“Simply put, our partnership with Cares enhances our ability to help others and hold ourselves socially accountable. It also provides our employees the opportunity to participate in activities that reflect their personal philanthropic values. This collaboration has brought on the truest sense of community.” – Bill Dallas, president of Finance of America Mortgage
Corporate philanthropies are commonplace across the business world. Still, few bring the degree of holistic focus of Finance of America Cares (FOA Cares), which aims its generosity at both the wider world and the workforce within Finance of America.
Launched in 2017 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, FOA Cares was founded on Finance of America’s core value of “Service” – a fundamental philosophy of caring for their community, company and customer. According to Executive Director Ashley Pruitt, this endeavor was driven by the leadership, passions and energy of Finance of America’s workforce.
“When we were building out our company’s nonprofit, we engaged in ongoing dialogue with employees across the nation through surveys and focus groups to ensure FOA Cares was founded on the philanthropies and causes that are most important to employees. Their ideas are what laid the very foundation for our nonprofit,” Pruitt said.
Employee responses pointed in several key directions, most notably in support of organizations dedicated to serving veterans, empowering youth and providing aid under a “human services” banner that covers a variety of diverse efforts, including the prevention or ending of homelessness.
The company’s workforce also called attention to the need to recognize that employees may experience unexpected hardships. This led to the creation of the Employee Assistance Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance to support staff in times of need.
“Those were, by far, the causes that our employees cared about the most,” Pruitt said. “With this critical feedback, we set up two different grantmaking programs – one program for nonprofits that focuses on youth, human services and veterans, and another program that focuses on employee assistance.”
“Finance of America Cares is the most visible example of our team collaborating in an organized way, to give back to their respective communities,” said Anthony Stratis, director of recruiting. “It exemplifies our community-focused culture, which is engrained in all that we do when serving our customers. Importantly, Finance of America Cares also helps us attract like-minded, top talent who can join our organization and ensure that our culture continues to thrive as we continue to grow.”
While their services stretch from coast to coast across the nation, FOA Cares knows the importance of grassroots efforts to serve local community needs. Their Board of Directors and Regional Committees are comprised entirely of Finance of America employee volunteers who work together to drive positive change.
Pruitt said that while she oversees the nonprofit and helps facilitate the process for nonprofit grantmaking, Finance of America employees voluntarily serving on their Board of Directors and Regional Committees are the ones who ultimately decide which nonprofits they will invest in through grantmaking.
“Once a year, employees across the nation have the opportunity to invite the nonprofit of their choice to apply for a grant from us,” she said. “Once the application period closes, our Regional Committees thoroughly review the applications and provide funding recommendations.”
FOA Cares’ innovative approach to an employee-advised grantmaking program is one of the significant ways in which they address local communities’ needs using the skills and passions of employees. In its first two years alone, the grantmaking program has helped nearly 21,000 individuals in need.
FOA Cares also encourages employees to donate their time and energy to causes through the Team Member Volunteer Program and even creates customized opportunities for Finance of America employees to volunteer. Employees receive up to eight hours of paid time off per calendar year specifically for volunteering at a nonprofit they are passionate about.
“The success of our efforts through FOA Cares lies in the strength of our teams with Finance of America,” said Joe Hullinger, president of Finance of America Commercial. “The time and energy our employees have spent pouring their hearts into making a difference in their communities are a true testament to the impact our charitable work and nonprofit partnerships have had on the lives of so many thousands in need.”
“Giving our team an opportunity to raise money and give their time to causes they are passionate about helps bring greater purpose and meaning to the work we do every day,” said Kristen Sieffert, president of Finance of America Reverse. “Our company has always been committed to finding more ways to do well by doing ‘good,’ and the amount of goodness the Cares platform creates for the lives it touches is profound.”
FOA Cares leverages its resources through employee fundraising. Employees can voluntarily donate via payroll deductions or individual contributions. The company matches these donations dollar for dollar – up to a predetermined cap.
“Our funding breakdown is simple: 75% of all funds raised go towards grantmaking to local nonprofits in the region where the funds are raised and the remaining 25% goes toward the National Employee Assistance Fund,” Pruitt said. “We always tell our employees to think of it this way: The more [funds] your region raises, the more grants that are available for your community.
While much of the fundraising is through traditional means, FOA Cares sometimes takes a unique approach to engage employees. The 2019 Pie Challenge resulted in nearly $35,000 in donations from employees and community members through a light-hearted effort to pie their nominated Finance of America manager in the face. The nominees embraced the opportunity with creative and entertaining campaigns, such as hosting a 24-hour one-person telethon via Facebook Live.
This year, employees company-wide were invited to participate in a virtual health and wellness Step Challenge to link employee activity with charitable impact. Employees could unlock donations to FOA Cares while also taking the lead on individual health and wellness goals. Every 10,000 steps earned $1 for FOA Cares.
According to the FY 2019 report issued by Finance of America Cares, more than $33,000 went into the Emergency Assistance Fund for Finance of America staff. Sixty percent of funds were allocated toward helping workers dealing with life-threatening illnesses and 30% went to help those facing “tragic circumstances.” The remaining 10% was provided to staff who were facing the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Pruitt said she has been deeply moved by FOA Cares’ ability to assist the company’s workforce through the generosity of their donors when they need a helping hand.
“Seeing our people step up and volunteer their time when they already have numerous other commitments in life, but still take the time to volunteer throughout the year anyway – working with them is probably the most rewarding part of my day,” she said.
As for herself, Pruitt has found the experience of being the nonprofit’s executive director to be professionally exhilarating.
“We are fully committed to strengthening every community in which we do business. By engaging employees in all our philanthropic initiatives, we can do just that at an even greater level of impact. It’s an honor to work here, and I am immensely proud of our volunteers. With the help of so many, including Jennifer Chalmers, our board president, we were able to build an organization that activates employees at every level and makes them core to key decisions,” Pruitt said. “They [volunteers] are the ones who make our impactful work possible every single day. That’s not only unique – it’s pretty incredible.”