Idaho corporations demonstrate holiday generosity

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Beef. It’s what’s for dinner this Christmas, through the Idaho Food Bank. Photo courtesy of Idaho Food Bank

When it comes to corporate philanthropy, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

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Morgan Wilson

As just one example, the Idaho Food Bank raises 65% of its annual funding from September to December. About 23% of the organization’s budget comes from corporate partners.

“The Idaho Food Bank is very fortunate to have great engagement from communities, including corporations, the year-round, but certainly during the holidays,” said Morgan Wilson, chief development officer for the Boise-based nonprofit. “Holidays, from our experience, bring out the generosity in people.”

In kind

The Idaho Beef Council and the Idaho Beef community donated beef to more than 260 families out of a mobile food pantry in Weiser.

“Each walked away with a variety of food that included beef protein,” Wilson said, including two 3-pound roasts. “They also received kiwi and apples and potatoes and all the fixings for a really wonderful meal.”

The “Beef Counts” program operates year-round among more than 200 partners through the state, serving roasts and hamburger, Wilson said.

“In 2017, the Beef Counts program provided 1 million servings of beef to the community,” she said.

Companies such as Micron and Albertsons also donated food during the holiday season.


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Todd Hicks

Some companies donate funds throughout the year. Todd Hicks owns four Subway restaurants in the Treasure Valley and created the “Subway Day” fundraising program nine years ago “as a way to help out the schools that didn’t have lunchrooms.”

He organized a lunch ordering program once a week and returned some of the money earned to the schools.

“They get funds back for every meal that is delivered,” Hicks said.

This year, that amounted to roughly 30,000 meals, which raised $45,000 for the 17 participating schools, primarily in the West Ada School District.

“Instead of the parents buying cookie dough or popcorn or whatever they do for fundraising, they’re ecstatic that they get to do Subway,” he said.

Some companies leave it up to employees to guide corporate giving. At the Lamb Weston Foundation, for the second year in a row, all 7,000 employees were provided with $50 to direct to an eligible charity, said Shelby Stoolman, senior director of communications and president of the Eagle-based foundation.

That would amount to $350,000 if the organization had 100% participation, which is its goal, Stoolman said.

“We have a lot of workforce not sitting at a computer every day,” she said. “It can be a little challenging to get them onto the system.”

Last year, the company achieved 60%, for a total of around $210,000, she said.

The organization chose this method because it wanted corporate giving to be meaningful to employees, Stoolman said.

“Employees connect the company to the cause of hunger, because of food, which makes sense, but for their own personal money and time, the focus was on a lot of other places,” she said.

Major recipients include the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which received $25,000 last year, she said.


In the “teach a man to fish” department, some organizations donate equipment rather than money or food.

Fatbeam, a Coeur d’Alene fiber optic company in 32 markets in seven Western states, partnered with Volunteers in Medicine Clinic of the Cascades, a Bend, Oregon, nonprofit, to provide gigabit fiber optic internet to help power VIM’s electronic health record system, EPIC. Fatbeam donated monthly networking and maintenance fees for the next five years, in addition to some construction and equipment fees, totaling $41,700.

Similarly, Idaho Central Credit Union, based in Chubbuck, recently donated $450,000 of computer equipment to Idaho State University’s Information Technology Systems, in Pocatello, when it updated its data center. The school will be able to use the equipment in lab activities.

First Interstate Bank has a goal of donating 2% of its income before taxes, and sometimes they have money left at the end of the year, said Jeff Huhn, Boise metro market president.

“We drove the proverbial ‘big check’ around a lot the past few weeks.”

BOMA hosts panel discussion on homelessness

November 21 BOMA panelists, from left-to-right: Joshua Leonard, Jodi Peterson Stigers, Beatrice Black, Ryley Siegner.
From left-to-right: Joshua Leonard, Jodi Peterson Stigers, Beatrice Black, and Geoffrey Wardle at BOMA’s lunch panel on homelessness on Nov 21. Photo by Catie Clark

Boise’s population is rising fast and so are housing prices – an economic boom that comes with a cost:  homeless people have to struggle to get back into housing because rents are so high.

