The CUNA Mutual Group Foundation celebrated 50 years of philanthropic giving in 2018 and is now poised to move forward with new leadership and a refined focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), announcing Alexzandra Shade as its new Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. She started her new job on February 11.
Founded on the philosophy of “people helping people,” the company enjoys a strong history of giving in support of the communities it serves and has increased its focus on DEI over the past three years, said Cedric Ellis, CUNA Mutual Group Foundation president, and executive vice president, chief enterprise services officer.
“We’ve begun filtering our corporate social responsibility work through a DEI lens, and we’re seeing positive and often unexpected outcomes in how we serve the non-profit community,” Ellis said in a statement. “Our company’s purpose is to help people achieve financial security, but without access to basics like food, affordable housing, and educational opportunities, people can’t feel financially secure. We seek to reduce educational and economic disparities and ultimately ensure a brighter financial future is accessible to all.”
The Foundation, now under the direction of Ellis and Angela Russell, who serves as Foundation vice president and as CUNA Mutual Group vice president of DEI, will more intentionally focus on supporting organizations that address and seek to solve educational, economic and racial disparities, according to a press release.
Shade will work in partnership with the Foundation to fulfill that mission Shade, who joined the company in February and recently relocated to Madison from Virginia, brings a dynamic, diverse, and global background in community development, outreach strategies and innovative programming, Ellis said.
“Alex will lead strategy and execution of our corporate social responsibility programs and initiatives, including philanthropic giving, employee volunteering, environmental sustainability, and community relations. She will also lead and manage the CUNA Mutual Group Foundation portfolio and investment strategy, building strategic partnerships throughout the communities we serve.”
Shade, who most recently served as executive director of the NWFCU Foundation at Northwest Federal Credit Union in Herndon, Virginia, said she’s coming for the job more than the weather.
“I didn’t take the job in order to get closer to the polar vortex,” she joked in an interview Wednesday. She’s no stranger to winter weather, though — the Michigan native graduated from Beloit College in 2002.
“What brought me here was the job opportunity itself,” she said. “The company as well as the foundation have a very strong commitment to reducing those barriers to economic opportunity. And I think with the leadership within the C-suite as well as also the foundation boards commitment to really uplifting and whole-heartedly embracing that cooperative philosophy of people helping people, and really addressing those systemic issues within the community is crucial, and it’s key. And what a better place to start to continue that journey and that evolution of change then back here in Madison, Wisconsin?”
Her first month in the job has been mostly taken up by talking to other people, both within the CUNA family as well as out in the community.
“I just had somebody say to me that we haven’t seen somebody’s calendar such as the one you have where you are back to back meetings,” she said. “So I’ve been listening to people talk about some of the challenges related to food, and housing, and transportation. I don’t think it’s just here in Madison, I think that those are challenges that we face not only on a statewide level, but a national level. But as I’ve been out and having those dialogues, conversations, sitting as a participant in round tables meetings and other forums, that continues to permeate the dialogue.”
Prior to her time at NWFCU, Shade was the National Director of Strategic Alliances for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Director of Development for the Mentor Foundation, and Chief Partnership Officer for the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa.