While sponsorships and philanthropic efforts may seem to be merely a “nice-to-have” component of business planning, many Midlands companies make community investment a top priority.
It’s no different at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), where supporting communities across Nebraska is a key aspect of corporate culture. Company leaders are proud of the organization’s buy-in for strengthening health and wellness initiatives throughout Omaha and the state.
An Outpouring of Culture
“Community engagement is a core part of who we are,” explains Kim Arnold, vice president of marketing and communications at BCBSNE. “Our involvement and investment in our communities is a genuine extension of our mission.”
That investment stems from the company’s drive to support the health and wellness of Nebraskans across the state. “We have a long history and deep roots in Nebraska, and we are committed to impacting the communities where we live, work and raise our families,” says Arnold.
Employee engagement and volunteerism are vital parts of BCBSNE’s culture. Arnold notes, “Our employees share their time and resources to support causes and organizations that make a difference in so many people’s lives, like our annual United Way campaign, our statewide CHAD sponsorship and others.”
An additional, positive byproduct of the company’s commitment to Nebraska communities is the heightened morale and strong employee retention it engenders, BCBSNE leaders say. “Our employees frequently say, ‘I love being a part of Team Blue because I know the impact we have on communities.’ That means a lot to people, and it builds a unified culture of caring,” says Molly Billings, director of HR operations.
Selecting the Right Causes
BCBSNE regularly supports efforts related to health and wellness. The company sponsors bike races, supports first responders, and promotes mental wellness summits and health care industry educational conferences, to name just a few events.
One flagship effort is Born and Raced in Nebraska (BRIN), an annual collection of 10K runs in the Omaha metro area. The series brings together thousands of athletes for Nebraska-themed races. “Any athlete will tell you: Race Day or Game Day makes worthwhile all the training, all the lifestyle changes, all the preparation,” says Arnold. “Those long-term choices are what foster health and wellness, and that’s what we want to catalyze as a company. Making Race Day possible is part of our vision.”
“The causes we support are important to us. They reflect who we are as a company. We are giving a gift, but we are also getting one back. It’s truly uplifting,” says Kathy Nellor, health transformation leader at BCBSNE.
In 2022, BCBSNE partnered for an eighth year with Project Fit America, a charity that provides physical education equipment and curriculum to schools across the country. In 2022, BCBSNE made a $18,000 donation to fund construction of a playground and exercise gear at Hitchcock County Elementary School in Culbertson, Nebraska.
“This grant goes far beyond just installing playground equipment,” notes Nellor. “We go in and really show these schools how to get their students involved and excited about using the equipment to stay active and healthy.”
Start Small and Sustain
For companies willing to get started with community engagement, Arnold offers two key pieces of advice:
First, start small and plan to make a sustained effort over years. Second, root your giving decisions in a cause you’re deeply passionate about.
“We do see business results,” Arnold explains. “People come to know [BCBSNE] and what we stand for, and we earn trust in the community. We take that very seriously.”
“But it’s not directly measurable — you can’t make a simple ROI calculation on it. So, in order to truly make a lasting impact, community engagement must be a matter of both practice and passion.”
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.