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PNC Financial Services empowers employees to help children grow up great
PNC Financial Services created the Grow Up Great Foundation in 2004. The Grow Up Great initiative focuses on improving education and early childhood development for children from birth to age five. PNC Financial Services offers employees 40 hours of paid volunteer time to work on Grow Up Great related philanthropic endeavors. The firm offers many different channels for PNC employees to get involved. For those who enjoy interacting with children, they can come into the classroom to read a story. For those who are not comfortable working with children directly, they can build a playground, repaint the school’s cafeteria, or file papers in the back office. The Grow Up Great Foundation has received over $70 million in grants, which have been used to benefit three primary causes: Enhanced Science Education, Increased Financial Education, and Expanded Arts Education. In particular, PNC recently acquired The Royal Bank of Canada’s retail branch distribution and expanded its presence into the southeast region of the US. With that expansion, comes an increased volunteer effort from PNC employees located in that area. PNC recently introduced early childhood arts and science programming in North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama and Florida. As Sharon Cercone, Vice President of Work / Life Strategies at PNC and Leader of the firm’s Grow Up Great Initiative states, “We are constantly learning what’s happening in education and early childhood development, and what’s needed. From there, we immediately start thinking about how we can help.”
The inspiration behind PNC’s Grow Up Great Foundation is unique and the story behind its start-up demonstrates the collaborative culture of the organization. Sharon describes, “The work behind creating Grow Up Great started 14 years ago. Our CEO at the time, Jim Rohr, was looking at spreadsheet on PNC’s philanthropic efforts. The report displayed the money PNC was giving to the community and the volunteer efforts of our employees. At that time we did not have a focused approach to philanthropy or volunteerism. We are giving a lot of money to communities but the difference was not measureable. He thought, what if we took all the money and put it towards one cause. That said, we surveyed employees to discern what the cause should be. People wanted to support education and early childhood development. From there, we worked with an external vendor to see where there the biggest need was and where we could have the biggest impact. Early childhood education and development was identified. And thus, the Grow Up Great Foundation was born”
The overall impact of PNC’s Grow Up Great Foundation is quite impressive. Since it’s initial launch, the program has served more than 1.9 million children. The organization’s impact spans across the United States, due to PNC employees working across the enterprise footprint being granted considerable time to volunteer. Sharon states, “We find ways for people to lend their skills. We have people who provide technology solutions for early childhood classrooms or daycare centers. We have people in the classroom interacting with students. We have people who paint with children, people who read to the children; even people collecting items for the coat, hat, and mitten drive each winter. We take a vested interest in understanding what the need is and knowing what resources we have.” One of the most impactful stories Sharon told was regarding how PNC aligns an educational need with their particular skillset. Sharon explains, “I am a maximizer. I like to make sure that we make the best out of anything. I enjoy finding a way to pull together all resources to create the most effective solution. For example, in PNC’s Teller Training class they use fake monopoly money to teach new employees. I thought to myself, what happens to that money when the class finishes? Turns out it was usually thrown away or recycled. I realized this money could be donated to early childhood educators to teach children. From there, I was able to take a resource we currently have available, and repurpose it for a new use.” Sharon’s story demonstrates how PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative makes a measurable impact, simply through resourcefulness and creativity.
There are numerous business benefits from PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative. When expanding the firm’s presence into the Southeast region of the United States, the organization was originally met with hesitation. However, when local constituents saw the good work PNC was doing within their community, they became more likely to do business with the firm. Also, PNC recently created an initiative called #oneteam. Sharon explains, “When people achieve their business goals they tag their results as #oneteam. Each time a team tags something as #oneteam they accumulate points. Once a team achieves a certain number of points, they can use those points to purchase an iPad for teachers to use in their classrooms. So far, PNC has delivered over 800 iPads to classrooms across the United States.” The #oneteam initiative was introduce by PNC’s Chief Information Officer who leads both the Technology and Operations Lines of Business. Through the #oneteam initiative, PNC has been able to directly correlate positive business results with volunteerism and giving back to the community. Lastly, Grow Up Great is a powerful recruiting tool that allows PNC Financial Services to recruit and retain highly qualified talent. Sharon states, “Particularly, millennials want to work for an organization who displays corporate social responsibility. Grow Up Great is not just a feel good thing for us at PNC. It is a way to win relationships and do business in a better, more responsible way.”
There are numerous societal benefits of PNC’s Grow Up Great efforts. Sharon, referencing PNC’s Grow Up Great Fact sheet cites, “Extensive research indicates that the return on investments in high-quality early education and school readiness initiatives are significant and long lasting - impacting our children, our society and the health of our economy for generations to come. Additionally, research shows that children who participate in high-quality preschool programs are far more likely to experience greater educational achievements, strive toward higher vocational aspirations and contribute to society later in life.” These findings are incredibly striking. Due to PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative, young children throughout the United States will be more likely to be engaged in school and more likely to make a positive impact on our future economy. Sharon sums it up nice by stating, “Grow Up Great gives me a sense of pride about PNC Financial Services and I am proud to be working at this organization.”
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Sharon Cercone, Vice President of Work / Life Strategies