Making a Difference by Sharing Expertise

May 21, 2019 1:15 PM ET

Originally posted on MetLife's blog

MetLife Foundation focuses on improving the financial health of low-income people. And that can be done in many different ways, including by making a social impact in local communities. Thanks to MetLife volunteers, numerous nonprofit organizations have gained invaluable help and improved their futures – without spending a dollar.

A safe place to be smart

The Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) works with New York City public school youth at their two locations in Harlem and Brooklyn. The organization describes itself as “opening doors for New York City’s underserved youth,” with a goal to help school students develop the intellectual curiosity, academic ability and social values needed to succeed in school, career and life.

“We run after-school activities for students,” Deirdre Bennett, Director of Finance and Administration at HEAF, explains. “HEAF serves students in the sweet spot at the middle – those who often get overlooked because they’re not at the top of the class or at the bottom.

“What’s great about HEAF? It’s a safe place to be smart. Students can put their hands up without anyone picking on them.

“We cover lots of different extra-curricular topics, as well as English, science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) classes. We’ve done entrepreneurial projects too, where kids pitch their business ideas and learn how to run a business on a budget. Everything we do is based on boosting their confidence and getting them to a place where they say, ‘I can do it’.”

A challenge to solve

Keeping kids engaged in education is an important task but it isn’t HEAF’s only job — they also have to make sure their staff are thriving and developing too. Staff feedback about professional development had worried Deirdre. “In exit interviews, a couple of staff said the need for professional development was one of their reasons for leaving,” Deidre explains. “So we did a staff survey to find out what they were thinking about and what they needed for their professional growth.”

It turns out that HEAF needed help to solve their HR problem that had come from a simple communication error. “A lot of our professional development was actually already in place, but staff weren’t seeing it that way – they thought learning was only in the classroom and weren’t thinking about mentoring, leadership opportunities, and external free training,” says Deirdre.

A skill shared

Last year, MetLife Foundation and MetLife employees helped to solve HEAF’s problem. MetLife Foundation teamed up with the Taproot Foundation to share the skills of employees with HEAF at a half-day event called an Opportunity Workshop.

MetLife Foundation worked with the Global Learning and Development team to identify the employees with the right skills to help HEAF out, and they came together at MetLife headquarters in New York City.

Read how MetLife Foundation is teaming up with Taproot Foundation to help HEAF tackle their HR challenges.