Wipfli Foundation amplifies associates’ power of giving
It would never have occurred to Mary Baumann, a senior business developer in Wipfli’s Reston, Virginia office, that a small animal welfare organization she has supported for years would be eligible for funds from Wipfli’s new charitable giving program.
“St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) is a cause near and dear to my heart. But I thought it would be too small,” said Mary, who regularly volunteers and donates supplies to the group in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
She’s thrilled her initial impression was mistaken.
As soon as Wipfli unveiled the Groundswell corporate giving and matching program in January 2023, Mary seized the opportunity to send SMAWL the full $150 she received as a gift from the firm — seed money to essentially launch her own donor fund for 501(c)(3) nonprofits that are meaningful to her.
“Being able to give to it in a bigger way than I ever have is huge for me. It was like pennies from heaven,” she said. “Not all companies care that much about philanthropy or are committed to truly giving back. A lot say that they do, but Wipfli really lives it. It says a lot about the caring culture we have here.”
Wipfli associates can support just about any nonprofit causes they care about, in a matter of a couple of clicks on their phone.
In addition to the initial $150 gifted to every associate who created a Groundswell account, an additional $500 in matching funds is available to all, empowering associates to support any number of charitable organizations they’d like to through the program’s mobile app. The tax-advantaged accounts function as personal giving accounts.
The effort has also spurred Wipfli colleagues to come together to make a bigger impact. In one department, team members rallied to donate funds via the app for an ALS research organization, in memory of a colleague’s father who passed away from the disease.
Such generosity underscores Wipfli’s commitment to caring as a core value. The immediate enthusiasm for the giving program made clear that finding outlets through which to express compassion and empathy matters greatly to associates at the firm.
One month after its launch, about a third of the firm’s 3,000 associates were participating in the Groundswell program, a tenfold leap over the firm’s previous philanthropic match program.
Expanding the commitment
The platform’s convenience and ease of use helped persuade firm leaders to pivot to the powerful, tech-enabled approach to community engagement and charitable giving. The program expands the firm’s longstanding commitment through the Wipfli Foundation to support efforts to make a positive difference, whether through funding college scholarships or global disaster relief efforts. In addition, the firm has long committed to an annual Community Day, which encourages associates to spend the day volunteering with a service organization that matters to them.
“Wipfli has a long history of corporate citizenship and innovation. We are excited to combine these two values and radically rethink our approach to driving impact in communities while empowering our associates to support their causes,” said Wipfli partner Ken Kortas, who is also president of the Wipfli Foundation.
Goundswell’s searchable database currently has more than 1.5 million 501(c)(3)s where associates can send money. The app does not include any organizations identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“It’s a huge differentiator that the firm is providing matching funds without a filter. It says a lot about our firm that they trust people to make good choices as stewards of the firm’s money,” said Ryan Risley, Wipfli principal and an early champion of the program.