At Cummins, Funding Follows Engagement

Get a behind the scenes look at how Cummins’ employee-led grantmaking works on a global scale.

Ashley Gregg

Grants Manager at Cummins Inc.

Who She Is:

As Grants Manager at Cummins Inc., Ashley Gregg loves helping people collaborate, grow, and develop in their careers and skills. She has spent most of her career in project and program management, gaining experience in training and development to provide retention solutions and employee growth opportunities. While grants management is her primary job by day, she also enjoys homesteading and playing with her two young children.

Q: Tell us about how employee-led grantmaking at Cummins works.

A: We have employees all over the world, and the needs in their communities are different because culture and societal norms are going to vary. That’s why we encourage our employees to build partnerships with local communities and local organizations, hoping that their passions will drive that connection and see it through to success.

Cummins has more than 200 Community Involvement Teams around the world. These volunteer teams are passionate about getting involved in their communities. Each team leads a strategy session, where they look at their communities, do a needs assessment, and build out a strategy within one of Cummins’ three global priority areas: 1) education, 2) equality of opportunity, and 3) environment.

We decided to focus on those three priority areas because they relate to Cummins’ business and our skill sets. Instead of casting our net wide, we wanted to cast our net deeper, to make a greater impact.

Q: Cummins has three grantmaking priority areas: environment, education, and equality of opportunity. How do these themes look different across the world?

A: There is a lot of gray in grantmaking. What makes sense to fund in Africa, for example, will probably not make sense here in North America. In our Africa region, there’s a focus on investing in core needs to support future development. If you don’t have the walls, toilets, and washing stations to get children into the school system, how are you going to improve education? If we look at the United States, where our government focuses more on those necessities, our investments support programs geared toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education or equality of opportunity. For example, a lot of our programs focus on addressing hunger.

It varies globally depending on the need because it’s grassroots. This is local, coming from the bottom-up versus the top down.

Q: Why is it important to Cummins to include employees in the grantmaking process?

A: Through our Community Involvement Teams, our employees further our company’s deeply-rooted commitment to volunteerism and improving the communities in which we live and work. CITs are central hubs for our community engagement work. Employees have the opportunity to volunteer four hours each year on company time to support their communities. Through this work, they partner with local nonprofits to identify community problems and work to build solutions, applying directly for grants to support their work. Our employees know best about the needs in our communities and give their time and skills to make a difference.

Q: What motivates you most about Cummins’ grantmaking?

A: I’m inspired by our equality of opportunity work around individuals with special needs. As a business, Cummins is looking at how we hire, employ, and retain employees with special needs, making sure we have a diverse workforce, not only with culture and ethnicity, but also with ability. When I see grants come through that focus on that work in the community, I see it as a great tie to what we believe in as a company. I’m passionate about that work.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

A: The biggest challenge in my role is understanding how Cummins can help our community partners without being heavy-handed.

Our community partners are trying to solve a need within their community, and we work hard to understand their mission, vision, values, and goals to find the best way we can support their work.

Through our grant process, we encourage our employees to learn a lot about these organizations, so that we don’t force them to abide by how Cummins engages in projects. We seek to further their good work and help set them up for success. We don’t want an organization seeking our support and changing how they work with their recipients to fit our models in order to get funding.

It’s a delicate balance. As a corporate foundation, we have guidelines for how we operate. Those guidelines are there for a good reason and ensure that our grant dollars truly make a difference. For Cummins, engagement is the underpinning of our responsibility to our communities, supporting the strategic work our employees undertake to solve community problems. We want to make sure we are investing in the right projects in which our employees are actively engaged to further our mission of building more prosperous communities.

Learn more about how GlobalGiving can support your employee-led grantmaking program.


Featured Photo: National Health and Safety Program by Cummins’ grantee Wuxi Xishan Lezhu Social Work Office.

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