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Sharper focus – Engaging employees

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By Todd Cohen

In the wake of the merger of CP&L and Florida Power that produced it last December, Progress Energy has sharpened its philanthropic focus.

The Raleigh-based power company still will concentrate its giving on education, economic development and the environment – but for more tightly defined programs and initiatives tied more closely to its business goals.

And it has added the fourth broad focus area of encouraging greater employee involvement in charity.

Progress Energy invests $14 million a year in charity, up from $10.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively, that CP&L and Florida Power contributed separately last year.

The combined company will limit its education spending to math and science, targeting scholarship funds to engineering.

Support for economic development will be regional rather than local throughout the company’s service area in the Carolinas, Florida and the Southeast.

And Progress Energy is looking for a “major signature environmental program that we will invest major financial and human resources in,” says Tammy Brown, manager of corporate community relations.

To spur employee involvement, Progress Energy has piloted a new workplace-giving strategy as an early-bird “pacesetter” company for this year’s annual fund drive of the Triangle United Way that began Sept. 9.

Under the new strategy, to be expanded next year to its five other regional operations in the Carolinas and Florida, Progress Energy matches employee contributions not only to United Way agencies but also to a handful of charities that are not United Way members.

In last year’s United Way campaign, CP&L employees in the Carolinas contributed $1.5 million, including $700,000 from Triangle employees.

The company matched the employee contributions half again with another $770,000, including $350,000 to match contributions in the Triangle.

Florida Power employees last year contributed $530,000, an off year in the face of layoffs stemming from the merger. The company had no policy to match employee contributions.

The company-wide employee campaign exceeded its $2.2 million goal.

The new strategy is a response to employee requests for more choice in their giving, says Lisa Tutor, sponsorships and employee involvement specialist at Progress Energy.

Based on focus groups and two surveys of its Triangle employees, the company this year will match employee gifts for seven agencies outside the United Way – American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Methodist Home for Children, Special Olympics North Carolina and two groups that are merging, Communities in Schools of Wake County and Community Learning Centers.

While overall breakdowns for the Triangle campaign were not available, donors designated $200,000 to those seven groups.

Two of the three co-chairs for this year’s company-wide campaign are based in the Triangle — Brown, the corporate community relations manager, and Dede Ramoneda, vice president of information technology systems delivery.

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