60 Second Interview: Think Global. Volunteer Local. with General Mills

Kate Petsche September 16, 2015 Employee Engagement

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The 60 Second Interview series features success stories from our Global Good Network, and a rapid-fire interview with the partner on how it was achieved.

Check out what Donna Svendsen, Assistant Director of General Mills Foundation, had to tell us about how our friends at General Mills are making a difference on a global scale through volunteerism.


Tell us about Think Global, Volunteer Local. 

Donna Svendsen 2011, volunteer local

Think Global Volunteer Local is a General Mills companywide celebration of volunteerism and sustainability that takes place in April of each year. TGVL brings employee teams from all over the world (6 of the 7 continents) together to volunteer in their local communities in projects focused on hunger, nutrition wellness, and the environment. So you have employees from Minneapolis to Murfreesboro to Mumbai doing everything from teaching kids to learn how to eat healthy, making healthy meals for kids and others, to preparing school gardens for planting, to cleaning up river banks, beaches and parks, and planting trees. Last spring employees volunteered over 10,000 hours across 60 global locations.


How does General Mills report the effectiveness of this program? 


We report out on the global scope of the program. We rely on our volunteer team leads in each global location to use the YourCause platform, which we call “We Give,” to capture their individual projects and volunteer hours. We also follow up with the team leads to understand the results of their work and to send in photos, which we collect into a highlights deck that we share with all of our locations and post on video monitors and on our WeGive site.


How have you been able to keep new and existing employees engaged in Think Global, Volunteer Local? 

Recruitment has been a top down, but also bottom up process. General Mills’ Chief Operating Officer for International serves as our annual TGVL ambassador. The program begins each year with him outreaching to officers and plant managers across the world and here at headquarters asking them to support and participate in the program. At another level, our TGVL committee members also reach out to the employees who lead volunteerism and community engagement in all of our global locations – recruiting them to participate and providing tool kits and other support they may need.  We’ve also provided a lunch and learn for TGVL team leads at headquarters to help walk them through the TGVL process and help with using the WeGive to manage their team projects.


South Korea, volunteer local


Are there any incentives for employees to participate in TGVL? If so, what are those incentives? 

No, we don’t provide incentives to participate. Most locations receive t-shirts, but nothing beyond that. Again, we recognize all the teams who participate through a deck that we post on our WeGive site and run on video monitors outside of our offices.


Do you believe that this program has been effective in achievening your goals? Why or why not? 

Yes, our goal since the program began six years ago has been to drive greater global visibility of volunteerism and to increase employee engagement. It’s been inspiring to see so many locations embrace the program and see participation from employees at facilities in places as far flung as Dubai, Athens and Singapore. The other goal has been that TGVL inspires additional team building projects that employees participate in on a more regular basis in their local communities. We still have work to do in getting more employees to participate and in getting more senior leaders to volunteer with their employees. But TGVL is developing into one of our signature volunteer initiatives.


How do you see this program expanding in the future?    

We hope the program will grow to the point where all of our locations participate and at least 20% of employees are engaged. In addition, our plans include adding more types of volunteering such as family friendly projects and developing more skills-based projects that employees and teams can participate in throughout the month to have an even greater impact in our local communities.

 volunteer local


We encourage you to learn more about General Mills’ volunteer efforts! Visit their Facebook page and website or follow them on twitter @GeneralMills.