Facebook is not just for finding your best friend from high school or whiling away the hours playing Farmville—six Vermont-based charities discovered how it can be effectively used to help those in need.
VSECU (Vermont State Employees Credit Union) donated $10,000 to the six charities through an employee directed giving program called We Care 2. The Central Vermont Humane Society received $5,000, while five other charities, Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice, the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta and Project Independence in Barre, each received $1,000.
From the beginning of the employee directed giving program, VSECU hoped to engage Vermonters around the state in a discussion about how the $10,000 should be distributed. Even though it would be VSECU employees who would choose the charities, they wanted to give others outside the credit union the opportunity to suggest charities and why they should be supported.
“Our Board of Directors understands that our staff is working with members and Vermonters from all over the state. Instead of them directing part of our giving budget to entities in need, they wanted our staff to be part of that identification process,” said Yvonne Garand, VSECU’s vice president of Business Development. “Ultimately, it was up to our employees to choose which charities would receive the funding set aside by our Board, but they wanted to hear from the community, too.”
According to Garand, VSECU determined that the most accessible way for people across the state to weigh in on the We Care 2 program was through its Facebook page, “A Banking Co-op for all Vermonters.” “Through Facebook, our employees were able to gain a wider knowledge of the charities available for Vermonters,” Garand said. “Our employees wanted to hear from the community hoping to gather some recommendations. Employees created a video and posted it on Facebook asking Vermonters to submit charities for our staff to consider. In addition, using Facebook gave these charities another forum to promote their causes to the community. The overall response was amazing.”
VSECU created an electronic submission form for Facebook users. For people not on Facebook, suggestions could be submitted on paper at branch locations. Nearly 440 online suggestions and 40 suggestions on paper were submitted over the course of one month. Several charities actively campaigned for their causes, urging their staff and clients to submit suggestions and write on VSECU’s Facebook wall.
According to Linda Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, the We Care 2 campaign
was another way to let the community know about her charity. “I want to thank everyone who participated
in this very special VSECU event,” she said. “All the charities involved make our community the great place it is, to live and work. At PCAV, we are here to help every child in Vermont thrive at home, in their school and community. Again, thank you, VSECU members and friends for supporting us all!”
During the month of July, VSECU employees using Facebook could read and consider the wall posts. All suggestions, both online and on paper, were also posted on the VSECU employee intranet, and in early August, employees were asked to submit their charity of choice where five rounds of employee voting followed narrowing the field until the final six were selected.“Some of our employees were very passionate about their charities and were actively promoting them to their co-workers,” Garand said. “Just like community members who shared their stories and enthusiasm for charities, our employees engaged in the same online community conversation by utilizing our internal blog during the voting process. You could see where employees were talking to each other about why certain charities should be considered.”
“I am so glad to be a part of a company that is giving back to the community,” said Pattie Dupuis, who works in VSECU’s mortgage department. “I voted for the Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice because they provided such compassionate support to my family when my father was dying of cancer. We lost him last March, but he was able to die with dignity. Hospice was there for my father and for my family. I am glad I was able to be a part of funding their continued efforts.”
Garand says she hopes the We Care 2 program can continue. “Our employees really enjoyed the opportunity to help their fellow Vermonters,” she said, “and using social media made it an interesting experience. We are just now discovering the power of social media to engage VSECU members and non-members around the state.”