Ode to a basil plant – use data for good

The launch of our Profusion Cares Foundation – a skills-based approach to giving back.

I have a sister, three years older than I am. As teenagers, there came a time when our parents felt it was safe to start going away and leaving us to our own devices for a couple of days. Predictably, on the day they came home we usually had a panic on our hands.

It was never about clearing up from a crazy party – we’d already learned from our friends’ experiences that those were more hassle than they were worth. For us, the emergency would typically be a dying basil plant.

The one thing Mum would ask us to do was to keep it alive, but on more than one occasion we completely forgot to water it. By the time her holiday was over, the poor herb would be not long for this world.

Once, we even bought a new one and picked some leaves off to try to make it look like the one we’d killed. I realised what Mum must have felt like when she used to rapidly replace my pet goldfishes while I was at school so I wouldn’t notice they’d died.

Corporate volunteering underwhelm

Fast forward a few years to my first job, where I couldn’t wait to get involved in community investment. Every year I’d head off with colleagues to ‘contribute to society’. I was never asked anything about myself beforehand. I would just arrive and people seemed to think I was responsible enough to dig a garden.

No one had told them about the basil, let alone that I didn’t know a flower from a weed. Typically, I had a lovely day, but the plants were definitely not safe in my hands. What was my impact on the community? Very little.

I know people at charities who’ve had to repaint rooms decorated by well-meaning business volunteers and redo gardens tackled by people like me. Yet they felt they couldn’t turn down the money for the corporate day.

Skills to ease the ills

I’m not saying there aren’t times when volume of labour is useful, but just ask the charity what they need. Tell them what your team does on a daily basis. Review the customer journey through their website, look at their growth plans that could need your HR support, or give them some sales training to help them pitch for more funding. These things might be a lot more useful than digging a garden. 

In my home life, I’m glad to say I’ve developed my abilities a little. I still can’t run to a full garden but I do manage to keep the odd basil plant going. In my volunteering life I’ve stuck to what I know – supporting charities on strategy, operational planning, HR, volunteer engagement, mentoring and employability skills. The charities and I have got a lot more out of it.

At Profusion we’re so excited to launch Profusion Cares, where we’ll be taking the breadth of our team’s skills to support the communities in which we live and work. And I promise you, if you partner with us I won’t come anywhere near your garden.

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