Basin Electric team increases donations for local charities

Basin Electric has a long history of supporting its communities, and much of that support comes directly from its employees.

One program that has made an impact is Casual for a Cause, a program where employees at Headquarters make contributions to a designated cause and are allowed to wear jeans to work each day within a four-month period. Employees also have the option to donate and dress casually any Fridays through the Jeans Day program. 

In the past, those who participated in Casual for a Cause each quarter of the year paid with a check or points earned through an internal rewards program. For those who participated in Jeans Day on Fridays, there were donation boxes at both Headquarters entrances where they would give their donation.

When Jennifer Holen, Basin Electric charitable giving administrator, began managing the Casual for a Cause program two years ago, she heard from employees that they would like an easier option.

“There were times that employees didn’t have cash, so they would skip one week and donate extra the next week. This was ok, but then the donation wouldn’t be split evenly between organizations since we might be supporting one organization this week and another the next week,” Holen says.

That might not sound like a big issue, but with 400 employees at Headquarters, the numbers were being impacted.

Along with inconsistent donations, having physical donation boxes took extra time. Two employees needed to be present to unlock the boxes, and the money needed to be counted and sent to the payroll team.

The idea of moving the programs to an electronic format originally came from a BE Leaders team in 2019 consisting of Ashley Ollenburger, Basin Electric senior payroll analyst; Colleen Peterson, Basin Electric supervisor of fuel and transportation; and Mike Zimmerman, Basin Electric business analyst III.

Holen worked with Ollenburger and Jon Klein, Basin Electric payroll manager, to convert Casual for a Cause to a payroll deduction program.

“The process started in 2022 as employees turning in hand-signed payroll deduction forms to have the Casual for a Cause money deducted from their paychecks,” Ollenburger says.

Next, Ollenburger and Klein worked with a team of IT employees, including Emily Bakken, Basin Electric enterprise application architect; Nick Demetres, Basin Electric enterprise application architect; and Stanley Moss, Basin Electric custom development supervisor, to create a payroll deduction app to make the process seamless. 

“After several rounds of testing and modifications for improvement, the fall 2022 Casual for a Cause payments were completed using the payroll deduction app,” Ollenburger says.

Once the payroll deduction was set up for Casual for a Cause, it was time to tackle Jeans Day. Holen worked with Connie Zahn, Basin Electric administrative assistant and receptionist, who runs the company store at Headquarters. Zahn adds new products to the company store’s website, and Holen thought the website could be used for employees who want to participate in Jeans Day on Fridays.

Employees can now go to the website and make their Friday donation electronically rather than putting physical money into a donation box.

An option was added for employees to purchase a month of being able to dress casually as well.

To make it easy to identify who was participating in Casual for a Cause, Holen asked Joy Schnabel, Basin Electric multimedia specialist, to design Casual for a Cause cards that are displayed at participating employees’ desks. The cards are printed and cut in-house by Jesse Schuette, Basin Electric facilities supervisor.

“After we made this change, we went from raising $75-120 a week through Jeans Day to over $1,000 a week now. That’s huge. It’s a more substantial amount. It’s a privilege to be able to give the check to a local charity,” Holen says. “Now we have a process with less employee effort and bigger results.”

Basin Electric employees give a donation of $17,890 to Dream Center Bismarck on Giving Hearts Day.

The combined donations from everyone who participates in Casual for a Cause and Jeans Day allowed the Headquarters team to donate $17,890 to Dream Center Bismarck, an organization that provides basic needs such as food and offers other free services through various partnerships in the community.

The nonprofit used the funds as their Giving Hearts Day match money, meaning that the funds helped match donations made on Feb. 8 dollar-for-dollar.

“A donation of this size makes a huge impact on a nonprofit,” Holen says. “I’m grateful to be part of a group of employees at Headquarters that came together to raise funds through Casual for a Cause. It’s definitely a team win!”

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