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Columbus Community Comes Together for The Big Give

Walker Evans Walker Evans Columbus Community Comes Together for The Big GivePhoto by Ruth Thurgood Mandy.
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Public-private partnerships. Collaboration. Civic Engagement. “The Columbus Way.”

You’ve likely heard these descriptors mentioned by local leaders over the past decade when talking about big picture ideas for improving our city, but what do they actually mean? When discussing this year’s 26-hour philanthropic Big Give campaign with Dale Heydlauff, SVP of Corporate Communications at AEP, he answered how his company puts that into practice.

“Some years ago, our president at the time wrote into our corporate creed that we will give back to the communities where we live and work, and this was tied into our own ability to thrive and prosper as a corporation,” explained Heydlauff. “For decades, that manifest has been a defining characteristic at AEP, not just in terms of philanthropy, but also in terms of community engagement and volunteerism by employees at all levels.”

On October 10th and 11th, the Big Give returns in Columbus to raise funds for over 900 area nonprofits in a 26-hour online campaign. AEP is one local contributor to a $1.3 million bonus pool of funding that will amplify every donation made during the Big Give, which Heydlauff said is a critical component.

“One thing every nonprofit has learned, is that the ability to leverage is a big enticement for giving,” he stated. “People like knowing that their dollars can go a bit further.”

When speaking with Heydlauff, it quickly became apparent that philanthropy and civic engagement is something that goes beyond the workplace for him. With past volunteer experiences that include serving on boards at KidsOhio.org, Leadership Columbus and WOSU Public Media, he sees a role for local leaders to get involved in a hands-on capacity with the causes they care most about.

“Many of us executives are on nonprofit boards,” said Heydlauff. “We have coached nonprofits to be aggressive in their outreach and with communications to existing donors. We want to help them be savvy with their email and social media plans when it comes to opportunities like the Big Give.”

As a company, AEP has giving priorities with nonprofits that focus on STEM education first and foremost, with secondary causes including hunger, housing, the arts and the environment.

“Clearly we have a vested interest in preparing the workforce to meet our needs, and we’re a very technical and science-centric company,” explained Heydlauff. “But if we can have a more scientifically literate public, then they can better understand the decisions we make. We’re a monopoly service, so people don’t have a choice in who serves them, and that has led a lot of our thinking around community engagement.”

During the Big Give campaign, anyone can make a donation online for as little as $20. 100 percent of the donation goes to your nonprofit of choice with The Columbus Foundation covering all credit card processing fees. In 2015, the campaign raised over $15 million in 24 hours, and organizers are hoping to top that record in 2017.

“The Big Give generates donations that in some cases wouldn’t otherwise have happened, and I think that’s wonderful,” added Heydlauff. “For most nonprofits, it’s a nice benefit for them to have to make sure they can fulfill their mission and expand the people who they serve as a result.”

For more information about AEP, visit www.aep.com/community/ourgiving/aepfoundation/.

To learn more about The Big Give, visit columbusfoundation.org/giving-events/big-give-2017.

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