Philanthropy: Fulfilling Our Core Purpose Through the Improvement of Our Communities

By Jackie Paplaczyk

Summus Group, a provider of Management Consulting services with a focus on the Financial Services and FinTech industries, began in 2013 when founder and managing partner, Bill Sanders, landed his first client in the Charlotte market. Over the next few years, Summus Group experienced exponential growth which led to increasing headcount and beginning to build out what is now considered the associate experience.

A big part of this experience is providing associates with multiple ways to give back to the communities where Summus Group associates live and work. Summus Group’s Philanthropy Committee Chair, Garrett Bagnal, said, “It was at the end of 2017 when we really began to incorporate philanthropy into the associate experience, but I would say it was still pretty informal at that point.” Today, philanthropy events are held quarterly with ad-hoc events sprinkled throughout the year. The Philanthropy Committee meets every month to discuss and plan these quarterly events, along with any ad-hoc opportunities in which the firm decides to participate.

Since the committee’s formal inception in 2018, its membership, which is volunteer-based, has grown alongside of the firm from two to eleven people. The committee consists of associates from each of Summus Group’s offices, ensuring all locations are plugged in and providing each city with a vehicle to give back in a way which is meaningful to their local communities.

Summus Group’s passion and commitment to improving its communities through philanthropic efforts starts with the tone at the top as giving back has always been a priority of managing partner, Bill Sanders. In fact, it is Bill’s belief that each Summus Group associate should strive to participate in whatever way possible in each of the quarterly events. Because of this passion from the leader of Summus Group, the Philanthropy Committee is empowered to make the largest impact it can. Garrett said, “I can’t think of a time Bill has ever said ‘no.’ Any time we approach Bill, whether it be about a new charity or the amount of time and money we would like to donate, he is always supportive of our philanthropic initiatives.”

This month we sit down with Garrett Bagnal to hear how Summus Group strives to improve its local communities and how you or your organization can help support future events which are meaningful to you.

Summus Group’s core purpose is ‘to relentlessly pursue the happiness of our associates, the satisfaction of our clients, and the improvement of our communities with integrity and passion‘. How does Summus Group strive to live up to its purpose, specifically related to improving its surrounding communities?

At Summus Group, we take the community piece of our purpose seriously by ensuring we provide multiple ways for our associates to give back to the communities where we live and work. For this reason, we have a Philanthropy Committee dedicated to creating these opportunities for the organization. Within this committee, there is an “open door” policy where everyone has a voice making it a win-win for all.

When standing up the Philanthropy Committee, we conducted a survey to gauge interest on what our people are most passionate about and in what ways they want to give back. As a result of this, our primary focus has been on youth, education and poverty in the local communities in which Summus Group’s offices are located. To date, we have volunteered over 430 hours of our associates’ time and donated over $34,500 to these causes.

As the Chair of the Philanthropy Committee, what are you most passionate about in leading Summus Group’s philanthropic efforts?

By early 2018, we were considering what committees we wanted to formally create and that is when I volunteered to be the Philanthropy Committee Chair. I saw it as an opportunity to get involved while also helping to provide a platform for other Summus Group associates to get involved and together, make an overall larger impact. It is hard not to be passionate about leading a group of individuals committed to giving back to and making a positive impact on our youth and the general population facing poverty.

With so many great causes, how does Summus Group go about determining which charities it will support and how?

The survey we conducted to gauge our associates’ interest not only helped us identify where we would like to dedicate our time and money as a company, but it also provided associates the opportunity to share specific organizations they would like to support in the local community.

The Philanthropy Committee does a great job of mixing up the events while keeping the associates in mind. On a quarterly basis, the committee discusses, identifies and plans a new event for that quarter. We hope to maintain a relationship with organizations we have previously supported, but at the same time, we are also open to supporting new organizations.

Our events typically consist of a mix of volunteering time and making monetary donations. For our quarterly events, we like to focus on partnering with organizations offering programs that serve the youth, meet the needs of schools, teachers and students, and help eradicate poverty in our communities.

In between our quarterly events, we may venture outside of this lane, but we always want to ensure it is for a cause or organization that our associates are passionate about. A great example of this is raising funds for hurricane relief efforts. As this is something you don’t plan for, when there is an emergency need, the Philanthropy Committee creates an opportunity for our people to provide aid to those impacted.

In addition to our current focus on youth, education and poverty in our local communities, we plan to regauge our associates’ philanthropic interests at the end of each year to ensure we continue to give back to the community in a meaningful way.

Over the years, Summus Group has supported a wide variety of charities. Which has been your personal favorite and why?

Since the inception of our Philanthropy Committee, Summus Group has supported 16 different organizations. Based on the variety of organizations we have supported over the past two years, it is hard to choose a favorite; but from a volunteering perspective, I would say the YWCA Central Carolinas Afterschool events. These events are some of our most memorable as it reminds us of the impact we can make and just how fortunate we are.

From a donation standpoint, I always look forward to the events we put on for Classroom Central. Not only have we made the largest impact through our continued partnership with Classroom Central, but I think these are always fun team-building events which associates genuinely look forward to as it creates the opportunity to get together and is for a good cause.

Just this year, Summus Group has volunteered at a YWCA Central Carolinas Afterschool event, sponsored a team for the 5K on the Greenway with proceeds going to Right Moves for Youth, built and shipped care packages to U.S. Air Force men and women deployed overseas, and partnered with Classroom Central to build ‘Kits for a Cause’, as well as to raise money to purchase the most needed school supplies for students and teachers in high-poverty schools. What does Summus Group have in store for the remainder of 2019 and how can others help support future events which are meaningful to them?

For our fourth quarter philanthropy event, we will be raising money and holding a food drive for people and pets to donate to the Second Harvest Food Bank. We have supported this non-profit organization before which supplies food and grocery items to charitable agencies that assist people in need, as well as provides training, technical assistance and hunger education to its partner agencies. In addition to the food and fund drive, this year we will be collaborating with our Social Media Sub-Committee to generate additional funds by donating $1 for each new LinkedIn follower for the month of November.

In addition to our quarterly event, we will also be participating in a Bid & Brew Silent Auction Event at Town Brewery on Friday, November 15th, 6:00-8:30 pm. This event supports Florence Crittenton Services (FCS) whose mission is to provide comprehensive health, education and social services for at-risk or pregnant adolescents.

We really enjoy coming together with other groups to help increase the impact on our local communities. In the past, we have partnered with other groups, including our clients, for philanthropy events, and we plan to continue to do so in the future. It is always exciting when organizations reach out to us with opportunities; in fact, our involvement with Florence Crittenton Services is a result of FCS directly contacting us about their upcoming event. We are always open to new partnerships, especially when it is for a good cause!

Editor’s Note: Interested in partnering with Summus Group for a future philanthropy or service event? Reach out to Garrett Bagnal directly.