By Maria Saporta
Friday, July 30, 2010
United Parcel Service Inc. has reached a first-ever philanthropic milestone.
As of July 28, Atlanta-based UPS has become the first and only company to contribute a total of $1 billion to the United Way organization.
That’s quite a feat for a company that before 1982 had a policy against workplace-giving campaigns at its offices.
But then George Lamb, who was UPS’ CEO at the time, recognized there were tremendous social needs and that employees wanted an opportunity to give. Lamb chaired the delivery company’s first campaign in 1982, raising $2 million for the United Way system.
“We didn’t start out 28 years ago saying we are going to give away $1 billion,” said Allen Hill, UPS’ senior vice president of human resources and chairman of the UPS Foundation. “It has just grown and grown every year and gained momentum.”
In fact, Hill said giving $1 every second, it would take more than 31 years to reach $1 billion. “We achieved it in 28 years,” Hill said.
The United Way system is celebrating UPS’ generosity by launching a “Thank UPS drivers” during the week of Aug. 2 to Aug. 6. It also has taken out a “Thanks a Billion” ad in Fortune magazine to commemorate UPS reaching the $1 billion mark.
“It certainly is an extraordinary milestone,” said Milton Little, president of Atlanta’s United Way. “I don’t know where the United Way system would be were it not for the partnership with this wonderful company and its wonderful people.”
Little said United Way has benefited from the willingness of employees and executives to donate just not their money but their time to the organization and all the agencies it helps support.
“The relationship that we have been able to enjoy has been because of the CEOs that have been in place since the 1980s,” Little said. “It’s really been a matter of the CEOs recognizing the value of United Way and placing it at the highest level of how the company would express its community and civic involvement.”
Little gave special credit to retired UPS Chairman Oz Nelson, who he said was really “the springboard” in building that relationship.
Nelson not only chaired Atlanta’s United Way campaign and the Atlanta board, he also served on the United Way of America board. Currently, Dave Barnes, the chief information officer of the company, serves on the national United Way board.
Recently, Hill actually reviewed all the UPS executives who have run the company’s internal United Way campaigns.
“When you look at that list of campaign chairs, every UPS CEO has chaired a United Way campaign,” said Hill, who currently is chairing this year’s UPS campaign.
The company’s total United Way contribution in 2009 — including employee giving and $7 million from the UPS Foundation — was $55.9 million. Hill said 65 percent of UPS’ eligible employees participated in the campaign.
The company’s employees also have contributed at least 1 million volunteer hours every year since 2007.
But there was one down note this past year.
For nine of the last 10 years, UPS has been the top United Way private donor in the country. Last year, it slipped to No. 2 because of the merger between Wells Fargo and Wachovia banks.
Hill said being first in the country is not what matters most to UPS.
“If someone knocks us off the top perch, it’s all for the good of United Way,” he said.