This is part of The Daily Herald’s annual report on charity in Snohomish County. Complete list of stories
EVERETT — Earlier this year, Boeing employees donated $20,000 to renovate Cocoon House’s emergency shelter in Everett for homeless and at-risk teens. The money has been used to fix siding, repair broken stairs, expand the home’s upstairs bathroom and install air conditioning.
The nonprofit group has room for eight teenagers in the century-old house that serves as a short-term stop to get the kids off the street until they can return home — if they have one — or staff can find them more permanent accommodations.
“It really made that house more of a home,” said Julio Cortes, Cocoon House’s spokesman.
Some of the teens who’ve passed through Cocoon House’s doors have picked up valuable skills and experience at CafeWorks, a social skill-building and job-training program run at HopeWorks’ building on Broadway in Everett. CafeWorks was made possible, in large part, by a $500,000 grant from Boeing employees in 2014.
The money for Cocoon House and HopeWorks both came from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound (ECF). The donations illustrate how the fund is changing its approach to charitable giving. The ECF pools contributions from workers into a wide array of grants. Since being founded in 1951, it has given out more than $600 million. Historically, most of that has been through grants like the one this year to Cocoon House.
Starting with the massive donation to HopeWorks, the ECF regularly awards grants up to $500,000. Those big contributions are meant to have a bigger impact than the same amount would if doled out in lots of smaller awards. The fund still writes plenty of checks for under $40,000 to groups around Western Washington.
This year, the ECF expects to donate about $8 million to social service groups from Whatcom to Pierce counties. The money comes from Boeing employees. About 15,000 contribute to the fund, which pools the money to increase the effect. The Boeing Co. covers the administrative costs, so 100 percent of employees’ contributions go to donations.
The money is apportioned based on where the ECF’s donors come from. “We do our best to give in the communities that our donors live in,” said Kelsey Camp, the fund’s board president.
The fund is run by Boeing employees. Its board has eight seats — four hourly workers and four salaried workers.
“We all have day jobs,” she said.
Camp is a 20-year Boeing veteran and senior manager at its creative services and information management system, a group with a broad portfolio of responsibilities that includes everything from making scientific illustrations to writing technical manuals to doing stenciling on airplanes.
The ECF has one full-time employee, who is paid for by the Boeing Co.
Before overhauling its strategy three years ago, the fund’s biggest award had been in 1972, when it gave $299,000 to sustain King County’s then recently launched Medic One program. Today, the program is a key piece of the region’s emergency response services and has been replicated around the country.
The ECF gave $137,000 to the Medic One Foundation this year to save lives with an app for smartphones. It sounds like satire at first glance: The app, PulsePoint, crowdsources CPR for heart attack victims. Anyone who knows CPR is encouraged to download the app to their phone. When a heart attack is reported to 911, paramedics are dispatched and at the same time PulsePoint users get an alert on their phones if a victim is nearby.
For example, if someone has a heart attack in Pioneer Square, PulsePoint alerts a user who is a block away. That user would not have known about the emergency otherwise, and potentially would be able to start CPR while paramedics are still en route.
The application is already being tested in Seattle with plans to expand elsewhere in King and Snohomish counties.
The Medic One, Cocoon House and HopeWorks grants illustrate the ECF’s focus on supporting groups’ capital needs, big and small. “We’re one of the few organizations out there that fund the non-sexy needs like replacing a refrigeration unit or computer systems — the capital expenses that agencies need to operate,” Camp said.
The fund focuses on groups working on homelessness, early education, hunger, and wage progression, a term which includes things such as job training and efforts to help folks break the cycle of poverty.
As Boeing’s workforce gets younger, the ECF is having to adjust its pitch to workers.
“Pooled giving isn’t as popular” with younger workers, Camp said.
Millennials are just as charitable as previous generations. However, they are donating less at the office. The Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Project’s 2014 report found that 85 percent of workers age 25 to 30 donated to nonprofit events the previous year. However, only 45 percent of those workers cut checks to employee-giving campaigns, compared to 57 percent of workers older than 30.
“Millennials want to have more personal control and authenticity with their giving,” Camp said.
That has serious implications for the fund, which last year raised $9.3 million from workers — over $1 million more than it expects to receive this year.
The ECF is starting to address the issue. Board members are still investigating the shift to figure out the best ways to address it.
Ultimately, the fund’s appeal “comes down to the power of the pool,” she said.
Pooling donations into big grants can make a bigger difference than lots of people each giving $25.