ORNL: Employee-led giving at ORNL nets $944,000 for area nonprofits

Employees of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory gave nearly $800,000 to local nonprofits through the lab’s employee giving programs in 2021. ORNL’s managing contractor, UT-Battelle, provided an additional $144,000 in corporate contributions.

These contributions from ORNL’s employees benefit 169 area and regional nonprofits. Just a few of the organizations receiving funds are Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, United Way, Isaiah 117 House, CASA of the Tennessee Heartland, Ronald McDonald House Charities, YoSTEM, Oak Ridge Computer Science Girls and the Boys and Girls Club of Oak Ridge.

“Our giving programs are driven by our employees,” said ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia. “One of our core commitments as an employer is to give back to our communities, and the generosity of our employees — especially during the pandemic, with so many needs and challenges — is just exemplary. It is an honor to be a part of an organization so passionate about serving our neighbors.”

The largest of the programs, ORNL Gives, represents a new approach to the lab’s annual giving campaign that provides employees more flexibility in how they participate. In 2021, the lab’s administrative units, called directorates, chose the organizations they wanted to support and were given the opportunity to compete as teams for additional funds through challenges with other directorates. Participation in volunteer service and educational events also was rewarded with additional funds for a designated nonprofit.


Jeremy Busby, director of ORNL’s Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Division, served as co-chair of ORNL Gives, alongside Steve Ventura, associate general counsel. The pair helped plan the campaign, organize events and raise awareness of the benefits of the giving program to employees.

Busby said that staff members told him that they valued more options in giving, “which we’ve learned reflects a nationwide trend.” The changes to employee giving included making the payroll deduction process easier, connecting staff directly to nonprofits with volunteer needs and building in opportunities to engage together and give as a team.

“ORNL has been very fortunate and has had incredible support from the surrounding area. This is particularly true during the last two years during the pandemic,” Busby said. “There are many needs in the broader community and it’s important to give back. It’s very fulfilling to give time and resources to a good cause that makes an impact on our local community, especially as part of a team of friends and colleagues.”

The majority of ORNL staff members participated in local philanthropy through direct contributions or by donating their time through volunteer service in 2021. The other contributing programs include:

Matching Gifts Fund — ORNL matches employee contributions to 501(c)(3)s up to $500 with a $1,000 cap for each organization each year.

Team UT-Battelle — This volunteer service program connects ORNL employees with outreach and enrichment opportunities to benefit Oak Ridge, East Tennessee and nearby communities.

Disaster Relief — New in 2021, employees can contribute to specific disaster aid projects through funds hosted by the East Tennessee Foundation. Employees raised more than $8,000 and UT-Battelle donated $5,000 for Kentucky relief organizations in communities affected by tornadoes in December.

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