Learn more about Albertsons' CSR program.
At Catchafire, we are honored to partner with a diverse community of changemakers that includes nonprofits, volunteers, companies, grantmakers, and government entities. Our partnership with Albertsons Companies Foundation is no exception. Not only are they one of the largest food and drug retailers in the United States, but they are creating pathways to eliminating hunger through their program, Nourishing Neighbors, which empowers giving in their local communities. It's a big vision, and with over 270,000 employees, they have made a tremendous difference–and they have big plans to do even more.
Catchafire Chief Operating Officer, Kathy Brady, sat down with Christy Duncan Anderson, Executive Director and President at Albertsons Companies Foundation, about her role in spearheading the Nourishing Neighbors movement to eradicate hunger in neighborhoods nationwide. Albertsons is incredibly focused on wiping out food insecurity, and they’re not just talking about it, but taking key actions to move the needle. They're focused on supporting food choices for children during gaps in service, like summers and holidays, to help working families unable to keep pace with cost, as well as assisting seniors who may have financial gaps, but also access challenges.
Our conversation explored how Albertsons Companies Foundation policies and partnerships are making a difference, both internally with their employees and externally with their donors.
Christy's path to philanthropy
Christy offered an intimate look into her journey through the world of philanthropy, revealing the passion and commitment that has driven her to make a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals.
“Before my role now, I was in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh. When I was there, I was really frustrated. It's a beautiful country, but you see poverty and suffering everywhere. So much so that it becomes a backdrop, it becomes wallpaper and you eventually stop seeing it.”
Amidst the wealth of knowledge she shared, one story, in particular, stood out—a tale involving something as humble as bananas but carrying a powerful message about the transformative potential of philanthropic work.
“By the time I finished my service, we had started the “Banana Brigade,” and to this day, the community works together to amass the goodwill of as many people as they can to help address poverty. That’s what we do at Albertsons, $1 at a time at our check stands. I think about the power of aggregation that is there, that's why I do what I do. I'm still forming that Banana Brigade trying to help $1 at a time, aggregating the goodwill of people.
“I am so grateful to do what I do and so grateful to be able to harness the power of being able to accumulate acts of kindness on a small scale. Every time you give at our registers, every time you give a dollar, that dollar really adds up. Last year, we ended up with over $60 million that we were able to raise and give to the community.”
The journey to transformation
Albertsons embarked on a seven-year journey to embrace a more transformational mission in addressing hunger and community needs. Initially, their focus was on establishing hunger as a central platform. The first step was recognizing the importance of tackling hunger, but it didn't stop there. They questioned how to expand their impact beyond the basic provision of meals, seeking to address the root causes of hunger.
While it's vital to rescue those in immediate peril, Albertsons recognized the need to address the underlying issues causing hunger in the first place. This transformational approach was driven by a commitment to change the culture surrounding hunger and to create lasting solutions.
The push for this change came in part through their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programs, which emphasized the importance of differentiation. Albertsons set ambitious goals, aiming to enable a billion meals by 2030 while also striving to break the cycle of hunger. This dual commitment became a significant achievement, though it required careful communication and engagement with various stakeholders, including those who believed in immediate relief, those eager to confront the root causes, and those willing to support both efforts.
Albertsons' journey toward a more transformational mission was neither simple nor straightforward, but it reflects their dedication to making a lasting impact on their communities.
The arc of the evolution of the Albertsons Foundation
Christy shed light on the remarkable journey of Albertsons Companies Foundation, outlining how they harnessed customer insights to shape their philanthropic mission. Through rigorous research, it became evident that addressing hunger was a cause that deeply resonated with both customers and the company's grassroots giving philosophy. The Foundation took a proactive stance by instituting policies to raise funds and ensure that children had access to meals, implementing these efforts across all their stores. What truly sets them apart is their commitment to keeping their giving hyperlocal, empowering each community to decide which organizations receive funding, thus nurturing a deep connection between the Foundation and the areas it serves.
“Through the pandemic, one of the silver linings is we got more focused on hunger for our company. Today Nourishing Neighbors does about $40 million annually and has a whole bunch of programs not only trying to feed the current need, but also ending the cycle of hunger. We’ve got to end the cycle in our communities.”
Employee giving at Albertsons
Albertsons places a strong emphasis on local decision-making when it comes to employee giving. They empower their local teams, including store managers and division teams, to nominate and select organizations for consideration. This approach ensures that the communities they serve have a say in where the contributions go. The local teams make the final decisions, choosing how much to allocate to each selected organization, which fosters employee engagement and allows associates to personally present the checks to their chosen nonprofits. This hands-on involvement creates a deep sense of fulfillment, especially considering that many of Albertsons' associates have directly benefited from the services provided by these nonprofits, making the giving process all the more meaningful.
