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New committee structure aimed at maximizing charitable footprint

By Hilary Reeves

Seven months after Saltchuk announced the creation of three regional giving committees charged with targeting charitable contributions for maximum impact, gift-planning is well underway.

“Each one of Saltchuk’s operating companies sets aside a percentage of its earnings, and each was responsible for its own giving program,” said Emily Reiter, head of public relations and philanthropy at Saltchuk. “But when we started looking at increased collaboration between the companies, we found that we were giving relatively small amounts to a lot of individual causes. We wanted to create a program that allowed us to give more meaningfully in the communities we serve.”

Saltchuk’s giving, including in-kind donations, has averaged $2.5 million per year during the past 10 years.

“We wanted to draw a clearer picture of the Saltchuk footprint with our giving,” Reiter said.

Reiter said committees were formed in 2014 in the three regions where Saltchuk operations most heavily overlap: Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. A fourth regional committee will be added in 2015 to serve Florida and the Caribbean. Half of each company’s giving budget will be allocated to the committees, while the other half will stay with the company to continue distributing locally.

Of the forecasted $850,000 budget for regional committees, 40 percent was distributed to Alaska Regional Giving, and 30 percent went both to Washington Regional Giving and Hawaii Regional Giving. After due consideration, it was decided that the committees’ top giving priorities should be post-secondary education and youth development.

While Washington Regional Giving is still making allocation decisions, Alaska Regional Giving looked first to see where its companies’ individual charitable giving overlapped.

“We collected the donation records of all our operating companies for the past several years,” said Annette Sheppard, External Affairs Director at Saltchuk Alaska who staffs the Alaskan committee. “Each also provided what was done in-kind. We looked at whether there were any entities that everyone was giving to that we could join forces on.”

Sheppard said that while cash donations lacked common ground, an overlapping customer base between the companies led to a lot of similar in-kind donations. In the end, the committee decided to focus on education with post-secondary scholarship program totaling $150,000.

“We decided to expand our scholarship program through Alaska Pacific University,” Sheppard said.

While APU will administer the scholarships, Sheppard said the program includes a mentoring component. Students will be paired with employees at the different operating companies.

“It’s half education, half professional development,” Sheppard said.

P1000439In addition to the scholarship program, Alaska Regional Giving has also distributed $7,000 to the Sealife Center, a marine science program that allows lower-income children to experience marine habitats and wildlife.

“We have a lot of marine operations,” Sheppard said. “It’s a small gift, but very rewarding to students who might not otherwise have the opportunity.

“We’re going to be really thoughtful and slow in our giving,” she added. “We want to make sure that we’re giving to vetted nonprofits. We’d like to be able to say, ‘We do this annually.’ As far as the field trips, we had seven employees representing our companies go to the Sealife Center as chaperones this year. Whether through the mentoring program or on a field trip, we want to make sure that our employees are involved and aware of what we’re doing.”

The new Hawaii Regional Giving committee has extended its reach even further, having approved a total of seven requests during the first quarter totaling $175,000. Of that amount, $70,000 was awarded to the Shidler College of Business to support its Distance Learning Executive MBA program; $25,000 was awarded to the Nature Conservancy to support the purchase of a conservation easement of Hawaiian Forest above Hilo; $15,000 was awarded to the Red Cross; $10,000 was awarded to the Senator Daniel Inouye Legacy Fund; $15,000 was awarded to Maui Hospice; $15,000 was awarded to the Hawaiian Kamali’I Canoe Club for youth development and cultural preservation; and $25,000 was awarded to the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which also meets the criteria for youth development and Hawaiian cultural preservation.

As in Washington and Alaska, Saltchuk companies in Hawaii — including Aloha Air Cargo, Hawaii Petroleum, Maui Petroleum, Minit Stop, and Young Brothers — have a long history of charitable giving.

“Young Brothers has supported numerous community needs over the years,” said Natasha Lagmay, a financial analyst at Young Brothers and spokesperson for Hawaii Regional Giving. “We have strengthened our bond with the community through our Community Advisory Board (CAB). Our CAB is comprised of notable members that are deeply rooted in their community from each county: Kauai, Maui and Hawaii.  These board members serve as ambassadors of Young Brothers for their communities and, on an annual basis, meet to review grant applications that have been submitted by various non-profit organizations.”

According to Lagmay, Maui Petroleum, Hawaii Petroleum, and Minit Stop support local nonprofits on the islands of Maui and Hawaii, and Aloha Air Cargo most recently focused its dollars on the American Heart Association Heart Walk, Special Olympics Torch Run (and Polar Plunge), and the Hawaii Food bank.

“In Hawaii, as in all communities, residents have ongoing, emerging, and immediate needs,” Lagmay said. “The goal is to address the most pressing issues in the community and identify solutions that will create the greatest impact.

“It has been very critical for us to make sure that our investment does make a difference.  The Hawaii (Regional Giving) Committee is mainly focusing on supporting Hawaii youth opportunities initiatives and secondary education with emphasis on neighbor Islands development. We are pleased to be able to provide funding to help further the education of Hawaii’s future leaders.”

Lagmay said that although the new committee structure has forced some changes, the companies are thankful to Saltchuk for supporting company efforts to do the most good for the people of Hawaii.

“We believe that thoughtful giving is not a simple transaction,” she said. “The Hawaii committee is striving to make meaningful choices and see the results of our philanthropy.”