That was the message of a panel discussion on homelessness hosted by the Idaho Chapter meeting of the Building Owners and Managers Association on Nov. 21. The 90-minute discussion looked at three aspects of the homeless problem: employment, housing and services. The panels were moderated by Geoffrey Wardle of the real estate law firm of Clark Wardle.

Jodi Peterson Stigers, manager of the Interfaith Sanctuary shelter in Boise, noted the “most critical need” is to “house people until they can get housing.”

“These people have been priced out of rentals. There is no affordable option,” she said.

Stigers also outlined how hard it is to get a job or to accessing services without an address or photo ID. She referenced the unique problems of trying to obtain an ID, which she addressed in a recent Boise TED talk.

Beatrice Black of the Women’s and Children’s Alliance, which provides services and shelter for domestic violence victims, stressed that many shelter residents are working full time but have no access to affordable housing “so they’re stuck.”

“Every morning they wake up and they go to work, but they’re branded as homeless,” she said. “This hurts their ability to move up and get a better paying job. It’s really hard to do when you have no address. It also hurts your ability to get housing when you have none. It’s a struggle and our timelines (to find affordable housing) are so much longer now. People are staying in our shelter for a year and a half because there’s no access to actually having (housing) inventory.”

Stigers underscored how homelessness is really a package of interrelated problems, which can’t be solved by simplistic solutions: “Our perception of what people need and want and what they (actually) need is different,” Stiger said.

“There’s not one person in my shelter that’s not experiencing some level of trauma, however they got into homelessness. We have to create safe space first and give them some time to get their head back together and then we can really start addressing the major issues. … Studies show that (you must address) trauma first. Then (addressing) mental health and addiction follows.”

Black also presented this chilling statistic: “Domestic violence abuse is the leading cause of homelessness in our community and in the country as a whole.”

Economic abuse is part of the picture that’s often neglected, she said, adding that it is challenging to rehouse and employ these victims if they inherited a bad credit history from a spouse or lack transportation.

Black brought home how economic conditions over the last decade are creating a new class of homeless: “(Going by) last year’s numbers, 85 percent of the clients who lived in our shelter had annual incomes of less than $12,000 a year. So you try to find something on that kind of income, and it’s virtually impossible.”

But there are efforts underway to provide new opportunities to people who are facing homelessness.

To help address a shortage in available labor, the City of Boise Parks Department began a program in 2017 to employ some of the residents of the Interfaith Sanctuary Shelter.

Jennifer Tomlinson, parks superintendent for the City of Boise, outlined factors that have made the program successful despite some of the problems that often prevent this population from working, like viable transportation.

“We worked extensively on the scheduling,” said Tomlinson. “The Sanctuary provides transportation and lunch for them. And I think the most important part of our program is there’s a case manager who’s assigned to each of the teams that works for us … If things are starting to go sideways, then there’s always somebody who’s able to step in and help them.”

As a business owner, Bret Vaterlaus, owner and manager of Western Building Maintenance of Boise, decided a few years ago to extend employment to one portion of the homeless population often left jobless. Despite a genuine desire to work, many people who have served time behind bars can’t get jobs. Vaterlaus outlined the success he’s had in employing former convicts; however, he emphasized that many building maintenance contracts prevent this.

“So if you want to make a difference, review your contracts,” he said. “If you would you like to be a community-minded tenant … then take a little bit of risk and help them improve, but it all has to start with all of us working together. But currently, (service) contracts usually block employing these people — so that’s where we’re stuck at.”

Banks help communities with philanthropy

A full house at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2017. Photo courtesy of Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
A full house at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2017. Photo courtesy of Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

If you’ve ever been to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, you know the person announcing the night’s performance and sponsors – typically producing artistic director Charles Fee – concludes with: “And our season sponsor, for the 20th consecutive year, is …” and the audience shouts, “KEYBANK!”

