Every year as the holiday season rolls around, focus turns to charitable giving and philanthropy. We looked across the Eastside and selected eight companies that focus on charitable contributions, whether it originates from the corporate office, a sister foundation, or from the employees themselves. With emphases on education, human health services, and help for needy children, these companies have made an impact in local communities and across the globe.

Philanthropy is Ingrained in Outerwall’s Culture

Employees give back during the annual Giving Day. Photo courtesy Outerwall Inc.

Employees give back during the annual Giving Day. Photo courtesy Outerwall Inc.

Headquarters: Bellevue
How you know them: Parent company of Coinstar & Redbox
Employees: 2,900
Year founded: 1991

Outerwall Inc.’s giving begins at its Coinstar and EcoATM kiosks, where customers can make instant charity donations, and permeates to the Bellevue company’s core.

Volunteer opportunities for its 2,900 employees are so abundant, management created a special website to help them sort through the myriad options. Outerwall pays workers for up to eight hours of annual volunteer time (four hours for part-time workers), then helps them leverage that through matching programs and grants.

There’s the Dollars for Doers program, in which Outerwall donates $15 to an organization for each hour, up to 40 hours, an employee spends volunteering there. In the Dollars for Dollars program, the company matches individual cash charity donations up to $5,000 per worker. There also are Employee Engagement events where employees team up for a special project, such as building a house with Habitat For Humanity, followed by a company cash donation to the cause.

Or employees can help out at one of Outerwall’s “signature” volunteer events on Earth Day, Sept. 11, and during the winter holiday season.

“We’re deeply committed to getting our employees engaged,” says Debby Fry Wilson, vice president of corporate and public affairs. “It’s been ingrained in who we are from the very beginning.”

The roots trace back to Jens Molbak, who embedded an ethos of social responsibility when he founded Coinstar, Outerwall’s maiden moniker, in 1991. Molbak seemed to know at the time what recent surveys have confirmed: Employees who have an opportunity to make a direct social and environmental impact at work are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than those who don’t.

And that’s not all. In a survey by United Health Group, 76 percent of respondents who volunteered in the past year said that doing so made them feel physically healthier, and 78 percent said volunteering lowered their stress levels.

“It’s been humbling to have a company that’s so supportive of you,” says Paul Weigel, Outerwall’s director of community affairs. “We are small enough, and yet large enough, to become part of our community’s DNA.”

At press time, 28 percent of Outerwall employees were volunteering through work in some fashion; the company’s goal is 33 percent by the end of 2014.

Outerwall already met a different goal — to give 1 percent of the previous year’s after-tax profits — by donating $1.5 million in 2013 to various Puget Sound charities. Two-thirds of that was corporate giving, including grants and unique partnership deals with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders.

The company distributed more than $100,000 in grant funds in 2014 to five Eastside nonprofits: Habitat for Humanity, Hopelink, the College Success Foundation, Eastside Pathways, and Jubilee Reach.

The company’s Better Everyday grants, ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, are awarded to organizations that support communities, families, and youth development. Community Connection grants are awarded to nonprofits whose efforts align with the objectives of Outerwall’s business resource groups.

The grants aren’t restricted, which allows spending flexibility, and integrate employee volunteerism, which adds the potential for additional matching funds. Outerwall also supports the Seahawks’ five Spirit of 12 nonprofits (Treehouse, Girl Scouts of Western Washington, Camp Fire Snohomish, YMCA of Greater Seattle, and Boys & Girls Clubs Washington State Association) by donating $512 for every Hawks’ home-game first down until the total reaches $100,000. At press time, that tally stood at $78,336. In November, the company struck a similar deal with the Sounders: $1,500 for each home playoff goal to benefit Fisher House, a nonprofit that supports area military families.

“We had this synergy with the Seahawks around the area of youth development,” Fry Wilson says, noting Outerwall and the Seahawks support several of the same nonprofits. “We wanted to see if we could create something greater than the sum of its parts. We’re really able to aggregate giving in a way that becomes very impactful and very meaningful.”

Management will explore more such partnerships, she says, as well as other ideas to increase volunteer impact in 2015.

Though Outerwall is a mid-size company, it has full-size ambitions.

“We’re designed like Microsoft, but we’re so much smaller,” Fry Wilson says. “We aspire to have that same type of impact when it comes to commitment to community.”
— Adam Worcester

MacPherson Construction Giving Started on Day One

Nancy and Roger MacPherson. Photo by Rachel Coward

Nancy and Roger MacPherson. Photo by Rachel Coward

Headquarters: Sammamish
Employees: 17
Year founded: 1983
Tidbit: Their longest-tenured employee has been with them for 29 years.

