Not perfect but consistent: How we choose nonprofits to support

Projectline Services and Yesler have strong reputations as firms that make giving back to our communities a part of our corporate DNA – it is written directly into our mission. Our monthly volunteer outings include food banks, animal shelters, support for kids, and other organizations that inspire us.  We offer refurbished PC donations, lend out our office space for nonprofit planning, and put our money where our hearts are with monthly grants to employee-chosen nonprofits, support of Kiva global development loans, and fundraising drives during natural disasters. We also give out supply-filled company backpacks to our Pioneer Square neighbors.

Between 2007 and 2016, our philanthropic and volunteer efforts went to more than 120 organizations in the following categories: We’re proud of this list, but that’s not what inspired me to write this post.  When we give, we give with deliberate purpose to organizations chosen by our employees, not just by company ownership or a committee. Just as important, we support organizations that are consistent with our values of nondiscrimination and respect. Although I no longer run our company’s Community Impact Program (my esteemed business partner, Mike Kichline, has taken over the gig), these standards still mean a lot to me.

Nondiscrimination

For us, nondiscrimination means that an organization must have a mission that is 100% accepting of everyone, including the LGBTQ community, which frequently faces bigotry. A truly supportive organization does not withhold services from this community and does not try to change anyone, shame anyone, or disparage anyone through its messages. For example, the Salvation Army held an official stance for many years that homosexuality was a sin. The organization asked some clients to renounce their relationships before receiving services, and its resource list included links to therapy providers who specialized in “curing” homosexuality. During that time, the organization was clearly off our list of places to support. We will never support organizations that hold people in contempt. Thankfully, the Salvation Army has reversed its stance in the past few years, embraced nondiscrimination, and worked hard to apologize for the past. I’m keeping my eye on them and we haven’t put anything into their coffers yet.

Respect

Our second core value, respect, means that an organization cannot force someone to hear a religious message or ministry before receiving food, shelter, or any type of kindness. This does not mean that we don’t partner with faith-based organizations—they are some of the most organized, funded, reliable, and committed groups working across many areas of need—and it makes sense that these organizations provide optional prayer, services, and related proselytization to their constituents. But we won’t support any group that withholds services such as food and shelter until after someone has submitted to hear its specific message. That is inexcusable manipulation of a vulnerable population and a sign of disrespect of personal sovereignty. We’re glad to know that there are many faith-based organizations in our community that agree with this principle and give their services willingly, with open hearts, without forcing their beliefs.

We don’t have criteria beyond these two—we don’t even require that the organizations we support have official 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit status. Over the years, we have found many individuals and unregistered organizations doing great work that we can impact directly. We have even donated equipment and furniture to startups. We are not perfect philanthropists or community partners, but try to connect with groups that are consistent with our values, whether they are in Seattle, Toronto, London, Philadelphia, Portland, and beyond.

I’d love to know what your company sets as standards for community partnerships, giving, volunteering, and connection. What are your values and do you seem them reflected? What is important to you?

Let’s chat on twitter at: @AnikaMarketer and @Projectline!

Samples of causes we have supported:

Habitat for Humanity Queen Anne Little League Alleycat Acres
Hack to End Homelessness Real Change Alliance for Pioneer Square
Haiti Relief Recovery Café Alpha Supported Living Services
HALO Program Rescue Freedom International American Red Cross
Heart and Stroke Foundation Santa Comes to Bay Street Angeline’s Center for Women
Helen House Seattle AIDS Walk Anita Borg Institute
Helping Hands by the Prenatal Clinic Seattle Animal Shelter ASPCA
King County Library System Foundation Seattle Arts & Lectures Beacon Food Forest
King Street Cooperative Preschool Seattle Children’s Hospital Blank Canvas
Kiva Seattle Chinese Garden Boys & Girls Clubs
Vial of L.I.F.E. Seattle VA Hospital Catholic Community Services
LettuceLink Seattle Wheelchair Rugby Association Childhaven
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society SEAVURIA Children’s Eye Foundation
Lifelong AIDS Alliance Share Our Strength Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
Mary’s Place Shelter City Fruit
Mississauga Food Bank Solid Ground Climb for Kids
Musical Memories Somaly Mam Foundation Community Foundation of N. Central WA
Music Works Northwest St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Compass Center
The NOAH Center Washington Talking Book & Braille Library Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Nadaci Táta a Máma TAMIHA Daily Bread Food Bank
National Multiple Sclerosis Society Team Up for Nonprofits The Dog Rescuers Inc.
New Traditions Technology Access Foundation Eastside Baby Corner
No Stomach for Cancer TEDxRainier Ethiopian School Benches
Northern Children’s Services Toys for Tots Exodus Housing
Northwest Children’s Fund Treehouse Farm Sanctuary
Northwest Harvest United for Marriage Fremont Abbey Arts Center
NPower Northwest United Nations Foundation Food Empowerment Project
North York General Foundation United Way Food Lifeline
Old Dog Haven Urban Rest Stop Food Trust
One Hundred for Haiti Village Bicycle Project The Forgotten Sole
Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Vittana Friends of the Orphans
Pasado’s Safe Haven Volunteers of America Friends of the Seattle Public Library
PAWS Warrior Brotherhood Veteran’s Motorcycle Club Genesis Project
Philabundance Washington Trails Association Girl Up
Plan International Washington Women in Need Girls on the Run
Precious Life Animal Sanctuary West Seattle Helpline Good Neighbor Center
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance YMCA of Greater Seattle Grand Cinema
Pursuit of a Green Planet Yoga Behind Bars Greater Everett Community Foundation