GIVING CITY: Employee donations a key contributor to Amplify Austin

Feb 09, 2018
  • By Monica Williams
  • Giving City Austin
Jackie Padgett of Silicon Labs shares how its employees give on Amplify Austin day during an event Tuesday organized by I Live Here, I Give Here. (Monica Williams/Giving City Austin)

The annual Amplify Austin campaign is still a few weeks away, but businesses across the city already are gearing up for their employee events.

Businesses have always been invited to sponsor the campaign, with funds going to help offset the fees to nonprofits and to cover the prizes given throughout the day. But in the past few years, donations from employees have become significant. In 2017, employees from 68 businesses donated $914,000, and that was before their employer matched those donations. Considering Amplify raised $9.8 million last year, employee giving has become an important part of the campaign.

Celeste Flores, executive director of I Live Here, I Give Here, which administers Amplify Austin, said the campaign did not originally plan for the contributions of employees.

“That part is really company- and employee-led,” said Flores. “We provide some resources for them, but they create a campaign that resonates with their company culture.” Flores adds that the online leaderboard that tracks business giving was created because businesses were asking for it. “It’s really grown from a grassroots perspective.”

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To help support and grow employee participation in this year’s event, which runs March 1-2, I Live Here, I Give Here organized a social event Tuesday. The goal was to celebrate the contributions of employees and connect businesses that promote the giving day. “The net-net of the night was, there’s an opportunity here,” Flores said. “So we will look into doing more of that.”

At the University Federal Credit Union, which has participated as a sponsor since the first Amplify Austin but has only promoted employee giving for the past two campaigns, employees celebrate the campaign with a day-long event. Employees are lured to check-in on the leaderboard with food and snacks, and tablets are available if employees feel moved to donate. Last year, the credit union employees donated about $12,000.

“Part of our strategy is to make sure we’re promoting the opportunity for employees to volunteer and donate to the cause of their choice,” said Heather McKissick, vice president of community impact and business development. “For us it’s about employee engagement, but it’s also about the fact that we’re a mission-driven organization and we need to find ways for each of our employees to participate in that mission.”

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Kathy Smith-Willman, senior director of people and talent at Bazaarvoice, says its employees respond to the choices Amplify Austin offers. “Everybody gets to donate to what they care about personally,” she said. But it’s the competition aspect that drives the donations.

“We’re pretty competitive against our tech peers,” she said, so all eyes are on the business-fundraisers leaderboard. “I always set a goal every year so that they’re challenged.”

After last year’s $29,000 haul, Smith-Willman thinks she’ll set a goal of $35,000 for this year.

Silicon Labs employees also relish the competition. “It’s like watching election results but there’s not a bad side to be on,” said Jackie Padgett, who manages community relations and initiated the employee giving campaign last year. She says a little promotion in the weeks leading up to Amplify Austin and a small nonprofit fair in the lobby to keep visibility high led Silicon Labs employees to donate $21,000.

“Everyone hears about it but they don’t think about it much at work,” she said. “But I knew how much of an impact we could make.”

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