Communities fortunate enough to have dedicated residents who understand local needs and perform selfless acts for the greater good are ones destined to thrive.

But just like their constituents, each community has its own unique set of challenges, from insufficient education funding and resources to daily essential supplies. Witnessing the struggles and sympathizing with concerns, companies are stepping up, implementing corporate social responsibility — or corporate citizenship — policies and business models focused on improving social, economic and environmental issues troubling communities. By engaging their workforces in philanthropic endeavors, these companies are creating positive change.

Supporting communities and nonprofits around the world isn’t something to take lightly. As director of the Burns & McDonnell Foundation — a 501(c)(3) organization largely focused on education, community development and health — it’s my responsibility to make sure we fulfill our goals and mission. To uphold our corporate social responsibility pledge, we created an expansive program that allows employee-owners to tap into their personal interests and give back to the communities where they live and work.

During a time when charitable giving is down — falling roughly 7% so far this year, the lowest it has been since 2009 — and fundraising events have been postponed or canceled, this responsibility carries greater weight.

Even in these tough times, we remain focused on inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals. We support educational programs and science centers across the U.S.; engage with teachers, educators and parents on a regular basis; and continuously look for opportunities to unite enthusiastic STEM professionals with eager young students. Making this connection provides a personal, detailed account of how the critical projects we work on are changing the world. If we can continue to do that, we can inspire future leaders.

In addition to education, there are countless essential needs throughout local communities far and wide that deserve attention. Though we’re a global company, we support our employee-owners’ passion for volunteering at the local level. From office to office, many dollars and volunteer hours are spent supporting local food banks and blood drives and funding research to find cures for diseases.

Together, our employee-owners and our foundation step up every year with support for United Way. This year, our combined contribution of nearly $5.5 million to United Way affiliates across the nation included a $1.5 million gift to the United Way COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. Whatever the passion, we try to provide a variety of activities and learning opportunities for employee engagement. By casting a wider net, a larger group of people become actively involved in their cities.

More than ever, our communities need us. The nonprofits serving those communities need us. Just like in the business world and in our personal lives, they’ve also had to shift course. For many nonprofits, achieving their business plans — reaching their fundraising goals — is going to be challenging because of restrictions on in-person gatherings and event cancellations. Despite those obstacles, they’re continuing to do all they can for those who depend on them.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing safe and fun places, engaging programs and compassionate mentors to help kids grow and thrive. This year has put tremendous strain on local chapters. For example, the Greater Kansas City Clubs, which have been around for more than 100 years, normally serve around 1,000 kids a day. In the wake of the pandemic, however, they were forced to close for a short time, only to reopen at a reduced capacity of 40% to 50%. Even so, they never stopped serving the community’s young people, providing resources and stability and delivering meals daily. With the start of the school year, the clubs’ footprint is growing as they open four new program sites and expand to full-day programming to serve and support remote school participants.

This vital organization is just one of many amazing examples of how nonprofits are weathering the pandemic. We will continue to be there however we can, supporting them just as much, if not more, throughout 2020 as we all navigate this interesting time. Making yourself available, understanding, and having compassion for their situations goes a long way.

Though the world is chaotic, people genuinely care about their communities. They simply want to do more and, fortunately, through the Foundation’s robust giving back programs, they can. Supporting such efforts is something employee-owners are proud of — that I’m proud of — and we’ll continue to seek ways to step up, challenging others to do so as well. For this company, it’s more than philanthropy — it’s a core element of our identity.


It’s our responsibility — as a company, employee-owners and residents — to care for the communities where we live and work. Donate money or give blood. Volunteer to mentor, read, bike or run. You can even help build a house. Whatever your passion, there’s a way to give back.


Julee Koncak is director of the Burns & McDonnell Foundation, which strives to empower communities to become healthy and strong, with a strategic focus on inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals.