The Give: UPS Foundation President Accents the Team Approach

Eduardo Martinez practically grew up in UPS, having started out as a package handler at the global shipper, unloading bundles in Miami when he was 16.

“I needed a job,” he recalled. “I wanted to help my family. In addition, I wanted to buy a car and to pay my own expenses.”

Although his teenage plight may sound familiar, his situation was quite different from typical American teenagers. His parents had fled Cuba in 1960 with his then seven-year-old sister and one-year-old Eduardo Martinez.

  “They left with nothing but suitcases — and nothing valuable in them – and landed on the shores of this great nation, in New York, and had to start over,” Martinez said.

The family moved to Miami in 1972, and his father went on to become a long-time Hilton Corp. employee. The young Martinez was 12 when they moved to Miami. About three years later, at the age of 15, he met his future wife at a local country club during summer vacation. “We met one summer and have been together since,” he said.

Martinez kept working at UPS. He went to college, became a lawyer, married his sweetheart, Zoe Ileana Martinez — all as he kept rising through the ranks. He transitioned five years ago from his position as corporate counsel in the UPS legal department, to The UPS Foundation, where he now serves as president, leading the company’s worldwide corporate citizenship program with a philanthropic budget of more than $100 million.  But Martinez is quick to point out that no attention should be drawn to him as an individual because UPS is all about teamwork and the efforts of many.

“I think we all see new assignments as opportunities, and really, an obligation to go where the company needs us,” he said of his move to The UPS Foundation. “It was an opportunity to help people and the global community.”

He said the foundation, which does not accept unsolicited applications, has four focus areas in which it invests, and for which many of its 400,000 employees volunteer their services:

  • Diversity and helping organizations that are broadly inclusive
  • Community safety in the form of promotion of resiliency through humanitarian relief and road safety
  • Efforts to promote environmental sustainability, research and carbon reduction. UPS has the world’s ninth largest airline and operates more than 100,000 vehicles daily.
  • Volunteerism, which includes increasing volunteer capacity, leadership development, and technological improvements.

The company stresses employee volunteerism. Before being considered for grants, applying organizations must receive a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer time from UPS employees.  It does so in order to assure meaningful integration of the UPS workforce with its communities, in turn multiplying the impact of the philanthropic contributions.

“Our mission at The UPS Foundation is to help build stronger and safer communities around the globe, said Martinez.  “By combining our philanthropy with the expertise and the volunteer spirit of UPSers who live and work in over 220 countries, and who volunteer more than 1.8 million hours of their time, we can have a measurable impact in improving and helping save lives around the world.”

Although reluctant to discuss his own professional success, Martinez is a husband and father who happily praises his wife and three children. His wife is a civil litigator with Thompson Hine in Atlanta; Jenny, their oldest daughter, is a pediatrician and neonatologist, and has  three children of her own.  Their middle child, Kristen, has two degrees from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and works as an Ernst & Young consultant, and their son Eddy, is a first-year law student at Emory University, in Atlanta.

The Interview

CB: How do you judge the impact that you’re having as a philanthropist? EM: We use conventional means of analysis in the field, and we do invest in new ideas and incubate projects. … Besides the philanthropic analysis that we undertake, we very much look at it as a business, with investments, supporters, finances…

CB: Do you provide support specifically for the U.S. Latino civil sector?

EM: We work with community-based organizations that help us identify ways that we can help the Latino community in the same manner we do with our other diversity partners. We support education, economic empowerment, advocacy, volunteerism and leadership engagement.  The UPS Foundation makes philanthropic contributions to national and local Hispanic nonprofit organizations, and it pursues a strategy whereby they are connected with UPSers who volunteer and serve on their boards.  An example of this is my participation on the National Council of La Raza Corporate Advisory Board, which is also supported by local UPS engagement in its affiliates network.

CB: How can nonprofits get plugged into the UPS volunteer network?
EM: The best way to do that is to get local UPSers engaged with the organization. UPSers gravitate toward their passion. Whether it’s just through their schools or volunteering for the environment, they will find you. … UPSers seek out organizations or connections at local events, or [nonprofits] can find out at their local UPS office and connecting with the local community relations person.
CB: Do you have any advice for nonprofit professionals who are interested in moving to philanthropic careers?
EM: Selecting the nonprofit that you work for as a combination of the organization that represents your values and your passion and is also a good ongoing concern. … Make sure you connect with an organization that is sound fiscally — has good funders — and board and management team.
CB: How does U.S. philanthropy fit with your global foundation operation?

EM: The world today is facing daunting challenges as a result of both natural and man-made events, including famine, disease, poverty, natural disasters, and political and societal unrest.  Consequently, I am very passionate about building partnerships between civil society, the private sector, and governments because together, we are better able to address and tackle these challenges.

With respect to private sector philanthropy, I think that tapping into the resources and the skills of employees is so important. … I think today’s employees are looking to work for a company that is socially responsible. So I would encourage my peers to leverage the passions and talents of their people, and to select philanthropic partners that can best benefit from their company’s resources and expertise. You see more and more good examples of this collaboration, such as the financial services and insurance industries becoming more engaged in the economic literacy area. It’s good business and strategic philanthropy.