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Debbie Trujillo

“It gets our name out there,” said Debbie Trujillo, corporate responsibility officer for the Rocky Mountain region of KeyBank, which covers Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. The bank has similar major sponsorships in most cities in which it operates, she added.

KeyBank isn’t alone. Throughout Idaho, banks play a major philanthropic role in communities, whether through direct financial contributions or in-kind contributions of employee time and talent.

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Jennifer Oxley

“Banks play a significant and important role in Idaho philanthropy,” said Jennifer Oxley, chief communications and marketing office for the Idaho Community Foundation, a Boise-based nonprofit that accepts contributions from donors and makes grants. “All or most of the banks are active in the community in some way, whether it’s with sponsorships, volunteering or other support.” For example, the foundation receives donations from U.S. Bank, D. L. Evans Bank, and Washington Trust Bank, which helps it fund grants. “Our relationship with U.S. Bank, in particular, stretches back decades,” she said. “When we were established 30 years ago in 1988, U.S. Bank allowed us to have rent-free space in the U.S. Bank building. That was a generous benefit that allowed the Idaho Community Foundation to concentrate on our mission.”

Of the 12 Idaho community banks headquartered in Idaho, a total of 1,971 employees provided 56,240 volunteer hours, said Trent Wright, president and CEO of the Idaho Bankers Association, in Boise. In addition, they provided $1.1 million to charitable organizations, he said.

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First Interstate Bank in Kuna. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Some banks have a corporate giving program, some have a foundation, and some, like First Interstate, have both, said Kelly Bruggeman, vice president of the First Interstate Foundation, based in Billings, Montana. The bank contributes a minimum of 2 percent of its net income before tax each year – $3.2 million in 2017, she said. Idaho organizations the bank supports include the Home Partnership Foundation and Boise Valley Habitat for Humanity, she said.

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Kelley Bruggeman

Banks don’t donate purely out of the goodness of their hearts. As part of the Community Reinvestment Act, banks are rated as part of their compliance, Bruggeman said. And banks have been criticized for using philanthropy as a marketing tool, such as making donations to organizations with good demographics – like the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. “You see banks advertising or providing grants to places that are frequented by the kinds of clients that they are trying to attract as bank clients, like elite cultural organizations,” said Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, in Washington, D.C. “The line gets a little blurry. Is this marketing, or true philanthropy?”

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Brian Stewart

Increasingly, though, banks are donating to economic development causes. “We’ve really tried to concentrate around community development and affordable housing as our main philanthropic priorities,” said Brian Stewart, relationship manager with the Office of Nonprofit Engagement for JPMorgan Chase & Co., in Portland. Idaho programs the bank supports include NeighborWorks Boise, the Treasure Valley Education Partnership, and job programs such as Life’s Kitchen, he said.

Employees contribute as well. In 2017, employees in Utah and Idaho raised $765,000 for the United Way, said Toni Nielsen, region president for western Idaho for Zions Bank, in Boise. Most employees are involved with at least two nonprofits – one with a networking component “and one they’re passionate about,” she said.

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Justin Smith

In response to the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, some banks said they would be increasing philanthropic efforts. For example, U.S. Bank donated an additional $150 million to its foundation, said Justin Smith, U.S. Bank region president in southern Idaho. But most Idaho banks said the tax cut wasn’t changing their philanthropic plans.

As well as helping society, bank philanthropic efforts can also be good for business, Dorfman said. “A lot of corporate philanthropy is from the desire to give back to communities, but there is self-interest as well,” he said. “When you lift up the most vulnerable, that makes the whole society stronger and healthier – and that’s good for banks.”

