In October of 2015, Alorica set up its Making Lives Better with Alorica (MLBA) program with the intent of helping support its employees’ local communities.
Chapters raise money via fundraisers and payroll contributions. The local chapter board then decide what is done with the money, which is usually granting the money to individuals or other non-profits.
There are a total 94 chapters in the program; 72 in the US, 15 in the Philippines, 2 in Mexico, 3 in Canada and 2 in Panama.
Its goal for the next year is to open chapters in Guatemala and Jamaica but it also wants to have a presence in the Dominican Republic and Honduras as well.
Joyce Lee, Chief Culture Officer at the company, talked to Nearshore Americas about how the program started.
A Helping Hand
Lee explained that when her husband, Andy Lee the Chairman and CEO of Alorica, started the company he would visit offices around the country and come home with no cash in his pocket.
Lee said this raised a “red flag” and found out he was actually meeting employees and teams and somebody would share a personal story with him.
“It was generally someone who was going through a hard time and hitting a crisis, whether it was a death in the family, a sudden illness or something. Andy being Andy, would literally take all the cash out of his pocket and hand it over to that employee, to try to bandage that situation,” said Lee.
She realised this wasn’t sustainable given the scale of the company and amount of sites he was visiting.
“It all kind of stemmed from that desire and that need to take care of our people in truly the most personal way. The best way to do this was to engage our people to help with this because they actually know the people at the sites the best,” she said.
The idea came along to create localized chapters at each Alorica site and ensure their employees were empowered and had the ability to raise whatever money they needed to create a good sense of community.
Lee added: “They have the ability and decision making requirement to decide where those funds go and to identify those needs not only on the individual level but on the local organizational level as well.”
For Lee, the most fun thing about the program is that the chapters take it to heart and are very creative.
“You have your traditional bake sales and car washes and frito cheeto pie day and all these localized events and they get super creative about it and it creates this great sense of engagement,” said Lee.
“What seems to work well with fundraisers are food and also some sort of hazing of management, which could be pieing your boss in the face or jailing your manager or tie a balloon to them all day long. Those are the things which are really fun and create a good sense of team and community.”
Providing a Safety Net
Every chapter decides what to do with the money raised and all of it belongs to the chapter.
It has helped people who have been living in their car and don’t have enough money for a down payment on their house but also pay a utility bill for another family who ran into sudden illness and needed heat during the winter.
Lee told the story of a young woman whose grandmother passed away so she spent her funds to get back home to be with her family to celebrate the life of her grandmother. Two weeks later, her grandfather died.
“MLBA helps in that situation by providing her with a car and a plane ticket to get home to be with her family, to bury her grandfather,” said Lee.
“It is truly situations that are deeply personal and are kind of one time situations,” she added.
Lee said the program can help people get back on track so the crises they face don’t totally change the trajectory of their lives.
“They say that most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, so when these crisis and unexpected events happen, it can really make the difference,” she said.
According to Lee, no other non profit raises its funds, decides what to do with it and has stewardship of the money and writes the checks.
Since the program started back in October 2015 it has raised over $3.3 million and given out over £3 million in over 6000 grants.
“If you think about who is contributing, the bulk of our employees are people who are making $11, $12, $13 an hour. For them to be able to give to produce those figures and have stewardship of that amount of money is no small thing,” said Lee.
Lee explained how the MLBA network helped out local communities during disasters, calling it “an unexpected beautiful consequence of the whole program.”
The first one they faced was the Louisiana floods during 2016 where local schools and food banks were flooded and people could not get supplies.
“What we found is that the chapter had this awesome ability to transfer money over to each other really quickly because if you think about it it is just a network of bank accounts right,” said Lee.
They could get funds over to the affected area right away and all the program had to do was raise the spending limit on the chapter’s credit card.
“Every weekend they went to Walmart and Target and bought tons of supplies and they sat there and they handed them out,” she said.
Astonishingly, when hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit, the program raised $180,000 in just a few weeks.
“We were able to get to sites in different areas of the community faster than FEMA” said Lee. She added that groups of employees would also just load up their trucks with supplies and drive to the disaster-hit locations.
Expanding in Latam
Samson Seelan, Alorica’s Director of Employee Experience, explained that when the program was recently launched in Panama, employees could immediately start raising money from the first day onwards.
Seelan noticed that in Latam, people are very family oriented and go out more to help their communities.
“Even before we had MLBA they were doing a lot of community developments, so MLBA is helping us to enhance the program a little more strongly and get more visibility in the region,” he said.
He did point out that from a Latam perspective, every country works in a different style and fashion to set up the local chapters.
“Some of the challenges include that the paperwork is not moving as fast as we would expect because of the way the government functions in different countries. We work with lawyers to make sure the paperwork moves faster,” he said.
Seelan also noted some cultural differences in countries they are expanding to including Jamaica.
He noted that in Jamaica the site is already working with the community, doing beach cleaning, having close links to various foundations and an orphanage – without even having MLBA.
“When new hires come in they also share how they help the community,” he said.
For Seelan, he underlines that Alorica gets to share information about the program every time new hires come into the company about how they help the community.
“From the first day, employees get a better impression of the company,” he said.