“So when our employees can call and say, ‘I'm working for Albertsons now, and I was able to get you a grant because I'm so grateful for what you've done for me.’ Having them do that, I mean, it's amazing and incredible, and I get so much more joy out of it.”
Albertsons has embraced skills-based volunteering through its partnership with Catchafire as a way to maximize the impact of their employee giving initiatives. While traditional volunteering, like bagging apples for food banks, is valuable, they recognize that their workforce possesses a diverse set of skills, ranging from transportation and supply chain management to marketing and legal expertise. By utilizing these skills to assist nonprofits, they can provide a higher level of support that is not only more impactful but also cost-effective for the organizations involved.
“When you have almost 300,000 employees it's really about useability. What we were really looking for was a partner that could help us provide turnkey solutions and are doing this work with others who can collectively share best practices and help lead us along the journey.”
This approach allows Albertsons employees to directly engage with and understand the challenges faced by these organizations, fostering a deeper connection to the cause. It goes beyond immediate hunger relief, aligning with Albertsons' broader mission of ending hunger. Through skills-based volunteering, employees can contribute what is most valuable—their expertise—to make a lasting difference in their communities. This approach benefits the nonprofits but also enhances the employees' attachment to the cause, making it a win-win solution for all parties involved.
“We've wrapped the messaging around going beyond the feeding today, into ending hunger—we're pushing the boundaries. We love the ability for our employees to really give what's most valuable to give.”
We are excited to see the impact that Albertsons' talented professionals will make on causes they care about and the connections they will form with the neighbors near and far in the process.
The customer-donor connection
At Albertsons, customers are not just shoppers; they are also the donors, making for a distinctive and special relationship. Albertsons closely monitors customer donations, viewing them as a form of voting with their dollars. They assess donation performance by asking customers at the checkout if they would like to contribute to specific causes. This data-driven approach involves tracking numerous metrics, such as the total amount raised per transaction, per store, and per day. By examining these metrics, Albertsons can discern whether certain initiatives are resonating with their customers or experiencing challenges in the marketplace.
“With our customers, our donors, it’s all about connecting them to what they care about and making sure that you are answering their “why” question.”
To gain deeper insights, they also incorporate customer feedback into their surveys, allowing them to gauge how customers feel about various charitable efforts and fine-tune their donation strategies accordingly. Albertsons is fortunate to have a dedicated research team that collaborates to enhance their understanding of customer preferences and ensure their philanthropic initiatives align effectively with community needs and values.
Albertsons' relationship with the government has had a significant impact on shaping their broader strategy. They recognize the limitations of charity alone in addressing the scale of hunger-related challenges. While their efforts enable meals, they acknowledge that they cannot match the efficiency of the federal government in providing food assistance.
“Charity can only do so much, and the rest of it has to be systemic. We still have 30 million people living in food insecurity. So how can we work together to eradicate hunger? I think it's the government in connection with corporations, working together is going to start ending the cycle.”
Understanding that charity can only address part of the issue, Albertsons is committed to systemic change in the fight against hunger. With millions of people still facing food insecurity, they see this partnership as the next logical step toward ending the cycle of hunger. The alignment of big business and government in this endeavor represents a significant and essential progression in their strategy.
In reflecting on Albertsons' remarkable journey in the realm of philanthropy and community engagement, there are valuable lessons to be gleaned. First and foremost, the wisdom of not fearing mistakes stands out, as well as embracing the potential for missteps as a catalyst for growth and innovation. Moreover, empowering individuals to actively participate in problem-solving and decision-making is a potent tool for effecting change, and encouraging this democratic process fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the cause.
Celebration, too, holds a pivotal role in this journey. By amplifying local achievements and recognizing those who contribute, the spirit of philanthropy is further fueled.
“Find ways to give people the experience and the power to really engage and feel a part of the solution, and give control to allow for that democratic process of making decisions. And then really focus on celebration and encouraging that celebration on a local level and celebrating those who are doing it.”
When asked about sources of inspiration and staying connected, it becomes evident that the driving force behind this mission is the boundless potential for more. The desire to continually expand and make a difference propels Albertsons forward. The balance between the amazing opportunity for impact and the challenges it presents serves as a constant source of motivation.
Albertsons' journey underscores the importance of resilience, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to making a meaningful difference. It's a testament to the transformative power of philanthropy and the endless potential for positive change when individuals and organizations come together with purpose and passion. As we look to the future, we can draw inspiration from their story, learning that the pursuit of betterment is an unceasing journey, one marked by the courage to evolve, the dedication to community, and the relentless pursuit of doing more good.
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