Tis the season for giving at QPP

Published 3:37 pm Thursday, December 24, 2009

The United Way froze their 2009 campaign goals because of the economy, but they received a big surprise from Quality Pork Processors Inc., whose employees donated 124 percent more money than last year.

The United Way kept campaign goals at the 2008 goals of $910,000. Mandi Lighthizer, executive director of the United Way of Mower County, said they didn’t want to ask people to give more, they just wanted to meet the goals for last year.

QPP employees donated about $120,732 last year, and the company’s 2009 goal was increased to $121,000.

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QPP employees instead donated $150,021.01 to the United Way campaign — the largest amount in the company’s history.

“In our wildest dreams, we never thought they’d surpass it by this much,” Lighthizer said.

The money is deducted from the weekly paychecks of 1,161 of QPP’s 1,293 employees who chose to donate. Most employees give through a weekly deduction in their paychecks, while others choose to give a one-time donation, said QPP Controller David Drommerhausen.

More than 90 percent of the donations the United Way raises come through workplace campaigns, Lighthizer said.

Lighthizer said QPP is usually one of the last major donations to come in and one of the largest, along with the Hormel Foods Corp. corporate offices and the Hormel Plant.

“We can always depend on Quality Pork to have an exceptional campaign,” Lighthizer said. “Their employees just really know what it means to give back to the community.”

The partnership between QPP and the United Way dates back to around 1989.

QPP President Kelly Wadding said the company doesn’t request or recommend that people give to the United Way. The choice is left to the employee: “There’s no pressure put on from a company standpoint,” Wadding said.

Yet, employees choose to give each year.

“I think the real story is our people,” Wadding said. “Every year they step up and want to give and want to commit to the community.”

QPP only gained about 20 employees this year, and only about three more people donated to the United Way than in 2008, Drommerhausen said. The average gift per employee was $128.89 compared to $101.18 in 2008.

QPP’s night kill department gave 150 percent more money than in 2008, Drommerhausen said. Wadding said that group often consists of the newest QPP employees.

“We have great employees here,” Wadding said. “We really have a solid team, and this just speaks volumes of the type of people we have working here.”

The company supports the program by setting aside time in November for employees to donate. Employees can volunteer to solicit money for the United Way. Employees are then taken in shifts to donate; however, that choice is private.

“The managers, the supervisors — we have no idea who gives and who doesn’t,” Wadding said. “It’s strictly up to them as they come in. It’s a personal choice.”

Lighthizer commended QPP employees for being the ones who drive the company campaign, and she said it’s not something dictated by management. At the same time, she said management is very supportive of the project.

Giving is kept private, except for the names of heart club members. Their names are posted on a wall outside the QPP office. QPP set up a heart fund where employees could participate by donating about $5 out of each paycheck, which would equal about $260 a year. About 405 employees participated in that program, Lighthizer said.

Heart club employees were entered in a prize drawing. Sixty-one prizes were given out. The prizes included things like a full week of paid vacation, a day of paid vacation, Minnesota Vikings tickets, a flat screen television, a snow blower, a parking stall, and the chance to be supervisor for a day.

Drommerhausen said QPP typically allows one campaign each year in the plant: “This is the best one to promote everything for the city of Austin,” he said.

While QPP doesn’t push employees to donate, Wadding said he likes that money given to the United Way stays in Mower County.

“It’s gotten to be a matter of pride for them,” Wadding said. “They’re very proud of their efforts here. It’s community pride, and it’s personal pride.”

The United Way campaign runs from September to December.

The United Way will officially release their campaign results at a celebration in April. Lighthizer said the campaign has raised about 95 percent of its goal. The funding that’s raised in the fall will go to fund programs determined through a grant application process. Some groups that receive funding from the United Way include the Red Cross, the Austin YMCA and the Salvation Army.

QPP is one of the county’s top contributors to the United Way campaign. However, Drommerhausen said he wouldn’t mind more competition: “We’d like somebody to come and beat us. The United Way would win. We would win.”

QPP has no plans to let up. Drommerhausen had one goal for 2010: beat their record again.