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Daily Journal
     May 20, 2020      #15-141 KDJ

Thrivent thrives: Members enabled to help causes

By Phil Angelo

Thrivent Financial is known for its professional offerings — insurance, investing and financial advice through a network of professionals. What may not be known to most is the extent to which Thrivent takes action to support charity in local communities.

A not-for-profit membership of Christians, Thrivent has two direct programs — Thrivent Choice and Thrivent Action Teams — that reach out to a wide variety of local charities and non-profits. Thrivent’s mission is to help “Christians be wise with their money so they can live more content, confident and generous lives.”

So it came as no surprise when Thrivent took up the helm to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thrivent raised $5.4 million in its “Make A Difference From Afar” campaign. By providing a $1 match for every $2 in personal donations, Thrivent contributed $1.5 million as members, friends and family donated $3.9 million.

It was just part of a large heritage of charity for Thrivent, which has representative financial professionals throughout the Kankakee area. Among them is Larry Burton, whose office is in downtown Watseka.

You will regularly find Burton out of the office working with Action Teams that originate from one of his clients.

“This is the part of my work that pleases me the most,” Burton said. “It is great to be helping the community.”

Burton was working in another profession when he attended an annual Thrivent meeting. He found out then they were looking for an agent in this area and he was a match for the good deeds of Thrivent.

In 2019, across the nation, Thrivent and its members generated $333 million to help non-profit organizations, churches, causes and individuals and families in need. In addition, Thrivent members volunteered more than 10.7 million hours in communities that year.

Action Teams

Much of the volunteering comes from Thrivent Action Teams. In 2019, there were 123 teams at work in Kankakee, Iroquois, Ford, Grundy and Livingston counties. These teams start with an interested local Thrivent member who wants to volunteer to do a good deed. It often begins with one question: Who can I help and how?

Burton’s office contains collages of photos of action team volunteers. There are volunteers at a Veterans Day breakfast, others helping out at Toys for Tots and still more constructing Sleep in Heavenly Peace beds to be given to local children in need.

Thrivent provides resources to help the charitable projects. Those resources include promotional items such as a banner, team T-shirts and thank-you notes for donors. Most importantly, Thrivent provides up to a $250 gift card that can be used as seed money for the project.

The money cannot be a direct gift to the charity. Rather, the funds are for members’ to put projects into action. For example, the money could be used to buy supplies or items for a silent auction or prizes for a golf outing.

Thrivent allows each member to head up two Action Teams per year, with one restriction: Members cannot pool their money for the same charitable event. While people can volunteer, the gift cards cannot be added up for one big event.

Thrivent Choice

By contrast, Thrivent Choice is a direct gift to a non-profit organization. Thrivent Choice dollars are allocated by each member based on their insurance premiums, the value of their contract with Thrivent and their record of volunteer leadership.

It is a way, Thrivent explains, to align members’ finances with their values — to make sure their dollars support their values.

To be eligible, a receiving organization must be registered as a 501©3 charity. Groups can be added to the list, too. Last year, there were 63 organizations in Iroquois County on the list and 33 groups in Kankakee County listed also. In 2019, $69,409 choice dollars were directed to groups in Kankakee, Iroquois, Livingston, Ford and Grundy counties. Further downstate, Thrivent recently announced that 67 organizations in Champaign County received funds.

In yet another major charitable effort, Thrivent has been a national partner of Habitat for Humanity since 2005. Since 2006, Thrivent has contributed $8,792,434 toward the construction of 123 Habitat for Humanity homes in Illinois.

Company roots

Thrivent got its start in Minnesota in the 1800s.

Farmers, many of them, Norwegian and German Lutherans, were passing away. This was the generation who had emigrated and settled the Upper Midwest.

Immigrants were frequently discriminated against in those days, often not being to purchase insurance. So, the Lutherans formed their own association. Other faiths, professional groups and immigrant societies often did the same. Two groups, the Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood, were formed. Today’s Thrivent is the result of a merger between those groups.

In 2013, membership was opened services to all Christians. Today, Thrivent serves more than 2 million members as a 501c8 fraternal benefit society.

In March, Thrivent was recognized as one of 2020 World’s Most Ethical Companies. Thrivent has been recognized nine years in a row and is one of only five honorees in the financial services industry.

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