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DTE Energy seeks to boost Detroit-area volunteerism with re-energized program

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If there’s anything that has the power to turn Detroit into the city success story it is working to be, it is the power of numbers.

The power of individuals who care. The power of companies that invest their skilled workforces into the community. The power of foundations investing their money into people and programs that fuel real growth.

DTE Energy Foundation President Faye Nelson talks about the financial investments the Foundation will make in volunteerism efforts at DTE Energy. Photo: Paul Engstrom

DTE Energy Foundation President Faye Nelson talks about the financial investments the Foundation will make in volunteerism efforts at DTE Energy. Photo: Paul Engstrom

That is why it is exciting to see examples of how businesses are reinvigorating their commitment to Detroit, its neighborhoods and its potential. One of those leaders in volunteer development is Detroit-based DTE Energy. Recently, DTE Energy decided to enhance its volunteer program in a way that has real potential to help the city in ways that are both large and small.

And it’s the small efforts – the little steps that truly add up to something great – that can boost an effort from nice to impressive. Every person via this super-sized #DTECares effort will be empowered to take what matters to them most and get it on the company’s radar, to get it some funding and to get it noticed for making real change within the city’s 140 square miles. (Note: The volunteer program impacts all of Michigan and anywhere DTE Energy serves. Detroit is one of the main focuses.)

The program is called “DTE Energy Care Force.” Along with its spunky new logo, the company and the DTE Foundation are retooling its longtime volunteer efforts. The goal is to increase support for the causes employees care about – big and little. Employees will have additional help in the process via an enhanced website, a mobile site, lots of communication and a healthy dose of enthusiasm from everyone in the company from the people who repair the lines to the head honchos.

Over the past decades, DTE has offered an estimated 2,000 volunteer opportunities and supported more than 200 nonprofits annually throughout Michigan. This enhanced program seeks to grow those opportunities, company officials explained this week during a company rally to introduce the program.

Mark Stiers, president and COO of DTE Gas, talks about the company's enhanced volunteer program with television personality Roop Raj. Photo: Paul Engstrom

Mark Stiers, president and COO of DTE Gas, talks about the company’s enhanced volunteer program with television personality Roop Raj. Photo: Paul Engstrom

“Our success in volunteering begins and ends with you,” Mark Stiers, president and COO of DTE Gas, told the more than 100-plus company employees who had gathered for a lunchtime event hosted by television personality Roop Raj Thursday at the company’s Detroit headquarters.

Stiers, who is known as the company’s “executive champion” when it comes to volunteering, said he loves to see people follow their passions in terms of what volunteer opportunities they find. He said DTE wants to boost that engagement in Detroit and to give those go-getters the support they need mentally, physically and financially, to follow through on their efforts.

“It’s about accelerating our volunteer efforts,” Stiers said afterward. “We want to keep going with our current efforts but also come up with new ones. It’s great from a company perspective.”

So longtime partners like the American Red Cross and Meals on Wheels will still feel the DTE love. But now, it will be easier for people to get the spotlight on new causes, to gain attention for their favorite charities.

Most importantly, DTE is rolling out an aspect that will allow non-profit organizations to reach out to DTE’s massive workforce to get specific help in lots of areas. Need help with accounting at your startup charity? DTE has someone in its finance department that likely could lend a calculator to your cause. Need an answer to a tricky HR question? Yup, someone from DTE has seen that one before and could suggest a solution your 501(c)3 might try. They call it “skill-based volunteer opportunities.” I call it genius.

DTE Energy volunteers discuss their efforts at a Thursday pep rally at the company's Detroit headquarters. Photo: Paul Engstrom

DTE Energy volunteers discuss their efforts at a Thursday pep rally at the company’s Detroit headquarters. Photo: Paul Engstrom

In other words – HEY! YOU! DETROIT NON-PROFIT! Need some help? DTE will connect you with someone within its staff who is an expert in whatever is bugging, troubling or concerning you. Or if you need feet on the street to get the word out. Or if you want more volunteers. Or if you just want to say, “Hi!” and hang out. DTE is your go-to call.

“Our goal is to bring greater visibility to the causes employees care about and shed light on the impact DTE Energy and employees have in the communities where we live and serve,” said DTE Communications Specialist Annie O’Dell. “Employee and community engagement are the key drivers of this program.”

Why do this now? Well, of course, it’s because in part DTE sees Detroit every day. The company is in the heart of the city, and its employees know the region well. But volunteerism is part of the company’s infrastructure from the start, officials said. And they know there is not only a good business case for it, there is a deep need within individuals who work there to make sure their hands, hearts and minds are engaged in city revitalization.

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