Aspi Makuna, 52, has been donating blood since he was a college student. Makuna, who has organized 11 annual blood donation drives since 2007, feels it has lent meaning to his life. He also donates platelets to help cancer patients, besides convincing his peers to contribute to the cause. “To me blood donation is about having a purpose in life. Once you find a purpose, the means and path will follow," he says.

Bleed for a Cause

Mumbai-based Makuna, deputy vice-president at HDFC Bank, is not the only employee who believes in the bank’s “Bleed for a Cause" initiative. At HDFC’s blood donation drive, employees volunteer to donate blood at camps held across the country. The blood-donation drive is held on the second Friday of every December. It is conducted in collaboration with Red Cross and various non-governmental organizations and colleges.

The HDFC blood donation initiative was started around 11 years ago at the behest of an employee who was passionate about the cause. In its first year, around 4,000 employees participated and 2,000 blood units were collected. In 2017, more than 10,000 employees and volunteers from across the country contributed 2.2 lakh units of blood.

The programme has also moved beyond organizational boundaries, says Nusrat Pathan, head of corporate social responsibility at HDFC Bank. Although HDFC Bank employees form a large chunk of the volunteers, the annual donation drive also sees participation from customers, clients, other companies and communities. “A lot of senior management people are the first ones to go and lie down on the bed to donate blood. This time we also had retired people, who left the bank a few years ago," says Pathan.

In some cases, the bank also facilitates blood donation to remote areas which might lack blood-storage capacity. “To ensure ‘end-mile connectivity’, we have arranged for vans to carry blood units to villages," says Pathan.

The giving programme

At HDFC Bank, the employees can choose a cause they support and the bank pitches in to provide foundation for it, says Naina Panse, head of employee engagement. “We want to make sure they (our employees) engage with each other, the bank and do a lot of things they would like to do," says Panse.

The Payroll Giving programme enables the staff to contribute any amount from their monthly payroll, which, in turn, goes to GiveIndia, an online donation platform. GiveIndia channels the corpus collected to NGOs working in the areas of child welfare, education, poverty, women’s empowerment, etc.

As part of the payroll contribution, the employees have an option to pick a social issue and the bank matches the contribution upfront. “It is one great medium," says .

Step out and mentor

Parivartan, HDFC Bank’s CSR branch, provides its workforce an opportunity to give back to the community through a long-term commitment under its mentorship programme in alliance with Antarang Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO that connects disadvantaged youth with employment opportunities. At Antargang, employees act as mentors who guide such youth, aged 17-25, on topics such as communication, work etiquette, aspirations, hobbies and professionalism.

Rohini Miranda, vice-president at HDFC Bank, has been mentoring two youths at Antarang for the last one year. Miranda, 40, guided them on career decisions post class X. While there is flexibility in terms of holding such conversations over phone calls and e-mails, Miranda says she likes to visit them individually. “It gives me a good feeling by mentoring children and I definitely look forward to it every single time," she adds.

The bank’s mentoring initiative, currently in pilot stage in Mumbai, requires employees to contribute 4 hours to it each month. The project is set to be launched in Bengaluru too.

The purpose of these employee engagement initiatives at HDFC Bank is not merely to achieve organizational goals. “It’s not only about what HDFC Bank as an organization believes in, but also about what employees want," says . “We want our employees to have a sense of purpose and a lot of fun while volunteering for communities," adds Panse.

Meanwhile, people like Makuna and Miranda are examples of employees who make their offices a better place to work in.

Volunteering Warriors is a series that looks at how companies are fostering a culture of giving back by creating programmes that encourage employees to create a social impact.