One of our summer adventures took us to see nature’s skyscrapers in Sequoia National Park. At 2,100 years old, General Sherman stands as the largest living tree on earth. In a grove of giants, it stands 275 feet tall with a 102-foot ground circumference. The awe and magnitude of Sequoia’s beauty tranquilized the hundreds of park guests as we respectfully explored the forest.
Along the trail of trees, we noticed deep burn scars on the bark. We learned that fire plays a crucial role in the giant sequoia ecosystem. Fire prepares the soil for new growth and forces the oatmeal flake-sized seeds to release from the cone. The 18-inch-thick fibrous spongy bark of the sequoia insulates the tree against fire's heat. If fire penetrates the bark and leaves a scar, healing new growth is added.
Even more impressive than the story of the sequoia’s resilience, is the support system that holds it up. Beneath the surface of the statuesque trees is a wide army of roots that interlock with other sequoia roots to form a connected system of support. The trees literally hold each other up through linked strength to withstand the forces of nature, as well as depend on each other for nutrients and continued growth.
Big Things Start Small
In 2015, a group of corporate citizens came together to start making a difference and formed the MarketStar Cares programs. Like the flake-sized seeds of the sequoia, big things start small, and by 2019, the Cares programs advanced to make a remarkable impact. Together, we:
- Collected over 44,000 food items to “Pack the Pantry” for five inner-city junior high schools. By providing the basic needs for students, we allow their focus to be on success in learning.
- Read to thousands of students and left a book with each classroom to embolden a love of learning through experience of the “Readership” program.
- Donated a collective 4,400 hours of service in communities (globally) to help make a difference in the places people work and live.
- Mobilized the “Operation Orange Santa” holiday giving drive through personal donations from MarketStar employees. Christmas was delivered to 106 children from 26 families.
Just as the sequoia system relies on connected strength for growth, corporations have both an opportunity and a responsibility to strengthen the communities where employees live and work.
Forming the Foundation
In the fall of 2019, with a generous $1 million endowment from MarketStar’s principal investor, Dell Loy Hansen, the MarketStar executive committee applied for official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status as the MarketStar Foundation. This all-in commitment to corporate social responsibility provides the opportunity to magnify the promise of being an active community partner as we grow our own charitable programs.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines two main types of nonprofits; public charity or private foundation. The biggest difference is that a private charity primarily raises funds from the public, and private foundations typically give away funding. The third and less common type of nonprofit is a hybrid of those two models and is called a private operation foundation. The MarketStar Foundation was purposefully set up as a Private Operating Foundation (POF), which by definition is:
“… any private foundation that spends at least 85 percent of its adjusted net income or its minimum investment return, whichever is less, directly for the active conduct of its exempt activities.” (Internal Revenue Service, 2019)
As a federally tax-exempt organization, the distinguishing factor of a POF is that it operates its own charitable programs that directly benefit the public rather than making grants to other organizations. For example, rather than giving a grant to a food bank, an operating foundation might purchase food directly, improve pantry capacity and deliver the goods, much like our existing Cares programs.
Foundation endowments are invested to provide a reliable source of income from the earned interest. This means that every year the interest the endowment makes will fund annual charitable programs MarketStar operates as a company. Additional benefits of being a POF is an opportunity to invite community partners and clients to collaborate on the charitable social impact work we do together. We can now offer tax-deductible donations that receive a more generous deductibility than public charities as well as qualify for grant funding support.
Under the direction of the Foundation executive director, MarketStar employees will help provide leadership in the charitable work of the foundation. There will be several opportunities for employees to participate in advisory councils, charitable program leadership committees, and volunteering with charitable causes. Employees will continue to be key drivers of corporate social responsibility engagement. Donations and new opportunities coming this year will mobilize teams to work together for causes close to their hearts.
The creation of the MarketStar Foundation formalizes the focus, funding source and function of corporate charitable efforts. This will amplify and extend the corporate social responsibility of MarketStar in new and exciting ways. Much like the interlocked connected system of support in the sequoia groves, we will bring together our people and resources to do our part in strengthening the communities where employees live and work. We will grow the good we can do together.