Remote employees still giving back to community

Throughout COVID and into the holiday season, Excelsior College staff have been working from home but also remain engaged in community service and fundraising.
By: | December 16, 2020
Getty Images, Kseniya OvchinnikovaGetty Images, Kseniya Ovchinnikova

While remote learning is the norm for students at Excelsior College—a not-for-profit online college focused on helping adults complete their degrees and advance their careers—that was not the case for employees. Until COVID hit.

An Excelsior employee shows her workout log during a four-week employee competition of exercise, eating healthy, sharing gratitude and raising money for those impacted by heart disease.

An Excelsior employee shows her workout log during a four-week employee competition of exercise, eating healthy, sharing gratitude and raising money for those impacted by heart disease.

The college transitioned to a mostly remote workforce in mid-March, but this year its employees have been just as supportive of various causes in the New York Capital Region and beyond as ever. The employee-led Community Engagement Group shifted its efforts to allow remote volunteering and online fundraising. As of mid-November, employees had personally contributed over $22,000 to charitable organizations, including $13,000 in student scholarships.

Since March, the college has received many requests to support charities and address basic needs such as food insecurity. According to NYS Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) data, 11% of households in the Greater Capital Region earn an income below the federal poverty line, and 30% of households are considered ALICE, working families that earn more than the federal poverty level but do not earn enough to cover the basic costs of living. The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated existing challenges and inequities for these families across the area.

“As we all know, 2020 has presented all of us with challenges,” says Mark Howe, vice president of human resources at the college. “In the case of contributing food or gifts, the donor feels good about doing something positive and the items bring joy to the recipient. From a human resources perspective, this gives our employees a sense of making a difference and, in many cases, some much-needed diversion from the challenges they’re facing.”

In September, Excelsior hosted its first virtual volunteer fair so that employees, faculty, students and alumni could learn about volunteering remotely, rather than in person, while still making an impact in their hometowns. Representatives included the United Way, American Red Cross, American Heart Association, Head Count, the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, and American Cancer Society.

'This gives our employees a sense of making a difference and, in many cases, some much-needed diversion from the challenges they’re facing.” —Mark Howe, VP of #HR at @ExcelsiorColl, on employee giving and volunteering during remote workClick To Tweet

Among other efforts, employees have been involved in:

  • Donating to Equinox, providing 109 Thanksgiving dinners to lonely, homebound and homeless neighbors.

Employee giving way up in 2020 overall

    In spite of the pandemic and its impact, U.S. employees not only continued to give this year, but did so with record numbers. That’s according to research from Benevity, a company with technology that powers workplace giving programs at hundreds of companies, including Google, Coca Cola, Apple and Nike. As of September of this year, employees at companies deploying Benevity technology donated $1.5 billion. That’s $100 million more than was donated in all of 2019.

  • Raising money for the Regional Food Bank Hunger Action Challenge, which helped the food bank surpass its goal and reach 32,852 meals in 30 days.
  • A 96-hour food drive challenge, for which the university provided a direct link so that employees could purchase last-minute turkeys to be distributed through a local organization.
  • A four-week friendly competition of exercise, eating healthy, sharing gratitude, raising money ($2,300 was raised) and promoting awareness to benefit those impacted by heart disease.

“Excelsior College employees have a spirit of giving. While working remotely, we are creatively finding methods to collect items and contributions,” says Alicia Jacobs, senior manager of internal communications and public relations. “Requests to meet community needs have not slowed down, especially considering the pandemic.”

Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of UB.