PagerDuty Blog

Employee Volunteerism Accelerates Progress in Latin America’s Social Sector

PagerDuty Employees Partner with Propel to Deliver Pivotal Support to Nonprofits 

At a bustling virtual brainstorming event hosted by the nonprofit Propel, PagerDuty employees Miguel Fuentes Buchholtz and Sara Bertrand eagerly lend their expertise as ‘Community Responders’, voluntary social impact leaders at the company, to support Latin American nonprofits in solving pressing challenges. As seasoned professionals working in PagerDuty’s Chile office, they understand the power of collaboration and diverse perspectives in addressing complex problems. What’s relatively new for them is the ability to bring their skills and passions for social impact to bear through work-sponsored volunteering programs, a relatively uncommon practice in their region. Propel, serving as an impact hub for Latin America’s social sector, strives to change that by inspiring a paradigm shift toward a more collaborative culture.

“Propel events allow you to use your skills in a very fast-paced activity in which you solve a nonprofit problem with your professional knowledge. Imagine you have 30 to 70 highly skilled advisors in one room and give them a query. [Propel] funnels ideas and solutions from those people, and the nonprofit benefits from all that information.” – Miguel Fuentes Buchholtz, PagerDuty General Manager, Chile

Propel cofounders Claudia Belmont and Maria Fernanda Sierra Perea met in Silicon Valley, bonding over their shared passion of using technology for good and its potential to drive social progress. To share Propel’s theory of change, Maria Fernanda sets the stage, saying, “Before I get technical, I want to help you dream a bit.” She and Claudia envision a strong social impact ecosystem in Latin America where mission-driven organizations harness technology and leverage strategic partnerships to address inequality in the region. 

Three years on, the power of their model is proving itself. As of 2023, 94% of Propel’s 100+ participating nonprofits across 17 countries have integrated digital tools into their operations, helping them optimize efficiency and maximize impact. Additionally, with over 1,400 hours of pro bono support for nonprofits, Propel is delivering $5.6 worth of value in pro bono assistance for every dollar it generates in revenue. 

Purposeful collaboration and its ripple effect

Propel’s formula for impact begins with collaboration. During their “party with a purpose” interactive events, Propel convenes volunteers and their nonprofit partners who are seeking accessible solutions to key challenges, ensuring a dynamic and rewarding experience for everyone involved. The convergence of diverse perspectives and skill sets not only catalyzes new ways of thinking among the participating pro bono consultants and nonprofit teams but also sets off a positive ripple effect that impacts them and their organizations in many other ways. 

In 2023 a total of 90 employees contributed over 125 hours as skills-based volunteers, collaborating with two nonprofits. The first event focused on supporting Kantaya, a Peruvian organization committed to improving education by training teachers, among other strategic initiatives. During a 75-minute session, 50 PagerDuty employees worked with the Kantaya team to devise a strategy to connect a pipeline of graduating teachers with open positions, particularly in rural areas. 

“We gave them the space to make an impact through their identity and values as PagerDuty employees.” —Maria Fernanda Sierra Perea, Co-founder and COO, Propel

Kantaya described the event as transformative, emphasizing how it sparked a mindset shift that was pivotal to their success. “They came in wanting to understand how to start an app, and, through the conversations and the session, they understood that what they needed was not to create a new app but to use WhatsApp more effectively,” explains Claudia, Propel’s Co-founder and CEO. Following the event, Kantaya automated their WhatsApp system, enabling them to achieve a 74% employment rate for their graduating teachers.

For PagerDuty employee and first-time pro bono consultant Sara Bertrand, she went into the experience with an open mind, and encouraged her colleagues to do the same. “I love working with people, and when I had the opportunity to volunteer, I tried to do my best, to feel more involved with people, to have empathy. I try to tell people, it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand about nonprofits. Try to use your skills, because we do have the skills, even if sometimes we don’t know it,” she said.

The second event featured a collaboration with TeenSmart, an organization offering free health and wellness services to Central American youth via its online platform, JovenSalud. Their objective was to create a strategy to reach one million users by 2030. The 40 participating employees helped TeamSmart move forward with a clearer direction, enabling them to double their user base in 2023 with over 30,000 new users. They attribute this success to insights from the collaborative engagement, not only about social media promotion but also regarding the need to focus on talent recruitment, operational adjustments, and growth strategies. 

Amplifying impact through employee engagement

Beyond impacting the nonprofit partners, PagerDuty’s pro bono volunteer engagements also leave a profound mark on participating employees—and more broadly on organizational culture. With the company’s 20 hours of volunteer time off policy and Community Responders program to foster regional social impact leaders, PagerDuty is building an inclusive environment where employees are empowered to contribute their time and talents to drive the change they want to see in the world while serving impact-driven organizations, PagerDuty grant partners, and local communities. As part of their role as Community Responders, Miguel and Sarah have also directed a total of $15,000 in unrestricted funding from PagerDuty’s grant program to Propel on behalf of their regional team and Dutonienses, PagerDuty’s Latine community.

While both Miguel and Sara are relatively new to the company, their participation in the program has turned them into exemplary social impact leaders in Chile with a social impact mindset that has inspired and influenced their regional team in tangible ways. 

The sense of belonging and shared purpose is also increasing employee satisfaction and retention, Sara notes. “This is why employees stay at companies like ours—they feel engaged and supported to pursue what’s important to them and find their purpose.” 

Although some individuals initially harbor reservations about workplace volunteering as they see it as a private activity more likely to be done with family, Miguel shares that they undergo a transformative experience once they participate in an activity, sometimes after only an hour of volunteering. Reflecting on how colleagues become more engaged and more generous with their time and skills, and develop a sense of pride as Dutonians, viewing the company as a community that drives positive change, he states, Once you show up and invest your time with a nonprofit, you just change. You see your teammates doing things you may not see in your day-to-day interactions, and suddenly you get a sense of the whole person.

Growing a philanthropic culture in Latin America 

Charitable giving in Latin America accounts for a mere 0.3% of GDP, in comparison with the 5% seen in the U.S. This disparity highlights a significant opportunity to grow Latin America’s philanthropic culture, with critical support from companies’ investments in the communities where their employees live and work. In the absence of incentives such as tax benefits for donors, the public sector has an important enabling role to play, as well.

Propel emphasizes the importance of reshaping societal perceptions around volunteering and leveraging technology for good to help foster a strong and innovative philanthropic culture. Reflecting on a conversation she’d had with Sara and Miguel about the ripple effects such initiatives can have, Maria Fernanda acknowledges the prevailing challenges that persist due to entrenched cultural norms. “We were talking about what success would look like in our very first event, and Sara told me, people showing up.” The simple act of showing up is enough to convey the power of altruism and ignite broader impacts across the region.

Scaling solutions for the future 

The power of Propel’s strategy lies in the positive ripple that begins with diverse perspectives coming together to problem solve. Propel is leveraging the innovative ideas and solutions from its events with PagerDuty to help its full network of nonprofit partners, many of whom may be experiencing similar challenges. It’s a multiplier effect that happens at both an individual level and an organizational level, and Propel is betting on the strategy’s potential to ultimately manifest at a cultural level, as well. 

In March 2024, Propel expanded its third engagement session with four nonprofits from Chile, Colombia, Perú, and Panamá to include Spanish-speaking employees from outside Latin America as well, including employees from Dutonienses, PagerDuty’s Latine community. PagerDuty is excited to continue deepening the partnership to help scale solutions while supporting Dutonians in developing leadership competencies and problem-solving skills to succeed globally. Propel is giving us all a crash course in how to change minds, hearts—and the world for the better.