Corporate donors are stepping up to the Boise Philharmonic

Music Director Robert Franz and the Boise Philharmonic may make more roadtrips around Idaho with increases in corporate funding. Photo courtesy of Boise Philharmonic.
Music Director Robert Franz and the Boise Philharmonic may make more roadtrips around Idaho with increases in corporate funding. Photo courtesy of Boise Philharmonic.

Corporate dollars are returning to the Boise Philharmonic Association after a number of fallow years.

The Philharmonic has attracted $80,000 in corporate funding since July 1, with ambitions to reach $125,000 by the time the fiscal year ends June 30, said Amy House, the organization’s director of development and marketing. The Boise Philharmonic season opens Sept. 26.

In the 2013-14 season, corporate sponsorship reached $20,000 or, as Amy House described it, zero dollars.

Corporate dollars are the lifeblood for fine arts organizations nationwide. When corporate dollars dry up, so, too, do some organizations. That happened with Opera Pacific in Orange County, Calif., and nearly occurred this spring with the San Diego Opera.

The Boise Philharmonic slogged through the recession with nary a corporate dollar. It survived through an especially robust commitment of individual dollars from a “very supportive” community, in the words of Executive Director Sandra Culhane.

Like any business – and Culhane is upfront about talking about the Boise Philharmonic as a business – the Philharmonic seeks a diversified income stream. Ticket sales account for only about 40 percent of revenue, which is typical for fine arts organizations across the country. The Philharmonic’s $2 million budget is about 62 percent contributed income.

“We’re trying to develop corporate giving,” Culhane said. “It’s an open slate for us. It’s really not an area we focused our energy on in recent years.”

The corporate campaign started in April as House, after four months of discussion, won a $25,000 gift from Albertsons to help fund the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Culhane and House then invited two dozen business leaders to breakfast in July to explain the Philharmonic business model and listen to what the corporate world wants from the Boise Philharmonic.

Sandra Culhane
Sandra Culhane

“What we heard is what people don’t know about our orchestra,” Culhane said. “They didn’t know the breadth of our activities. They are excited about that. They were engaged.”

Culhane told business leaders that Philharmonic musicians appear in all 263 second grade classrooms in the Treasure Valley; that the orchestra performs free children’s concerts; that Music Director Robert Franz makes more than 100 school classroom visits per year; and that musicians offer a Musically Speaking lecture series before each concert.

“How are we relevant? We absolutely must be relevant to them,” said Culhane, who joined the Boise Philharmonic in May 2013.

The Boise Philharmonic Board of Directors and Culhane are nearing the end of a strategic planning process. Culhane sees potential uses for increased corporate funding.

“We’d like to cover more of Idaho,” Culhane said. “We want to do a tour of Idaho with larger ensembles. We want to live stream eventually and do Webinars. Amy put together a wonderful menu of opportunities (for potential corporate donors). Strategic planning will chart the course we want to go.”

Saint Alphonsus Health System recently offered $5,000 to sponsor the Philharmonic’s new series for senior citizens. Saint Alphonsus hasn’t sponsored a Boise Philharmonic series in at least 10 years, said Linda Payne Smith, the hospital’s vice president of marketing and community development.

The Micron Foundation gave $10,000 to help fund the Philharmonic’s free Children’s Concerts series in January for third to fifth graders in Boise and Nampa. This is the annual “Musical Tour of the Planets” narrated by former astronaut Barbara Morgan.

“It’s a way to provide students the arts and science at the same time,” said Kami Faylor, the foundation’s community relations manager. ”We like to fund opportunity at schools that support a passion in the next generation for science and engineering.”

Across the country, economic development groups cite the value of the fine arts in recruiting talent to a city. Zions Bank Chief Executive Scott Anderson espoused the value of business investment in the arts in an Idaho Business Review guest column in March.

“The Philharmonic has sent Scott Anderson’s guest opinion to many corporations because the message is excellent for companies to give to the arts,” said Ray Stark, the Boise Phil’s board chair and senior vice president at the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. “We’re using that letter as a door opener in targeted requests for sponsorship opportunities.”