How These 9 Chicago Tech Companies Give Back to Their Communities

by Quinten Dol
December 18, 2019

It’s the end of the fourth quarter — the last quarter of the decade, no less — and it’s crunch time in Chicago tech. But while these nine companies are busy revamping mortgages, marketing, stock trading and more, they've found time to give back to their local communities. We caught up with them to learn how the ritual of giving back feeds into their everyday company culture. 

 

guaranteed rate chicago beach cleanup
guaranteed rate

According to Guaranteed Rate Founder and CEO Victor Ciardelli, the Guaranteed Rate Foundation was founded in 2012 to provide assistance to families and individuals in times of dire need. “Every penny raised goes directly to a community member seeking relief,” Ciardelli said, adding that the Foundation has granted over $3.3 million to assist individuals and families faced with terminal illnesses, disabilities and domestic violence. The foundation also achieved its goal of granting $1 million in 2019.

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

Giving back to the community is a huge focus at Guaranteed Rate, both during the holidays and throughout the year. During the holiday season, we host an annual company-wide food drive competition. We’re proud to announce that this year, our employees from branches all over the country collected and donated more than 150,000 pounds of food and personal care items, adding up to nearly 500,000 meals, totaling almost 1.5 million meals since the initiative started six years ago. Throughout the year, Guaranteed Rate also hosts quarterly drives, organizes volunteer days to clean up the city’s parks and beaches, and participates in partner events such as Sox Serve Week, which benefits the White Sox Charities.

 

During the holiday season, we host an annual company-wide food drive competition.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

Making a positive impact in people’s lives is at the core of who we are and what we do. Our employees show that they care through their generous contributions to the Guaranteed Rate Foundation and through their participation in our give back challenges. Every day, we work collectively as a company and with our real estate partners to make a meaningful impact in the community by helping people find and purchase their dream homes. 

 

civis analytics holiday giving chicago tech
civis analytics

Civis Analytics uses its proprietary technology and statistical advisory services to help private and public sector organizations use their personal datasets. Senior Applied Data Scientist Sherry Shenker explained that Civis offers its services for free to worthy organizations. 

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

Our employee-led program, “Civis for Good”, gives employees opportunities to give back throughout the year. There are two parts of the program: The first is paid time off that employees can use for volunteering with any local organization of their choice. We also organize employee volunteer days — for example, we’ve cooked meals and decorated for the holidays at La Casa Norte, an organization providing shelters and other support services in Chicago.

Civis also provides pro-bono services to organizations that do not have access to or expertise in data science. This year we worked with mRelief, a Chicago-based nonprofit startup that is working to increase access to food stamps, to help them measure the impact of their technology.

 

Civis provides pro-bono services to organizations that do not have access to or expertise in data science. ”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

At Civis, one of our principles is doing the right thing, even if it takes more time or costs us money. I see this come to life in my daily work: my team members are always taking time out to help with a tricky task or consult on a project. We have regular “office hours” and brown bags where Civis subject matter experts share their knowledge and advice with the rest of the company.

The people at Civis are naturally interested in supporting organizations that are making a difference, whether it is through our day-to-day work with nonprofits and government, our Civis for Good program or our own passion projects. Just last weekend, one of our engineers who is involved with Write/Speak/Code had Civis host their latest workshop.

 

wolverine trading holiday giving
wolverine trading

On a normal work day, Wolverine Trading builds electronic trading infrastructure, including applications to automate stock trades, assess data and evaluate risk. Around this time of year, however, so-called “Wolverines” fan out to local food banks and begin practicing their Santa impersonations as they deliver gifts to a local elementary school. Principal Software Engineer Valentina Veselinovski told us how this spirit of giving infuses everyday company culture. 

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

Wolverine runs many annual giving programs throughout the year. For example, every November we partner with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to raise funds to provide meals for those in need: this year we provided enough to fund over 9,000 meals! Another favorite event among Wolverine employees is in December, when we work with a local elementary school — who we have been partnering with for over seven years — for our “Secret Santa” program. The students write letters to Santa and Wolverine employees — acting as “Santa” — gift the student an item on their list. In addition to all of the firm-sponsored events we do throughout the year, Wolverines can be found tutoring local students, serving meals at local charities, doing magic for children in hospitals and collecting items for those in need, among many other causes.

