Corporate Champions

Beyond the Bottom Line


Capitalism, as disciples of Adam Smith might attest, works best when an unfettered self-interest is at work: Two parties seeking an exchange of goods or services that provides a benefit to each. But there’s a flip side to that coin, as well—the interests we have in the welfare of others. This is where America sets itself apart from any other nation: We give. Freely. Voluntarily. And in enormous sums.

And no greater engine of efficiency exists for redistribution of wealth than when it’s delivered directly to address the source of need. While individuals account for two-thirds of the money flowing to philanthropic causes—a record $358.8 billion last year—corporations make a sizable contribution. And beyond their philanthropic dollars, they provide in-kind and pro bono services, paid staff time for charitable events, skilled volunteers to serve on boards, extra pairs of hands at school fund-raisers, church functions, hospital wards and countless other venues.

In 2008, Ingram’s created its Corporate Champion awards to recognize precisely those kinds of contributions. More than three dozen organizations in the Kansas City region have claimed the title of Corporate Champion, some of them large, well-funded companies with robust philanthropic programs, others that are comparatively small, yet find ways to make outsized impact on the pervasive need in the region.

This holiday season, when glasses are being raised and we pause to ponder our blessings, we might all do well to keep in mind the companies who have done so much to pass those blessings along—and learn from their example.


— 2008 —     
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City • Burns & McDonnell • Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences • KPMG • Meara Welch Browne

— 2009 —     
Government Employees Health Association • Hallmark Cards • Harley Davidson • Holmes Murphy & Associates • Nigro Brothers Auction Co.

— 2010 —     
Creative Planning • Gail’s Harley Davidson • Hermes Landscaping • Media Services/Shredtime • Shook, Hardy & Bacon • University of Kansas Hospital

— 2011 —     
Kansas City Chiefs • Layne Christensen • Lockton Companies • St. Jo Frontier Casino • Shook, Hardy & Bacon

— 2012 —     
BKD • Liberty Fruit Co.• Meers Advertising• Miller Group

— 2013 —     
Black & Veatch• NIC, Inc.• Sprint Digital Team• VML

— 2014 —     
BATS Global Markets • CommunityAmerica Credit Union • Hunt Midwest• Ferrellgas Partners • Walz-Tetrick Advertising

— 2015 —     
Barkley • Ball’s Food Stores • Burns & McDonnell • KCI Auto Auction • Stinson Leonard Street • Swiss Re

 — 2016 —     


Ingrained Values: McCownGordon Construction employees celebrate at a fund-raiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City, one of many causes the company supports.

McCownGordon Construction

In the roll call of corporate philanthropy, few companies are able to declare that their own strategies for giving back in a community start with donating at least 10 percent of their after-tax profits to worthy causes, artistic endeavors or charitable events. McCownGordon Construction is one of those elites. The 18-year-old company, one of the region’s big general contractors, has made that kind of commitment since its founding in 1999, and maintains it today, a year after becoming 100 percent employee-owned. That kind of giving is more than just good stewardship, say founders Pat McCown and Brett Gordon: “It’s a way to build connections with the people who work in, live in and use the communities that the company helps build. The main beneficiaries of the company’s largesse are generally linked to health, children’s issues, and the culture and sustainability of the region. That has translated into financial support for a long list of organizations.

For the founders, all of that starts with leading by example. Each is involved in various organizations with service on boards of directors and advisory councils, and they encourage  staff members to offer their executive skills to other causes.“Philanthropy and community involvement are a vibrant, ongoing part of the McCownGordon culture,” McCown said. “It is in our DNA … personally, professionally and corporately. Our commitment and involvement in the community has defined us. It is who we are and want to continue to be.”



Open for Business: The new Capitol Federal Hall on the KU campus in Lawrence.

Capitol Federal Foundation

In the nearly 10 years since Ingram’s presented its first Corporate Champions awards, we’ve recognized a number of businesses, most of them for-profit, and occasionally, some with a not-for-profit model. But we’ve never turned the spotlight on a philanthropic organization itself, because the purpose of these awards is to recognize the business community’s very support for that philanthropy and how it makes a mission possible. We’re breaking that mold—this year—to focus on one particular act by a charitable organization, Topeka-based Capitol Federal Foundation. Earlier this year, the doors opened at Capitol Federal Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, and the long-awaited dream of a new business school building was realized. But this wasn’t just another campus construction project—it was a public-private partnership where the middle “P” made all the difference. Of the $70.5 million construction cost, roughly $60 million came from private sources, and a third of that was a contribution that the Capitol Federal Foundation provided when the fund-raising drive began in 2012.

“This is something long due for the University of Kansas, and we’re glad to be a part to help out the university, the school of business, the faculty and staff,” said John B. Dicus, CEO of Capitol Federal, in announcing the donation. “But most importantly, the young kids who will be able to go through this school at some point; they are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. This is going to be a facility that will give them the chance to succeed and be those business leaders.” The $20 million lead gift for construction represented the largest gift ever made to KU’s business school, and the largest gift in the foundation’s history.The motivation for such an outsized contribution was, in large part, about making the right investments. As Dicus said, it “truly is an investment for us and will make us a better state, a better university, and a better place for students in the future.”



Called to Serve | Employees at Mary Lou Jacoby’s Warehouse1 process goods being distributed at Harvesters-The Community Food Network.


