By Kenzie Ferguson

A Delta Dental employee stands in front of boxes of food while volunteering at a food bank
A Delta Dental employee volunteers in her community

2020 will go down in most of our books as one of the most challenging, disruptive years that accelerated some activities and halted many more. As I look back on a historic year, I am thankful and proud to work for Delta Dental because of the focus and care we showed for our providers, employees, customers and communities. We rolled out an interest-free loan program for our providers, gave our customers premium relief, offered employees emergency time off and provided much-needed funding to our communities. In 2020, we delivered on our aim to build caring, resilient communities. Here are some of the ways the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation stepped up last year.

Foundation Giving

Normally, our Foundation gives grants dedicated to support access to oral health care or promote oral health education and research. But as our nonprofit partners were struggling to keep their doors open and continue providing vital services to their communities, we knew we needed a different approach.

In total, we have given more than $15 million to organizations to support COVID-19 relief – all of it unrestricted, meaning the grantees could determine how best to use the funds to address their most pressing needs. That total includes:

  • $9.5 million to health centers providing services to vulnerable populations
  • $4 million to fight food insecurity with grants to more than 40 food banks and Meals on Wheels programs across our enterprise
  • $1.8 million in other community giving

We gave an additional $2 million to support scholarships, promote racial justice and bolster disaster preparedness. Here is a small sampling of how the rest of our funding made a difference in 2020.

Taking a stand for racial equity

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the demonstrations and unrest that followed, we took action to deepen our commitment to equity. We made donations to the NAACP empowerment funds and the Hidden Genius project, but we know that doesn’t even scratch the surface. I am very cognizant that these issues run deeper and cannot merely be fixed by writing a check. We accelerated our review of our processes, partners, scholarship recipients and funding criteria. We still have work to do in 2021 and beyond, but we have begun essential and frank conversations about how we can participate in the dismantling of racist systems in our corner of the world.

Community Councils

Delta Dental has four employee-led community councils at each of our office locations: San Francisco Bay Area (California); West (Rancho Cordova, California); Mid Atlantic (Pennsylvania); and South (Georgia). These groups give out smaller grant amounts to causes and events that our employees are passionate about. In 2020, the variety of causes and issues we funded through our community councils was incredible and a testament to our employees’ passion for social justice, food insecurity, education and chronic disease research. Nonprofits supporting each of those areas and several others received a total of roughly $1.1 million.

Supporting vulnerable populations and disaster relief

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we found ways to support populations like our Military and Veterans. This year, we awarded nearly $500,000 to organizations specifically supporting military members, Veterans and their families, including two employee-led fundraising efforts for Sneakers for Soldiers and Carry the Load.

We also continued our partnership with the Red Cross, matching more than $16,000 to disaster relief and volunteering nearly 600 hours to support Code4Good, Missing Maps and other disaster preparedness efforts during our Employee Month of Service in September.

Employee engagement

Service is a core value at Delta Dental, and we struggled with how to engage employees in volunteerism and philanthropy amid shelter in place and the understandable economic anxiety caused by the pandemic.

We devised virtual opportunities that allowed our employees to participate in walks, webinars, letter writing or other activities that they could do from home—and with their families. The approach paid off. Employees volunteered nearly 6,000 hours and donated more than $250,000 with nearly $300,000 in matching funds to roughly 800 different causes that span animal welfare, conservation, chronic diseases and supporting the troops. Our employees also assembled and helped distribute nearly 15,000 dental kits to help those in need.

We begin a new year still confronting many of the challenges of the last one, and we remain committed to supporting our partners, communities, providers, customers and each other no matter what lies ahead.