Thirty years.

That’s how long Roger and Nancy MacPherson have been giving back to their community. It’s also how long they have operated their business, MacPherson Construction & Design. The timeframes are identical because the MacPhersons’ company and their charity work have always been intertwined.

“We feel like we’ve been very blessed and we have a moral obligation to give back,” Nancy MacPherson says.

The MacPhersons have long been doing so. Not only did they coach their children’s sports teams and participate in related booster events, but they also made their personal outdoor basketball court available for their daughter’s team to hold practice when a gym was unavailable.

Their kids now grown, the couple have expanded their philanthropic contributions to include service-oriented groups. In 2013, MacPherson Construction & Design donated $39,672. This year, the company is on track to give $50,000.

MacPherson is a small business, with just 17 employees. While larger businesses might donate totals in the hundreds of thousands, MacPherson donates nearly $3,000 per employee, dwarfing the per-employee rates of most corporations.

“We were giving personally, and the company was giving, and we finally organized ourselves to give more significant gifts of time and money, rather than just helter-skelter all over the place,” says Roger MacPherson. “We made a focused effort the last two years to give more each year than the year before.”

The MacPhersons hold high standards for organizations they consider for donations. “We like the ones that are not just a handout,” Nancy MacPherson says. “We like them to give a hand up, not a handout.”

The couple is heavily involved with the Pratt Fine Arts Center, where Roger was president and board member, and currently serves on the advisory board. One year during the winter holidays, the MacPhersons printed “Pratt Dollars” for employees to spend at the center.

“Instead of just giving money, we made it fun and meaningful for the employees and the artists,” Roger MacPherson says.

The Pratt Center isn’t Roger’s only philanthropic endeavor benefiting the arts; he also is the president of the board of directors for the Glass Art Society. Roger says he tends to lean toward art-focused organizations partly because of his background in architecture, and because he finds connecting with people through art fun and rewarding.

“When I can relate to you as the artist and staff member, I get a lot of joy out of that,” he says. “As I got more involved in the arts, we realized we could help them in more than just giving money, but by being an enabler of sorts.”

He also finds the work rewarding when more than one group benefits: “We love a win-win, where everyone comes away with a good experience.”

Nancy has her share of causes and organizations, too. Three years ago, she organized a day of giving through her church. It took place in eight communities, and congregation members helped Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, Northwest Harvest, Habitat for Humanity, and Eastside Friends of Seniors, among others. The annual event has gained traction among the congregation, and the next event will incorporate another congregation to hopefully fulfill more service hours.

The pair also donates to the Bellevue Arts Museum, Heifer International, and the new Washington State University Museum of Art in Pullman.

The company’s contributions aren’t limited to organizations chosen by the couple. “If one of our employees comes to us with something they want us to sponsor or do, we’re all in on that,” Nancy MacPherson says.

“Even if it’s not our thing, we try to support the causes that are important to the people who are important to us,” Roger MacPherson adds.

While the MacPhersons don’t have a company program with a special title or a department of people to encourage employees’ involvement in philanthropy, they say their employees are like-minded when it comes to giving back to the community. The company has been able to help organizations through in-kind services such as providing large-format printing, hosting fundraisers at their property on Lake Sammamish, supplying lumber and building materials, and offering design services.

“At the end of the day, if somebody else’s life isn’t better because I’m here, then it’s been a wasted day,“ Nancy MacPherson says.
— Marjorie Clark

Sandra Carson. Photo courtesy Puget Sound Energy

Sandra Carson. Photo courtesy Puget Sound Energy

Public Safety is the Heart of PSE’s Charity

Headquarters: Bellevue
Employees: 3,000
Year founded: 1873
Tidbit: Began as Seattle Gas Light Company

The Puget Sound Energy Foundation makes charitable donations in two ways: Grants are awarded twice a year to qualifying 501(c)(3) organizations located in PSE’s service territory, and contributions are made on behalf of employees and retirees who donate money or time to charitable organizations.

The foundation — which began in 2006 with a $15 million endowment from Puget Sound Energy — matches 50 percent of cash donations up to $500 per year, and $12.50 per volunteer hour up to $500 per year. PSE has more than 2,700 employees, so the potential for matching contributions is significant. In 2013, the foundation gave $1 million in grants and matching contributions; it expects to donate another $1.1 million in 2014.

“It’s a wonderful way to help support their charity of choice,” says Sandra Carson, executive director of the PSE Foundation.

It is unique for companies to donate on behalf of their retirees.

