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Beyond holiday spirit: Giving is best done all year long

This is the season of charitable giving, when we are called to support those causes that mean most personally. But why should people and companies limit their giving to just this time of year? At Mortenson, we believe that charitable giving is something that can and should happen year-round, and not be limited to support of nonprofits. That’s why we are pleased to support our team members’ philanthropic efforts year-round.

Getting things going, 5% of Mortenson’s pre-tax income is directed to charitable organizations like the United Way. This takes the form of either cash donations or equivalent paid time off for company team members to use for volunteering at a philanthropic cause that is dear to them. By allowing our team members this time and freedom, we see positive returns in both community engagement and company morale.

As a company, Mortenson has been supporting local United Way chapters in the different cities where we operate – including Portland – since 1954. Given United Way’s strategy of providing financial support for numerous individual agencies and services, we’re able to make our contributions stretch as far as possible. But we do more than write them a check every year. By matching our team members’ United Way donations dollar-for-dollar, we’re able to significantly increase the impact on local communities. It turns out that this matching program is a big motivator for employees inspired to make a difference in our communities.

The culture of giving is also ingrained in our organizational structure. Mortenson has a stewardship committee charged with guiding our charitable efforts on a yearly basis. With an annual strategy, the committee meets monthly to assess opportunities and consider ideas by our employees. We’ve found that allowing team members to help direct where we place our support and resources gives them much more ownership and satisfaction.

Among the local organizations that Mortenson has supported is the American Heart Association (AHA), and last year I was honored to serve as board chairman of the Oregon and Southwest Washington chapter. The AHA promotes wellness and heart health – something all companies should list as a top priority for their organization. We’ve integrated AHA into our workplace by participating in its annual Heart Walk, and by sponsoring employee blood drives.

One of the ways we support children and families is through annual school supply drives for the Community Transitional School (CTS) in East Multnomah County. CTS provides education for homeless kids from kindergarten through eighth grade. When we volunteer for their school parties or field trips, it’s amazing to see how much joy our efforts bring. Mortenson has also helped the organization hold local coat and sock drives, and offer suicide prevention programs.

Mortenson amplifies its commitment and makes community support a regional effort. This year, our Seattle office challenged us here in Portland to launch our own “Canstruction” initiative, which provides canned food to hunger relief groups. Our partners in the design, engineering and construction industries came together to create structures from cans of foods, and then donated those building blocks to local hunger relief agencies. In total, the effort raised more than $10,000.

A creative approach to charitable giving can be contagious, and we know that involvement from our company leaders promotes us all doing the right thing. When employees get behind a cause we are sure to personally acknowledge and thank them, and encourage them to keep doing good. Every effort is appreciated, and we are grateful for those making a difference.

Stewardship is about making a difference and finding those ways to make us better as a community through our combined efforts. As an employee of Mortenson, I am grateful to be part of an organization that believes in this ideal so passionately and has made it a core value of its mission.

Dan Mehls is the vice president and general manager of Mortenson’s Portland, Oregon, office. Contact him at 971-202-4113.

About Dan Mehls