Paralee Knight, Wells Fargo
Vice President, Community Relations, Wells Fargo
Years in Field: 7
My Volunteerism Path
Although I’d been involved in this type of work outside of my career for some time, when my career began, I didn’t initially think I’d find myself in a role aligned with corporate volunteerism. Now looking back, my connection to the community through service makes sense in how my path has led to the work that I do now.
Having the opportunity to be exposed to community and social impact work at a young age — through my church as well as through local organizations — provided an early understanding of societal challenges and how to find solutions. It also sparked the inner connectivity and drive that I have to create change. Having career experience focused in philanthropy really opened the door to bring my expertise in social impact and volunteerism to a new level as my career evolved.
Advice for Those Considering Working In Corporate Volunteerism
For those wanting to enter this profession, I’d say get involved. As you build your professional network, be sure to also get to know your surrounding communities and what the needs are. Roll up your sleeves and use whatever you have, wherever you are to get into action and service. Experience is not only the best teacher, but will often guide your path in ways you wouldn’t even think to plan for.
When you decide to show up and meet the moment of a person, cause or community in need, that moment also meets you with the seeds of opportunity for growth. My advice for emerging leaders in the corporate social impact sector would be to make the work be more than what you do. Search yourself and ask if or how the work is a part of who you really are. When you realize the deeper connection to the work, I believe the inspiration is unlocked to create ways of being at your best in your role as well as finding ways to strengthen and amplify your corporate culture.
My Company’s Approach to Volunteerism
Having our employees involved in local activities helps us have a better overall grasp of the dynamics of that community. It allows us to show up with better decision making and processes of impact. It also provides us, as a company, with the opportunity to show that we are present and committed to contribute to the communities where we live and work.
Key Component for Effective CSR
The thing about corporate volunteerism that could keep me up at night is the same thing that motivates me: Finding ways to keep people engaged in challenging times. As a society and as individuals we’ve had obstacles thrown at us over the past year that most of us had never experienced in our lifetime. The mandate to stay socially distant at a time where we need each other the most has been daunting to say the least.
The opportunity to encourage and instill a sense of ownership in volunteerism and engagement is very exciting to me. The way we show up in our communities and for each other may be different than what we’ve been used to, but the impact is just as strong. I believe our employees understand that. Their commitment to show support, kindness and generosity through corporate volunteerism and through their personal efforts motivates me to stay intentional about finding new and innovative ways to engage.
Trends to follow in the Future
As we continue to manage the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, we are moving forward with the safety of our employees being top of mind. That said, we want to be sure that our committed employees who typically participate through in-person volunteer activities still have options for staying connected to the organizations and causes that are important to them. At this time, volunteerism has and will continue through virtual engagement experiences including virtual live events, webinars and various activities.