Podcast: Pandemic Workplace Campaigns


You’re reading transcript highlights from the “Live United” podcast presented by the nonprofit Tulsa Area United Way. Please subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts.


[00:00:00] Matthew Gleason: Hey, Live United listeners, before we get started with this week’s episode, I want to tell you that it’s not too late to join the Tulsa Area United Way this year and run your first campaign. Tulsa Area United Way workplace campaigns unite employees and allow them to donate, volunteer, and speak out for causes that matter to them. Please build a stronger workplace while you contribute to building a stronger community.

Thank you so much for listening today and please subscribe to the podcast wherever you enjoy listening to them, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

And thank you to all of our companies who ran a campaign for the first time this year. We appreciate you so much. And for those who haven’t, it’s not too late. Get all the details at tauw.org/campaigns to join and start living united. OK, let’s get to the show…

[00:00:51] Jane Mudgett: Hello, everyone. You’re listening to the Live United podcast, and I’m Jane Mudgett. I’ve been a TAUW volunteer with the campaign for many years, and I am excited to be with the president and CEO of World Travel, Alex Eaton,

[00:01:08] Alex: Hey Jane, how are you?

[00:01:11] Jane: I’m having a great day. Little did we know that when we were TAUW loaned executives 15 years ago, give or take, I don’t really know the math, that we would be here again talking about our community we’re still supporting. 

So just to kind of cue it up, I invited you on the show because I’m an avid traveler. One of my big challenges in the last couple of years with the pandemic is not being able to travel. Unfortunately, you’re on the other side of that equation. My lack of travel means that I’m saving money, but it means that you were in a real crisis in your business.

Could you tell us a bit of what the last couple of years have been like for you?

[00:02:08] Alex: Absolutely, and happy to share. You know, it is one of the things about the United Way and that connection and what we’ve been going through. It all ties together nicely. And if you told me that we’d be sitting here 15 years, or however many years later, having this conversation, I would have been surprised.

Our business is managing travel for corporations and providing vacation travel service booking services for individuals.

We had our best year yet in 2019. We had six years of straight growth. We just got listed in the top 50 travel management company organizations, basically, in the industry. We were all high fives and had a great time. And like a lot of people, all of a sudden, we went from having everything was great and then COVID hits. I remember right where I was when I saw Neil Armstrong land on the moon and right where I was when the planes crashed into the buildings on 9/11. And I remember right where I was when somebody said, “Hey, man, there’s this flu thing and it seems to be kind of a big deal.” 

Our business went from 150 miles an hour to zero in two weeks — two weeks. So all of a sudden we had 75, 78 people that were affiliated with our organization. We literally went down to 17. The worst part of running the company is having to tell people they no longer have a job. And while everybody understood, it was horrible.

Over the last year-and-a-half, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the United Way and how  there were some analogies between our business and the help that has been provided by United Way agencies to our staff now who we’ve brought back, and those we, unfortunately, couldn’t.
And I know that those people are getting support and getting help from the United Way agencies. And that, to me, is one of the small silver linings of all of this. There are places for people to go to get assistance and it’s local, and they’re well-established organizations and they are being supported continually by the United Way.

[00:06:42] Jane: Well, you know, it’s interesting you say that because I was talking with another business owner and he told me that he was giving out United Way brochures, not for the campaign, but for partner agency services for his staff,

[00:07:58] Alex: Everybody needs help. I guarantee you if you sit in a room and you look to your left, and you look to your right, one of those two people’s probably gotten services from United Way agencies.

I’m happy to say that that this year we did a United Way campaign and we have brought back about 74% of our employees. We’re in a financial position, fortunately, to be able to do that. And so we were able to do a campaign this year, we got about 45% of our folks participating. I’m touched by that. In the past, we’ve had good campaign years, and we’ve had bad campaign years. But I’ve always been touched and reminded of how important giving people the opportunity to give back is.

For companies that don’t run campaigns, they say, “Oh, you know, I put enough on my employees already. I don’t want to put another thing on them.” And they miss the point. The point is if you give them the opportunity, I guarantee you’ll be surprised. They’re going to step up into the void and do things, and go above and beyond to give more of themselves, more of their time, and more of their money than you could ever imagine. And that’s a powerful

[00:15:07] Jane: Well, let me plug a couple of services available for United Way. One is that anybody can go to tauw.org/campaignHQ to get workplace campaign ideas. Now, Alex, if we were talking with a group of entrepreneurs like yourself and you were to ask them to be involved, could you give them a little bit about why you live united? 

[00:16:15] Alex: The Tulsa Area United Way makes a difference. And, as I mentioned earlier, it’s wildly efficient and effective in getting money out into the communities in which we live and work. I  guarantee you that there are people in your organization that either have or should take advantage of the services that are being supported by the Tulsa Area United Way.

I think we all have employees who were struggling in the pandemic. And a lot of people who never looked for help in the mental health area, are now looking to United Way agencies for that help. doing it in the United way, provide those services that are very impactful.  And so those are the things that make a difference and why it’s obvious that this is what we should all do with our money — give to the United Way today and live united.

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