 

Wolverines can be found tutoring local students, serving meals at local charities, doing magic for children in hospitals and collecting items for those in need.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

Wolverines are encouraged to volunteer and support local organizations, and employees who log volunteer time are offered an extra vacation day every year. We also have an internal mentorship program for new hires and interns that connects them with colleagues they aren’t working with every day.

 

all campus holiday giving
all campus

Geographic isolation no longer locks you out of higher education. All Campus aids universities like DePaul, Purdue and Michigan State in living up to that promise, helping to launch and maintain online programs. Assistant Director of Enrollment Matthew Starr and Assistant Director of Enrollment Tiffany Parker serve as co-chairs of the company’s charity committee, and pointed out how an ethos of giving back feeds into All Campus’ wider culture. 

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

Starr: We have continuous opportunities throughout the year to get involved and make a difference. All Campus Cares, our employee-led charity committee, has several annual initiatives that we participate in. These include cooking and serving a meal for Ronald McDonald House; our school supply drive for CPS; and our fundraising efforts for the Chicago Liver Life Walk, which is to honor a former colleague and friend who lost her battle with liver disease in 2014. We take the time to explore new opportunities to get involved, and act as an open forum for ideas and causes that are close to the hearts of people we work with.

 

Caring is an essential part of what we do, and why we do it.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

Parker: It’s really great to be a part of an organization that cares so much. Caring is an essential part of what we do, and why we do it. The principle is even ingrained in our core values — it’s basically a job requirement! When you truly care about your colleagues, clients and your work, it translates to a collective celebration of our successes and creates a helping atmosphere. AC Cares, our internal charity initiative, was created out of our passion for giving back to others.

 

conversant chicago tech company school program
conversant

When they’re not building data science-driven solutions to help marketers create personalized experiences for customers, the Conversant team is busy being out and about in the Chicagoland community. This involves tutoring kids, getting their hands dirty with Habitat for Humanity and even building custom-made guitars for charity raffles. Vice President of Human Resources Beata Weiss explained that Conversant encourages employees to come up with new ways to support worthy organizations. 

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

During the holidays, we hold a raffle that benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The raffle is unique because in addition to the usual electronics, gift cards and so on, a member of our employee band also offers a custom-built guitar. Our work with Griffith Tutoring is another popular initiative with our associates, especially those in STEM disciplines. It gives us the opportunity to help high school students prepare for the SAT. We also participate in build days with Habitat for Humanity, volunteer throughout the city with Chicago Cares, collect cans for Greater Chicago Food Depository and more.

 

Our work with Griffith Tutoring is another popular initiative with our associates, especially those in STEM disciplines.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

Our charity initiatives and events are supported at all levels of the organization. We like to say “one percent better everyday,” and in that spirit, associates actively organize themselves into teams to participate in events. When appropriate, we use some friendly competition between teams to encourage each other to give more. We encourage and support anyone who has a passion for a charity to bring forward their idea to create a new event.

 

vista consulting group chicago holiday giving
vista consulting group

Vista Consulting Group’s team of experts and consultants help tech companies with their business operations and technology while giving back to their local community on the side. Director of Diversity and Inclusion Khalida Ali said philanthropy and volunteering are at the center of Vista’s culture. 

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

Vista gives back to the local community throughout the year through a number of initiatives. One I’d like to highlight is the “Hour of Code” volunteer initiative which was developed by Code.org. Throughout the year, teams of employees will either volunteer on-site at a school or students will visit the office for a tour and the opportunity to learn how to code. We have even taken the entire Chicago office to host an Hour of Code with an entire elementary school.

 

We have even taken the entire Chicago office to host an Hour of Code with an entire elementary school.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

Giving back is a cornerstone of our culture. Volunteering helps to cultivate a culture that understands the importance of connecting with and supporting the local community. It also provides the opportunity for team building. Through our volunteer efforts, we bring together employees from different teams and functions. The “spirit of giving” is best reflected and evident by the engagement which happens at every level of the organization. Everyone from our founders to analysts engage in our volunteering opportunities.

 

productive edge chicago tech company
productive edge

As a digital consultancy helping business clients leverage the latest in back-end and customer-facing technology, Productive Edge is wired to think of how to best serve others. The company takes that same approach to its holiday giving, offering donations to clients’ chosen organizations and sending employees to volunteer with a number of local causes. Delivery Director Will Rolloff said his team’s “sweep the floor” mentality applies as much to community involvement as it does to their day-to-day work. 

