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Generosity, Selflessness, and Values—How paying it forward influences culture

Terry at Pay it Forward

New United employees are often given one piece of advice before attending their first Pay it Forward meeting: bring tissues. That’s because for 11 years, employees at United have gathered for a special meeting in December to share stories about neighbors in need, non-profits who need a hand, and yes—sometimes true heartbreak for a friend, family member, or co-worker.

But equally as important are the acts of generosity, volunteerism, selflessness, and humanity United employees demonstrate in response to those stories. That’s why we bring the tissues.

The Pay It Forward idea is simple, and one that many other companies have in place—individuals and departments get together to adopt an Angel Tree family, help out a local animal shelter, or donate to a food bank.

But, United’s story is a little different. The Pay It Forward program didn’t start as a team building exercise. It started as a tangible manifestation of our company values—driven by our employees.

Pay it Forward woman on floor sorting books

Traditionally, United employees were treated to a company breakfast around the end of the year as a way for management and the leadership team to say “thank you” for a job well done. But as the Great Recession began to take hold on our Members and the nation in 2008, Team United collectively agreed that it was better to find ways to help others than to celebrate ourselves.

That year, Pay It Forward was born—with each employee receiving $15 to donate as they’d like. What happened next was something that some companies pay experts to replicate. Departments started working together, joining forces (and dollars) to make a big impact on causes our employees cared about. The lesson was simple: we are stronger together and we can do more united.

We put our values into action.

Pay it Forward everyone wrapping gifts

United’s Pay It Forward program has grown from $5,000 donated that first year to $13,000 in 2017; and the number of organizations and families helped has doubled.

And while Pay It Forward is the highlight of United’s giving, it certainly doesn’t stop there. Employees donate time, talent, and resources all year long through the use of Volunteer Time Off, community sponsorships, and many other random acts of kindness that need no fanfare.

So now that you know a little bit more about us, we want to know more about you! What creative ways does your organization Pay It Forward?

We’d love to hear about it! Post a comment on LinkedIn —we’ll even bring the tissues!

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