Learning Series | How WeHero supports companies internationally with Sara Bates

June 19, 2023

Ben Sampson: We are live. Sara Bates, welcome to the show. We're dozens of followers listening to everything we have to say about the world of volunteering and engagement. And Sara, for folks that don't know you, I think a lot of people that do watch these do know you, but mind telling us a little bit about what you do, we hear?

Sara Bates: Yeah, of course. Great question. So folks who don't know who I am, hello. Lovely to meet you. I am Sara Bates and I help lead events for WeHero.

Ben Sampson: Sara's like always too humble, so I just like redo her intros. So we'll do it over again. I'm gonna pretend to be you.

Sara Bates: Okay.

Ben Sampson: I'm Sara Bates and I basically lead everything that happens with our volunteer experience division of the company. So working with clients, crafting those experiences, helping us scale these programs across the globe. That's what I do. And so there, yeah.

Sara Bates: Wanna do my answer actually much better. Yeah. This is Ben. He is the founder and creator and we hero and my desk neighbor also as well. Love all of the things.

Ben Sampson: And janitor

Sara Bates: Janitor and janitor. Phenomenal janitor.

Ben Sampson: Well the reason folks that Sara and I are hanging out today is because we work with a lot of companies on their international efforts and I think historically we are really focused on North America in regards to the just area that we were able to support. Over the last two years we've invested quite heavily in expanding across the globe. A lot of our clients, they have multinational offices and we have clients that have HQs in Australia or in Brazil or in Europe. And so yes, we've been doing a lot of work abroad. I just came back from Lisbon, Portugal. We had a team that was in Bangkok, Thailand, and we wanted to just have a quick session to talk to you all about how WeHero does international. And you know, Sara, maybe a first question for you, because you've been doing a lot of these efforts, is, is telling us, you know, how we do these international events. Maybe a little bit about how we source in country, how we have teams that are in country there, how it's kind of localized, like would love any voiceover you have to just how we hear dozen things about international.

Sara Bates: Yeah, and I mean that's again, my, my humble sharing is, is kind of the synapse of, of what you just shared is, you know, initially when, when I first started WeHero it was, you know, remote US based and, and as, as the pandemic has ended, you know, it's people are wanting to get out not only in the US but they wanna get out globally and they wanna make an impact locally in these global locations, which is amazing. And I mean, of course at, at this organization we wanna support people wherever they are, just make sure they're making the greatest impact. So for example, when, when you went to Lisbon, thank you so much for doing that. For WeHero, truly appreciate that. Again, we had an amazing WeHero ambassador, right? We wanna make sure that we're, we're honoring the UN in every way possible.

Sara Bates: So we're having WeHero ambassadors within country and really connecting on a local level to make sure that we are offering the best experience possible. Because as, as much as we love to, to feel that we're the experts, we're not the experts in every country. So we are sourcing ambassadors in these areas to best support and execute these events in the smoothest way possible. So for Lisbon, we had, you know I had a main con like ambassador there, you know, sourcing materials, really connecting to make sure that these are eco-friendly materials and they're making as minimal impact on the environment as possible. So we're not shipping from the US directly over. And then we're finding amazing people in this area to really just again, represent we hero in the most beautiful way. And also to support the client in every way possible. Since these are happening beyond, beyond our normal working hours, you know, they're happening eight hours ahead, 12 hours ahead. And we just wanna make sure everyone feels good and successful about these global events that are taking place.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, I love how localized it is and we get a lot of questions on, you know, WeHero supports a lot of these amazing global organizations, but when we do international projects with you all are the nonprofits local? And the answer is yes. Like to your point, Sara, like it's really localized. The Lisbon example, you know, working with Disaster 80 Europe and you know, having them on site, that was just a wonderful experience. And to your point, we're not the experts. Like we really relied on our nonprofit partners and worked really closely with them. Mm-Hmm. And being able to work with local nonprofits on the ground, understand the gaps in challenges and craft volunteer experiences from the ground up mm-hmm. Is, is been a really cool, unique experience. And so the, we take localization to Heart <laugh> and I love that we're not shipping these things overseas. They're sourced in country. We wanna support the local economies mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And that's been something that's been really awesome.

Sara Bates: It, it has and it's, I mean, personally I've learned so much about these international nonprofits that we're supporting on that local level. For example, when we were had a, a team in, in Bangkok, Thailand, we supported Child Land Thailand, which has so many challenges, but this amazing nonprofit came in person to support and connect with the client. They worked with us in a, in an amazing hands-on way to make sure that the materials that we were sourcing are going to best support the children in crisis that they're helping in Bangkok because it's, it's such an issue there. So it was amazing to really make the most impact possible from, from just, you know, little old Bend Oregon in, in a global setting. And just, it's, it's awesome. Absolutely love these, these big creative and complex but simple projects at the same time.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about, I think a lot of questions we get are like, where is WeHero doing these programs? Right. And we, we basically can do 'em all across the globe at this stage. Mm-Hmm. I mean, we have team members in Europe, we have, we can do Canada programs. We did a lot of programs in Brazil. Mm-Hmm. Thailand. Obviously Australia is another area where we've been doing a lot of work out there. Mm-Hmm. And I know we're starting to do more work in India and the Philippines. Mm-Hmm, you know, I think is there areas that you, you know, are challenges that you should tell clients that think you know more in advance? I know China's an area that's really challenging for us. Yeah. Are there other areas where like take some more time to plan these out and work with us? Because it it is more challenging. We haven't done a lot of work in these areas.

