Corporate philanthropy can take many shapes including matching gifts, volunteer grants, employee grant stipends, volunteer support initiatives, and corporate sponsorships, yet the opportunities that involve employee participation have proven to be the most impactful. Corporate giving reflects an organization's core values, and because employee loyalty is tied to strong company values, companies that support volunteer programs historically experience a fivefold increase in employee engagement. Volunteering in support of a cause is also proven to boost happiness and well-being while building a sense of community and purpose.
The United Way and global corporate citizenship
The United Way is a global, nonprofit organization seeking to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good. WEX has partnered with the United Way organization for over 20 years and continues to support and participate in their local initiatives every year. Most recently WEX’s Portland, Maine and Fargo, North Dakota offices participated in a food drive, a sculpture contest, and a literacy event to support local United Way programs.
Southern Maine United Way sculpture contest and food drive
WEX participated this year in United Way’s annual September food drive and sculpture contest in Portland, Maine. At this annual event, local organizations come together to help fight hunger across Southern Maine. Every year, a team of WEXers work on the planning and execution of a sculpture constructed out of thousands of donated cans of food. This year’s design was a cupcake!
Volunteering while at work - working together for a local community
Throughout the first few weeks of September, WEXers came together to organize and prepare for United Way’s 2022 annual sculpture contest and food drive. What was particularly unique about the timing of this year's food drive was that it coincided with WEX’s annual leadership meeting where staff from all over the world came to WEX’s headquarters in Portland for meetings, roundtable discussions, and team-building activities.
WEXers Rebecca Blaesing and Jason Paquette, who have participated in the food drive and sculpture contest for a total of 14 years between the two of them, shared how much they enjoyed this year’s event. Visitors for the leadership event came from WEX’s offices across Europe, Australia, and various other locations. As these international WEXers traveled throughout the office to and from meetings they passed the WEX “sculptors” and were intrigued and inspired by the United Way event. Local Portland WEXers also stopped by to see what the volunteer team was up to.
When Portland WEXer, Venu Kancharl, saw the team doing sculpture prep/practice one evening from a distance, he stopped by and quickly joined the team fast at work. Venu's addition to the team was fortuitous due to his engineering skills: he is director of data architecture and transformation at WEX. Venu’s skillset quickly became integral to ensuring that the base of the WEX cupcake sculpture was well-supported and balanced. Despite all being located at HQ, Rebecca, Jason, and Venu had only ever seen each other in passing prior to this volunteer event. During the time they spent together working on the cupcake, names were put to faces and new inter-WEX connections were made.
A fellow WEXer from the London office, Abdel Badaoui, director of corporate payments business development in Europe, stumbled upon the group constructing the giant cupcake in the middle of a side hallway on the first floor of WEX HQ. This is when a small Maine food drive turned into a global event. “Jason and I were doing some tinkering with the cupcake top structure when Abdel stopped to chat. He jumped right in with us, and before long he was up on the platform stacking cans. We learned about what Abdel does for work, what his family is like, where he lives, and what he thinks about things going on in England. It was a cross-cultural, accidental experience,” said Rebecca when reflecting on the interaction.
How corporate philanthropy engages employees and builds community
The volunteer team experienced engagement and connection with their colleagues, providing an unexpected additional value to what was already a fulfilling and meaningful event. Jason reflected on the experience: “Our daily lives are busy. We don't often get the time we want to volunteer or do good in the community. It's nice to work for a company like WEX where opportunities are presented to do service. It takes you out of your work for a while and you have fun - which is energizing. You're not only doing good for your company, but you're also doing good for your community.”
In the wake of the pandemic, WEXers find these events impactful in many ways. “It's so great to be able to do this type of volunteer work and interact with people from the company you may not necessarily see on a day-to-day basis,” said Rebecca.
Local volunteerism can spread across a global company
Inspired by United Way events in Portland, members of the marketing team in North Dakota organized a local United Way event in Fargo in which they compiled literacy kits for local families.
The United Way of Cass-Clay, North Dakota, is dedicated to inspiring others with creativity while working to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities. Literacy and early learning are critical to ensuring kids are ready for kindergarten which is a big part of the organization's Bold Goal investment strategy. This strategy focuses on reducing hunger and homelessness, preparing children to succeed, and helping people learn how to live independently, all of which will help create a better community for all.
The literacy kits aid in children’s skill development as they learn to read. The goal is to provide families with access to the tools their children need to become readers, while creating an engagement opportunity for families while at home together. The 100 kits made by Fargo WEXers will be distributed to local children in need in Cass and Clay Counties.
Eric Piela and Hayden Goethe both felt grateful for the service opportunity. “It’s great to give back to our community in a way that is meaningful and tangible,” explained Hayden. Eric added that “Especially in the wake of Covid, it’s nice to have the opportunity to gather for a great cause. When we were sitting there making the components to the literacy kits it was cool to know they were going to go to kids in our local community.”
During times of economic uncertainty and an unsettled, sometimes isolated post-COVID world, volunteering is as important as ever. WEX is proud of its employees and the philanthropic and corporate giving initiatives they lead and in which they participate. If you’re interested in working for a dynamic and nimble global organization, please visit WEX’s career page.