By Tom Van Hemelryck, Idaho Region President for WaFd Bank
This year has proven to be difficult for nearly everyone, including nonprofits that have canceled their usual galas, fundraisers, runs and auctions that help to keep their organizations afloat. According to a survey by the Charities Aid Foundation of America, in May half of charities responded that they expected donations to fall by at least 20% in the next 12 months. Although giving has rebounded in recent months, particularly to health and food security organizations, it has not risen to the level of demand in most places. For many nonprofits, this giving downturn comes at a time of year when people rely on them most. This presents an opportunity for companies to fill the gap and support nonprofits in their communities.
An integral part of WaFd Bank’s mission here in Idaho has always been to give back to the communities we serve and beyond, and this year that is more important than ever. Through the Washington Federal Foundation, which facilitates giving to local nonprofits that serve the needs of low- and moderate-income individuals, we found many ways to partner with local nonprofits in 2020 despite the challenges the year brought.
I am the Idaho Region President at WaFd Bank and I proudly serve on the board for the United Way of Treasure Valley. They focus on education, financial stability and health, the building blocks for a good life and a strong community. Heather Chambers, our Vice President and Retail Division Manager, also serves on the United Way Vision Council and the board for the Good Samaritan Society.
As part of WaFd Bank’s partnership with United Way, we participated in the annual United Way campaign both financially and through taking part in Days of Caring. For Days of Caring, the WaFd team created 300 cards of encouragement that were included in basic necessity boxes that we put together at the United Way Holiday Helpers event.
“At WaFd Bank, we are more than just a bank, we are part of a community. We believe in neighbors helping neighbors and put this into action by contributing to local organizations with both our time and financial resources,” said Chambers.
WaFd Bank employees in Idaho have donated more than 660 volunteer hours to multiple local organizations this year. This includes the Idaho Foodbank where a group from WaFd Bank packed apples for families in need and supported the organization with a financial donation. Along with partner agencies across the state, the Idaho Foodbank is an essential service and vital to providing food for those in need. In 2019, the Idaho Foodbank distributed more than 20.3 million pounds of food.
WaFd Bank has supported several organizations working to end homelessness. These include Jesse Tree, which strives to fill the gap to prevent eviction and homelessness and served 535 people in 2019 – and over 1,000 between 2017 and 2019, with 97% of those people still in housing, as well as South Central Community Action Partnership and Charitable Assistance for the Community’s Homeless.
We take pride in supporting the WCA (Women’s and Children’s Alliance) in several ways. For over 40 years the WCA has provided safety, healing, shelter and freedom from domestic abuse and sexual assault. The WCA’s requests for assistance have nearly doubled since this time last year. As part of WaFd Bank’s partnership with the WCA, the company purchases Christmas gifts for mothers and children who are staying in the WCA’s shelter. “The WCA has also been the beneficiary of an annual sporting clays tournament and auction I started five years ago,” said Van Hemelryck. “In 2019, thanks to over 85 participants, donors and sponsors, and help from over 20 of our employees, we were able to present the WCA with a check for $12,200, plus a check for another $15,000 from the WaFd Foundation for a total of $27,200.”
Based on our experiences working with local Idaho nonprofits this year, here are some tips on how businesses across the Treasure Valley can help these vital organizations thrive.
Tip #1: Engage employees in giving back
Survey employees to find out which charity is a priority to them. This will ensure you are aligning with what matters most to your employees and in turn, increase participation levels. There’s also an opportunity to make giving fun, such as a competition, game or dress code day (example: if you wear jeans on Fridays you donate $1 to the charity of your choice). This type of engagement will not only benefit the nonprofit, but also build morale and enhance company culture.
Tip #2: “In Kind and Time”
If your business isn’t in a position to donate to an organization, encourage your employees to get out and volunteer. Employees appreciate paid time off for volunteering. Designate a certain number of hours a quarter that employees can organize time off to give back to local nonprofits. Beyond organizing opportunities for employees, also encourage them to update the company when they volunteer on their own.
Tip #3: Help us Help You
Another way to give time to local nonprofits is to encourage your leadership team to serve on nonprofit boards. This provides a way for your staff to share their expertise in a way that could make a tangible impact for a nonprofit while building a stronger relationship with your company and the community.
“Giving back to our local community is part of who WaFd Bank is. Despite the setbacks that 2020 has brought, we are committed to helping our communities, including nonprofits, finish the year strong and on a positive note,” added Chambers.
Giving in an uncertain time can be challenging, but the community will remember your dedication and perseverance during a difficult time. We encourage our Treasure Valley business community to join us in supporting local nonprofits during this holiday season. If you’re a business seeking insight into ways you can increase engagement in our community or a nonprofit seeking grants or volunteer support, please get in touch with WaFd Bank’s community relations at 541-880-5288 or visit our foundation page.
Tom Van Hemelryck is a banking industry veteran and has been in this business for more than 30 years. As Idaho Regional President, Van Hemelryck oversees WaFd Bank’s commercial and retail banking at 24 locations throughout Idaho. WaFd Bank is the second largest national bank headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, with over 2,000 employees and more than 200 branches across eight western states.
Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender.