Vanguard believes that being a global leader also means being a local leader. Through volunteer Investment Committees, The Vanguard Group Foundation is making grants in the regions around the world that we call home. The Vanguard Gives Back Hometown Grants Program is charged with funding pressing, local human services needs and working with nonprofit partners that contribute to the vibrancy of the community. The program is fueled by crew volunteers who commit two years of service dedicated to learning about the nonprofit sector, philanthropy, and the local community landscape.
In this blog, we asked three Vanguard leaders to write about their experiences in serving as site leads for the Hometown Grants Program. The combined efforts of these leaders and their teams have placed $2.3 million into local organizations over their two-year commitment. Here is what Amanda M. from Arizona, Ed F. from North Carolina, and Steve H. from Pennsylvania, had to say:
Vanguard has long had a culture around community that you are no stranger to, what drew you into this particular opportunity with Hometown Grants?
Ed: Hometown Grants enabled me to take my passion for impacting our local community to a much deeper, grass-roots level. Having previously been involved in Vanguard Gives Back initiatives in Charlotte, including leading our workplace giving campaign and our volunteer efforts, Hometown Grants provided an opportunity to start-up a hyper-local focused program from scratch, which is pretty cool. While we were provided with some loose guardrails and guidelines, we were also given a significant amount of autonomy to figure out the best strategy that would have meaningful impact in the Charlotte community.
Steve: In 2012, I had the honor of serving as the lead for the crew fall charitable giving campaign. Not only did that experience tap into my longstanding passion for service, it opened my eyes to the incredible impact Vanguard can have in the community. I was very excited about the Hometown Grants program because it was yet another way to harness the energy and passion of Vanguard crew to make a meaningful difference in our communities, but I was also intrigued by the entrepreneurial nature of this new venture.
What skills have you developed through your participation in this initiative and how have you applied these skills both inside and outside of the office?
Amanda: Debating which organization to fund can be a sensitive and emotional topic. My peers and I all have preferences on which charitable cause is the most important and those often differ from the priorities of others. Plus, when you find so many organizations doing great work, it can be hard to reduce the list to a manageable few. Learning how to listen with empathy and understanding was critical to ensure each team member was heard and team health remained strong. Outside of work, it has given me a platform to talk to my kids about philanthropy. Now, when we debrief our day at the dinner table, I am talking to them about organizations I went to visit or work that is being done in the community. It’s been rewarding to talk to them about the importance of giving back and about some of the neat initiatives that are happening in our neighborhood.
Ed: Most importantly, I gained a deeper understanding of the Charlotte community and the critical issues our city is facing. Upward mobility remains a challenge even as Charlotte continues to have one of the highest rates of highly educated new residents moving to our city. I have met and learned from some very influential non-profit partners who provide critical services in our community often with few resources or limited budgets. I am looking forward to continuing my work post-Hometown Grants, whether it be through volunteerism or board involvement. Hometown Grants also enabled me to hone my leadership and finance skills as we have conducted research, reviewed non-profit financials and tax-filings, and conducted on-site visits to select the non-profit agencies we partner with.
What has been the biggest takeaway in serving as a site lead for the program?
Amanda: There is always a need for more work to be done in the community than there are hours in the day to support or dollars to fund. It is not hard to find an important cause that will improve our community. The hard part is prioritizing which organizations to focus on. It took a lot of time to research, really get to know these teams and the impact they are trying to make. Then ultimately determining where we could have the biggest impact. And there is no “right” answer. It is only part science, the rest is art.
Steve: In the past two years, the work of the Hometown Grants team exposed us to countless organizations that are making an incredible difference in communities. There are so many worthy, effective, innovative charitable organizations out there doing great work, we could have funded many more groups than we were able to. But I believe our team did a tremendous job of honing in on the key organizations that both had amazing impact and could best benefit from the dollars we had. The most rewarding parts of the job were when we heard the profound gratitude from these groups for our contributions, and the excitement they expressed about how they were going to put the money to work. You feel the very tangible benefit of all the hard work the committee put in.
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