Spirit of giving: How 7 Austin tech companies give back to the community

by Kelly O'Halloran
December 12, 2018

The holidays are a great time to think about giving back, but for many Austin tech companies, it’s a year-round effort. We spoke to seven of them about how they’ve supported those in need this season, and what’s on the agenda for the new year.

 

bigcommerce
photo provided by bigcommerce

The BigCommerce team flexes its giving spirits every year by supporting children in need and animal shelters. They’ve also recently made room for new philanthropic traditions at the request of their employees. John Hebron, an engineer at BigCommerce, filled us in.

To give back to a child in need not only gives excitement and joy to these kids, it gives hope and love in ways that just can’t be quantified. 

 

How does your team decide which causes to give back to?

Our work with the Texas Humane Heroes Annual Chili Cookoff and the Partnerships for Children’s Holiday Wishes Toy Drive are traditions that date back to before I joined almost six years ago. Some of our newer partnerships have sprung from the addition of two employee resource groups: Equality Texas, partnering with our LGBTQ+ Allies group, and the Ann Richards School, partnering with our Women’s and Allies group.

Our initiatives are also driven by passionate employees, like one of our tech support agents who started a food drive with the help of some coworkers. This year, our employees will vote on which charity BigCommerce will support at the annual Startup Games.


What gets employees excited about these opportunities?

If there are two causes BC’ers tend to get excited about, it’s animals and kids. It’s no surprise that our annual toy drive with Partnerships for Children sees the most anticipation and participation throughout the year. To give back to a child in need not only gives excitement and joy to these kids, it gives hope and love in ways that just can’t be quantified. 

The idea of taking a tiny glimpse into the needs and wishes of a child and to be able to give back in a way that helps, not only gives excitement and joy to these kids but also hope and love in ways that just can’t be quantified.


How will BigCommerce be giving back throughout 2019?

We’re already ramping up for the chili cookoff and the Startup Games in Q1. We’re most excited to see what new partnerships our employee resource groups continue to develop in the LGBTQ+ and women’s communities. Hopefully, we’ll see some new groups form as well.

 

securelink austin
photo provided by securelink

When a couple of SecureLink employees sparked an interest in giving back to the community as a team, the company formed its “Volunteer Crew.” Jeff Schmelzer, a sales development representative, and Natalie Wenske, a recruiter, shed some light on what the crew is up to this year — and next.

We’re a company of passionate people, and that passion definitely comes through in our philanthropic efforts.”

 

How does your team decide which causes to give back to?

At our monthly “Volunteer Crew” meeting, we bring ideas for organizations to donate to and work with. It’s at these meetings that we sort out logistics and strategize on how we can get others in the company involved. This year, we’ve participated in events with Breakthrough Austin, Austin Pets Alive!, We Are Blood, Coats for Kids, the Central Texas Food Bank and many more.


What gets employees excited about these opportunities?

We’re a company of passionate people, and that passion definitely comes through in our philanthropic efforts. By varying the types of outreach and activities we offer, we create a culture in which we are never going to become stagnant and can avoid compassion fatigue. For our most recent event, a canned food drive benefiting the Central Texas Food Bank, our sales team had a competition — as salespeople tend to do — and our VP of sales matched the total donation raised by his team. We also keep our staff involved by reporting the donations and participation numbers to recognize the massive positive impact on our community.  


How will SecureLink be giving back throughout 2019?

We have another blood drive with We Are Blood on the calendar and plan to organize a day for some of our employees to go to the Central Texas Food Bank and sort donations. As our company grows, so has our “Volunteer Crew,” and we are excited for the input of our new staff to continue to grow our philanthropic efforts.

 

social solutions austin
photo provided by social solutions

Social Solutions’ Volunteer Impact Program encourages everyone to take time off from work to volunteer with their charity of choice. As a result, employees have supported numerous causes around town. Leigh Kellner, content marketing manager, and Hannah Otalora-Fadner, an HR associate, gave us the scoop.

As an organization, we gifted over $11,000 on Giving Tuesday.”

 

How does your team decide which causes to give back to?

We let our team members decide. For Giving Tuesday, we offered a matching incentive for employee donations to their favorite charities. We heard so many great stories around the office about the organizations that mean most to our team, like Friends of the Children Austin, St. Jude, Dress for Success, Austin Pets Alive!, and more. As an organization, we gifted over $11,000 on Giving Tuesday.

 

What gets employees excited about these opportunities?

Because we work with nonprofits daily, we understand the huge amount of good that these organizations do. During our Giving Tuesday donation match drive, we encouraged everyone to come by our photo booth and share why their charity of choice means so much to them. We also kept energy high by announcing progress on our donation match as we hit big milestones.

 

How will Social Solutions be giving back throughout 2019?

In 2019, we will continue our focus and strengthen our Volunteer Impact Program and our commitment to local communities. This past year, our team spent over 600 volunteer hours with different nonprofits across the country, and we aim to make an even bigger impact next year. All of our employees are given — and encouraged to use — eight hours per quarter to spend volunteering with an organization of their choice. We often see teams across the company volunteer together to give back to the community and bond as a group.

 

thousandeyes austin
photos provided by thousandeyes

Erin Henehan, a member of the ThousandEyes talent acquisition team, called their philanthropic selection process a “collective mission of the tribe.” The company’s local office backs both company-wide initiatives as well as strictly local ones. Henehan gave us the deets.

