The Community Foundation of South Alabama has awarded the 2016 Beacon Award to Thompson Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Thompson Engineering, Watermark Design Group and Thompson Consulting Services.
Designed to be given to a business or corporation that embodies the spirit of philanthropy, the Beacon Award recognizes organizations that are a source of light and inspiration for the growth and progress of the community while also creating a culture of giving with its employees.
“We are always excited to honor businesses who make it their mission to do good and Thompson Holdings, Inc. has made it their mission to make an impact in the communities they serve,” said Rebecca Byrne, President and CEO of The Community Foundation of South Alabama. “In the 12 years since its creation, the Thompson Holdings Foundation Fund at The Community Foundation of South Alabama has given more than $600,000 to over 200 organizations through employee involvement grants, matching grants and corporate grant requests. We are honored to name them our Beacon Award winner for 2016.”
“We had the idea to form the foundation in connection with our 50th anniversary in 2003,” said Chad Brown, Chief Legal Officer for Thompson Holdings, Inc. “We announced that we were going to form a foundation in honor of Vester Thompson, the founder, who always had a charitable giving spirit.”
Tom Davis, The Community Foundation of South Alabama’s former CEO, saw that announcement and reached out to Brown to offer assistance. “The initial reaction to the emails was ‘this is a solicitor,’ but I soon found out that it was a great opportunity to partner with The Community Foundation,” said Brown. “By setting up a fund, we would avoid having to set up a separate 501c3, taxing filings and the administrative burden that having our own foundation would carry – and it would also add to the investment piece the Community Foundation offers.”
By 2004 the Thompson Holdings Foundation Fund had been formed at The Community Foundation of South Alabama and leaders within the company had begun to take steps to what would eventually be a giant impact in the community. An employee committee administers the fund and makes advice for giving grants.
Three grants are considered: corporate grants, employee involvement grants and matching grants. The committee has a mission, framework and guidelines that guide the grant awards. Employee-involvement requests are more liberally granted, said Brown.
“It’s a special element of the whole program,” said Renie Baya Kennemer, Marketing Coordinator for Thompson Engineering. “What we really encourage is for employees to follow their hearts, find their passion, find the group that really speaks to them in the community that they want to support through their volunteer time. What the foundation is able to offer those employees is ‘tell us how you’re helping a group, tell us what you need and what the foundation can do to accomplish a goal’ and that’s what we do with those employee grant requests. We basically help our employees help a group that they love through grants.”
With 12 years, two annual fundraisers and more than $600,000 of employee-led giving under their belts, the benefit to the company is clear. “There’s certainly a sense of pride for an employee to be able to go back to organizations and say, ‘My company appreciates what I do for you, so they want to do for you,’” said Kennemer. “To really just give a double whammy of impact when it comes to our employees’ time and to be able to follow it up with a donation from our foundation is wonderful.”
The value to employees is also a point of pride for Brown.
“The big value is the value the employees see out of it and the value to support their causes,” said Brown. “The communities that we serve also recognize the significance of a company being committed to the community and wanting to give back.”
Reprinted with permission from the Community Foundation of South Alabama