Look up ‘philanthropist’ on Wikipedia and you get a pretty narrow view of who gives back – generally wealthy, famous people. But philanthropy originally meant “the love of mankind,” and we see everyday that it’s not limited to major gifts, that the backbone of giving is often less flashy – investments in our community come from everyday people giving a little bit, and knowing that it adds up to a whole lot.
At United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that anyone can be a philanthropist – because we’ve seen it, because any gift is meaningful and because we know the difference it can make for our community and for companies.
Since 1924, we’ve worked with companies to provide Employee Giving Campaigns where employees can choose to invest a portion of their paycheck in our community – and the most successful campaigns aren’t necessarily the ones where employees make the most.
One of our most giving partners is H-E-B. The company itself gives back generously, but it’s the donations from cashiers and baggers that add up to a whole lot for us – specifically, to more than $1M each year for the last three years in Greater Austin.
These gifts come from people like Jackie – she knows the value of giving back first hand. When Jackie was 15, she was in foster care. She then got into a difficult marriage, and needed help getting out of it. At that point she became a single mom who worked and needed child care. She got through it all by getting connected to services in our community, having support gave her the opportunity to thrive. Now, she gives back through her Employee Giving Campaign to pay it forward – so others will have the same opportunities she did.
And we hear this story over and over again from generous H-E-B employees. They give because they see families line up to buy groceries at 11:59 p.m., knowing their food stamps will renew at midnight and they’ll be able to afford food. They give because their co-workers got support for a special needs child or received financial education and got their finances in order.
The average gift from H-E-B employees is $4.50-per-paycheck. Together, it adds up to more than $1M invested in our community each year. Those gifts make a difference – a million dollars invested in our community through United Way could mean another campus served through our Middle School Matters initiative, provide our Play To Learn program to 300 more families AND train 3,000 social workers on how to discuss financial issues with clients . H-E-B employees are proving that anyone can give back and that those investments matter.
They also matter for H-E-B as a company. Investing in Greater Austin means employees are more connected to Greater Austin and more connected to the company that helps them make those investments. It reinforces the culture of H-E-B as a company that’s committed to our community.
We’re proud to work with companies embracing this new trend for their employees and for our community. As philanthropy moves from an exclusive activity for the very wealthy, to something that can bring us all together and create a sense of wholeness, in many ways, we are moving closer to how the concept started: philanthropy literally means ‘the love of mankind.’