Great philanthropy isn’t all about big checks: Innovation to reach a giving goal also qualifies, and at Warehouse1, they have it in spades. “When we began our company, we didn’t have money to donate, but we had stuff!” laughs Mary Lou Jacoby, the owner and CEO. “When I would get a solicitation to donate money, I would call the organization and ask ‘What are your needs? What do you need the money to purchase?’” Almost always, she said, it was something Warehouse1 had on hand, or something that someone in her network could donate—the connections were as powerful as dollars themselves. “That was how our ‘give away’ program began,” Jacoby said. “We donate thousands of dollars of in-kind support each year to local charities and organizations. I often joke that our company has the distinction of having one person, Rocky (Dillinger), who’s primary responsibility is to give stuff away!” With time, equipment, knowledge and money, Warehouse1 supports women’s business organizations like NAWBO, those with an entrepreneurial focus, like HEMP, and organizations like the Blue Valley Association, the Kiwanis club, the Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation center, Sheffield Place, the Bishop Sullivan Center and many more, Jacoby says. Over the course of three decades, she says, “Our strategy has not changed, but it has expanded. We now supply our knowledge from years of successful completions of food pantries and clothing distribution projects to the new ventures, as well as the equipment needed.”

The overarching goal, she says, is to make positive change where you can see it: Locally. “Our efforts have always been directed toward organizations that directly impact the individual in need, primarily in the east side of the metro area,” Jacoby says. In particular, she cites Giving the Basics, which provides needy families with items that can’t be purchased with food stamps, such as soap, deodorant and diapers.Michele Orpin, director of operations at Giving the Basics, said there was no way the organization founded just five years ago could reach the 220,000 people it now serves every month without the boost from Jacoby, Dillinger and the Warehouse1 team. “When we approached them for help, they immediately said yes,” Orpin said. “They bent over backwards to make sure we were successful as we were growing, and did whatever they could to make sure we would be efficient and effective. I’ve rarely come across companies like that.”



Opening Doors | Rogers Strickland and his team were on hand for the ribbon-cutting at a building put up by Strickland Construction volunteers in Guatemala last year.

Strickland Construction

The idea struck Rogers Strickland as a bit presumptuous at first: Come with us on your daughter’s foreign mission with her church group—and if you don’t mind, could you bring along materials for a building, and put that up? “I was,” Strickland wryly recalls, “extremely skeptical.” His daughter was headed abroad on that trip with a high school youth group, and the group’s director, sensing an interest lurking behind that skepticism, addressed it by bringing a Catholic priest to visit Strickland in his construction company’s office. Then, he says, “the two of them kind of talked me into it. So we did that, and after that, I sort of got hooked, taking two or three employees with me two times a year ever since, on 10-day trips.” That, he said, was back in 1997. Since then, he’s been around the world, putting up buildings used for churches, schools or community centers, primarily in Guatemala, but also in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti—even the other side of the Pacific, in Sri Lanka.

A one-time Methodist ministry student whose life took him back to his construction roots, that involvement is part of a call to serve by offering up time, talent and treasure. But how can a company of 55 pull off good deeds on a global scale? “Well, these are very simple metal buildings,” Strickland says, “but we arrange to get the concrete work done before we get there, some block work before we get there, then we put up the structure, roof, doors and windows in that 10-day period.” And he gets additional help with his own business contacts. He’s a Butler building dealer, and has been able to finesse additional discounts on those products shipped overseas, for example, and an insulation company stepped forward to assist for a while. Once it all comes together, those communities have an asset unimaginable to many in the Third World. “They vary in use,” Strickland said, “but most of these villages are at the end of a dirt road, so they don’t have much infrastructure. The uses change as the community needs change, but more times than not, their schools are overflowing, and these really help with that.”



Leading and Learning | Jim Lewis, the bank’s CEO, gets personally involved in community outreach, as with this session at the Learning Club of KCK.

Security Bank of Kansas City

When we talk about social need, we generally frame our debates and our thoughts around statistics, history and models. We don’t often measure that need in tears. Executives at Security Bank of Kansas City, can tell you about that. Among their many philanthropic efforts and community-outreach efforts, bank executives and employees jump in each week to work on an after-school mentoring and tutoring program called Learning Club of KCK. “After months of being tutored by Tom Davies, senior vice president at Security Bank, his student burst into tears one day,” recalls Brad Grabs, the Learning Club’s executive director. “After much sobbing, he told our staff, ‘I’ve never known my dad, and working with Mr. Davies makes me understand how much I’ve missed.’” It was a powerful moment, and one that reinforces the bank’s commitment to service. Even Jim Lewis, the CEO, is a weekly regular at the Learning Club, tutoring underprivileged students, Grabs said.

The bank’s philanthropy, said marketing director Pat D’Amico, is all about connecting with the community it serves-—and in Wyandotte County, it’s serving the poorest part of the metropolitan area. “We’re a community bank, a bank where somebody actually knows your name, and we’re involved not just in the geographic area, but the social
fabric of our area,” D’Amico said. “It’s the essence of what we’re about—a reflection of the communities in which we serve.”
To that end, educational issues are a key part of the bank’s philanthropy, as it provides support to Cristo Rey High School, St. James Academy, Piper and Bishop Ward high schools, and to both Kansas City Kansas Community College and Donnelly College. But there are plenty of social causes that merit the bank’s support, as well, from the Alcohol Safety Action Project to United Way, with donations to a wide range of organizations in between, including the American Red Cross, El Centro and Community Housing of Wyandotte County. It’s a depth of commitment, says D’Amico, that rolls back into the mission of a community bank. “For us,” he says, “it’s a point of differentiation.”