Feeling like your work makes a difference can be a powerful motivator to get up in the morning. But life isn’t just about work — or at least it shouldn’t be.
In order to help their employees make a difference outside the four walls of the office, many of Chicago’s tech companies place volunteering and community engagement at the center of their culture. We spoke with four of them to hear more about what their programs look like and why they think philanthropic initiatives are important.
Having witnessed the impact of technology firsthand, kCura has centered its initiatives around preparing youth with limited resources for a tech-driven work environment. With its annual Wired to Learn Grants, kCura partners with an under-resourced school in the city to deliver $250,000 worth of technology and professional developments over a three-year period. Participating schools, which are identified in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools, report higher student engagement, better attendance and improved test scores.
The Wired to Learn Program is currently in its fourth year. kCura also donates $2,500 monthly to a technological or educational organization nominated by its employees.
Why they do it
“How could we not do this?” said Chief People Officer Dorie Blesoff. “As a software company, we know technology helps level the playing field — and we want to make sure that the next generation has access to it. So far, the schools are reporting incredible results, and students and teachers are more successful and engaged. Seeing how the needle can move with our support underscores the importance of growing these partnerships…. Not only do our partner schools get more funding and support, but our team is energized by their involvement in the local community.”
SAP Fieldglass works hard to promote a culture of contributing to communities both global and local through charitable giving, sponsorships and volunteering. Locally, the company works with MetroSquash, Chicago Tech Academy and Launch U — all of which provide Chicago students and youth with academic support, mentoring and career development opportunities.
The company also works with organizations like American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, Sheila A. Doyle foundation, Max Lacewell foundation, Lurie Children’s Hospital, DuPage Children’s Museum, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Loaves & Fishes and the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, among others.
Why they do it
“Fieldglass and its management tend to seek out and be sought out by like-minded nonprofit organizations with similar principles and integrity,” said VP of Information Technology Jeff Basso. “We consider ourselves a change agent in that we help people achieve organizational effectiveness by transforming how companies find and manage contingent labor. Each of the organizations we share our prosperity with is done so to allow that organization to be a change agent. We love when communities push change and become disruptive within their space as it is what makes a great story that is worth being a part of.”
Instructure puts particular emphasis on getting out into the community in its efforts to give back. For the past three years, the company has put on annual food drives that have collected over 12,000 cans of food for families in need. Instructure’s employees have also volunteered their time reading Dr. Seuss novels to children at low-income schools and helped clean high schools as part of United Way’s Day of Action.
Why they do it
“At Instructure, we believe that giving back to the community goes beyond donating money and requires rolling up our sleeves and getting involved The charitable efforts our employees have participated in have focused on lending a physical hand both in local schools and in our communities,” said Director of PR Shannon Michael. “One of our proudest accomplishments has been providing both the necessary computer and connectivity technology as well as a venue for a three-day Girls Go Digital camp at our headquarters designed to help young women foster an interested in STEM careers.”
Chicago fintech pioneer Discover works hard to make doing the right thing a part of its company culture. To that end, employees can participate in company-sanctioned volunteering programs on company time with manager approval. These programs range from partnering with existing organizations making a difference in the local community to promoting financial education to local high school students.
Launched in 2012, the company’s financial education program has been implemented in public high schools in all 50 states.
Why they do it
“We believe supporting financial education is critical," said David Nelms, chairman and CEO at Discover. “Through our Pathway to Financial Success program, Discover is giving high school teachers the resources they need to teach financial education in the classroom so that students can gain important knowledge and tools for life after graduation.”
Images via listed companies.