How This Company Is Inspiring the Next Great Inventor

By giving back to communities around the world, the Motorola Solutions Foundation is cultivating the next generation of innovators.
Written by Adrienne Teeley
December 2, 2021Updated: December 2, 2021

The Motorola Solutions Foundation packs a tremendous punch between giving away more than $12 million annually and organizing a number of expansive global volunteer initiatives. As the philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions, the Foundation operates independently of the tech giant. Yet the organizations are spiritually intertwined, sharing common values and priorities that accelerate each other’s work. 

“Motorola Solutions has a legacy of innovation, from introducing the first commercially successful car radios to enabling the first communications from the moon,” Karem Perez, the Foundation’s executive director, said. “That’s why our Foundation is focused on driving innovation among first responder programs and cultivating the next generation of inventors. And we’re able to do that because we have incredible support from employees and the company.”

Think more than 18,000 employees worth of support, all aiming to make a substantial impact in communities around the globe. While the Foundation facilitates opportunities, like the two-month Global Months of Service volunteer-a-thon and employee matching programs, Perez said that there’s no shortage of team members from the larger organization willing to lend a helping hand. 

“We feel the support and commitment from the company to help us in different areas as we need it,” Perez said. “And, most importantly, we feel that same commitment and support from employees who will jump in to run point on a volunteer program. We can provide them resources, but they’re the ones making it happen across the globe.”

To learn more about the work the Foundation does, Built In Chicago sat down with Perez, Grants Manager Wesley Barden and Community Engagement & Volunteer Program Coordinator Kelly Kondry. Together, the trio walked us through their strategic initiatives, the impact of their work, and how the Foundation is able to embody the same values its parent company has held for nearly a century. 

 

Motorola team posing in front of Chicago skyline
Motorola Solutions

 

Why was the Motorola Solutions Foundation founded? 

Executive Director Karem Perez: Motorola Solutions’ purpose is to help people be their best in the moments that matter. The Foundation is one of the leading ways in which Motorola Solutions lives out its purpose by connecting employees to organizations where they can drive meaningful change. 

We’re focused on creating safer cities and more equitable communities through programs that help promote equity and access to first responder, tech and engineering careers. We want to make sure these industries are reflective of our society as a whole, so kids can see themselves in these fields regardless of their background or identity. 

There’s something for everyone across the whole spectrum of volunteerism and community engagement.”


Community Engagement & Volunteer Program Coordinator Kelly Kondry: Volunteerism is another way we live out this purpose. 

We meet employees where they are in terms of volunteer offerings — from supporting employees’ individual charitable efforts via matching gifts through our Donations for Donors program to matching every 10 hours of volunteerism with a $100 donation through our Donations for Doers program. Employees get very involved with driving our volunteer programs, from serving as an engagement committee lead or working within business councils. There’s something for everyone across the whole spectrum of volunteerism and community engagement. 

Grants Manager Wesley Barden: Our Foundation was established in 1953. It says a lot about our leadership that the Foundation, and the investment that the company has made in it, has been steadfast. The Foundation’s work has remained a priority throughout the years. 

 

How many millions?

According to Perez, the Motorola Solutions Foundation has given away $100 million in the last 10 years to different causes. Today, the Foundation gives more than $12 million per year, a sum that includes annual grants, employee giving programs and community grants. 

 

The Foundation is its own entity, but it still works to underscore Motorola Solutions’ own company values. What does that look like?

Perez: As a corporate foundation, the Motorola Solutions Foundation is aligned with the company’s philanthropic interests. As such, the Foundation’s values of accountability, innovation, impact, inclusion and diversity overlap greatly with the values of the company. We share the values of being accountable, innovative, inclusive and diverse. As I mentioned earlier, for example, we are supporting programs to ensure the next generation of engineers, inventors and first responders represent our society as a whole — and a number of employee resource groups help drive diversity, equity and inclusion efforts every day.

Furthermore, and what is so near my heart, is how the Foundation’s value of “impact” is an intrinsic value for all Motorolans. As a Foundation, we want to make sure our grants are yielding positive, measurable change in communities, and our employees are equally driven by making a positive impact too, supporting our programs and augmenting the ripple effect of positive change around the world. 

 

Motorola team volunteering
Motorola Solutions

 

How does the Motorola Solutions Foundation provide community support?

