Creating an awesome work environment Giving back to the communities in which we live and work By Susie McCormick June 13, 2024

Madison Office Supports Charities With ‘Nominate a Nonprofit’

Nelnet’s core value of giving back to the communities where we live and work is one that Nelnet associates everywhere share. Each of our locations has autonomy in deciding how to use a charitable contribution budget that is based on the number of associates reporting to the location. This budget is set by the Nelnet Foundation, which provides the funds. All of the Charitable Contribution Committees (CCCs) meet and share ideas.

In Madison, Wisc., CCC Chair Julie Nicodemus was inspired by Dena Boyd, her counterpart in the Centennial, Colo., office. Toward the end of 2022, the Centennial location had money remaining in their budget. Boyd put out an email to Centennial associates, asking them to nominate a local 501(c)(3) that they’d like to see receive a contribution from Nelnet using their CCC funds.

How the Program Works

Beginning in 2023, Nicodemus also wanted to invite associates to nominate their favorite organizations for Nelnet donations. She wanted to see this happen on a regular basis. She decided to email Madison associates each quarter, inviting them to nominate a 501(c)(3) that aligned with the CCC’s focus areas:

  • Education. Fund educational access for all ages or activities/organizations that enhance educational attainment. Examples include scholarships, reading mentors, summer enrichment, etc.
  • Children. Fund services that provide children with support with basic needs and structure so they are more likely to stay in school. Examples include after-school and backpack programs.
  • Community. Fund programs that meet local community priorities and needs.
  • Wellness. Fund and encourage participation in events that support wellness and make our community better.
  • Associates. Supports organizations that Nelnet associates are passionate about and make our community better.

The submitted organizations that meet at least one of the Madison CCC’s focus areas and must also align with one of the charitable priorities of the Nelnet Foundation: education, scholarships, and youth programs that support our communities.

Each quarter, Nicodemus invites all associates with a submitted eligible nomination to a Spin the Wheel virtual event, where four charities are randomly selected. Winners of the selected charities are asked to briefly share with others on the call what the organization does and why it’s meaningful to them. The winners also need to follow up with the charity, asking them to provide an invoice and W-9. Charities selected in one year aren’t eligible to win until a quarter of the following calendar year. Associates may nominate one charity per quarter, and there are no limits to the number of times an associate can win.

Benefits of ‘Nominate a Nonprofit’

What’s not to like? There have been between five and 12 nominations each quarter, so the odds of winning are relatively high. Nicodemus said associate feedback on the program has been positive. Nelnet associates are passionate about our core value of giving back to the communities where we live and work. Where there’s an opportunity to receive money from your employer to give to an organization you’re passionate about—and an element of chance to have your nomination selected—it’s a win-win for everyone involved. The charities are the greatest winners, with funds going to organizations that support key focus areas for Nelnet Foundation.

Nelnet has had an office in Madison since Great Lakes was acquired in 2018. While giving back through volunteering has always been a part of the local office culture, ‘Nominate a Nonprofit’ offers another way for additional local charities in Madison to learn more about Nelnet and the organization’s commitment to giving back through actions and resources.

Associates Share What the Program Means

Software Engineer Ron Osuocha said life has been too busy for him to volunteer at Maydm as much as he’d like in the past two years, but it hasn’t stopped him from trying to support them through the Nominate a Nonprofit Spin the Wheel program. The organization provides girls and youth of color in grades 6-12 with the skills, experiences, and connections to pursue careers in and change the face of STEM. Osuocha was happy to win and have the organization receive Nelnet’s contribution.

Do I feel heard by and prouder to work for a company actively supporting our local communities in this way? Do I get to champion and grow support for the marginalized and/or underrepresented? Do I get to exemplify giving back or paying it forward for my growing guy? Check, check, and check!

Ron Osuocha

Madison associate Ronda Reeder is Ed Compliance Administrator for Nelnet Diversified Services. Several years ago, she volunteered through Great Lakes for Operation Fresh Start (OFS). “I found their mission to be amazing: To give young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 an opportunity to earn their high school diploma or equivalent, receive free driver’s lessons, work in the community, and even get ongoing secondary education counseling.” Reeder adds, “Most of these young adults have fallen through the cracks and OFS gives them a safe place to find their new path.”

Reeder nominated OFS to receive funds through the Nominate a Nonprofit program and won. Reeder said, “It meant the world to me to have Nelnet contribute to OFS to assist in their mission. The donation made me feel as if Nelnet were right in my community making it a better place for all.”

While the spin of the wheel may have declared Osuocha and Reeder quarterly winners, the real winners are Maydmn, OFS, and other charities like them that serve the Madison community.


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Susie McCormick

Senior Corporate Communications Writer