by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 10 October 2016
On October 10th, Tableau Software will host a Volunteer Fair for its employees, where everyone who works in and around the headquarters of this growing data analytics software company can meet with local non-profits and find out about local causes and opportunities for philanthropy.
Tableau employs more than 3,200 people worldwide, with 1,200 around the Seattle area – and most of those at company headquarters in Fremont. The company, which offers software that converts raw data into useful information in easily readable formats, has become, in just a few years, the largest employer in Fremont as well as one of our most successful – approximately 90% of Fortune 500 companies have implemented Tableau.
Yet, the young company has also shown, from its beginnings, a strong, progressive attitude towards service and giving. Using the Fremont Chamber of Commerce Community Grant Program as its model, Tableau sought ways its employees could direct company giving, on a human scale. They formed the Tableau Foundation to implement that mission, and among its programs that engage employees in philanthropy (like the Volunteer Fair,) annually a team of employee volunteers choose where to give $85,000 in monetary gifts.
The Winners Are… Us!
For 2016, the list of non-profits that will share in the $85K reads like a nearly comprehensive list of Fremont’s favorite causes:
- B.F. Day Elementary School
- Bastyr Center for Natural Health
- City Fruit
- Fremont Abbey Arts Center
- Literacy Source
- Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
- The Seattle Public Library Foundation
- Friends of the Troll’s Knoll
- Urban Sparks
- Wallingford Boys & Girls Club
- Wallingford Community Senior Center
Not all our local non-profits made the list, but the enormity of this gift, and the difference it will make in our community, is staggering. Add to it the fact that Tableau Foundation also aids an army of willing and eager volunteers – the Tableau employees – in sharing their energy, intelligence and enthusiasm with many non-profit organizations, and it is vitally apparent that our community won big!
Positive Impact In The World
In the area of Development, Ellen Nadelhoffer works for Tableau as a Technical Writer. In addition to her work, Nadelhoffer also serves as a volunteer, co-chairing the 2016 Fremont Community Grants Team, and on the Tableau Foundation Employee Work Group, which she described as a board of volunteers who lend a hand to whatever project the Foundation (which consists of only three employees,) needs to implement.
Nadelhoffer served on the Grants Team last year too, although many new people came on-board. “The team was different this year,” she observed. All 17 people who asked to join the Team were accepted – and they ended up with a team that represented every major department in the company. “It just worked out that way,” Nadelhoffer observed, “There was a lot of interest.”
According to Foundation Social Impact Coordinator Ashley Monson, “It’s an open group, and it grew this year.” Each year Tableau sends out a call, asking for volunteers who will read, evaluate, research and discuss the applications for grant money. This year, the team had 39 applications – up from 16 in 2015 – to choose among, and get down to the final dozen.
As to how they did it, when applications were submitted in early August, “I credit data analysis,” Nadelhoffer answered, “it’s part of our process.” Tableau works in the world of data, with cutting-edge software that makes data useful, and it stands to reason that Tableau employees would know how to prioritize, evaluate and rank data. “We asked ourselves, ‘does this positively impact the world?’” Nadelhoffer explained, “It was the one thing we were hoping to see.” They asked questions, referring back to the applications and even back to some applicants, for answers. They used Tableau desktop software to sort information they had, and clarify their choices. “In some cases, we did a little follow-up,” Nadelhoffer said, “and a lot of discussion!”
Keeping Fremont Vibrant
The community grants program started in 2015, and the increase in applications didn’t surprise either Monson or Nadelhoffer. Tableau is becoming known in our area, as is the Tableau Community Grants Program. The Foundation did solicit applications, and they also held a Meet-N-Greet in July, where non-profits met with the Team, learned about the process, and found out about possibilities. In addition, Monson spends time throughout the year, assisting employees looking for non-profit projects to champion, with time or money, and gathering information they share with other employees.
“We’re so happy to have these non-profits in our neighborhood, working in Fremont and keeping Fremont vibrant,” Nadelhoffer observed. “They are all so good!” Nadelhoffer spoke very well of all the applicants, but she acknowledged that when it came to selecting 12, they identified the ones that most engaged the hearts of Team Members. “They weren’t selected unless someone was really compelled by it,” Monson explained.
For many of the non-profits, the money is great but so is the lack of strings. Tableau Grants are unrestricted funds. Most grants are given for a specific project or tied to performance outcomes. The Fremont Abbey Arts Center often produces programs or projects funded by a grant given for only that reason, and limited as to how the money can be spent – as in, no staff pay. With money received from Tableau, the Fremont Abbey could pay bills, salaries or other overhead costs, so they can more effectively and efficiently administer other grant programs.
Still, many of the non-profits did specify where they want to spend the money. Nadelhoffer reported that the gift to B.F. Day Elementary will go towards the Playground Improvement Project, and organizing volunteer work parties. The Friends of the Troll’s Knoll will likely use their gift to fund volunteer work parties, also, cleaning and improving the eastern half of the property – the area not improved by the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation earlier this year. “We saw that project as a great opportunity to connect with Fremont,” Nadelhoffer said of Troll’s Knoll, “It’s nice walking distance from our offices.”
In fact, most Tableau Foundation Grants fund non-profits that engage and involve volunteers. The Wallingford Community Senior Center hosts a diverse calendar of events, mostly for seniors, but they need younger volunteers to help produce the events – and to engage WCSC members. Urban Sparks received funds for a volunteer program to activate mentors and leaders organizing maintenance and refurbishment of the large collection of Fremont Public Art.
A Year ‘Round Effort
“Year ‘round,” Nadelhoffer said, “the company is trying to encourage volunteerism, and asking what we can do to help.” On October 10th, Tableau will host the Volunteer Fair, and all 39 grant applicant organizations were invited to engage the employees in our community and its causes. “We have a lot of college grads, and transplants, who haven’t found their cause or their calling,” Monson said.
To find out more about the Tableau Foundation, and the Grant Program as well as Mission Grants, Service Corps, and Data Fellowships, visit the website.
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