“I’ve worked here for 11 years, and it makes me proud to work for an organization that values you when you work there and when you retire,” Carson says.

Eighty percent of PSE’s annual support goes to projects aimed at enhancing public safety and emergency preparedness such as search and rescue efforts, communications equipment purchases, and emergency generators. In 2013, the PSE Foundation gave a $15,000 grant for communication equipment and training to the Snohomish County Volunteer Search & Rescue Unit. The training and equipment were later put to use locating victims and survivors of the Oso mudslide.

Other recent grants include $3,000 to the Redmond Citizen Corps Council to purchase uniforms, $5,000 to Catholic Community Services of King County for disaster supplies and preparedness programs, and $3,000 to the Assistance League of the Eastside for assault survivor kits.

“Our grants (fund) everything from an emergency management plan to a fire curtain at the Seattle Children’s Theatre,” Carson says. “It’s kind of a unique niche. We’ve found that being in safety and preparedness really aligns with the work we do at Puget Sound Energy and the work of our employees.”

The other 20 percent of the foundation’s giving typically is spent on human services, education, or environmental projects. The foundation’s April 2014 grant cycle included funding for the University of Washington’s College of Engineering, a summer youth program at Quality Behavioral Health, and volunteer training for the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed.

“Our funding priorities are safety and emergency preparedness, but we don’t want to turn away critical needs in our communities,” Carson says. “We are part of the fabric of these communities, so we want to do what we can to assist folks in their time of need.”
— Dana Neuts

Microsoft Focuses on Tech Education

Headquarters: Redmond
Employees: 128,076
Year founded: 1975
Tidbit: The company was founded in Albuquerque and moved to Bellevue in 1979, then Redmond in 1986.

Microsoft is a charitable juggernaut. Few companies are able to donate time, money, and products at its level. In fiscal year 2014, the Redmond-based company continued its tradition of providing more than cash and volunteer hours. It launched Office 365 for Nonprofits and donated $55 million worth of subscriptions to 11,500 nongovernment organizations in 92 countries.

The tech giant helped its home state, where about 42,000 of its employees live, by donating $36 million in cash and more than $800 million in software and hardware to organizations within Washington.

CEO Satya Nadella has said the company is most interested in creating opportunities for youth. The method of choice is YouthSpark, a program founded in 2012 to provide education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities to 300 million youths by 2015. YouthSpark has already provided services to 227 million youths.

“We believe young people have the imagination and creativity to use and create technology to make a difference in the world. That’s one reason why we created the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative,” says Lori Forte Harnick, general manager of Microsoft’s citizenship department. “Over the course of three years, more than 300 million young people around the world will learn foundational, intermediate, and advanced technology skills through the initiative’s more than 30 programs and 350 partnerships with youth-serving organizations.”

YouthSpark was created to erode the divide between those who have the skills, access, and opportunities in education and technology and those who do not. YouthSpark utilizes programs including Skype in the Classroom, which provides free, global connection to other classrooms; computer science education programs; DreamSpark, which offers access to designer and developer software; and the Imagine Cup student technology competition.

The online YouthSpark Hub offers resources for students who want to further engage themselves in technology education or start their own company. The Hub helps students begin learning to code, creating business plans, and developing mobile applications.

YouthSpark is a global initiative, but it is making waves on a local scale.

“YouthSpark also has a big impact in Washington state. One program, called TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), brings computer-science education directly into the classrooms of more than 1,000 students from 29 Puget Sound high schools,” Harnik says. “We’ve (also) dedicated $25 million to another program, the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, which provides much-needed STEM scholarships to college students.”

Microsoft supports a number of charitable programs through its corporate citizenship. Those programs include disaster response, employee giving, and the company matching employee donations. Goals for fiscal year 2015 include YouthSpark reaching 300 million youths, donating software and services to 100,000 nonprofit organizations, and activating 1 million more users of Office 365 for Nonprofits.
— Marjorie Clark

Health Services for Children a Priority for CFO Selections

Tom Varga. Photo courtesy CFO Selections.

Tom Varga. Photo courtesy CFO Selections.

Headquarters: Bellevue
How you know them: Financial and accounting recruiting and consulting
Employees: 42
Year founded: 2002

Founded in 2002 by Tom Varga, CFO Selections specializes in accounting and finance consulting, staff augmentation, and executive searches. The company has 50 employees in four locations: Bellevue, Bothell, Yakima, and Portland.

The company established the CFOS Foundation in 2007 to provide time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations on the Eastside. About 90 percent of the company’s giving is funneled through the foundation. The remaining 10 percent supports nonprofits employees are involved in.

