Wells Fargo traces the roots of its philanthropic giving and volunteerism all the way back to the bank’s founding year, 1852, according to Jonathan Weedman, who has served as senior vice president for the Wells Fargo Foundation since 1996.


The bank has been giving to and volunteering with Southern California nonprofits since the 1980s, when it expanded its reach into the Golden State through its buyout of Crocker National Bank. In 2014 alone, Wells Fargo gave more than $24.3 million in grants to Los Angeles and Orange County nonprofits, and its employees volunteered more than 35,000 hours of their time for local causes.

As a boardmember of the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, Ben Alvarado, president of Wells Fargo’s Southern California region, is closely involved with philanthropic efforts benefiting Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. He is pictured with Joyce Volsch, Miller Children’s vice president of patient care services. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


As the second largest city in Los Angeles County, with large hospitals, arts organizations, educational institutions and thousands of nonprofit groups, Long Beach is a point of focus for Wells Fargo’s charitable efforts and contributions.


“Wells Fargo really believes that it can only be successful if our communities are successful,” Weedman told the Business Journal. “That is why we invest so much in terms of our philanthropic commitment, volunteerism, board service and our community support campaign.”


Wells Fargo’s primary areas of focus for giving are education, economic development and jobs, small business, affordable housing, human and social services, health care, the environment and the arts. Additionally, the foundation seeks to support nonprofits and organizations that assist underserved or low-income communities.


An Active Charitable Presence


Wells Fargo employees donate their own time and financial resources to making their communities, including Long Beach, better places. This company emphasis is part of its holistic philosophy towards philanthropy, Weedman said.


“It’s easy to write a check to a nonprofit organization,” he said. While grants are certainly a focus for the bank, Wells Fargo’s commitment to the communities it serves is more visible through its team members’ involvement with local nonprofits, whether it’s through serving on nonprofit boards, attending special events for charitable causes, or volunteering.


Wells Fargo employees sit on boards for 177 Southern California nonprofit organizations, according to Weedman. “I don’t know that any other corporation can make that claim,” he said. The bank gives every employee two workdays off per year to spend volunteering, he noted.


“Participating in the community is not an afterthought for team members of Wells Fargo; it is part of how we run our business,” Ben Alvarado, president of Wells Fargo’s Southern California region, told the Business Journal via e-mail. Alvarado serves on the board of directors for the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, which supports MemorialCare Health System’s Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.


Alvarado is particularly involved with Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital. Every year, he participates in the hospital’s Tour of Long Beach, a cycling event to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. “Riding in the race for the cause of helping local kids fight cancer is a win-win for me,” he said. “Each year I am honored to be able to meet some of the patients at Miller and it really grounds me, helping me to see that being part of the community truly makes a stronger community.” Alvarado also participates in the tricycle race between doctors, patients and others that kicks off the Tour of Long Beach, and said it is one of his favorite days of the year.


Ann Penn, vice president of media relations and corporate communications for Wells Fargo, has served on the board of directors for Long Beach’s Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) for two years. “It is a dream come true to serve on the board of directors representing Wells Fargo, promoting not only the arts and arts education, which are causes close to my heart, but also diversity and inclusion,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Business Journal. “I was thrilled to be a part of the board that passed the resolution to include Chicano art in the Museum’s exhibitions and programming,” she noted.

Ann Penn, vice president of media relations and corporate communications for Wells Fargo, has been a boardmember for the Museum of Latin American Art since 2013. Behind her is “The Rhino,” a sculpture by William Pérez on permanent display at the museum. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


“It is a very exciting time at the museum and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it,” Penn continued. “Wells Fargo was the title sponsor of the blockbuster [exhibit] ‘Frida Kahlo, Her Photos’ last year. And I’ll be able to take part in the 20th anniversary festivities next year.”


Alvarado pointed out that Wells Fargo staffers also give their time to the Long Beach community by holding classes to educate local residents about personal finance. This year, more than 40 such classes have been held, benefiting more than 500 Long Beach locals.


Wells Fargo’s Long Beach Green Team, committed to environmental initiatives, has about 20 members, according to a Wells Fargo spokesperson. The group regularly volunteers with Friends of Bixby Park to clean up the park, which is located in Long Beach’s 2nd District. They also participate in planting events there, and provided a $3,000 grant for a park bench. The Green team has also worked with the nonprofit GRID Alternatives to install solar panels for low-income families at two Long Beach homes, and has volunteered with Long Beach Organic at community gardens.


Through its annual community support campaign, which takes place each September, Wells Fargo employees donate their own funds to nonprofit organizations. In 2014, Wells Fargo employees raised a total of $7.4 million for nonprofit organizations and schools in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. This year, they raised $8,275,085, Weedman said. Of that total, $75,000 was raised for Long Beach nonprofits, according to Alvarado.


“We have had, for 10 years in a row, the largest community support campaign of any company in Southern California and nationally, as ranked by United Way,” Weedman said.


Wells Fargo Foundation


The Wells Fargo Foundation supports many Long Beach philanthropic organizations and causes through grants. In addition to supporting local health care through work with Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, the foundation also gave a grant to Community Hospital Long Beach last year, Weedman noted.


Nonprofit organizations providing educational programs to local youth are also a point of focus for Wells Fargo in Long Beach, Weedman said. “For example, we support the Camp Fire Long Beach Area Council, a very important nonprofit that helps educate our youth,” he said. “We have been supporters of the Aquarium of the Pacific for their educational outreach programs over the years. . . . We have supported the Long Beach Symphony for many years for their K-12 educational outreach and programs.” Wells Fargo has also provided support to the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach and MoLAA for educational youth programs, he added.


“I have done this work for almost 20 years,” Weedman said. “What I have learned is that, if you can get our kids on the right path, if you can educate them and give them opportunities and teach them to become good citizens and good human beings, then you have solved a lot of the world’s problems. Education is so critical.”


The Wells Fargo Foundation has provided support to several major Long Beach arts institutions over the years, including the Long Beach Symphony, Long Beach Opera, the Museum of Latin American Art, and others. “One in seven jobs in Los Angeles County in some way touches or supports the arts. From an economic standpoint, it is a very powerful and very meaningful area for us to invest,” Weedman said.


He pointed out that these arts organizations often have educational programs for children. “It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that an arts education and arts experience, whether it is through visual, music, dance, theater, improves children’s academic performance,” Weedman said. “So providing those opportunities to young children is very meaningful to us.”


Wells Fargo also supports Long Beach philanthropic organizations by attending and awarding grants for their special events, such as fundraising galas, dinners, walks and festivals. For many years, Wells Fargo sponsored one of the largest events in the city, Long Beach Pride, and has even participated by including one of its signature stage coaches in the event’s parade. “It is important for us to show up in a public way, in a visible way, to support these organizations and their work,” Weedman said.


“I think Wells Fargo’s investment in community is unmatched; it’s peerless,” Weedman said. “You never see a thriving business in a hurting community, and that’s why we take it so seriously.”


In respect to Wells Fargo’s commitment to Long Beach, Alvarado reflected, “Long Beach is part of Wells Fargo, and Wells Fargo is part of Long Beach.”