Building on a long history of giving and volunteering

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Volunteerism is a great way for businesses to give back positively and impact their communities. DTE Energy has a long history of giving and volunteering. Last year DTE kicked off a new company‑wide volunteer initiative called Care Force, and with that expanded its commitment to the communities they serve by dedicating the entire month of August to volunteerism.

I was able to talk with Mark Stiers, the President and Chief Operating Officer of DTE Gas and the Executive Champion of this year’s DTE volunteerism initiative to tell us more about DTE’s month of caring and why volunteerism is so important to DTE.

David Lingholm:  [00:05] Welcome to another episode of the “Empowering Michigan” podcast. I’m your host, Dave Lingholm.

[00:10] Volunteerism is a great way for businesses to give back positively and impact their communities. DTE Energy has a long history of giving and volunteering. Last year DTE kicked off a new company‑wide volunteer initiative called Care Force, and with that expanded its commitment to the communities they serve by dedicating the entire month of August to volunteerism.

[00:33] I’m joined today by Mark Stiers, the President and Chief Operating Officer of DTE Gas and the Executive Champion of this year’s DTE volunteerism initiative to tell us more about DTE’s month of caring and why volunteerism is so important to DTE.

[00:49] Thanks for joining me today, Mark. I really appreciate it.

Mark Stiers:  [00:51] Dave, thanks for having me.

[00:52] David: Let’s jump right in. What is DTE Energy’s month of caring?

[00:57] Mark: Month of Caring is really our opportunity throughout the year, one time, to intensify our volunteerism efforts. We focus on the month of August. We create an ambassador program for all the organizations within DTE Energy, and have those ambassadors shepherd their organizations, if you will, into various events.

[01:20] Last year was a resounding success. We had 1,500 volunteers through the month of August donate almost 7,000 hours, impacting 90‑plus nonprofit organizations.

[01:34] This year we’re looking to up our game, as you would expect. We expect to see more than 2,000 of those red Care Force T‑shirts out helping the communities where we live and serve.

[01:46] David: You’re not just talking the talk. You’re walking the walk. You’ve already volunteered this month, yourself.

[01:53] Mark: The Gas organization has a couple different events, a few behind us, a couple yet ahead of us in the month of August.

[02:02] Last week we were in Mount Pleasant. We helped the Isabella County Child Advocacy organization paint the interior of the new building they moved into, which was fun, worthwhile. I’m not a very good painter. I realize that, but I think we did a pretty good job for them.

[02:21] David: It’s a good chance for some skill building there. [laughs]

[02:24] Mark: Exactly.

[02:25] David: What are some other examples of the volunteer projects that DTE employees will be doing around the state this year?

[02:32] Mark: It really runs the gamut. It’s preparing and serving food at numerous food banks. It’s mentoring, tutoring young children, building homes through Habitat Humanity, cleaning up parks, doing some environmental work, planting trees, etc.

[02:48] I even hear that there’s a group that is going to be kayaking around Belle Isle, helping to clean up the waters.

[02:55] David: That’s one that I actually wish I would have heard about sooner. I would have jumped right in.

[02:59] Mark: That sounds like a good one.

[03:01] David: One thing that also comes to bear this month is this idea of skills‑based volunteering. It’s something that is really interesting, especially when we were talking about it before I pressed record.

[03:13] Can you tell me a little bit more about what skills‑based volunteering is and why this is an important way for the company to be giving back?

[03:21] Mark: Over the years, as we’ve upped our game around volunteerism, we have seen an opportunity within these nonprofit organizations to bring skill sets that aren’t necessarily in alignment, or they’re ancillary, maybe is best put, to the mission of those nonprofits.

[03:42] A business case acumen, understanding project management, understanding continuous improvement and where standard work instructions may help them become more efficient in delivering on their mission.

[03:57] A great example is our continuous improvement team, our CISG team, recently helped Humble Design create a defined process, a standard work instructions that will allow them to carry their mission out, not only here in Michigan, but to replicate it elsewhere, so really impactful.

[04:19] Our engineers, our accountants, our project management personnel could bring those same very specified skill sets to bear for nonprofits in a very big and helpful way.

[04:35] David: The next question that pops into my head is why is volunteerism so important for DTE? How does it benefit the company culture or enhance the company culture?

[04:48] Mark: The second half of our aspiration is to impact the communities where we live and serve, a force for good and prosperity in the communities where we live and serve. Volunteerism has to be part of that.

[05:04] It’s not just an opportunity for us. It’s a responsibility as a large organization operating in the communities that we do.

[05:13] We do reap a benefit from that, quite frankly. Healthy communities breed healthy businesses, breed healthy financial results. It’s important, though, and it’s impactful from an individual perspective and from a team perspective to be able to do that as part of DTE Energy.

[05:30] David: One final question. One thing that’s unique to DTE, I’m sure a few other companies do it, the DTE employees are given incentives to help earn funds for nonprofits throughout the year through their volunteerism efforts.

[05:46] It’s not just concentrated in one month. It extends that throughout the year.

[05:52] Mark: We have so many employees that on their own time and with their own resources are impactful for nonprofits within their communities. We want to support that.

[06:05] We do that through the DTE Energy Foundation through two programs, Dollars for Doers and the McCarthy Awards, each allowing the employee to submit their time, and with that then be awarded financially. That can be, again, in turn provided to the nonprofit.

[06:25] If you’re working 20 hours for the nonprofit, make a Dollars for Doers application. If you’re working 40 hours for the nonprofit, make sure you’re making a submission for that nonprofit to benefit by the McCarthy Awards.

[06:36] It is a great program, and it’s really supportive of the good work that our employees do.

[06:42] [background music]

[06:43] David: Thank you very much for joining me today, Mark. I really appreciate your time.

[06:46] Mark: Dave, thank you very much.