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Experience the Beauty of Diversity: My Time Volunteering with IBU

Updated: Mar 14

Learn. Earn. Return. The Volunteering inspiration

The last portion came into focus when I saw a message asking for volunteers for a marketing role. While speaking with the team, I discovered IBU was nothing like I imagined a volunteer driven, not for profit organisation would be, even with their charity angle. 

The people I spoke with reminded me of my old gang of parents from the condo park, and my kid’s parent centric school, but on a larger scale. 

I dove right in as a volunteer, my own years of feeding, car-pooling, homework projects were behind me, thankfully. IBU gave me the chance to peek into the lives of families with kids under 6 years again- and that was SO MUCH FUN to watch them all!

Who is Team IBU?

This is a group of parents who set up things for kids and parents to meet, chat, have coffee, go on picnics together. In the post Covid world, it became a god send for parents with young kids who may not have their busy little lives spent in schools yet. A model that worked in Malaysia, as most families live in smaller communities and row houses, not in large complexes with swimming pools, parks and hundreds of kids. 

For me, it was also fun to be a part of a network, to plan activities with others- and have people to divide up the work with once again! After 12 years of work-from-home before WFH became a necessity, I was once again a part of a team!!


What’s in it for the Volunteers? 

All this sounds like a huge network, of dedicated people, of a well-oiled machine, does it not!

The motivation? For parents who have dropped out of the workplace, IBU is a place to keep up to date with work life while tending to their homes and families. An HR manager is now a seasoned social media manager, an ex-lawyer heads sales, the ex-cabin staff has been the head of finance as well as coffee mornings. 

Plus, it is a Tribe, the village that raises the children together. All volunteers give up those precious free time to set up the next IBU activity for families they don’t even know personally. 

Here's to the next firestation trip organised, the next coffee morning chat set up, the next cupcake decoration workshop organised, all the events fall into place because of the tremendous energies they all dedicate for IBU. 

My own, “always-on” IBU Marketing team

It takes a special someone to be at the receiving end of every activity, and there are usually several every week. We finely honed the processes to market the events, automated the process to handle coordinating daily requirements - each of us were free for IBU at different parts of the day. And coordinating a free time for discussions were always crazy! Here are photos when we managed!

At no point did any of the marketing team ever wear a single hat. Nora manages so much of Penang activities, apart from social media graphics. Eve has a finger in many pies, I dread to think of the number of IBU WhatsApp groups she has on her phone! Intan was sometimes our roving reporter as she attended many IBU coffee mornings, so photos were easy. 

ED Joyce doubles as our techie for the website. And Isabelle also writes most of the newsletters- apart from coordinating, educating, coaxing other volunteers who didn’t always understand how to complete a brief with details another team needs. 

The IBU Marketing team became a superb team of relay racers, allowing any team member to drop off when kids fall sick or husbands make other plans. Those inevitable hiccups organisations manage with an MC (as an anticipated medical privilege leave is termed) become an important part of our own SOPs because some of us have regular jobs and kids, apart from IBU to baby. 

What you see on social media is just the tip of the iceberg. This is how I will always remember THEM, a picture from one of the many marketing check-ins. Yani could not don her avatar, she was logging in from work.

Did it work? Check the IBU social media pages for the volumes generated! Or read the blogs, subscribe to the newsletters, join the members chats and support groups, browse the website. We did it all- with minimal conversations!

It also takes a special involvement to see things people dont normally see. Mynn caught a glimpse of a reel in a cluttered coffee table, added some tinsel and we made our on-the-spot on-location Christmas reel the Jaya Grocer gift card. Tanya was the lights person, Shaliz the music director and Yani’s daughter on props. Mynn the cameraman and director. We are an agency, a film production house, writers and designers, all in one. 

Here is the BEHIND THE SCENES video of what you actually see on social media. 

Every challenge a stepping stone

  • With firestation field trips, IBU struck gold. A popular activity for kids, the firefighters are pros at keeping kids fully occupied in the two hours. The backend team spent many a weekend consoling members who got to the tickets too late. Soon, with more members than tickets, IBU had to diffuse the stress and disappointments that were inevitable. IBU increased the frequency of a firestation visit, rotated the locations to make it convenient to more families- and promised working parents that a ticket sale would be on Saturdays only, so they too can get to the tickets on time

  • IBU sponsored the deep discounts at other popular kid related activities. From Kid Nation to Little Palette, from Parenthood at Sunway to Gamuda, IBU trips became a popular way to enjoy a safe spaces among strangers, while munching on brownies and cupcakes together.

  • The problem was, the same reps were getting burned out trying to be hostess everywhere. The new initiative was to add partner-volunteers into the group. Ravs from PlayOClock opened her messy play sessions in Bangsar to the IBU network, Marlene came in to promote her Mini Magic Messy Play and she fulfilled her dream of managing a treasure hunt. Ex IBU Vice Chair Namrita of The Nesting Heart came back to KL and became the facilitator for the IBU pregnancy, postpartum and parenting circles. Psychologist Dr. Gauri Sharma headed the IBU grief support circles.

  • This worked and IBU could start Mandarin and Japanese playdates, open to all.  And storytelling sessions in sign language for deaf kids, for other kids to learn empathy while joining in the fun sessions. (Did you know, Malaysians prefer using “deaf” than hearing impaired? We have so much to learn every day at IBU!)

The new partner-volunteers was a win win for both- they get to leverage the IBU network, while IBU gets an interesting activity under its umbrella.

New revenue streams

Once, IBU depended on the annual membership fees. New members got a goodie bag worth nearly as much as their membership, access to deals and discounts from the initial SME partners the sales team roped in. Slowly, as the network grew, other revenue sources became more relevant.

With the continued support of sponsors, IBU organizes events, meet-ups, and provides resources and tools to support young parents. Another win-win, the network sponsors find a receptive, core group of families of their own target audience. 

Giving back

Genting gave IBU free tickets to Winter Wonderland Carnival, no reciprocal demands other than being able to support IBU (IBU did do a thank you reel). Aquabubs opened their swimming pool for the IBU network during their off peak hours, a win win for both. Mint Communications is a sponsor for printing, from the IBU Crew tees to the buntings. It’s a new IBU, a powerhouse IBU today!

Giving back the revenue earned, remaining a not-for-profit organisation became easy with sponsors stepping up who believed in the same values as IBU. 

  • IBU gives back to the volunteer network with vouchers from Grab and Jaya Grocer equivalent to part of their contribution

  • IBU support other NGOs with donations collected from the member community. A tree planting session to teach kids the importance of nature, to calling in guest lecturers for coffee to cover topics like breastfeeding to grief support. Fireside chats and CPR sessions with doctors from Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara or St. John ambulance in Penang.

  • This year, IBU sent out a call for Christmas donations, and there are 200 shoeboxes collected from the network, distributed among select orphanages, across KL and Penang. 

  • And IBU created a support system for relevant SMEs in a largely gig economy in Malaysia, helping them reach the thriving community called the IBU Tribe.  

The search never ends. Are there any sponsors for sex education for older kids (only the international schools seem to cover this currently), dads support groups (that are more than watching sports in the local pubs), or even a quiz night for parents to let their hair down? If there are networks and organisations that believe in the same things that IBU does, its easy to create a new IBU activity- just connect on!

And, as a new initiative, here is an inside story. IBU is looking for sponsors for the IBU Ribbon- a new initiative where a parent can tie a ribbon on their handbags. This, IBU hopes, will act as a signal to other parents that the person is available- for comfort, a listening ear or a hand with a diaper change. Any takers?


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