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Progress Energy aims for impact

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — To help focus and bring its philanthropy more into sync with its corporate goals and reinforce its brand, the Progress Energy Foundation is preparing to launch several big initiatives.

Those initiatives, designed to better reflect employee preferences and community needs, will create pilot programs among the foundation’s four priority areas – education, the environment, economic development and employee involvement.

The foundation then will reproduce successful pilots in areas in the Carolinas and Florida served by Raleigh-based Progress Energy, formed through the December 2000 merger of CP&L and Florida Power.

“We are going to look at where employees are giving, and we are going to build significant programs around those,” says Tammy Brown, the company’s corporate community relations manager. “We really want to make an impact.”

The foundation tentatively plans to invest roughly $1 million in a project targeting young children, families, communities and schools in the Carolinas and Florida to help individuals understand and get involved in environmental protection.

The foundation also plans a $1 million institute in Florida based on partnerships it created in North Carolina and South Carolina to teach business-leadership skills to public school principals, and will launch a major arts initiative to boost economic development in Orlando, Fla., and.

While the arts are not a funding priority, the foundation believes they can boost economic development – and is giving $1 million to the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh over five years to stage The Nutcracker.

The foundation also might consider projects to spur its employees to volunteer with nonprofits to which it provides special support, including five groups it backs in all seven of its regions, plus two to three local groups it supports in each region.

Based on growing demand by its employees for greater choices in their workplace giving, Progress Energy this year will expand to all seven regions an effort launched in the Triangle last year to match employee contributions to United Way agencies and to groups to which the company provides special support.

The company overall contributes $14 million a year — $10.5 million through its foundation, including matching half of employee contributions, plus $2 million from its regional offices and $2 million in corporate giving.

In the Triangle, where it employs 3,000 people, employees last year contributed nearly $800,000 through workplace giving, including $200,000 designated to agencies outside the United Way for which the company matched half.

This year’s workplace campaign aims to raise $2.1 million, up from $2.03 million employees contributed last year – $1.5 million in the Carolinas and $530,000 in Florida.

To explain its philanthropic plans, the company will hold information sessions Aug. 26 in Fayetteville, Sept. 3 in Raleigh, Sept. 6 in Wilmington, Sept. 10 in Asheville, all in North Carolina, Aug. 27 in Florence, S.C., and later in the year in Florida. For information, call Merrillee Jacobson at 919-546-6441.

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