A Conversation with Katie Clarke
president of LeTort Trust
Q: What do you feel corporate citizenship means?
A: It does mean giving, but we want to support the communities in which we do business and in which many of our clients live and do business. We want to financially support, but we also want to make our staff involved and have them realize the importance of giving service to the community.
Talk about your company's efforts and the role your employees have in directing those efforts.
We did start a private foundation for our company. It's called the Atgooth Foundation, which stands for “anything to get out of the house.” Every year, we have made a commitment to put 5 percent of our profits into that foundation, and we have a board and committee that decides how we're going to distribute that. We allow our staff to direct 20 percent of that. It's important that they contribute to our profits, but it's important to allow them to participate in how our foundation helps the community.
In addition to that, we strongly support our employees getting involved in the community. We allow them to do things that might take them away from the office during office hours.
Our underlying mission is financial literacy for youth; that's very important for our business because we are a private trust, and wealth management is primarily what we do. We probably dedicate 50 percent of our dollars to that primary mission.
The other 50 percent is really just trying to be there to help areas of need. We support some of the emergency things, like the Harrisburg flood. We filled and sent a truckload of things to New Jersey quickly when they needed help.
What are the benefits of being a good corporate citizen?
I think when you have employees that serve and do things for others, they learn leadership; they learn the importance of commitment within the organization. Our employees know that our community is what makes our business successful, and to the extent that we can keep our community a vibrant one and help organizations in some areas that are not as fortunate, it's extremely important.
Working more as a team and helping the community only reinforces what you do as a team within the doors of your office.
Does a firm's level of corporate citizenship affect consumers' decisions?
To some extent, I think it may. We have a rule in our foundation that we do not use any of our gifts for corporate sponsorship events. So we're not doing it from the perspective that we want marketing or exposure. When we give money, we choose to give it directly to the operating fund, and we would rather have our dollars go directly toward helping support the mission and causes.
There are certainly organizations that are out sponsoring every type of event. I can't say from my business perspective whether that makes me want to do business with them or not. I hope that people choose to do business with us because we have earned a reputation for doing good and not necessarily because we put a billboard somewhere.
What other companies are doing corporate citizenship well and why?
I believe Highmark has great corporate citizenship. I know that when we have calls for volunteers, they're always willing to send their volunteers through. They strongly encourage it. Giving the dollars is one thing, but engaging your employees to be servants to the community is incredibly important, too.
I've been involved with Leadership Harrisburg, too, and we do, as a company, support that, because it is a great program for getting companies to help their employees understand the importance of serving the community. And continuing to do that from the top all the way down is just great for your organization.
About Katie Clarke
Katie Clarke, 45, is president of LeTort Trust, an independent trust company dealing in retirement planning and wealth management services. She earned a bachelor’s of business administration in marketing and management from James Madison University.
She lives in Hampden Township with her husband, Allen, and two sons — Davis, a sophomore at Cumberland Valley High School, and seventh-grader Grady.
The family’s primary interests revolve around sports, Clarke says: “Our weekends are traveling and following sporting events: soccer, golf, basketball, and as a family we’re big skiers.”