By Rhian Rotz
2012 was another remarkable year of community giving, heartfelt stories and impactful results for Waggener Edstrom and the communities where we live and work. Annually, WE commits to donating 1 percent of our total fee revenue to make a difference in the world. This goal is calculated based on cash contributions, pro bono work and employee volunteering. In 2012, WE exceeded this goal and donated $1.4 million to nonprofit organizations.
The best part of the story, as with every goal at the agency, is that it starts and ends with our employees. It has been said that silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. I’d like to publicly and proudly thank every WE employee who has left a positive mark on our communities. When an employee or any citizen volunteers, it indicates the kind of community that people want to live in. This work will be a memory of the heart for many citizens. WE loves our volunteers!
Last year, we made a more concerted effort to assess how the employee volunteer hours spurred social change (as opposed to simply focusing on the corporate dollar amount). Measuring social impact continues to be a challenge because the data is not readily available and organizations are not necessarily tracking on this level. For example, we conservatively estimate that our 1,650 hours impacted more than 10,000 lives in 2012 by supporting close to 55 nonprofit organizations through WE-sponsored team volunteer events alone. Here’s a snapshot of events where WE employees made a difference:
Austin: Employees socialized with animals at Austin Pets Alive! to help them on their path to adoption and contributed to the pets’ health by increasing their exercise and reducing stress. By helping with cleaning and organizing, we freed up 20 or more APA staff members for other tasks.
Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore: For the second year, the offices partnered withthe Chi Heng Foundation for onsite, educational events as part of a summer camp for 40 rural children from AIDS-affected families to help broaden their minds and give them a perspective on modern society.
Johannesburg: Employees celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day by volunteering at a Soweto-based afterschool care center for children from AIDS-affected families — a place where children do homework, get their daily meals and wait for caretakers to pick them up.
Munich: As they exchanged laptops for saws and hammers, employees became “master builders” while constructing a garden cabin for Das Kindershiff, a neighboring kindergarten that cares for 28 children from 3 years old until official school age while their parents are at work.
New York: Employees helped sort 13,000 school supplies at Volunteers of America’s Operation Backpack for homeless children. Employees also inspired our U.S. offices to collect supplies, resulting in 2,000 school supply items to help give local children a fresh start.
Portland, Seattle: Eight WE Smack Down events, a friendly quarterly volunteer competition between the two offices, engaged 154 employees to donate 460 volunteer hours, touching more than 2,790 lives via education, economic empowerment and health-focused causes.
WE remains committed to its pro bono program. We know there is a high demand for professional services among nonprofit organizations, and WE can have a significant impact by boosting the capacity of nonprofits with professional skills that they would otherwise not be able to access or afford. Benefiting organizations in 2012 included (but are not limited to) Aidha, Half the Sky, Oregon FIRST Robotics, LAGRANT Foundation, Mercy Corps, Microsoft Alumni Foundation, NetHope, University of Johannesburg. Pro bono projects provide employees with opportunities to develop skills outside of those they exercise on a day-to-day basis, while having hands-on opportunities to follow their personal passion to have a measurable impact in the communities.