A Veteran Approach to Corporate Social Responsibility


A Veteran Approach to Corporate Social Responsibility

In the world of corporate social responsibility (CSR), it’s easy to become distracted by the tyranny of the urgent. Employees have close and personal relationships with not-for-profits and want to share their passion for those organizations. Corporations don’t lack in wonderful charities to choose from, but they do run the very real risk of spreading their resources too thinly. I have watched the scattershot approach….doling out a few dollars to dozens, if not hundreds, of organizations based on who happens to ask first.

How Does an Organization Do Right by Employees, Customers, and the Community?

It’s a mix of relationship, intentionality, and weight class (ability to make a significant impact).

Since 2013, Engility has partnered with Building Homes for Heroes (BHFH), which gifts mortgage-free homes to wounded veterans and offers services for their families. Serving as Engility’s liaison to the not-for-profit, I have had a front row seat in all of our fundraising and engagement initiatives. This year, we engaged thousands of our employees, increased giving by 43%, set company social media records, and even caught the attention of the director of operations for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Our BHFH relationship paid dividends for wounded veterans, the not-for-profit, Engility employees, and the company. As BHFH says, they don’t build homes, they “help our severely wounded and disabled veterans and their families rebuild their lives.

Engility CEO Lynn Dugle surprising Miriam Gonzalez with the news her son will receive a mortgage-free home. Kim Valdyke of BHFH looks on with St. Petersburg’s 2017 Veteran of the Year and U.S. Army Sergeant Charles Claybaker, and NGA’s Major General Urrutia-Varhall. See video.

Relationship

We selected BHFH for several reasons, all of which hinge on relationship:

  1. BHFH puts a face on our donations. We are partnered with wounded veterans, who we often get to meet in person. Our employee volunteers enjoy personal correspondence with several of the heroes we’ve supported since 2013. Our CEO likes to say that we adopt them into the Engility family.
  2. We value veterans. At Engility, more than one in four employees served in uniform, and our entire workforce takes pride in improving the health and safety of active duty military and veterans through our contracts and through volunteering.
  3. We matter to BHFH. Their largest partners have workforces more than ten times bigger than ours, but I can always count on someone returning my phone call!
  4. We trush them. We conducted our due diligence in selecting BHFH. They earned a 98.23 out of 100 on Charitynavigator.org—a four-star rating. Their operating costs are razor thin, and their CEO even donates his salary back into the organization. We have met with the CEO and president to make sure our values and objectives align.

Intentionality

Make a plan. I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy! It’s so much easier to simply write a check for charity than to actually consider how to make the most of that resource. In addition, without a plan, you risk having a strong personality steer the organization into causes that don’t resonate with the vast majority of the company’s population. In 2018, we took that to heart and talked to BHFH early in the year to create a plan to best work for BHFH and our employees. Our goal was to align our efforts with heroes receiving homes in areas where our employees live and work, giving us the opportunity to do more than just fundraise. The BHFH response was overwhelming.

Not only were we partnered with two amazing heroes in Florida, but BHFH also asked if we’d like to help surprise these families with the news that they had been selected to receive a mortgage-free home! They even worked with us to coordinate the announcements around Engility events. The Gonzalez family was surprised on the show floor at GEOINT 2018 in the Engility booth with a guest appearance from Major General Urrutia-Varhall, while the Howard family was told during Engility’s employee picnic in front of more than 500 people! Both events were successful thanks to the close coordination and relationship enjoyed by Engility and BHFH. These ceremonies, posted to social media channels, have garnered thousands of views.

Building Homes for Heroes Engility Picnic Volunteers at the 2018 employee picnic pose with Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Lloyd Howard Jr. and his family and former home recipient Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Claude and his daughter.

Weight Class (Ability to Make a Significant Impact)

In traditional sponsorships, the logo of a 200,000-person company is normally bigger and more prominent than that of an 8,000-person company (e.g., Engility), so we wanted to find a way to conduct CSR that didn’t rely on scale. Thanks to the relationship we share with BHFH, we were able to go beyond traditional sponsorship opportunities like signage and logo placement. For example, building on the passion of a very engaged workforce, we created an entire event and BHFH fundraising activity around the Army Ten-Miler. We sponsored employee runners, hosted a pre-race dinner, and invited BHFH to attend. Chris Claude (our 2016 hero) joined in the fun as a racer, and the Howard family (our 2018 hero) traveled from Florida to cheer on our runners.

We made our resources go farther. For less than the cost of one logo placement at a sporting event (which is static and can’t interact with people), we were able to:

  • Engage employees and their networks (our runners posted on social media to fundraise)
  • Enable employees to participate outside of a traditional fundraiser setting
  • Deepen our bonds with BHFH
  • Enjoy a great experience with a few or our adopted heroes

Outside the Box

Many of us have seen those sponsorship forms with a few pre-designed promotion options and associated price tags. We dared to think outside of those checkboxes and truly partner with BHFH. We sought, and found, a true partner that wanted to work with us on finding ways to enrich the lives of wounded vets that didn’t rely on a prescribed sponsor role. The result was a fuller, richer, and much more successful CSR experience for us, them, our employees, and our adopted wounded veterans. When considering your next CSR investment, think outside the box, and stretch beyond traditional sponsorships.

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Posted by Jake Weyant

I serve as a communications manager for Engility, where I deliver employee and marketing communications—with a focus on horizontal capabilities and internal collaboration. I have a special interest in organizational culture, and hold a master’s degree in professional writing. A member of the Public Relations Society of America, I have been with Engility (via HPTi and DRC) since 2003.