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Why I Give: Leanne Posko

April 10, 2013

 “Why I Give” features voices from our community of givers about the importance of philanthropy in our lives and in our communities

Leanne Posko, Senior Manager, Community Affairs, Capital One

Leanne Posko

1.     What is Capital One’s philosophy on giving?

At Capital One, we have a long-term commitment to strengthening and adding value to the communities in which we live and work. We take a holistic approach, which we call “Investing for Good,” to community involvement that includes financial support, but also volunteerism, pro bono service and thought leadership – for us it’s about providing a system of wrap-around support for a community or an issue.

As part of our “Investing for Good” strategy, we focus our community investment activities in four areas that are important building blocks of economic opportunity: affordable housing, small business and workforce development, financial literacy, and, of course, education.

2.     Education is a key component of Capital One’s giving strategy. Why is this cause so important to you?

Capital One believes that public/private partnerships that support education are not only good for our children but are vital to the continuing economic health of our communities. This is why we invest in efforts that expand educational opportunities for youth from pre-school through college and help young people to develop a life-long love of learning.

3.     Why is Prince George’s County so important to your giving strategy?

Where places of need intersect with our places of business, it is a priority for us to devote resources to help meet those needs. Engaged, committed and results-oriented partners are vital in truly making impacts in the community, and we have found just such partners in Prince George’s County.

Among other initiatives, we have partnered with Prince George’s County Public Schools to bring digital technology into students’ existing financial curriculum.

In Parkdale High School in Riverdale, we have opened a student-run branch that enables students to learn banking and money management firsthand, which not only exposes them to career options early on, but also makes them well-rounded and attractive college candidates.

And, in partnership with Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, we’ve recently announced the plans to build Finance Park, a new 14,000-square-foot financial literacy center that will be located on the campus of Gholson Middle School in Landover, and will bring in-depth, hands-on financial literacy education to more than 9,000 local middle school students in Prince George’s County and the Greater Washington region each year.

We have an extensive network of supportive partners, who are all working toward a mutual goal – the future success of the young people who live and learn in Prince George’s County.

4.     Can you speak to your relationship with The Community Foundation, and why it’s important for businesses to partner with the nonprofit sector?

Capital One has been a partner of The Community Foundation for almost a decade. We have recently invested in their partnership with Prince George’s County Public Schools to help the broader Prince George’s community to better understand their public school system – things like the benefits and outcomes of parent engagement and available community supports. We see CFNCR as a leader in educating the philanthropic community on critical issues in the region, and on bringing together thought leaders and key stakeholders to assist with creating change.

Relationships with the nonprofit sector help business to deepen their local roots and gain a greater understanding of the community and its needs, while offering a vehicle through which both parties can effect positive change. Nonprofits bring the issue expertise, and businesses bring skills and much-needed resources to help solve problems.

5.     What advice do you have for other donors who are considering investing in education initiatives in our region?

The most important thing is to recognize that we can all play a role in supporting local education initiatives – it’s a matter of finding what resources and skills a particular organization or company can bring to the table.

For example, as Greater Washington’s hometown bank, Capital One has a particular expertise around financial literacy and an understanding of how financial education is fundamental to a well-rounded educational experience, so many of our partnerships have financial literacy as a cornerstone.

It’s also vital to remember is that it’s not all about the dollars. Volunteerism, thought-leadership and skills-based service are all crucial parts of the equation.

6.     What has surprised you most in doing this type of philanthropic work?

I’m most surprised by the creativity of the programs that are serving people in our communities and the deep commitment of the people doing the work. I’m often nearly brought to tears listening to the employees of nonprofits talk about how much they do and how far they go to make sure their clients have what they need. It’s incredibly humbling.

7.     On a personal level, how did you get involved with this work and what is your favorite part about being a donor?

I was raised at a very early age to “give back.” My father, who was a payroll master for a glass container corporation by day, transformed every night when he came home from his nine to five job. He’d eat dinner and then head to the local YMCA to teach kids how to play basketball. He did this nearly every night of the week for as many years as I can remember as I was growing up.  He came alive on the basketball court working with kids who came from incredibly challenging circumstances, teaching them discipline, patience, leadership and kindness as well as the art of the game of hoops. As soon as I was old enough to understand where he went every night, I’d tag along.  I would help him at the gym by doing anything that I could – retrieve balls, carry water or hand out practice shirts. And, we’d clean up together when it was all over. I learned everything I needed to know about volunteering, helping others and sharing time and talent from those evenings with my dad at the basketball courts.

I spent the first 20 years of my career working in nonprofit organizations that made a significant difference in people’s lives – workforce development programs for adults with disabilities, mentoring programs for at risk city youth, fundraising for scholarships so that individuals who couldn’t afford college could get a post-secondary education. All of this work had a common thread – to help and support others so that they could achieve their greatest potential. And now at Capital One, I am blessed to be able to stay true to my commitment to helping others to succeed. Whether investing my time and talent is direct and hands on at an individual level, or those investments are done on a broader scale, as it is through my work at Capital One, the opportunity to support and invest in people and organizations that truly change people’s lives is the reason I love doing what I do. One of my favorite quotes is by Margaret Mead whose words I carry in my wallet to remind me of the power of giving back – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This post is a component of our “Connecting Youth to Opportunity” campaign, a region-wide effort to stop the dropout crisis and reconnect young people with education and career opportunities. Read more here.

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