Sara Bates: Yeah. And like regardless, you know, each, obviously each country is different and unique in its own ways. So the more, the more time we have to, to really connect with that, that country, that population, that community, the more successful we will be with this volunteer event globally across the board. And you know, it's, I'm the, I think China's a real challenge for us, but just when it came to initial, like figuring out how to, how to work in that country, but at least at this point, gosh, I wish there was some wood next to me, knock on wood. But there is, there's no country I feel like we, we couldn't support. Because if we're finding the right people in country to be our, our wave that WeHero flag, they're amazing nonprofits globally. Like there is, there is not a country that doesn't have an amazing organization that we can find to support. So the only challenge I think really is just the time that we have to help make it successful. But yeah, that's, I will not say no to an international event.

Ben Sampson: Another question we get is like a lot of folks that work with WeHero, they love the consistency of the experience. Mm-Hmm. And knowing that an experience that happens in New York City can be very similar to the experience that happens in Australia, of course it's like adjusted to like support the local partners. Mm-Hmm. And I think one of the reasons we're able to do that successfully is that we really rely on our network of team members that are well versed on We Hero. And I know you keep talking about we hero ambassadors, like these are people that are really well versed on WeHero. Can you talk about those ambassadors and their role in making the events real successful as well as like how they're so well-versed on WeHero and how they can carry that experience, you know, throughout any country that we're operating?

Sara Bates: Yeah, absolutely. So these, ambassadors, you know, we are, we are sourcing people in country to truly represent who we are and what we do. And of course culture is a, a huge thing at this company and we always are making sure that, that we're finding people that, that we wanna hang out with, have lunch, with dinner with and get drinks with after. Like these are people that are excited about giving back and making a difference in their community and helping others know that this is possible. So first off, we're always, you know, vetting for the right people in country. And then I am working incredibly closely. Natasha, who is another amazing human on the events team, is working very closely with these folks to make sure that they feel supported and empowered to make these experiences truly what we want them to be, which is to have absolute connection and engagement for employees in their giving back. And it's just so important. So we'll work with them really from day one, you know, connect with them with meetings WhatsApp and really just consistently be there throughout the process so they know what's happening, who they're supporting, why they're supporting, and how they are helping make a huge difference. Mm-Hmm.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, they're really like just we hero team members because oh my gosh, they have like the full background and history of WeHero. They've Yeah. Some of these folks have been actively following in some boarding we hero over the years. So it's like really cool to see that they're like almost these people that have been fans of the business now are like working with the business, which is really cool and exciting it.

Sara Bates: Yeah. Like all these little like we hero cheerleaders, like we can actually like bring them into the process and really help them be a part of the business, which is so exciting.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. What else should we tell people about international? Like the only other thing I can think of is obviously we have a full suite of virtual experiences as well that do really well internationally. Makes it really easy and turnkey for clients that want to have international opportunities for their employees and also make sure that the experience is really similar across all the offices. Mm-Hmm. And then we do some skills based stuff as well. But anything else there you think we should know on the international piece for folks?

Sara Bates: Gosh, that's a great question. You know, a lot of these events that, you know, we have of course are amazing huge catalog of, of kind of standard events we offer. But it's always important I think to share is that if a client is wanting to do these standard events that we have internationally will still cater this standard style event so it best fits the community and nonprofit we're supporting. So for example, Avantor did, you know, the amazing disaster relief projects in, in Bangkok and traditionally their, their hygiene kits. But to best support ChildLine, you know, they needed toilet paper and food in these kits. So we are always working so closely with these nonprofits to make sure that the company and the clients are best supporting that local community. And if there is something in that catalog that, you know, that we offer that is not necessarily what they wanna do, but they still wanna support where they're at, we'll find a way to help make that happen because we wanna make sure that everyone feels success in, in their giving back efforts. And of course, like virtual programs, like those are such a great way to make sure that everyone feels connected and engaged no matter where you are. So even if it's not everyone gathering in person, we are here two dimensionally, even though three dimensionally in person to make sure that all of this can happen and people feel successful and connected with each other and and are a part of the bigger picture.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. To Sara's point, so much of the experiences crafted for the local area that we're supporting. So we always tell folks plan in advance. Mm-Hmm. You know, the longer we have to work with you and really create a beautiful experience, just the more successful the event will be. And so for those thinking about a global strategy and how they're gonna engage their employees and their teams, definitely give yourself more than 30 days to make sure that these programs are gonna be really successful. And I know Sarah will appreciate that as well. Cause yes, she's working with a lot of these companies building out these global volunteer programs and so well Sara, awesome. If people have questions for us on a global volunteer engagement strategy and programs that WeHero offers obviously reach out. We love helping companies accomplish their goals and, and reach all their employees no matter where they are at in the globe. And so we'd love to support and help you all. Sarah, thank you so much for the time. You do incredible work. And people just wanna hang out and talk with Sarah, reach out to us, we'll get you connected with her.

Sara Bates: Do it. Here I am. Let's hang out. Woo.

Ben Sampson: Right. See you Sara. Thanks everybody.

Sara Bates: Bye.

Your Hosts

Andy VandenBerg
Andy VandenBerg is the co-founder and COO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Andy speaks actively about the importance of aligning strategy with social responsibility and how companies can pursue both purpose and profit. Andy’s past experience includes private equity and family office investing. If he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him in the Pacific Ocean or Lake Michigan.
Ben Sampson
Ben Sampson is the co-founder and CEO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Ben speaks actively about corporate social responsibility, volunteerism, sustainability, and how companies united with activism drive powerful change. Ben’s past experience includes leading product teams, building startups, and studying sustainable business strategy at Harvard. In his free time, he’s an avid outdoor enthusiast focused on skiing, surfing, and mountain biking.

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