Just last week, we took the budget for our lunch for one week and used it to buy Christmas presents for kiddos at Dell Children’s Hospital.”

 

How does your team decide which causes to give back to?

We take input from the greater organization on where we have opportunities to drive a positive impact. Naturally, there are timely events that inspire our giving at times. We recently held a donation drive for the Family Giving Tree, an organization focusing on families in the areas of California affected by wildfire. In the fall, we donated pre-filled backpacks with school supplies and encouraging notes for the students of Wooten Elementary in Austin. Just last week, we took the budget for our lunch for one week and used it to buy Christmas presents for kiddos at Dell Children’s Hospital.

 

What gets employees excited about these opportunities?

One characteristic of the ThousandEyes culture that is so encouraging is our collective value system. We each have unique things we care about, but one thing we all subscribe to is our opportunity to create a better life, a better day or even a better moment for others. Giving back energizes, encourages and inspires us to continue to be our best.

 

How will ThousandEyes be giving back throughout 2019?

At the beginning of each year, our entire company gathers together for our annual kickoff. A portion of our time together is dedicated to each functional team. As part of our 2019 sales kickoff, the tribe will come together to build bicycles to donate to those in need of a method of transportation or even just a little fun. This will be one of many things we do to continue to uphold our principle of championing philanthropy.

 

modernize
photo provided by modernize

Earlier this month, members from Modernize’s team volunteered for Hands on Housing Project by painting and repairing a home in East Austin. Christina Wells, director of people operations, said the company will also be adopting 10 angels this holiday from the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program. Here’s what Wells had to say about Modernize’s approach to giving back.

Modernize is in the home improvement space, and we strive to give back to nonprofits that support the same mission.”

 

How does your team decide which causes to give back to?

Modernize is in the home improvement space, and we strive to give back to nonprofits that support the same mission. Hands on Housing’s mission is to utilize volunteers to repair homes of senior citizens and disabled individuals who are living in deep poverty. Their goal is to keep homeowners safe and help them remain in the homes and neighborhoods they love.

 

How will Modernize be giving back throughout 2019?

We have big plans for 2019. As the first-place defending champions of the 2018 Startup Games, we will be partnering with Community First! Villages. Any money we raise from the games will go to them. We also have plans to volunteer with Community First! Villages and Hands on Housing throughout 2019.

 

hotschedules austin
photo provided by hotschedules

“Product Manager” might be Chris Sundgren’s official title at HotSchedules, but he also leads the company’s culture organization: the Torch Team. Sundgren told us that in addition to giving back to the community, HotSchedules has an internal giving program to support coworkers in need.

We raise money through our culture day festivities and give a Visa gift card to help offset unexpected financial burdens.”

 

How does your team decide which causes to give back to?   

Hotties Helping Hotties is a yearlong effort to give back to any team member with an undue hardship. We raise money through our culture day festivities and give a Visa gift card to help offset unexpected financial burdens. We’re also in our third year adopting families from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, and we’ve previously delivered bags of food and warm clothing to homeless people on Christmas Day.

On Global Charity Day, we shut down all of our offices for the entire day and go support a local charity together. This year, in town, we helped a charter school prep for the return of students by painting and landscaping their playground and moving furniture from temporary structures into their new, permanent building.

 

What gets employees excited about these opportunities?   

Our team members love to give back, so all of these events bring them joy and make them feel like they are doing something to help support our community. Plus, it’s always fun.

 

How will your company be giving back throughout 2019?   

We will be doing all three of the events again next year. We also give all of our employees four community service days per year to go and give back to their favorite charity throughout the year.  

 

redgate software
photo provided by redgate

Laurie McBroom said Redgate’s local team most recently volunteered to wrap gifts for Blue Santa and ran an office-wide virtual food drive to raise money for the Central Texas Food Bank. The company has a dedicated group of employees called the “Give Something Back” team, which focuses on supporting local communities and encouraging employee fundraising and volunteering.

The most rewarding part about giving back is knowing that we’re helping others.”

 

How does your team decide which causes to give back to?

One of Redgate’s core values is that we do our best work in teams, so it’s no surprise that we also use a team-based approach when it comes to deciding how to give back. Our Give Something Back team gets many suggestions from the broader team here in Austin. We certainly don’t have a shortage of ideas on ways to give back, so this year we decided to pick the causes which were most requested.  

 

What gets employees excited about these opportunities?   

Our team had so much fun packaging and wrapping gifts for Blue Santa this year. Spirits were high as we focused on wrapping as many gifts as we could. When you’re in a giant warehouse full of toys and there’s holiday music in the background, you can’t help but smile — and sometimes dance — even just a little bit. The most rewarding part about giving back is knowing that we’re helping others.

 

How will your company be giving back throughout 2019?

This upcoming year will be another great opportunity for Redgate to give back. We will continue to offer an employee match of up to $500 for anyone who personally raises funds for their favorite cause. It will also be our second year of offering individual charity days, where each employee can spend one paid day a year working on a charitable activity. The goal of this day is for people to bring their own time and skills to the community.    

We’ll also provide direct donations to charities, and sponsor local organizations, events and clubs. Finally, group charity days will again be in our scope for 2019, since our team really enjoys volunteering.

 

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