Most Valuable Coordinator: Nancy Nielsen of Applied Materials

Special Blog Post By: Alisa Tantraphol, Corporate & Foundation Relations Manager,

Second Harvest Food Bank.

Anyone else stepping into the role of Food & Fund Drive Coordinator at Applied Materials would have found it daunting to inherit a drive that raised more than $850,000 for Second Harvest last year. Luckily, Nancy Nielsen is no stranger to corporate philanthropy. In addition to a wealth of experience from places like Harvard, the New York Times, and McKinsey & Co., her impressive resume includes seven years as the Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility at Pfizer.

Last August, Applied Materials hired Nancy to manage community involvement activities for Global Community Affairs. Less than six months into her role at Applied, Nancy has already proven herself as one of the hardest working food & fund drive coordinators toiling on behalf of the nearly quarter of a million clients relying on Second Harvest for food every month.

The holidays were a triple header for Nancy.

First up was the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot sponsored by Applied Materials. Nancy was up before dawn on Thanksgiving morning organizing more than 500 Applied employee participants. More than 20,000 people participated in the 5K and 10K Run/Walks that generated approximately $200,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank and additional funds for other benefitting agencies.

On December 3rd, 270 Applied Materials employees and their families spent a Saturday morning packing 5,200 boxes full of food that had been purchased by the company to be donated to Second Harvest. Nancy’s project management skills honored the long tradition of families helping local families—this was the 16th annual Helping Hands Day—while ensuring that everything ran like clockwork.

In addition to these two massive undertakings, Nancy coordinated the most successful global hunger relief campaign at Applied Materials to date. Leading a team of employee volunteers, Nancy encouraged the organization of events large and small—a talent show, ping pong tournament, and a field day-type competition where executives were scored on speed and accuracy in football, baseball, soccer, and basketball (in which monetary donations to Second Harvest would, of course, knock time off their score), just to name a few.

As Mark Walker, Managing Director of Global Community Affairs says, “Nancy’s passion for helping others improve their lives was exemplified in her leadership of Applied’s annual North America Food Drive. She thrived on the challenge of identifying volunteer leaders, arming them with key messages and providing real time data to help them be successful in raising money for local food banks, especially Second Harvest in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. I marveled at her genuine excitement along the journey of each success. She created a wonderful enthusiasm for the entire company.”

The Applied Materials Foundation has several innovative programs that amplify employees’ generosity:

  • The foundation matches every Food Drive employee donation dollar for dollar
  • The foundation makes a monetary donation to recognize every pound of food that is donated
  • An online “Give Five, Take Five” hunger quiz educates employees on the global hunger problem and allows them to direct Foundation dollars to their local food bank

To demonstrate how committed Applied Materials is to global hunger relief, there is even an Executive Sponsor for the holiday food & fund drive. This year, Dr. Randhir Thakur, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Silicon Systems Group, carved time out of his globe-trotting schedule to ensure an executive presence at Helping Hands Day and other key fundraising events.

We are the first to acknowledge that serving as a Food & Fund Drive Coordinator isn’t always glamorous. As Nancy can attest, when you’re running one of the largest food and fund drives in the country, even counting cash and checks can be a Herculean task. But the labor of love ALWAYS makes a difference.

The final result of the corporate support, employee generosity, department competition, and executive leadership? A global holiday food & fund drive that raised nearly $1.2 million, almost $900,000 of which will help Second Harvest Food Bank feed local families right here in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

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