In our ongoing effort to profile exceptional corporations doing good work in communities at home and abroad, SEE Change sat down with Alden Hadwen, Director of Community Engagement at Aimia in Canada. Hadwen heads up Aeroplan’s Beyond Miles program that just celebrated a major milestone – over 400 million miles donated to worthy causes here in Canada.
What inspired the launch of Beyond Miles; what’s its stated mission?
Aeroplan did focus groups with our members to understand what makes life meaningful to them. Their responses led us to create the Beyond Miles program which launched in 2006 with seven charities representing a spectrum of interests where Canadian-led organizations were making a difference. It was the first program of its kind to enable the online donation of a loyalty currency directly into accounts run by the charities. The mission of Beyond Miles is to share skills and expertise to improve lives. Our first partner was Engineers Without Borders, who are still with the program today. 100% of all Aeroplan Miles donated go directly to our partner organizations.
Today, Beyond Miles links Aeroplan Members to ten outstanding Canadian not-for-profit organizations dedicated to improving lives and enriching communities at home and around the world. Aeroplan Members can donate miles online at aeroplan.com/donate to the following organizations to help them offset costs related to travel: Earth Day Canada, Engineers Without Borders, Free The Children, Médecins Sans Frontières, MusiCounts, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Schools Without Borders, Veterinarians Without Borders, War Child Canada and The Air Canada Foundation.
How do you choose which organizations to partner with?
We choose Canadian-based organizations with good governance, a proven track record and a broad base of support in Canada. We have chosen to work with smaller organizations where the support from Aeroplan will have a real impact on their budget and where the demand for flights can be best accommodated. In all cases these partner organizations work with communities in a collaborative manner.
How do you define success at Beyond Miles?
We just celebrated our 8th anniversary of the program and I’m so proud to say last week we hit a major milestone – over 400 million miles have been donated. For us success is defined by long-term relationships built on trust. Our employees have a chance to learn about the work and collaborative spirit of the charitable organizations, and at the same time we share our skills and expertise from our business. When we can engage Aeroplan Members to support our partners and to learn about them; we feel there is a full circle of fulfillment.
Can you share a success stories that’s special to you?
One great success was in 2011 when we got the full backing of our parent company Aimia to redesign and enhance the online donation program at Aeroplan. We worked with a company called Better The World who really collaborated with us to build an extraordinary donation site. We feature our 10 Beyond Miles partners as well as some 450 active charitable pooling accounts. The pooling accounts allow Aeroplan Members to support local grassroots causes in their own community. Each charity has the ability to post images, videos, news and updates, and there are visible trackers to show donations received. Visit www.aeroplan.com/donate to view the amazing work that our charitable partners and our charitable pooling accounts are doing across Canada and around the world.
In light of your major milestone (400 miles), what are you most proud of with regards to this program?
I think that Aeroplan, and in turn Aimia, is most proud of building something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. We facilitate a community of giving that engages our Aeroplan Members. And we participate in the sharing of information between our Beyond Miles Partners to help them all reach their goals and have more impact around the globe. I am proud of the fact that our partners have programs that now take expertise to those in need as well as bring those who would learn to Canada for internships. The Air Canada Foundation was able to add the Hamilton Pediatric Hospital to its travel program because of Beyond Miles donations. Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada actually came into being, bringing all the Vet schools in Canada into one organization through the Beyond Miles program. Our pooling accounts have supported individuals and families in time of need, as well as community projects. Ultimately, bringing people together through Loyalty for Good.