Be ‘thoughtful’ about how and who you give to
Kim Greene speaks candidly about her passion for United Way. She says if it hadn’t been for the nation’s biggest supporter of local communities, her career wouldn’t be the same.
Greene is the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Southern Company Gas, the leading natural gas company in the industry with more than 4.2 million utility customers in Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia. Greene first worked at Southern Company nearly three decades ago in Birmingham, Alabama.
Early on in her first job as a junior engineer with Southern Company, Greene experienced the importance of philanthropy. The company’s commitment to the communities they serve made a lasting impression on her, particularly through the work they did with the United Way. She got involved with a United Way-led program in Birmingham that trained people to join nonprofit boards in their communities — similar to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Volunteer Involvement Program. After passing through the program, she joined the Alabama Kidney Foundation board. She participated in planning for United Way campaigns her first year at Southern Company, and she was vice-chair and chairman of those campaigns in the following two years, respectively.
Greene, a member of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Tocqueville Society, grew up in a family that donated regularly to local nonprofit organizations. She said her mom would prepare extra sandwiches daily, and her father would carry them in his lunch pail to hand out to the local homeless community. She said her father would also routinely offer rides to people as another way to serve.
Greene discussed during an Oct. 7 giving campaign launch at Southern Company Gas why she gives to United Way of Greater Atlanta as a way to give back to her community.
Why do you give to United Way?
Kim Greene: I believe in the United Way cause. United Way reaches needs and people that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. I think they do an outstanding job of assessing the needs of the community and assessing the agencies that provide the best support.
So, I believe, from a holistic perspective, if I really want to make the community better, I need to be thoughtful of the broad community instead of just those agencies or causes that I may be familiar with the most.
What was your introduction to philanthropy?
KG: I could go on and on. I think it’s kind of funny to talk about the stuff I did with my dad, but we were also involved in church activities, and we would work at food banks and soup kitchens, and [giving] was always something that growing up I was taught was important.
Why is it important for people to give back to their community?
KG: I really do believe it’s a privilege to have the jobs that we have, work for the great companies we do — we have terrific benefits — and I believe that to whom much is given, much is required. I believe it is a responsibility of corporations and their employees to give back to the communities they serve. If you think about it, it’s the right thing to do, but from a business perspective we want our communities to be better… a lot of times, families just need a little bridge or kickstart, and by keeping the communities healthier, it keeps our businesses healthier and it helps in economic development. There are many connections between the value of a strong community, and the ability to attract more businesses. I think it’s a symbiotic circle that is truly the responsibility of the business community to participate in.
What would you say about the culture of giving at Southern Company Gas?
KG: We are very focused on volunteerism in addition to monetary contributions. Southern Company Gas has a constant effort to get people involved in the community, whether it be getting a team together to work on a Habitat for Humanity House, or getting a team involved in a walkathon. Those kinds of events make our company stronger and our team stronger. It gives people time to build relationships with one another, and it accomplishes something really good for the community. The culture is steeped in the need for and benefits of volunteering.
For more information about United Way of Greater Atlanta and how to donate, visit unitedwayatlanta.org.
Kim Greene is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at Southern Company Gas and a member of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Tocqueville Society.