Giving Thoughts


“Flash Philanthropy” Exposes Diverse Nonprofits to Wells Fargo Employees

By Alex Parkinson

The question of how to better engage employees in community efforts is something I hear often from members. So, it’s always a pleasure to come across new techniques that do just that. I recently spoke with Kristi Thomas, community affairs officer, Greater Charlotte Area, Wells Fargo, about the company’s annual “Flash Philanthropy” event, which gives employees the chance to hear pitches from local nonprofits and vote on their favorite during Wells Fargo’s employee giving campaign.

Now in its fifth year, Wells Fargo started the Flash Philanthropy event in Charlotte, NC, as a way to expose employees to some of the hundreds of nonprofits that the company supports in the area. Each year, ten nonprofits are invited to make a 60-second pitch about their organization and at the end of the presentations, employees can vote for their preferred option using an online polling tool called Poll Everywhere. The winning organization receives a grant of up to $10,000 from Wells Fargo and the others walk away with $1,000 each.

Diversity and inclusion is a key component of the effort (an element of the Wells Fargo corporate philanthropy strategy that we have featured on this blog before). “We wanted to bring in diverse nonprofits,” says Thomas. “Organizations that people could connect and engage with.” To meet those criteria, Thomas and her team work with the company’s team member networks (employee resource groups) to identify local grassroots organizations that address different issues around the city. Examples of the some of the organizations that have been featured in recent years include:

  • Council for Children’s Rights, which defends and champions the rights of children to be supported and treated with compassion, and respect, regardless of personal obstacles.
  • Veterans Transport Services, which provides viable and reliable transportation, education, events, and advocacy for sensory impaired and disabled veterans of any branch of the armed services of the United States of America.
  • Big Dreamz, Inc, which empowers, encourages, and inspires girls aged 9-13 to dream big, to believe in their dreams, and to provide them with the resources to transform their dreams into reality.
  • The Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, which funds organizations that support the LGBTQ community through the pooled financial resources of individuals, corporations and foundations.
  • Disability Rights and Resources, which is a consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, non-residential, private, non-profit Center for Independent Living.

All 24,000 of Wells Fargo’s Charlotte-based employees are invited to attend the event in person. In 2015, the company began a virtual platform to open Flash Philanthropy to even more participants. Expanding that component—enabling many of the employees who can’t make it in person to still participate—is a focus for the Wells Fargo team in future. They’ve also been exploring the idea of hosting joint events with other local corporations, while also looking at expanding the concept out of the local Charlotte area.

Please let us know of any other community-related employee engagement ideas that you’ve heard of or put in place at your company.

About the author:

Alex Parkinson

Alex Parkinson
The Conference Board

Alex Parkinson is a senior researcher, corporate philanthropy, in the Corporate Leadership division of The Conference Board. He is the Executive Editor of the Giving Thoughts blog and monthly publication series and Framing Social Impact Measurement. He is also author of Unlocking Value from Integrated Corporate Communications and Marketing, Better Together: Why a United Front Can Propel Diversity and Inclusion and Corporate Philanthropy. In addition, Parkinson is associate director of the Society for New Communications Research of The Conference Board (SNCR). Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexParkinsonNY.

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