With more than 65 years of investment and banking experience between them, Tim Poppens, Senior Vice President – Complex Manager for Wells Fargo Advisors, and Andy Veenstra, Senior Vice President – Commercial Banking Leader for Wells Fargo Bank, NA.* know that serving customers entails far more than accommodating their business and investment needs. It also means building up their local communities to position them for success. Through the Wells Fargo Foundation, a corporate commitment to giving and a variety of employee programs, Wells Fargo actively gives back, and Poppens and Veenstra play an active role in those efforts.
Poppens, who works at Wells Fargo Advisors*, and Veenstra, who works at Wells Fargo Commercial Banking**, both serve on the Indiana Contributions Council for the Wells Fargo Foundation. They meet with their peers once a month to review grant applications, measuring them against the foundation’s goals and making awards accordingly. Priority is given to programs and organizations that promote economic development, affordable housing, social services and arts and culture, particularly in underserved areas.
“These things are meaningful to us and to the community,” says Poppens. “Working with the Wells Fargo Foundation is probably the most rewarding part of my job.”
Each state has its own Contributions Council, which means that decisions about charitable giving stay local. Council representatives like Poppens and Veenstra look for projects that keep communities strong, diverse and vibrant.
“It’s a great way to be structured,” says Veenstra. “Decisions about Indiana are made by people who live and work here.”
Grants totaling more than $980,000 were awarded in Indiana in 2018 and additional funds released for 2019 will take the current year’s total to $1.6 million. A new grant review process provides for impact grants up to as much as $150,000 to positively affect significant numbers of people.
“It’s a very careful process,” says Poppens, “but it’s also very worthwhile.”
Already this year, the results of the new process have been remarkable. The Wells Fargo Foundation awarded $100,000 to Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana that provides space in its new building for financial education, including BizTown and Finance Park. The YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne received a $100,000 impact grant to support youth programs at the Renaissance Pointe YMCA, the YMCA Youth Service Bureau, and 41 before-and-after-school sites across three counties. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art received $75,000 for student programs that support underserved audiences. Thousands of lives across the region stand to benefit from these gifts.
Veenstra takes the work he does on behalf of the Wells Fargo Foundation to heart. “There’s a sense of pride in giving back to your community, especially when you’ve been directly involved,” he says.
Giving in the Wells Fargo culture involves much more than monetary awards, however. The company has cultivated an environment which also encourages team members to volunteer their time. In addition to their regular PTO, each person receives sixteen additional hours to be used for volunteer work anywhere the employee chooses.
“The company doesn’t tell us where we have to spend our time,” says Veenstra. “We just encourage everyone to get out into the community wherever their passion lies.”
Those individual contributions, combined with team events for organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the United Way Day of Caring, added up to more than 8,000 volunteer hours donated in Indiana last year. In addition, Wells Fargo makes matching funds available for individual team member contributions, offers Community Care Grants for employees to direct to qualifying organizations of their choice, and provides volunteer leave opportunities. These efforts make clear that giving back is truly a way of life at Wells Fargo.
“We don’t have to work hard to get people to donate time or money,” says Poppens. “The team members in our organization want to give back. It’s a natural thing.”
On a corporate level, this year Wells Fargo set an annual philanthropic giving target of two percent of its after-tax profits. This comes on the heels of record-setting giving of more than $440 million in 2018, distributed to eleven thousand charitable organizations across the country. The company’s efforts are multiplied by its team members, too; Wells Fargo’s United Way workplace giving campaign has ranked first in the country for ten years running.
Leaders like Poppens and Veenstra help set the tone on a local level, not only through their participation, but also by their example. In September, Poppens led a team from his office on a Habitat for Humanity build, and Veenstra is honing his bowling skills to participate in Junior Achievement’s Achieve-A-Bowl.
Says Poppens: “This culture of giving is embedded in what we do and who we are.”
*Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.
**Wells Fargo Commercial Banking is a division of Wells Fargo an, N.A., a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.