United Way recently ran a full-page advertisement in USA Today (PDF) thanking Wells Fargo team members for their “generosity, dedication, and expertise.” We asked Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, how Wells Fargo team members help strengthen local communities.
Q: How does Wells Fargo work with the United Way?
Gallagher: Wells Fargo and United Way work together in many ways. First, we both believe in what’s called “shared value.” The central premise of shared value is that a company’s competitiveness is linked to the health of its communities. That’s United Way’s collective sweet spot. We are uniquely positioned to help employers create economic value — for the entire community — that also adds social value.
In practice, that means Wells Fargo is actively involved in three ways:
- Community building. Wells Fargo leaders are deeply engaged with us on the ground in making lasting change, with 96 Wells Fargo leaders serving on local United Way boards in 31 states. Also, Peter Dudley, who leads team member philanthropy at Wells Fargo, is the chair of our Global Corporate Leadership Advisory Council, and he is playing a key role in helping to shape the way United Way Worldwide works with Fortune 500 companies.
- Direct investment in financial stability. In 2012, Wells Fargo invested $5 million to create a Financial Capability Network — a great example of a company putting money where its priorities are. This network educates individuals and families on how to save more, manage their assets and debt, build credit, and more. Currently operating in eight communities across the U.S., the network has helped more than 20,000 low-income families get on more solid financial ground.
- Active team members. Whether it’s through volunteering or donating, Wells Fargo team members are making the communities in which they live and work better places. All told, team members give more than a million hours of their time for volunteerism, including thousands working through United Way.
And, of course, Wells Fargo team members are generous supporters of their communities financially, as well. For seven straight years, Wells Fargo has been United Way’s top employee giving campaign, helping to improve the lives of up to 50 million people around the world every year.
Q: What’s the story behind the ad?
Gallagher: From time to time, we like to highlight the work of our corporate allies. We’ve previously run pieces in Bloomberg Business Week, for example, that detailed the great work that Wells Fargo team members do.
This is the first full-page ad we’ve run in USA Today. Because we work so closely on the ground with Wells Fargo leaders, regional leaders, and rank-and-file team members, we wanted to be vocal and visible in expressing our appreciation right now.
Whether they’re donating money, giving their time as volunteers, or raising their voices in support of others, Wells Fargo team members are making a real difference.
Q: Has recent news about Wells Fargo changed your view of the company?
Gallagher: No. Every organization has its challenges. While we certainly can’t ignore them, what matters is how the leaders and the employees respond. We’re proud of our deep relationship with Wells Fargo, and proud to talk about the great work we do together. That has not changed a bit.
I get concerned about, and have seen, a piling-on phenomenon when an organization makes a mistake. Sure, there should be accountability. But there also needs to be context. Real friends stand with you in difficult times.
Q: What does Wells Fargo’s community support say to you about the things the company values?
Gallagher: Wells Fargo’s community support shows what the company really stands for. I’m sure it’s part of what has made the company the success that it is. That principle is also what’s fueled Wells Fargo’s work with United Way.
As I said, they’ve led the way for seven years in a row, topping $87 million in a single year. That kind of investment, coupled with the fact that the team recorded more than 1.86 million volunteer hours around the world last year, makes an immeasurable impact on people’s lives.
Those numbers underscore Wells Fargo’s long-held values about strengthening communities, making them the perfect ally to help us fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.