“We Are Your Friends And Neighbors:” How Duke Energy Fosters A Culture Of Giving
Amy Strecker came to North Carolina to be a high school English teacher in Warren County through Teach for America. That experience, she says, forever changed her worldview.
Amy is now the Director of Foundation Strategy for Duke Energy Foundation and United Way of the Greater Triangle’s Board Chair. It has been 14 years since her days teaching in rural North Carolina and her career has advanced far beyond the classroom, taking root in the streets and homes that Duke Energy serves.
Today, Amy is responsible for leading Duke Energy Foundation’s grantmaking strategy but she says that every time she makes a decision about where dollars should be invested in communities, she thinks about her former students.
“I think students from disadvantaged backgrounds get lumped together but there was no shortage of brilliance and aptitude, only resources and opportunity,” she shares. “When there’s a program or opportunity for Duke Energy Foundation to support, I’m always thinking about how my students in Warren County would access the work. The practicality of philanthropy is something I think about all the time in the context of my Teach for America experience.”
Amy’s philanthropic focus is not unique to Duke Energy’s culture. In fact, “caring” is so integral to the company’s philosophy that it’s embedded in the company values: “We look out for each other. We strive to make the environment and communities around us better places to live.”
That deep level of caring is exactly how Duke Energy has earned its place as United Way of the Greater Triangle’s #1 workplace employee giving campaign for 6 years in a row and has donated nearly $19.5M since 1999 to support the organization’s mission to eradicate poverty and increase social mobility through the power of partnerships.
While the company does incentivize employees to give by offering a dollar-for-dollar match up to $2,500, they also incentivize employees to give back through volunteerism and nonprofit board engagement. That’s because they know that community engagement isn’t just about cash, it’s also about being present and showing up.
“We’re the largest United Way workplace giving campaign in the Triangle, but from employee donations across the company, only 28% are designated to United Ways. That’s how generous our employees are, not just to the United Way, but to causes across our communities,” Amy shares. “I think that speaks to the caliber of our people. My colleagues and I are deeply invested in our communities. We want to be good neighbors and partners.”
Outside of its workplace employee giving contributions, Duke Energy has also been one of the biggest supporters of some of United Way’s most impactful and recent initiatives including the Rapid Response Fund, Durham One Fund, and the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. To date, the company has contributed $130,000 to support those important emergency response and equity-focused programs.
Amy says she’s proud of the fact that Duke Energy is quick to action. “When there’s a new opportunity or a new need, particularly as United Way has pivoted to being really responsive to crises in community, Duke Energy has been a quick partner to say ‘yes we’re there with you.’”
Ultimately, Duke Energy employees are so invested in supporting the Triangle because the Triangle is home for them. They are the neighbors that you live next to; they’re the people that shop with you at the grocery store; and they’re the lineworkers that help keep your power on.
That position means that Duke Energy employees also get an inside view of the ways that families live (not always in a home), sleep (not always in a bed), and eat (not always enough nutritious food).
“We care about the opportunities available to all the customers that we serve. We care that our workforce and giving reflect the communities we serve,” Amy shares. “When families are struggling, we hear from our customers. We think about giving as a way of mitigating and reducing the burdens our customers face.”
To learn more about how Duke Energy gives back to communities, visit the Duke Energy Foundation website.