Creative Social Impact Programs with Kaitlin Westbrook Tolson & Erica Woods at Apex Systems

Changemakers from Within Episode 27 (1)

In the latest episode of “Changemakers from Within,” Rachel Klausner, Founder & CEO of Millie, sits down with Kaitlin Westbrook Tolson, National STEM and Philanthropy Advocate at Apex Systems, and Erica Woods, Director of Contractor Programs & Philanthropy at Apex Systems, a world-class technology services business that incorporates industry insights and experience to deliver solutions that fulfill their clients’ digital visions. 

Kaitlin and Erica share their framework that they have developed over the last few years that has led to a robust social impact program, with a variety of unique programs that offer “something for everyone.”

Listen to the episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts:

The Framework

The philanthropy committee at Apex Systems is uniquely robust, with a global committee of 12 executive individuals, ranging from Head of HR to other execs. Apex shows their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility from the top down, with top executives strategizing and advocating for these programs. Execs are even willing to participate, with events such as a kid-friendly holiday storytime event with the president of Apex as well as “Are you smarter than a 5th grader (executive version).” Exec buy-in contributes greatly to the company wide participation. 

Apex’s program offers employee involvement from the beginning stages to the end. For example, polls are used a lot during the planning process. Apex has over 100 teams, with each team running at least 2 programs each year. Employee input is encouraged at every scale and for every event. Corporate campaign ideas are often pulled from successful team programs. 

Communication is also key. Social impact campaigns are supported by Apex’s marketing and communications teams. Comms are advertised in all employee login screens, emails, Millie campaigns, and more. The Apex Systems social impact program is so successful because it is so organized.

Apex’s Heart for Impact

Impact is a core value for Apex. And storytelling is a driving force for communicating their efforts. Most campaigns have a story from an Apex employee who is advocating for a nonprofit that they (or a loved one) has personally benefited from in their lives. Apex prioritizes their employees’ voices.

Quarter of Caring

Their most popular campaign, “Quarter of Caring,” originated as a “Month of Caring.” Bringing in a 100% participation rate among the entire Apex community in 2022, this campaign is their most successful. Kaitlin and Erica contribute the success of their Quarter of Caring to leveraging their team and by offering a large variety of programs. 

Quarter of Caring also contributes success to the time of year. This campaign is run during the last quarter of the year, the most popular quarter for giving annually. Apex also engages with their employees by allowing them the choice of which nonprofit they want to support. 

Gamers vs. Cancer

One of the more popular events during Quarter of Caring is the “Gamers vs. Cancer” campaign. Participants include employees but is also open to the public, which drives in other community members like children, consultants, clients and future Apex employees. Participants have a $20 participation fee. The event is a video game competition that is live streamed on Twitch. 

Earth Month

Apex’s Earth Month campaign was born 5 years ago, after Erica read about a beached whale in Africa with over 1,000 lbs of plastic in its stomach. Over the course of 5 years, Earth Month at Apex has morphed into over 20 teams hosting trash pickup parties, a 5k supporting environmental orgs, fundraisers, and more. Apex donates $10 for every bag of trash picked up towards environmental orgs during Earth Month.

Erica and Kaitlin are always looking for opportunities to engage with employees around a cause area. For example, to boost excitement around trash pickup, they created a poll asking employees how many bags they would fill. They did not reach their goal, but did manage to fill 50 more bags than the year before. 💖

Giving Madness

As lovers of gamified giving experiences, the Apex team was very happy to run a Giving Madness bracket. All employees were encouraged to turn in a nonprofit of their choice. The 16 nonprofits were chosen from a wheel of names generator. 

A true testament to the power of Giving Madness, the final nonprofit chosen was Feeding America, which was advocated by an employee who made it through college thanks to the support of their services. Giving Madness was a great platform for him to advocate his voice on behalf of his own story.

Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness is a campaign that was recently born at Apex, celebrating the national holiday in February. The day is a great way to stay connected within the giving community without the price tag. Employees are facing donation burnout during this time of year, as it follows their Quarter of Caring. 

Employees are tasked with performing one act of kindness, whether that be holding a door open, buying someone a coffee, or complimenting a coworker. Apex gamifies this experience by creating Bingo cards.

A Program for Everyone

The programs listed are only a small portion of the amount of giving opportunities that Apex offers throughout the year. Themes are dedicated to supporting timely events as well as what speaks to employees. The variety of options is a major component of amplifying team engagement.

Apex is dedicated to supporting STEM and Veteran focused nonprofits in workforce development. Apex utilizes their resources for change by volunteering in workforce development. Volunteers conduct mock interviews, resume reviews, 1:1 contributions and more.

The Future of Apex

Apex hopes to continue to drive internal and external engagement. Impact is impact and they are dedicated to pushing for change in any way possible. They want to continue to hear and amplify their employee’s voices through storytelling and humanizing their efforts. The future is bright for social impact through Apex. 

This episode includes music by, released for use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.