Barden: Our grants program awards between $9 and $10 million to nonprofit organizations around the world, which focus on supporting first responders or technology and engineering education. 

Many of our first responder-facing programs focus on providing mental health support for first responders, building trust within communities and helping children who lost a parent in the line of duty. This year, we’ve donated more than $1 million to programs focused on suicide prevention for first responders and awarded more than $1.2 million in scholarships for children of fallen first responders, a 58 percent increase from last year. 

Within technology and engineering education, we provide opportunities to students who are traditionally underrepresented in these areas, helping diversify what tech professionals look like in the future. This year, we saw an 89 percent increase within our grant funding to programs that specifically engage women within coding camps or robotics teams. 

We have employees in 43 countries actively volunteering, which speaks to the global nature of our volunteer program.”


Kondry: Additionally, our employees volunteer to support our grant program beneficiaries. For example, we have employees serving as mentors through a program at Chicago Tech Academy High School, who meet monthly with students to cover different topics like interviewing, career exploration and homework help. Employees also volunteer extensively with FIRST Robotics, coaching over 50 teams of K-12 students who are interested in coding and robotics located in the United States, Canada, Israel and Mexico. Our company’s Young Professionals Group recently led a mock-interview workshop for First Responders Children’s Foundation’s scholarship recipients, a program consisting of students who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. 

We have employees in 43 countries actively volunteering, which speaks to the global nature of our volunteer program. As a Foundation, we take a hands-on, collaborative approach to supporting our community partners, which makes us stand out from others in this space.

 

Motorola Solutions volunteering
Motorola Solutions

 

Speaking of volunteering, what are Global Months of Service?

Kondry: Global Months of Service, which started in 2018, is a company-wide volunteer-a-thon. Recently, we’ve added a friendly competition element, where the different organizations within the company compete to see who can log the most volunteer hours, with the winning team receiving a $50,000 grant to benefit the nonprofit of their choice. 

But beyond that, we have employees that serve year-round as our Engagement Committee leads, championing volunteerism across all our global sites. Overall, our employees care deeply about volunteering in community activities year-round, not just during Global Months of Service. 

Our employees care deeply about volunteering in community activities year-round, not just during Global Months of Service.” 


Perez: In planning this year’s Global Months of Service, we were a little concerned with how work-from-home would impact employees’ willingness to dedicate their time to volunteering. But we actually saw a massive growth in participation as employees realized, by necessity, that they can volunteer in so many different ways from anywhere. 

The energy was infectious, and as teams saw that other groups were participating and raising the bar, they felt encouraged to do the same. Our international participation was especially big this year. We saw employees from Malaysia, Singapore, Portugal, Spain, Latin America, the United Kingdom and Poland all posting on our internal channels about cleanup projects they did, or how they revitalized an orphanage. It was really inspiring to see. 

 

What does virtual volunteering look like?

Depending on local ordinances and Covid-19 guidelines, some teams met up for Global Months of Service to volunteer together in person, while other teams opted to do their good deeds virtually. Turns out, there’s a lot volunteers can do without even leaving their homes, like writing cards to first responders, holding mock interviews with future tech talent, getting involved in virtual mentorship meetings, grading papers, making toys for shelter animals and much more. 

 

What other opportunities are there for Motorola Solutions’ employees to get involved?

Barden: Through our grants program, we can receive as many as 1,300 submissions. Every one of those applicants is doing great work, but we have to narrow the submissions down to those most closely aligned to our areas of focus, priority locations, and those who are really moving the needle forward. In order to do this, we’ve incorporated Motorola Solutions employees into our grant review process to help us narrow down the recipients. 

This year, we had about 300 employees participate in our employee grant review committees. We group them into teams who review a certain number of applications, then come together within their group to discuss their recommendation for support. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and has unique perspectives, which is so valuable in helping us make the best decisions. 

I can’t imagine a more direct line of giving back than the type of work we do here.”


Perez: Our employees absolutely love participating in this program! We surveyed participants and found that 93 percent of them enjoyed the process and would do it again. We’re able to do what we do because we have the support and buy-in from our leadership and our employees, all who feel as passionately about giving back as we do. It’s so rewarding, and I can’t imagine a more direct line of giving back than the type of work we do here. 

 

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