Blue Shield of California employees have always tapped into their philanthropic side and contributed year-round through charitable ventures. But when COVID-19 emerged in the U.S. a lot of things changed, including Blue Shield of California’s annual employee volunteerism campaign, which supports the communities in which we serve.
“When the pandemic started, we quickly realized that all of our volunteer events – typically scheduled in May - were going to be cancelled,” said Antoinette Mayer, senior director of corporate citizenship for Blue Shield of California. “At the same time, we were hearing from many of our nonprofit partners that the situation was dire – that they were facing not only a shortage of volunteers, but an increase in community need. What they needed most was financial support.”
Shield Cares Giving Campaign
Moving quickly, Blue Shield’s Corporate Citizenship team shifted the employee campaign from a single month of mostly volunteering to a three-month campaign centered entirely on financial donations. In addition, the company increased its match from 1:1 to a 2:1 formula.
Dubbed the “Shield Cares Giving Campaign,” the word then went out to all employees that asked for financial support and other creative ideas on how to give back to our communities. We connected and collaborated with our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and CARES Leaders to listen and learn from them – what do their members care about, what causes, and organizations do they recommend for highlighting?
“At the end of the campaign, we were astounded to see that our Blue Shield colleagues successfully raised more than $850,000 total, including the company match -- by far the best fundraiser in company history,” Mayer said. To put that into perspective, employee giving in 2019 totaled just over $220,000 for the entire year, and through company matches and other charitable enterprises the number was boosted to a total of $520,000.
To see where Blue Shield of California's corporate giving ranks among Bay Area companies, read this story in San Francisco Business Times.
800 Nonprofits Helped
“The truly surprising part of this campaign was just how many charitable organizations our employees chose to help,” said Mayer. Indeed, 810 organizations benefited from Shield Cares - from groups that address violence in the home, to those that address food insecurity in our communities. From cancer research to legal resources for under-served populations. About half that number of organizations – 441 - were chosen as beneficiaries by employees in 2019. “It’s clear that the company’s commitment to helping our communities thrive and survive in the age of COVID-19 and social justice issues is more significant and will have a much stronger impact," said Mayer.
Word of the fundraising effort was welcomed by the nonprofits groups that will ultimately benefit from the campaign.
“When the COVID-19 emergency took hold, we experienced a 1,000 percent increase in calls to our emergency food helpline – more than half from households that had never reached out to us for help before.” Said Suzan Bateson, executive director of Alameda County Community Food Bank which will receive close to $25,000. “As an organization in our community that understands the intersection between health and hunger, Blue Shield and its employees have been key partners and their support will be critical for the duration of this crisis, and beyond.”
In a statement, the Center for Violence-Free Relationships says the more than $26,000 they will receive couldn’t come at a better time. “These funds will immediately go to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and their families with food, shelter, legal services and crisis counseling. Because of your generosity, The Center will continue to be the guiding light to so many in crisis.”
“Last year in our ‘Great Place to Work’ survey, employees mentioned wanting more flexibility and choice, so we gave it to them,” said Mayer. Changes made in response to employee feedback include:
- For the remainder of the year we resort back to the regular baseline program, all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in California are now eligible for 1:1 matching.
- Day One Donations, which provides new hires with a $50 credit, can be made to any nonprofit within the state during the first 90 days of employment. Previously. only four nonprofit organizations were eligible.
- Volunteer hours for any California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization can be logged for “Dollars for Doers," Blue Shield’s program that provides a $10 credit for each hour you volunteer outside of work. Previously, only organizations categorized under health, human services or the environment were eligible.
- 24 hours of Community Service Time (CST) that every employee receives each year can now be used to volunteer in schools. Previously schools were not eligible for CST.
“The success of this giving campaign demonstrates our people’s commitment to being all-in to shape the health and wellbeing of our communities. We will never stop," said Mayer.
For more on Blue Shield of California’s charitable giving in 2020, click here.