Inspiring Change, One Smile at a Time

Philanthropy has always been at the forefront of the work at Delta Dental of Kentucky. As a 501(c)4 nonprofit, they are dedicated to giving back to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and working to ensure every Kentuckian has a happy and healthy smile. While philanthropy has always been essential to their work, the organization wanted to inspire greater generosity through its employees.

In 2017, Delta Dental of Kentucky decided to direct 30% of its funding towards community support programs, with a portion allocated to a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation of Louisville called the Delta Dental of Kentucky Making Smiles Happen Fund. Through this fund, employees connect with and support local nonprofits by providing grant recommendations on behalf of Delta Dental. Each employee’s generosity sparks change with a designated $1,000 grant to the nonprofit of their choice.

“Employee giving was implemented in 2018 [so employees could] give to the nonprofits of their choice,” said Brian Hart, Chief Revenue Officer for Delta Dental of Kentucky. “What has been really remarkable to see over time is how diverse their interests, passions and cares are. Allowing employees to invest on their own behalf in the causes that mean something to them is really neat. You understand more about who people are and what they care about while also reinforcing an engaging culture strategy that says ‘Wow, I didn’t know that about you’ or ’I didn’t know that meant something to you. By the way, it’s important to me too.’ There is a vulnerability in sharing that, and that’s where the team building and connection come from.”

Nearly 100% of Delta Dental of Kentucky employees participate in the grant recommendation process, including 35-year employee Peggy Petroni. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, Petroni gives to Twisted Pink, a local nonprofit dedicated to breast cancer prevention, support, research, and treatment options. Twisted Pink supported Petroni through battles with her health and is a guiding light of support in her life to this day.

“They are researching a cure for breast cancer and metastasizing cancer,” shared Petroni. “I have been able to give [Twisted Pink] $1,000 each year directly towards their research.” Delta Dental’s dedication to investing doesn’t stop at community support; it extends to its employees too. “They have really wrapped their arms around me and given me a hug to show they were with me during my fight [with] cancer. Not only that, but when they had the Susan G. Komen Ball, Delta Dental sponsored me and a table [to attend]. Our CEO at the time got up and spoke about it, and they had me stand up. What they do for their employees and all the different community [nonprofits] has been [amazing].”

After seven years of this fund’s existence, employees and community alike see benefits ten-fold from the giving program. “At the employee level, there is more connection to the giving,” said Hart. “It’s not this top-down strategy. There is an investment in [empathy] and a sense of pride from a wider base of employees in working at Delta Dental. We have seen more suggestions for how we connect with charitable organizations. Whether it is toy drives or supporting western Kentucky tornado relief, we see more of a groundswell of ideals of how we can live our mission as an organization. Employees are more connected to that because they have a direct impact on how funds are allocated, and I think that connection between the money that is being distributed and that being made at the employee level, that is the difference.”

Delta Dental’s giving program is one-of-a-kind in today’s company culture, but it doesn’t have to be. Through donor advised funds at the Community Foundation of Louisville, employees can find a sense of purpose and meaning beyond the paycheck. Working together, we can connect the community’s resources and relationships to create pathways for culture and community to flourish.

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