Avion Solutions – which was founded by Gary Donald and his partners over 30 years ago – has always had a corporate culture of generosity. Gary made it a priority to create a family-like, collaborative workplace; one where employees genuinely cared for and took care of one another. That spirit of generosity and collaboration naturally extended to the community, and Avion Solutions has invested strongly and consistently in organizations that are making a difference in our area. An employee-owned company, Avion believes that we are responsible for giving back to the community that has helped us flourish.
As our company grew, we began exploring ways to expand our reach and have a greater impact in the community. One of our first priorities was to diversify the organizations to which we corporately gave. So, in 2018, Avion established its Corporate Giving Board. The Board is made up of ten Avion volunteers who meet quarterly to evaluate requests for funding and sponsorships from our employee owners. While the Corporate Giving Board is corporately funded, we award gifts only to organizations that are already supported by our employees. Each request must be submitted by an “employee champion.” This program has been very successful from the start, awarding approximately $50,000 annually, and energizing Avion employees around giving.
Avion chose to build on that energy around philanthropy, and in 2019, we partnered with the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville to create the Avion Takes Action Fund. Based on the excellent reputation, strong leadership, and proven results of the Community Foundation, we were confident that we would do great things together.
Through our partnership with the Community Foundation, Avion became an active participant in the Corporate Giving Network, a program of the Community Foundation which supports training and development for local professionals interested in connecting their companies to nonprofits organizations in a meaningful way. This network is a group of local business leaders who embrace the responsibility we have to create a strong and vibrant community by actively supporting and partnering with local nonprofits. Working with like-minded business leaders, Avion learned best practices for establishing an employee-led giving initiative from other strong companies in our area who prioritize corporate philanthropy. Leaders from ERC, Torch Technology, Canvas, Inc., and Venturi generously shared with us about their employee-led giving programs and lessons learned.
Employee-led giving allows employees to choose to donate pre-tax funds directly from their paycheck; those funds are pooled, and then the employee donors make larger gifts to nonprofit organizations that are addressing challenges and changing lives in our area. Avion Solutions launched our employee-led giving initiative in 2021. I understood that Avion had a strong culture of generosity, but I was still a bit worried that our employees would not fully understand the power of collective giving. So, what a pleasure it was to see that over 50% of our employees chose to participate; collectively committing over $70,000 annually to the program. The donations are carefully managed by the Community Foundation in our Avion Takes Action fund; and since its inception, Avion Takes Action has awarded over $140,000 in grants to deserving organizations in the places where our employee owners live and work.
The Community Foundation simplifies generosity for companies like ours. The Foundation promotes Avion Takes Action within the nonprofit community, ensuring that we always have an abundance of grant applications. They host information about our fund and the application process on their website, and they manage the back-office functions of processing grant checks and providing tax receipts to our employees… all of which makes this much easier for our company.
In partnership with the Community Foundation, Avion Solutions has also found opportunities to connect with our community in meaningful ways through volunteering. Since the end of the pandemic, Avion employees have come together to volunteer hundreds of hours helping others – planting trees with Operation Green Team, wrapping Christmas gifts for foster children with the North Alabama Foster Closet, serving lunch to people experiencing homelessness with First Stop, packing nonperishable food for food-insecure children with Mission Firefly, and playing BINGO once a month with the residents at 305 8th Street.
Finally, I want to highlight our appreciation for the thoughtful events hosted by the Community Foundation each year. Avion Solutions is a proud sponsor of the NAVIGATE Nonprofit Network Conference which allows us to amplify our corporate giving in the Huntsville community. We have invited several of our nonprofit partners to be our guests at the conference to gain important training and development in their field. We believe this capacity-building engagement for nonprofit organizations will yield immediate and long-lasting benefits to those serving and being served across our community.
Avion Solutions is grateful for all that the Community Foundation is doing to make our great, growing city even better and we are glad they are #HereforGood.
-Ginny Wagner, Chief of Staff, Avion Solutions, Inc.