By Melissa Murer Corrigan, Vice President, Social Impact, Center for Equity in Learning

As we mark Giving Tuesday this year – the global day of giving celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and powered by social media – I’m reflecting on ACT’s mission and how we have made giving back part of the very core of our organization. We live and breathe philanthropy as part of ACT’s everyday work – it’s in our DNA.

Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season and also provides a counterbalance to the shopping spectaculars known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Here at ACT, we take social impact, goodwill toward others, and cultivating connections very seriously – it’s part of what makes ACT an incredible place to work.  While individual team members may participate in Giving Tuesday, ACT as an organization is continuing to focus on our nonprofit mission and related initiatives.  How are we making a positive difference in people’s lives? How can we help individuals succeed in education and workplace environments? These are just a few of the questions for which we continuously seek new answers.

ACT has formalized some of our social impact efforts in our Center for Equity in Learning, where so much of our mission comes to fruition. The Center advances ACT’s mission through partnerships, research, and initiatives aimed at closing gaps in equity and achievement for underserved learners, including those of working learners.

Our social impact efforts include ACT’s corporate giving investments and the volunteer services that our team members bring to both individuals and organizations in need. These efforts help personalize ACT’s outreach into the communities where our team members live and work. We have aligned our philanthropic efforts to emphasize the core pillars of local education, human and social needs, cultural and artistic achievement, community benefit, and disaster relief. In 2017, ACT gave $120,000 to 72 organizations in six states and Washington, D.C.

Volunteering in our local communities is an important component of ACT’s mission, ensuring that we don’t just work inside the walls of ACT, but that we are truly a vital participant in the communities around us. The ACT Volunteer Services Committee empowers our team members to get involved in local efforts including: food drives, Habitat for Humanity Builds, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2017 Bowl for Kids sake event, and collecting personal care items for a local Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

In an effort to truly institutionalize the good work we are doing, ACT recently launched ACT Cares, an initiative aimed at inspiring and motivating through stories of gratitude and success. ACT Cares promotes our holistic approach and helps create and continue conversation around education equity and access; customers and communities; and team member well-being and achievement.   ACT Cares is an opportunity for ACT team members to work together and show how much we care about our communities.

As 2017 draws to a close, I remain inspired by ACT’s commitment to social impact and pleased to note that I’m not the only one. This year, we have been acknowledged by leaders in our community for our efforts to give back. Earlier this month, ACT was recognized as the 2017 Outstanding Philanthropic Organization (large business) by the Eastern Iowa Association of Fundraising Professional on National Philanthropy Day.  This award recognized ACT’s significant financial contribution for an endowed scholarship to assist Kirkwood Community College students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with a special focus on historically underrepresented populations.  As a result of the ACT scholarship, to date 150 students have received financial support to cover the full cost of tuition for a two-year college degree. The ACT Scholars fund has grown to more than $2.8 million and will continue to grow for perpetuity, ensuring that Kirkwood students will have a long-standing positive impact on the future of our workforce and community.

ACT is also a major supporter of United Way, which focuses on the priority areas of education, income, and health.  In 2017, ACT received the Game-Changer in Education Award in recognition of outstanding support of education in the community from our work with the My Very Own Book Drive, the Out of School Time Initiative, employee engagement, and volunteerism. Our team members give their time, talent, and resources throughout the year, including a focused week each fall during the annual campaign.

Every day, I am proud to come to work at ACT because of our culture of giving back, philanthropy investments, and cultivating connections to our communities. Today, Giving Tuesday, is an opportunity for us to reflect on and reaffirm our commitment to our philanthropic endeavors. It includes reaching out and being inclusive.  Please join us on this important journey to help people navigate education and career in this dynamic world. I encourage organizations that have similar priorities to apply for a Corporate Giving Grant so ACT can count you among our accomplishments next year.

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