelmed by the generosity and I learned a lot. Namely, you don’t get what you don’t ask for and the power and goodwill of the human spirit was/is alive and well.

Flash forward to 2016, SquareTwo has supported the school drive every year and even chartered a bus to bring the kids to their HQ to see and meet first-hand all the employees that have supported them over the years in support of “Bring Your Child to Work” day. The day’s events were designed to show the kids various jobs in a “corporate environment”, provide basic financial education around savings and spending money, provided lunch and some fun activities which included giving every child a piggy bank and some starter money to set them on a good path with managing their money.

In another act of generosity and selflessness, the employees from IT refurbished 50 laptops vs. recycling them and personally handed them to the children of Ft. Logan during their Holiday Event. In speaking with Bill after the fact, he said that it was one of the best and most impactful things his team had ever done together and that they got more out of the process and the sentiments from the kids than the kids themselves got by getting a laptop. Keep in mind, many of these families didn’t have a family computer let alone a laptop.

I literally get goose bumps every time I remember this or tell this story and it speaks volumes to the power of sustainable corporate goodwill and the life-long impact it will have on these children throughout their lives. In retrospect, I donated my time, talents and treasure to BBBSC and believe I did a lot of good. However, I have received back FAR MORE than I gave and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the associate board. Meeting Kristin turned out to be not only the highlight of my time on the AB but truly one of the highlights of professional life as well.

I literally cannot thank the staff and leadership of BBBSC, my clients and friends that supported me or my fellow board members enough for all that I have learned and experienced and I look forward to 2018 as the Centennial Anniversary year of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado. Oh yeah, and a huge humble thank you to Bill and Kristin for making this all a possible.