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

During the holidays, we have a toy drive in our office to support a local charity. This year, we are donating the toys to Cal’s Angels, a nonprofit that raises money and plans events for children with cancer. We also started a “Holiday of Giving” campaign during which we ask our clients to pick from a list of charities that we’re passionate about and Productive Edge makes a donation on the client’s behalf to their chosen charity. Throughout the rest of the year, our PE Cares team coordinates many different volunteer initiatives. This past year, our team has had the opportunity to share our technical expertise through a workshop with TechGirlz, help clean the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool with Lincoln Park Conservancy, and serve meals to the homeless at Pacific Garden Mission.

 

Our team has had the opportunity to share our technical expertise through a workshop with TechGirlz.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

We pride ourselves on having a “sweep the floor” mentality where employees are expected to step in and help each other when needed, even if it is not part of their explicit job responsibilities. We are also committed to investing in our employees’ growth, and we try to foster a top-down community of knowledge sharing to support everyone’s success. Whether by helping other teammates internally on a project, or connecting employees who don’t normally work together through our mentorship program, the “spirit of giving” is something we live out daily.

 

chicago tech vivid seats holiday giving
vivid seats

In April 2019, Vivid Seats  announced its first ever acquisition, buying Toronto-based startup Fanxchange. So when the company started getting ready for its annual holiday giving program, it partnered with a Toronto children’s hospital as well as Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Director of Public Policy and Community Engagement Michael O’Neil outlined how Vivid Seats engages with its communities all year long.

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year? 

We believe in the joy of live events and throughout the year, we work with Lurie Children’s Hospital so families can enjoy Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears games. We are also proud to support local organizations such as Chicago’s Honor Flight program, the Mikva Challenge and the Kohl’s Children’s Museum. Vivid Seats has an employee-led affinity group, Vivid Cares, which brings staff together to volunteer with organizations that have meaning for them. This year, members of Vivid Cares volunteered as youth education mentors, raised money and awareness in support of the Trevor Project and supported veterans through various events.

This holiday season, Vivid Seats was thrilled to host families of Lurie Children’s Hospital in a suite at the United Center, and supported SickKids with an event in Toronto. Our team members were also excited to work with Lurie Children’s to pack and deliver over 1,000 toys and warm hand-made blankets to patients. 

 

Vivid Seats was thrilled to host families of Lurie Children’s Hospital in a suite at the United Center.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together?

In a company survey, Vivid Seats employees expressed the desire to give back to families and children. With this year’s launch of Vivid Seats’ corporate social responsibility program and its first partners — Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and SickKids in Toronto — employees are provided with formal and informal ways to give back to the hospitals.

In November, one of the Lurie families stopped by the office after treatment to play video games and connect with employees. Vivid Seats staff also rallied behind their IT team member, Gary Baugher, to support his 7th annual fundraiser for Extra Life, a grassroots charitable event that brings gamers together nationally to raise funds for local and national children’s hospitals.

 

onemain financial seattle tech company holiday giving
onemain financial

As one of the largest providers of personal loans in the United States, OneMain Financial uses a wide range of technological tools to help customers reach their financial goals. The company opened its Chicago tech office a few years back but, as Executive Vice President and CTO Nag Vaidyanathan pointed out, the team has already established a tradition of supporting numerous causes in the local area. 

 

How does your company give back to the local community, both during the holidays and throughout the year?

The Chicago office has a culture of giving back using a hands-on approach. This fall, we partnered with Volunteers of America Illinois (VOI) to collect backpacks for Chicago Public School students in need. We also organized a volunteer day at the VOI offices and spent the afternoon unpacking and sorting supplies. In addition, we just wrapped up a company-wide initiative with Operation Gratitude, an organization that supports service members, veterans and first responders. We collected black crew socks, wrote letters and stuffed and assembled teddy bears that will be donated to the children of deployed service members.

 

Through our “OneMain Lends a Hand” program, we give our employees paid time off each month to volunteer.”

How is this “spirit of giving” reflected in your company culture and the way your team works together

While our Chicago office is only a few years old, OneMain Financial has a long history of giving back to our communities through a variety of programs, including corporate grants, volunteerism, fundraising and our matching gifts program.

We’re passionate about supporting our communities and believe that donating time is just as important as money. Through our “OneMain Lends a Hand” program, we give our employees paid time off each month to volunteer with a non-profit organization.

 

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