Thrivent: Impactful Corporate Social Responsibility Starts with Meaningful Relationships

by Savoy Staff

It’s not enough for companies to simply provide a useful product or service. Society expects more, as consumers choose brands that align with their values.

I joined Thrivent, a Fortune 500 diversified financial services organization, to help advance our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy and continue strengthening our corporate responsibility efforts. I became Thrivent’s Chief DEI & Corporate Responsibility Officer after spending 25 years in the banking, airlines and consumer products industries. In my experience, corporate social responsibility (CSR) must be core to a company’s DNA if it wants to grow. And it takes more than funding to make a positive impact on society. Businesses also need to create meaningful relationships within the communities they serve.

CSR initiatives that create a lasting impact cultivate long-term connections with community partners, rather than serve as one-off activities. By doing this, organizations can understand community needs and develop programs that sustainably address those needs.

In addition to CSR, organizations that engage in community service have exponential impact and amplify their generosity efforts through their own people. As one of the original purpose-driven organizations, Thrivent’s business is rooted in strong values, and we help our clients use their finances to lead lives of meaning and gratitude. Our generosity programs and community impact are why our clients choose Thrivent.

It takes more than funding: CSR beyond the grant
Like many Fortune 500 companies, Thrivent provides financial support to our nonprofit partners. But we know that we can make a greater impact through evaluation support, education, training resources and by sharing skilled volunteers from our workforce. Thrivent’s average grant is $275,000 with a 3-year term, which allows our nonprofit partners to deepen their impact, while becoming more financially stable and reducing overhead costs. These are intentional and relationship-focused partnerships, not transactional grants, which our communities need now more than ever.

Two of Thrivent’s nonprofit partnerships come to mind when thinking about our relationship-first approach to CSR. We work with the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. NDC helps entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. We leverage skills-based volunteering to support NDC, matching members of Thrivent’s workforce with NDC projects to solve business challenges. From 2021-2022, more than 100 Thrivent volunteers delivered 450 hours of pro bono services worth more than $120,000 to nonprofits.

We also partner with the Scholars on Target to Achieve Results (STAR) program in the Fox Cities in Wisconsin. STAR creates equitable education opportunities for Black Scholars in the Appleton Area School District. Since 2018, Thrivent has provided regular financial support, volunteer hours, and strategic counsel, helping more than 818 students fulfill their academic goals. And, as a testament to STAR’s impact, the students had a 96% high school graduation rate during the 2021-2022 school year.

Embedding generosity into Thrivent’s workforce
Many of Thrivent’s generosity efforts come to life because of our workforce, and we provide them with the resources to follow their passions and drive positive impact in their communities. This is an important reason why Thrivent is an employer of choice for so many. We offer every employee 20 hours of volunteer time off each year, contribute money to nonprofits for our team’s volunteer time and amplify our employee’s donations with generous matching gifts.

And our impact is staggering. In 2022, our employees logged 9,881 hours of volunteer time off and Thrivent gave $15.3 million to non-profits through our employee-gift matching and community engagement program.

I’m encouraged so many organizations are increasingly prioritizing CSR and think there’s opportunity to ensure company efforts are not performative moments in time. CSR programs should prioritize long-term community partnerships that provide sustainable funding and leverage a company’s resources to make a deep impact.

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