SEP has a long history of giving to charitable causes. In our early days, we had three major shareholders, each of whom earmarked a set amount to give to a charity of their choice. Clean water in Africa, global adoption organizations and various educational initiatives were all causes dear to our founders’ hearts. While this informal structure of having ‘Corporate Partners’ worked for a while, as we grew, we knew we needed more.
In 2012 we rolled out a new Community Involvement Plan. It was my hope to create a program designed to encourage our employees to volunteer their time and, in turn, SEP would make donations to organizations those volunteers felt connected to. While we still carried forward the tradition of having ‘Corporate Partners’, this was the start of a new level of engagement. We were encouraging participation company-wide.
Again, it was time for us to think about growth, our financial successes and how we wanted to level up our community involvement program even more. Establishing a foundation wasn’t initially on our radar, but thankfully with some guidance from the experts, we decided to establish: The SEP Foundation.
I’ve been asked “Why a foundation, though? Why didn’t SEP just write some checks?”. There are a few reasons.
- There’s a sense of permanency in a foundation. Right? It’s official. It has a name. It’s an entity all its own. It’s there for the long haul. We didn’t need an arbitrary sense of obligation, but it matches well with our intent. We’re committed for the long haul.
- We needed a focused mission…a rallying cry if you will. In partnership with CICF, our group went through a philanthropic autobiography exercise that really narrowed down what our focus should be – overcoming the barriers and confines of poverty and helping veterans and families experiencing hardships achieve self-sufficiency. We now have a guiding star for our decisions.
- Selecting organizations is hard. There are so many amazing ones out there. Having the foundation allowed us to work with CICF, who did an awesome job of vetting and connecting us with those that match our mission.
- Administration is no joke. My hope is that every single one of our employees volunteers for an organization they love. When they do that, those organizations are eligible for a donation from SEP (how cool is that!?). Because there will (hopefully) be many to process and be sent to a wide variety of organizations, having the Foundation, (read CICF!) handle the administrative part = a huge win.
We have learned a lot along the way and we feel that The SEP Foundation is a natural fit for the kind of charitable giving SEP would like to do…long term, guided by a mission for our corporate giving, and easy to administer for our wide-ranging employee-guided giving.
If you’re interested in learning about our 2019 grant recipients visit www.sep.com/about/foundation.