A Little Competition Never Hurts: How Chicago Tech Companies Give to STEM Education

Tech giving has been on the rise in Chicago, as this sector continues to ramp up its presence in the Windy City and engage more in the local philanthropy scene. Not surprisingly, education has been the No. 1 issue among tech company funders in the city. Education giving has taken many forms here, even branching out to touch on topics like financial literacy and workforce development. But STEM education is often at the heart of giving by tech funders, and Chicago groups are no exception.

The most interesting STEM collaboration among tech companies that we’ve heard about lately is Techweek Gives. This is a first-of-its-kind campaign with a $1 million goal to support STEM efforts in Chicago. And the big idea, here, is to get local companies to either donate money, goods or volunteer hours during a 90-day period. What’s impressive about this effort is the high local interest it’s generated. Within just 10 days of the campaign being launched in March, at least 51 tech companies committed to the cause.

“In 2017, Techweek is committed to helping high-growth companies solve their toughest problems, including talent acquisition. That’s why we are thrilled to announce the launch of this campaign, which supports a new generation of tech talent from local and diverse communities,” Amanda Signorelli, CEO of Techweek, said in a press release. “We have an ambitious goal to reach, but we know Chicago’s tech community has the resources and drive to make it happen.”

So, who’s in the mix so far?

Some of the notable names include local companies like Acuity, CDW, and the Pritzker Group, as well as national giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Lyft. Lots of small, lesser-known tech brands have also gotten their foot in the door with STEM giving, as well, with this high-profile campaign. There’s even a competition component to this campaign, since the company that contributes the most by the final day of Techweek Chicago will be honored as the “Impact Organization of the Year.” This is the kind of do-gooder PR that tech companies need in a competitive economy, so there’s a lot of incentive to get involved now and in a big way.

Local nonprofits like Leave No Veteran Behind, Lumity, and CodeNow have benefitted the most from Chicago’s growing tech sector. But while these tech companies have a lot of money to give, they have notoriously struggled with how to give it in an easy, efficient, and meaningful way.

By working with the mobile giving platform uBack and the award-winning PR firm Walker Sands Communications, campaigns like this are making it easier than ever for tech companies to give back. Tech companies are quite comfortable with data tracking and analytics-driven results, so this type of giving venue is appealing. Even after Techweek Gives is over, the analytics generated will help tech companies better communicate their impact in the community, perhaps even standing out as local heroes.

Thus far, Chicago’s tech companies seem to be most interested in bringing students into the tech workforce. And tech giving trends have been hyper-local too. You can follow the Techweek Gives Leaderboard to see which companies are giving back the most and also to compare how the leaders are splitting up their efforts between donations, goods, and volunteer hours.