Whirlpool Foundation: a strategic vehicle for corporate citizenship since 1951

Our interview with Jeff Noel, President at Whirlpool Foundation and
 Vice President Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at Whirlpool Corporation, exemplifies how a corporate foundation can play a strategic role to address core needs of the business key stakeholders

Whirlpool Foundation: a strategic vehicle for corporate citizenship since 1951

Whirlpool Foundation was established in 1951 to address global social concerns, to demonstrate the company’s sense of social responsibility by investing in the very communities that drive the company’s success. The Foundation pursues a strategy aligned with the corporate Collective Impact Model, a framework recognizing that change can only be meaningful by addressing key focus areas of needs in order to produce a “collective impact”. For this reason, the Foundation concentrates its efforts on four interconnected areas: Education (Successful Youth, Lifelong Learning, Job Readiness), Economic Stability (A Prepared Workforce, New Business, Growing Existing Business), Health & Wellness (Active & Engaged Citizens, Best in Class Medical Care), Affordable Housing.

Beyond working to empower Whirlpool’s social responsibility effort for the community, Whirlpool Foundation strives to enrich the range of opportunities for its internal stakeholders, i.e. employees and their families: in 2016 Whirlpool Foundation awarded almost $8million in strategic grants but also contributed more than $2.3 million towards employee directed programs and $445,000 on the Sons & Daughters Scholarship Program to reward children of employees for academic and personal achievements, leadership and community involvement.

The interview with Jeff Noel, President at Whirlpool Foundation, Vice President Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at Whirlpool Corporation, highlights the Foundation’s approach and exemplifies how a corporate foundation can play a strategic role to address the needs of both internal and external stakeholders – which represent core success factors for any business.


How does the Whirlpool Foundation define its model and key areas of intervention?

Whirlpool Foundation works with local organizations to create a collective impact of positive change to address the social concerns found in our home communities. The Foundation helps provide a secure, safe and nurturing home environment that builds healthy Whirlpool communities. The Whirlpool Foundation places a priority on funding for areas in which Whirlpool employees are actively engaged and volunteering their time as part of the Collective Impact Model for worthwhile endeavors.


With a look on governance, which is the relationship between the Foundation and the company and which drivers shape your funding choices?

The Whirlpool Foundation is a pass through Foundation, with Whirlpool Corporation making an annual donation to our organization. The Whirlpool CEO serves as Chairman of the Foundation, with a board comprised of Whirlpool employees voting independently on the causes to be supported and in the oversight of recipient organizations to assure funds are used as intended and the positive impact is measurable.

Through its strategic grants, Whirlpool Foundation identifies outstanding programs that are centered on quality family life, cultural diversity and lifelong learning. Since the Foundation’s beginning, hundreds of organizations and programs have benefited from more than $210 million in grants.

Whirlpool Foundation employee directed programs include matching gifts, disaster relief and United Way contribution matches.


What is the Foundation approach to impact assessment?

The Foundation requires regular reports from each grantee that includes transparent reporting of administrative costs versus funding for programming and intended benefit, with a detailed report of measurable outcomes that have been achieved based upon the criteria of the Collective Impact Model.


Which strategic roles does the Whirlpool Foundation play in the overall corporate social responsibility approach?

The Whirlpool Foundation offers the organization a way to demonstrate social responsibility and focus our investments back into the communities that drive our success.

We have a special interest in seeing employee volunteering linked with programs that help improve the health and wellness of families, improves educational outcomes, especially in areas of economic challenges, creates safe and affordable housing and helps targeted neighborhoods grow and improve around specific quality of life outcomes.


Which are the main results achieved by the Foundation?

Since the first two scholarships in January of 1952, Whirlpool Foundation has provided more than 2000 scholarships and honor awards worth more than $16 million dollars to children of employees. Currently, over 100 Whirlpool Foundation scholarship and award recipients are pursuing degrees across the nation. 

Whirlpool Corporation’s global and U.S. headquarter locations, manufacturing divisions and facilities across the United States participate every year in raising funds for local United Way campaigns. Whirlpool employees and retirees broke giving records for United Way pledging and fundraising in 2017. The total employee and retiree giving along with Whirlpool Foundation funding exceeded $5 million in donations in 2017. 

As an example of our grant making, working with other community organizations, state and local government grants, Whirlpool Foundation contributed a multi-year grant to demolish over 3 million square feet of dilapidated buildings and remove over 140,000 tons of 
waste material from a SuperFund site near our headquarters in Michigan. Over 500 acres was transformed into Harbor Shores Resort, a beach, golf, and residential waterfront community in Michigan’s Great Southwest. Harbor Shores is a not-for-profit development and any revenues above operating expenses are granted back to the community for job training and educational programs. Truly a unique development, Harbor Shores is also a proud partner of The First Tee of Benton Harbor, an organization that promotes character development and life-enhancing values in youth through the game of golf.


Which are the main future challenges and next steps for the Foundation?

Firstly, to work with existing organizations in our communities to help them learn that true collaboration amongst those working on common outcomes is the only way to create sustainable change. As continued demands on our available funding grows, we believe our greatest challenge in the future will be to support those causes that have been innovative in their delivery of programming that has resulted in breakthrough changes that help meet the areas of change envisioned within the Collective Impact Model.

Our vision for the future will be to support those efforts that have found the right tools for use of volunteers, working across public and private organizations in discovering holistic approaches for positive and measurable change.


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