Research shows that millennials and Gen Z are acutely aware of companies' commitments to community, but that attitude is not unique to the younger generations at BOK Financial®, says Leslie Paris, director of community and employee engagement.
"Our level of involvement is a point of pride for our employees," Paris said. "We take a strategic approach to connect all of the dots when serving our local communities—from working with our HR business partners to identify employees with leadership potential who may make good nonprofit board members to being very intentional about where our philanthropic dollars go."
Community is always top of mind for Paris and her team, but they aren't the only ones with that lens at the company, which recently celebrated a significant milestone of giving back more than $100 million from the company and the BOKF Foundation.
As one of four corporate values—actively advance the communities we serve—community engagement is built into the company DNA.
Community giving has been a pillar since the company was founded more than 100 years ago, and in 1998, BOK Financial took a step to demonstrate that commitment by establishing a foundation. Since that time, 1.5% of the company's annual estimated net income has been designated to support the community through the foundation. In addition, the company designates dollars for direct contributions in our local communities each year.
"A community is an ever-changing thing—and it's important to keep that in mind when considering how best to support nonprofits that are doing the work," said Scott Robin, community engagement manager at BOK Financial.
BOKF Foundation and company funds are distributed in local markets across the company's eight-state footprint.
"It's really important that we listen to our people to serve our communities in the best way possible," Robin said. "We have a wide variety of employees who serve in leadership roles on nonprofit boards or volunteer capacities, and being involved 'on the ground' helps the company stay in touch with what the community needs."
For example, when the pandemic turned everything upside down in 2020, the company contributed an additional $1 million to the foundation to be deployed to programs in each local market that were addressing food insecurity and re-employment of laid off and furloughed restaurant and hospitality workers. Dollars were distributed in less than a week.
"I was so proud of our response to the needs spotlighted by the pandemic," said Stacy Kymes, president and CEO of BOK Financial. "We were able to distribute $1 million in a very short period of time to get the dollars into the hands of those on the ground who needed them."
Over the years, the company's giving program has shifted.
"We used to focus almost exclusively on event sponsorships, which are important to the nonprofit organizations, but we've shifted in the past few years to incorporate some programmatic sponsorships," Robin said adding that the balance of both is helpful for the organizations. "They need the general operational support to be able to keep the doors open, but can also benefit from dedicated support that helps move the needle on programs."
The team reviews opportunities for alignment with its pillars of giving to make decisions on which organizations and programs to support.
Another key component of our community program is engagement, Paris said. "It's really important for us to create consistent opportunities for our employees to volunteer in a way that's meaningful to them, to advocate for nonprofits they support and to make a difference through leadership roles in the community."
Culture of community
"Community is a core component of our culture," Paris said. That starts on day one when new employees receive a volunteer shirt in their welcome packet and eight hours of paid time off annually to volunteer at a nonprofit of their choice.
Another way that culture comes to life is through Guide the Giving, an annual event that encourages employees to nominate organizations they are passionate about to receive funds. Across the footprint, 15 local organizations receive $5,000-$10,000 after a multi-step campaign that involves employee advocacy and voting.
"Guide the Giving has become a favorite way for our people to get involved," Robin said. "It really showcases the passion our employees have for organizations they support—and they are willing to advocate for those causes to receive funding."
While each local market recognizes employees in a unique way and rallies behind different organizations, corporate awards for a job well done also connect back to community. The biennial One Award is the highest employee honor recognizing employees who go above and beyond in their role, and the individuals who are chosen are given a $1,000 prize to donate to a nonprofit of their choice.
"Community truly is a part of almost everything we do," Kymes said. "Our view is that we're only as strong as our communities, and we try to reiterate that commitment through a number of different approaches to giving back."
Learn more about BOK Financial's commitment to community.