May 20, 2022

Protolabs Supports Communities Through Foundation, Employee Giving

By Protolabs

At Protolabs, we love giving back to our communities and have several corporate and employee programs that help further this mission. As a technology-enabled manufacturer, supporting STEM related programs and initiatives is important to us, and we’re proud to be able to do this through the Protolabs Foundation. In addition to the Foundation, we have a number of employee giving groups that coordinate monetary and donation drives throughout the year to give back to our local communities and the causes that matter most to our employees.

Cristo Rey Robotics
The Protolabs Foundation sponsored the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School robotics team as they competed in the Minnesota state tournament.

Empowering the Future through STEM Grants

The Protolabs Foundation was established by our founder, Larry Lukis. Foundation funding takes a three-prong approach, with the largest funds granted through the Major Gifts: STEM program.

Once each year, the Protolabs Foundation Employee Committee meets to review funding request proposals for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) programs in the metro areas of cities where we have facilities: Minneapolis/St. Paul; Raleigh, N.C.; and Nashua, N.H. After determining finalists, committee members visit sites and meet with the various organizations. Afterward, they review, rank, and ultimately determine funding based on a number of factors including low-income and students of color reached; number of contact hours; alignment with K-12 academic standards; evidence of previous success or a high likelihood of success and sustainability; innovative, engaging, and focused program design; and level of support provided for families.

In 2022, the employee committee selected 17 grant recipients and administered $226,450 in funds. We were happy to be able to support a wide range of organizations committed to STEM advancement, such as schools, museums, preservation groups, leadership training programs, career pathway development, and other youth programs.

The Foundation is always looking for ways to make sure that we’re being as impactful as possible with our giving and we update the program as needed. For example, we recently adjusted our giving calendar to more closely reflect the budget planning timetable of the organizations we support. Previously, the call for proposals opened in spring, with grants awarded in late summer. Our updated timing will post the request for proposals link to our site in the fall, with applications reviewed and site visits taking place December through January, and grants distributed in March.

Lab students
We are especially committed to supporting K-12 academic programs through the Foundation’s STEM grant.

Employee Giving and Matching

In addition to the Employee Committee that helps administer STEM grants, the Foundation also offers several ways for employees to have an impact on causes that matter to them through the Foundation. Our matching gift program allows employees to support their community through monetary contributions that are matched by the Foundation. For employees that take more of a hands-on approach to community support, the Foundation also matches volunteer hours at $22 per hour, meaning that an employee can earn $22 for the organization for each hour spent volunteering.

Our final employee-influenced charitable giving opportunity through the Foundation is the Good Ideas program. This allows employees to nominate a charitable organization to receive a financial gift of $1,000. Employees can nominate any organization that is important to them, as long as it meets a few eligibility requirements including being a 501(c)(3) public charity, serving the community at large, and not providing any goods or services to Protolabs, Protolabs employees, or employees’ families in exchange for the financial contribution.

The Foundation reserves $25,000 annually for this grant, meaning up to 25 organizations are chosen. Similar to the STEM funding, this grant is overseen by the employee committee to determine recipients, and special consideration is given to local organizations, as well as the employees’ reasoning to nominating the organization and if it represents a cause that they are especially close to or affects them.

Earth Day volunteers
Protolabs' Green Team in action on Earth Day.

Employee Organized Giving

Beyond Foundation funding, we are always impressed with our various employee giving groups and the work they do throughout the year. The groups are entirely employee-organized and employee-run and hold several drives and fundraisers throughout the year. They’ve raised money through events such as an executive dunk tank, pumpkin carving contest, lip sync battle, bake sales, and raffles and supplies through donation drives for things like school supplies and work boots.

Every year the groups hold an adopt-a-family holiday gift giving drive and a food drive competition—complete with traveling trophy—among all our U.S. plants. Our Minnesota giving group raised more than $3,000 in 2021 (not including donated goods) for various local causes including veterans’ assistance, senior living, and children's advocacy groups.

 We’re proud to have the opportunity to support the future of the communities where our employees live and work through the Foundation and are always open to hearing from new local groups in need of funding. To learn more about the Foundation and the process for submitting a proposal for funding, check out the charitable giving page on our website.