The Wills Group (TWGI)

Corporate Community Engagement
Building a Nimble Giving Platform to Respond to Urgent Crises


The Wills Group operates several retail service brands throughout the Mid-Atlantic region that provide convenient access to life’s essentials such as food and fuel for people who are on the go. Their businesses are all grounded in the common purpose to Keep Lives in Motion. This purpose informs their commitment to delivering outstanding service, building lasting relationships, and supporting the communities where they live and operate.

Giving back has been part of the Wills Group tradition for 95 years, and hunger relief has been a pillar of that giving. With the onset of the pandemic, the number of people in the United States facing food insecurity was projected to rise to more than 50 million, including 17 million children. As a result, food banks and hunger relief organizations were thrust into the frontlines of providing food assistance to help people weather unimaginable conditions: the largest U.S. public health crisis in a century, staggering unemployment numbers, and a 50-year high for grocery prices.

The Process

In 2016, Due East partnered with the Wills Group’s Community Leadership Team to develop a formal community engagement structure that engages employees at all levels in decision-making and implementation.

Due East provided strategic guidance for effective planning, development, and management of all community engagement efforts, including management of the community engagement committees and program coordination. Through this collaboration, the Wills Group established a formalized structure for giving and volunteering, defined roles and systems, forged strong nonprofit relationships and partnerships, and refined priorities to effectively meet community needs.

In 2020, we helped the Wills Group refresh that structure and focus on three pillars: supporting employees, ending childhood hunger and enhancing outdoor spaces.

The Results

Grantmaking: As a result of the structures and priorities in place, the Wills Group can nimbly respond when crises occur. This included quickly activating support for hunger relief partners working to ensure that those impacted by COVID-19 had the food and essentials they needed. In the first year of the pandemic, the Wills Group donated a record $1M in unrestricted grants to nonprofits across the Mid-Atlantic to address the unprecedented demand for food caused by COVID-19.

Employee Engagement: Employees also actively plan and implement CE programs, like a food distribution at the company’s headquarters and a golf tournament that acts as a vehicle for other companies to join the Wills Group’s CE efforts. Nearly 90% of employees participated in the company’s most recent matching campaign.

Employee Development: “The CE program gives employees a chance to develop and practice leadership skills in a low-risk environment,” said Due East’s Adrianna Weissburg. Wills Group employees are empowered to lead, guide and implement the CE program through working committees. They develop and maintain the company’s nonprofit relationships, vet grant proposals and make recommendations for funding. As a result, the Wills Group’s capacity to implement CE efforts has significantly increased.

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