Prepare report templates

The NGO wanted to create templates for the organization that could be used anytime in the future while formulating their official reports.
Anuradha Ravi
Vice President - Tata AIG General Insurance
Chennai, India

Having joined the Tata Group 12 years ago, Anuradha has experience spanning various fields including marketing and customer service. Since her role usually keeps her busy, she had not had the opportunity to engage in volunteering activities previously, so she was eager to invest her free time effectively. This project in particular really stood out to her. As a parent of an autistic child, she could comprehend the requirements of the parents and the difficulties the helping organization might have on the other side. "I can relate from the perspective of a parent who is looking for assistance from an organisation like that” she explains. Additionally, having done lots of paperwork before, Anuradha felt she could provide a value to writing reports for the organization.

Balashankar Ramakrishnan
Project Manager - Tata Consultancy Services
Chennai, India

Serving in the capacity of a project manager at TCS for over 10 years, Balashankar has a lot of experience in managing the end to end delivery of projects. This made him an ideal candidate for this volunteering activity, as he had previous experience working with external partners, handling scope changes to ensure timely delivery of their projects. Balashankar is an active volunteer, who has been regularly volunteering at an NGO sponsored by TCS. Since 2015 he has been an active ProEngager and has previously worked on projects in the field of environment and health. This edition, Balashankar was specifically searching for projects in the field of education and noticed that for this project, the expectation of the organization perfectly matched his capabilities.

Sankalp Trust
Meenakshi Grama Kishan, Project Coordinator
Chennai, India

Set up in 1999, Sankalp Trust is an NGO involved in remedial instruction to children with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. Their aim is to create a learning environment for persons with autism spectrum disorder and specific learning disability to be participatory members of society. This is done by providing intervention in education and skill training at all levels, from early childhood until adulthood through simulated graded work and learning situations, thus improving the learning and working ability of the child.


Project Execution

The need for this project arose, according to Meenakshi, due to the lack of technical administrative knowledge that the team at Sankalp has. While they have always been focused on the quality of education the students are receiving - ensuring the teaching methodologies and resources are functional and beneficial, she felt the team was not able to accurately showcase the hard work being carried out by the organization. Though the team always tried to keep their reports updated, they often found it difficult to retrieve the necessary data and represent it in an appropriate format when reaching out to donors or volunteers. Thus, Meenakshi wanted to come up with a way to represent information about Sankalp’s work, impact and reach in an organized manner by creating templates for various reports. 

From the project kick-off itself, Meenakshi was impressed with the enthusiasm the volunteers displayed to work on the project. At the first meeting itself they have already shown their background research on special schools. The volunteers were also very understanding of the NGO’s external responsibilities, and flexible when it came to scheduling all their meetings. Similarly, both Anuradha and Balashankar appreciated the NGO’s drive and commitment to the project. 

The initial meetings were spent understanding the work undertaken by the NGO and what their needs were. After analysing the NGOs past reports, the volunteers realised that most of these reports were being created on an adhoc basis - as and when the need for them arised. The organisation had no standard reporting format, which made it difficult for the team to collect necessary data when there was an urgent requirement.  It was decided that this project would focus more on creating multiple templates, so Sankalp could be more effective in the future. 

In total, they identified 6 types of reports the NGO may need to create, including an annual report template, grant application template and a CSR report. Once they had created the project plan, the volunteers found it easy to divide the work, and started working on separate templates, which they would get reviewed first by each other and then by the NGO. They would then make edits as per Meenakshi’s suggestions before finalizing the templates. 

Challenges faced

“Initially, we didn’t know if we were on the right track,” says Anuradha, despite having a successful kickoff meeting.  “For the first two weeks, responses were slow. We had the data, but did not know if we were going in the right direction. We needed that assurance from the NGO.” However, within the first month, they were able to re-establish proper communication with the organization, and to their relief found out that the NGO was very happy with the work they had done so far. 

For Balashankar and Meenakshi, the challenges were more related to time allocation and management.  Balashankar’s day to day tasks used to spill over to the weekends,  and there were a couple of weeks when there was critical work deliverable and he found it difficult to dedicate the time to spend on the project. “I wondered if I should pull out”, he states.  Then I took a pause and reflected. If I am already a part of this project, I don't leave it hanging.”  The NGO’s dedication to the work they do and the support they provided kept him motivated to follow through and ensure successful project completion. 

Similarly, being a mother to a young child and a part time member of Sankalp Trust, Meenakshi also sometimes found it taxing, dedicating the necessary time to the project.  “Working on weekends was challenging,” she mentions, “however, we also connected on whatsapp. They were very approachable, they came from a space where they really wanted to help. The cause we are serving is very important to me, and I was very grateful to have help from someone as passionate.”

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“If somebody comes with goodwill, that is very important,” explained Meenakshi.  “They helped me to think in different ways on how I can write a report. It helps in terms of process on how you approach the whole idea of reporting, and in terms of thinking, how to make an effective report.” She adds: “We created a bond. Even after this project we sometimes exchange messages. It helped us to create wellwishers, because it really came from passion, and I feel they might spread the word about Sankalp - and that's something that is very valuable.”

According to Meenakshi, “a volunteer should take up a volunteering project if they are really passionate about the cause. If it comes from a space of passion and compassion then the volunteer should do it. The process would be really interesting for them if they are really passionate.”

That is why she believes the project with Anuradha and Balashankar went so smoothly and was completed successfully. “It was really an enriching experience to work with such experienced volunteers and such passionate people,” she says. “We are really grateful to them for their time, effort and support. “

“This experience is something I would definitely recommend,” exclaims Anuradha.  Only once you step in, you can see your strengths.” According to her, it is only difficult in the beginning: “Once you overcome the initial laziness, volunteering makes you a better human being. It allows you to look at the world from a different perspective.” Additionally, as an involved parent it helped her to understand the organization's challenges once she could talk to them.  “I enjoyed the work and it was an immense satisfaction that I could make an impact. I never realised I had invested so much time into the project till it was completed. It never felt like a strain- it  was done with ease. I did not expect it to have such a positive impact on myself” she explains. 

For Balashankar, the bond that was created between the co-volunteers was a really meaningful one. “There were days when both of us were stretched out with work and Anuradha would take the initiative to reach out to discuss the project. It was helpful having a senior person interested in the volunteering activity. Without Proengage, I would not have had the opportunity to interact with another employee from another company such as herself. We complemented each other.”

“Towards the end of the project, we also received a formal invitation to attend the opening of one of the NGOs schools. It was really more than any appreciation we could have received. It felt like they really valued the work we did” he declares. “We became a family,” Anuradha adds.