In 2013, the foundation donated $56,360 in cash and $300,000 in pro bono services. Varga estimates donations in 2014 will be $60,000 in cash and $300,000 to $350,000 in services, representing approximately 2,500 volunteer hours.

The CFOS Foundation originally solicited applications for its charitable contributions, but its philosophy shifted a few years ago to focus primarily on helping foster children. According to Varga, the narrower focus helps the foundation be more strategic in its planning.

“We’re going out to organizations and saying, ‘We’d like to partner with you. We think you’ve got this right. How can we accelerate what you’re doing?’” Varga says.

The foundation is also partnering with organizations on a multi-year basis. For example, the foundation gave Kindering, a neurodevelopment center that helps children with special needs, a $100,000 grant spread over three years to support its Children Encouraged by Relationships in Secure Homes (CHERISH) program.

“It helps organizations when they can depend on consistent funding, so we try to look for projects where we can have a longer impact,” Varga says.

Charitable giving is a central part of CFO Selections. Employees want to work for companies they can feel good about, says Varga.

“It’s part of our fabric in terms of who we are. People want to be associated with organizations that stand for more than just making money, so I think it helps us recruit the right type of folks for our team and for our employee retention,” Varga says.

The CFOS Foundation has contributed primarily to local organizations like Child Care Resources of King County and the Children’s Institute for Learning Differences, but it intends to make contributions to organizations in the other communities in which it has offices.

“We’ve taken money out of those communities in terms of our fees for service, and we want to be able to put something back into those communities where our folks live,” says Varga.

Varga invites other small businesses to contact him to learn more about starting a corporate philanthropy program. By showing others how to set up their own programs, he hopes to see new charity dollars infused into local organizations at a grass-roots level.
— Dana Neuts

Bill McSherry. Photo courtesy Boeing.

Bill McSherry. Photo courtesy Boeing.

Boeing Flies to the Rescue

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
Eastside offices: Renton, Bellevue
Employees: 169,908
Year founded: 1916
Tidbit: Company was founded in Seattle; headquarters were moved in 2001.

Not every company can load materials onto one of its own products and deliver them around the globe. But Boeing can and does.

For example, Boeing partnered with Seattle Anesthesia Outreach and Ethiopia Airlines in 2012 to deliver equipment and training to Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as part of the company’s Humanitarian Delivery Flights program. The program is a collaboration between nonprofits and airlines to deliver humanitarian aid such as medical supplies, clothing, and school materials to communities when a new airplane is delivered to neighboring areas.

Boeing was able to coordinate with World Vision and Philippine Airlines to deliver supplies to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, which caused more than 6,000 deaths and more than $2 billion in damage in November 2013. More than 40,000 pounds of material for temporary shelters left Everett onboard a new 777 airliner, as well as a donation of the extra fuel needed to deliver the materials. Boeing and Kenya Airways teamed up in October to send equipment on a new 787 Dreamliner to a children’s medical center in Kajiado, Kenya.

The company, along with its employees and retirees, donated $53 million to Washington community organizations, such as food banks and job-training programs, in 2013.

“Boeing is committed to being engaged in, and giving back to, the communities where our employees live and work, and that is particularly true here in the Puget Sound region,” says Bill McSherry, Boeing’s vice president of corporate citizenship in the Northwest region. “We are incredibly proud of this investment in our families and neighbors.”

One of Boeing’s three major production sites is in Renton. It employs about 14,000 of the company’s 81,000 Washington workers.

Employees can closely manage their giving through Boeing’s Employees Community Fund. The ECF is a collection of employee-managed funds donated by employees through automatic paycheck deductions and one-time donations. The program was created in 1951 to support nonprofits such as food banks, job-training programs, shelters, transitional housing, mental health clinics, low-income clinics, and youth programs. Each regional branch of the ECF is managed by a board of Boeing employees who serve a two-year term.

In 2013, the Puget Sound ECF gave $335,000 to USO Northwest to build a new USO lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for traveling service members.

In addition to matching employee donations, Boeing donates to education, military and veterans, environment, and humanitarian relief programs. The company sponsors robotics clubs that host science, technology, engineering, and math competitions for high school students. Boeing sponsored a number of local For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics teams, enabling the high school students to participate in national competitions.

