The Armanino Foundation was launched in October 2016 to serve as the philanthropic arm of Armanino and provide a formal organization for community giving for our staff, partners and extended network. The foundation is managed by a group of Armanino staff and partners from across the country to support charitable organizations that create a positive impact on the lives of people in our communities through donations of money and volunteerism.
After the recent storms in Texas left many residents without power and water, the foundation stepped in to assist those deeply impacted by the disaster. We spoke with the Armanino Foundation’s Executive Director, Mary Tressel, to better understand its disaster relief initiatives and the big-picture approach it takes to address these unfortunate events.
What was the catalyst for the Armanino Foundation to begin focusing on disaster relief?
Mary: When the foundation started in 2016, we had no concept that we would actually do disaster relief funding. But, in 2017, Armanino opened its office in Dallas, and quickly after that Hurricane Harvey hit the state and was so devastating. So we sprang into action by matching staff donations three-to-one. Then, Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires happened, and suddenly we were in the business of disaster relief funding. We fundraised for a month and raised enough money to give out $70,000 in relief funds that went to several organizations in all the affected areas.
What was the response to this shift?
Mary: It was just so impressive. At that point, we didn’t have our online giving set up, so there were just checks coming across my desk every day. It was really heartening to see the contributions of so many people across Armanino, who weren’t necessarily personally affected but wanted to make sure that we were helping those in need.
You mentioned the California wildfires in 2018. What was the foundation’s response there?
Mary: Armanino has offices in both Northern and Southern California, so we gave grants in both regions. We also did a toiletry and food drive where we actually drove some donations up to areas in Napa County that were affected.
How have these events reshaped the Armanino Foundation’s approach to disaster relief?
Mary: We’ve now streamlined our efforts into a single donation day where we get people to donate for disaster relief. Part of that is we don’t want to create burnout. If we were to ask for donations every time a disaster occurred, it would be a constant barrage.
We, as a board, also decided to go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and see how we could make the biggest impact with our grants. There’s providing support to on-the-ground case managers who perform immediate assessments, but with major disasters there’s a years-long recovery process.
A real-life example of how we pivoted was post-Hurricane Harvey. We organized a volunteer vacation in November 2018 where a group of nine Armanino employees went to Houston. There, we partnered with an organization to help rebuild a woman’s home that had been damaged. With our help, she was able to move back into her house in time to host Thanksgiving dinner.
Have any of these efforts been reflected recently?
Mary: You know, we realize as a foundation there will always be a need for some disaster funding, but it’s not the only thing we give grants to. At the same time, we want to be there. So, we always return to our mission, which is to assist charity organizations that create a positive impact on the lives of people in our communities.
When the ice storms hit the state of Texas, we immediately donated $5,000 each to the Dallas-Fort[MS2] Worth Red Cross and the Austin Area Urban League Love Your Neighbor campaigns. These two organizations were on the ground and could help those in the most need make it through this terrible time of hardship.
What are the foundation’s plans for the future in terms of disaster relief?
Mary: Unfortunately, it’s impossible to help everywhere that needs it. And for us to continue to create a lasting impact, we want to focus our disaster relief initiatives primarily on geographies where our Armanino family members live and work. There are exceptions, like our planned volunteer vacation to help with hurricane relief in Puerto Rico (which was sadly cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic). Keeping our local communities at the core of our work helps us honor the causes that matter most to our donors.
What about overall plans?
Mary: Fiscal responsibility is key for us. Private foundations are only required to donate 5% of their annual revenue, but we donate well over 60%. This means more donations go directly to causes, and it builds trust with our donors (primarily Armanino employees), whose generosity is our life blood.
To learn more about the Armanino Foundation’s disaster relief efforts or our other programs to help build our local communities, contact us at [email protected].