In Conversation eir and Special Olympics

Today is the National Collection Day for Special Olympics, their most important 24 hours of the year when it comes to funding. As long-term supporters of what the organisation does Sport for Business has turned our Daily news digest Red today and urges those who can’t collect to give generously. The sun is shining, the national Games are just around the corner and these athletes, coaches, family and volunteers deserve our assistance.

To mark National Collection Day, we sat down with Michelle Toner, Head of Corporate Social responsibility at eir to dig a little into the motivation behind why the company is such a strong backer of Special Olympics Ireland.

Sport for Business: eir has a long-term association with Special Olympics, what is it about the organisation that works so well for the business?

Michelle Toner: eir and Special Olympics Ireland have worked together since 1985, making this the longest running relationship of its kind in Ireland. There are many reasons this relationship has endured and grown over the past 33 years. eir has a long association and passion for sport, we are sponsors of GAA Football All-Ireland Championships and our employees have embraced and supported this partnership with Special Olympics Ireland from the very beginning. Like Special Olympics Ireland eir is local, we have roots in every community in Ireland so supporting local community is very important to us.

What measures have you put together in regard to this year’s Collection Day?

Our goal for Collection Day is to help Special Olympics Ireland raise as much money as they can in one day; they need to raise €600,000 in vital funding which is a huge target. We will have employees out shaking buckets across the country starting at 7 am. We will also run an awareness campaign in all of our retail stores across Ireland and on social media; highlighting the text donate option…, text Athlete to 50300 to donate €4

Is the involvement welcomed and really engaged with by the staff?

Yes, our employees are actively involved in a range of fundraising and volunteer support work for Special Olympics Ireland throughout the year. We will have more than 100 employees volunteering at the Ireland Games in June, that is something we’re all really looking forward to. Annually we host a big fundraiser for our charity partner, encouraging our team to get active and raise much needed funds. In the first four years of this eir Challenge we raised more than €300,000.

Would you say the engagement is as much to do with internal as well as external visibility?

Absolutely, everything we do to support Special Olympics Ireland starts with our people, internally; it’s something we feel passionately about and it is very much part of the culture of working in eir. Our people are based in every town and community across Ireland, just like Special Olympics Ireland, so we have the broad reach to really help at a local level.

Looking ahead to the National Games we will talk in greater depth closer to the time but how are plans for eir’s involvement progressing?

As we speak there are just 55 days to go! It seems like a lot, but it isn’t.

Planning is going well, we have been working with the Special Olympics Ireland team to create a new campaign for the Ireland Games, featuring four athletes who will compete in June. We’re working on the finishing touches now and hope to launch that towards the end of May.

Our employee volunteer team are participating in training now for their respective roles and we have been profiling internally our very own Special Olympics hero, Adam Carpenter is a staff member in eir and he has been selected to play on the men’s A basketball team in June. So we’re drumming up a lot of support for Adam and sharing his story as he prepares to do us all proud at the Games.

What do you feel are the three most important elements of a social responsibility campaign?

The most important element is that the partnership makes sense for both organisations; the corporate supporter and the charitable organisation. The selected partnership should be relevant and in-line with your business strategy. eir and Special Olympics Ireland have a shared culture and the goals of both organisations are closely aligned. We provide their communications equipment as well as employee support and donations; this is vital for a growing organisation with a national footprint.

Secondly, longevity and concentrated effort. It will take at least a year, maybe two, for a new corporate social responsibility partnership to settle in, for the strategy to be articulated, communicated and absorbed; and for real positive change to take hold.

The last critical element is stakeholder or employee participation. This is created through continuous communication and engagement, and if those engagement opportunities aren’t there you have to create them.

 


On Friday, May 18th Sport for Business will kick off a summer programme featuring the best examples of how business and sport are working together to create real benefit for society.  Find out more and get involved.

Sport for Business and Mason Alexander Sport are hosting a special breakfast event in Dublin on Tuesday, may 1st looking at the transfer of skills from sport to the workplace.

Join Former World Boxing Champion Andy Lee, Former World Ranked Tennis star James Cluskey and Ireland’s most capped international sports star Nikki Symmons for breakfast and inspiration.  More Details here.

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