Whether in the air or on the ground, Boeing is working to further STEM education and bring humanitarian aid to communities close to home and around the globe.
— Marjorie Clark

At MulvannyG2, It’s All About Healthcare

Mitch Smith, MulvannyG2 CEO. Photo by Jesse Rogers

Mitch Smith, MulvannyG2 CEO. Photo by Jesse Rogers

Headquarters: Bellevue
Tidbit: The company is moving to downtown Seattle in 2015.
Employees: 220
Year founded: 1971

Employee, partner, and client passions drive giving at MulvannyG2 Architecture. The longtime Bellevue firm became a strong supporter of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure after the wife of chairman and former CEO Jerry Lee developed breast cancer. Though his wife, Patricia, lost her battle, Lee continues to support the cause. The company’s annual Swing for the Cure golf tournament has raised more than $1 million for Komen since its inception in 2003.

MulvannyG2 contributes money and volunteer time regularly to a variety of organizations, including United Way, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Seattle Children’s Hospital, College Success Foundation, Communities in Schools, Seattle Architectural Foundation, Kin On, and Nikkei Concerns. In 2014, it contributed an estimated $250,000 in cash donations and volunteer time.

The company also funds endowments at the University of Oregon, University of Washington, and Washington State University aimed at promoting diversity in architecture.

In January, the architecture firm will launch the MG2 Foundation, a nonprofit headed by Lee that will consolidate, manage, and perhaps expand the company’s charitable activities.

“It’s been his passion for years,” says MulvannyG2 CEO Mitch Smith. “This will give him a platform to continue that effort on behalf of the firm. We want to use this as a banner for our future philanthropy.”

Smith says any new charities the company chooses to support will be determined by the “personal passion and engagement” of its employees.

About 220 people work at company headquarters, which is relocating to Seattle in 2015 after 32 years in Bellevue, and approximately 80 employees are stationed at branches in Irvine, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; and Shanghai, China.

It’s important to have charitable support connected to causes employees care about and are already supporting, Smith says, particularly if they are volunteering their time. “We want the firm to be part of their engagement in our communities.”

Founded by Douglas Mulvanny in Seattle as a sole proprietorship in 1971, MulvannyG2 is the region’s third-largest architecture firm. It specializes in designing commercial, retail, civic, and mixed-use buildings.

Among its notable Eastside projects are Bellevue Towers (a joint venture with GBD Architects), Redmond City Hall, and Building 3 at Costco Corporate Headquarters in Issaquah.
— Adam Worcester

Local Communities Benefit From Safeway’s Donations

Headquarters: Pleasanton, California
Eastside office: Bellevue
Employees: 138,000
Year founded: 1915
Tidbit: The Safeway Foundation was formed in 2001.

Charitable giving at Safeway has evolved over the years, but remains fiercely focused on hunger relief.

“Our focus is to give in areas our customers would want us to give, so hunger is a big issue, being a grocery chain,” says Sara Osborne, spokesperson for Safeway’s Northwest Division. “That’s something we realized that our customers really care about, so that’s where we tend to focus our giving.”

In 2013, The Safeway Foundation donated approximately $130 million to neighborhood hunger-relief programs around the nation. The foundation also focuses on health and human services, education, and children with disabilities.

Safeway always has been a giving company, but in an effort to make more concerted effort and give more robust donations, the Safeway Foundation was formed in 2001. The foundation is an entity separate from the parent company, with separate oversight. Administrative and marketing costs are paid by Safeway, allowing collected funds to go toward charitable giving.

The Safeway Foundation is a national organization, but each regional division of the foundation focuses its donations within its regional location. The Eastside is located within the foundation’s Northwest Division, which includes Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska. The Northwest Division office is located in Bellevue.

The foundation doesn’t have specific goals or thresholds it tries to reach every year, though it does try to increase the amount on a year-over-year basis, Osborne says.

Major donations in the Northwest Division were made to cancer research, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Easter Seals, Northwest Harvest, eScrip, and Plus Foundation.

“The funds stay local. People think that it goes to some generic fundraiser somewhere, but we do our very best to keep the funds local,” Osborne says.

The foundation also sponsors an employee donation match program, which gave $983,054 nationally in 2013.

Osborne says Safeway was the first to initiate checkstand fundraising and prompting customers to donate a few dollars to cancer research or food banks when swiping their debit or credit card. Osborne says the method was very effective for a long time, but many large retailers have adopted the practice in recent years, and donations have declined as a result.

“Now people see it everywhere, and it’s worn off a bit,” Osborne says. “We’re always looking for new ways to fundraise and keep the commitments we made to organizations.”

The Safeway Foundation is one of the largest contributors to Easter Seals, which provides services and advocacy for people with disabilities, having contributed more than $138 million nationwide since 1986. More than $1.4 million was given to Washington chapters of Easter Seals in 2013.
— Marjorie Clark