A Giving Program Engineered by Employees

At Proto Labs, a Twin Cities-based digital manufacturer of prototypes and low-volume production parts, charitable giving isn’t just a reflection of the company’s values—it’s a way for employees to act on their passions.

Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis and CEO Vicki Holt

Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis and CEO Vicki Holt

When company founder Larry Lukis started thinking about ways to give back, he invited employees to join him. “I wanted to be able to support causes that our employees think are good causes.”

The Proto Labs Foundation sprang from that idea. Proto Labs assembled a committee of interested employees who represent every corner of the company, from manufacturing to sales to the CEO. Then, with guidance from the Minneapolis Foundation, the committee designed a set of giving programs that are tailored to both the company’s strengths and employees’ interests. The process “was really very new for all of us,” Lukis said. “The Minneapolis Foundation helped us think about charitable giving in an organized way.”

With services ranging from advanced 3D printing to rapid injection molding, the company relies heavily on employees with STEM-related skills, such as software developers and engineers. Partly for that reason, the Proto Labs Foundation chose to focus much of its grantmaking on STEM education, said Lukis, a self-described computer geek.

In addition, the Proto Labs Foundation matches gifts of money and volunteer time that employees donate to nonprofits of their choosing. The foundation also invites employees to nominate charities to receive grants of $1,000.

“The Proto Labs Foundation is dedicated to engaging our employees in philanthropy both personally and as a company,” said Proto Labs CEO Vicki Holt. “Together we can have a much bigger impact than each of us could alone.”

STEM education supported by Proto Labs

Breakthrough Twin Cities is among the nonprofit organizations that have benefited from recent STEM education grants from the Proto Labs Foundation.