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.
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.
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?
Samples of causes we have supported: