Ask Audrey Yetter about the importance of giving to the community, and her answer is immediate.
“When you have the resources, you should always reach out and help,” says Yetter, a senior managing consultant in BKD’s Houston office. “You’re talking about your neighbors and friends. It’s where you live. I’ve been blessed in my life, and it’s important to have some way to help those who haven’t been as fortunate.”
At BKD, that method for reaching out is through the BKD Foundation. Since its founding in 2000, BKD’s charitable arm has collected and distributed more than $11.5 million to not-for-profit organizations across the country. From Pennsylvania to Colorado, hundreds of charities and community groups have benefitted from the generosity and giving spirit of BKD partners and employees.
Like BKD itself, the BKD Foundation has grown from humble beginnings. In its first year, the foundation distributed just $9,000 to 501(c)(3) organizations.
But since that time, the firm has grown from fewer than 900 employees to more than 2,400. The foundation’s impact has exploded, too, becoming a significant source of support for communities throughout BKD’s 15-state footprint and beyond. In 2015, it took in just shy of $1.1 million in donations and contributed to more than 230 not-for-profits.
CEO Ted Dickman understands the importance of the foundation’s work—and why the firm’s focus on charitable activity and volunteering resonates with BKDers.
“When you have a service-oriented culture like ours, you create people who are givers,” Dickman says. “Most days, we’re consumed with helping our clients and our people, so service to the community is a natural extension.”
In Colorado, service to the community included supporting Children’s Hospital Colorado by making blankets for patients, the Pike’s Peak Therapeutic Riding Center by purchasing and building a shed for horse supplies and the Denver Zoo by building new monkey cages.
“I just enjoy helping,” says Lindie Eads, a manager in Colorado Springs. “It’s a great way to get connected with your community and to see the impact the BKD Foundation can have on organizations you might not have been aware of before volunteering.”
Finding Those in Need
Each practice unit has its own foundation advisory board that decides how local foundation dollars will be dispersed. For Houston, this means collecting ideas from employees and sending out proposal requests to community organizations asking what assistance they need.
In 2015, the Houston office supported the local branch of Easter Seals, where BKDers helped renovate the facility after major flooding by cleaning up the playground, planting herb gardens and organizing a fall carnival.
“We want our people to be more connected to their surroundings,” says Houston Director Kristin Morgan. “It’s so important for us to make the community we live in better.”
In Pennsylvania, gift decisions have gotten tougher as state-level politics have led to less government support for human services. In 2015, the Erie and Pittsburgh offices supported several organizations including the Community Human Services Corp. (CHS) in Pittsburgh. CHS helps people find stable housing and access community resources.
Pittsburgh Manager Vince Son, who serves on the CHS board and helps the organization with its accounting needs, says his desire to help others began as a child and has continued into his professional life.
“I started with my church youth group, and then our high school had a community service requirement. My desire to help just grew from there,” Son says. “Now I can use my professional skills to help the organization steer the ship and get more use out of the support they receive.”
Demonstrating the Desire
CEO Dickman says that community support is important because it demonstrates the giving nature of the firm. But there’s more.
“It’s not just about how we want to be viewed as a firm,” he says. “It’s about tapping into the human desire to give back, and I think people want to be part of a firm that supports those efforts.”
The desire to help is certainly strong with Yetter. She says supporting the community is a no-brainer.
“I have a good job and a place to live, and I don’t take that for granted,” she says. “When you have so much, why would you not want to give back?"