Global Matters

If you can, you do

Reflections on impact, trust and showing up

By Kim Lawrence, President, North America, Visa

Visa's North America President, Kim Lawrence, puts hygiene products in a bag during a Red Cross kit building event.

Nobody ever thinks that they will need help from an organization like the American Red Cross until they do.

But the truth is: it can happen to anyone.

An earthquake, a hurricane, a flood or a fire can put any one of us on the receiving end of services in a blink of an eye. As natural disasters increase in frequency — a symptom of our changing climate — more and more of us are being directly affected. For me, this really hit home in the summer of 2020.

The year of 2020 was a lot of things. We were all challenged living through the unthinkable — a global pandemic — and that summer was a particularly devastating fire season in California. From Santa Cruz to Napa, drought-fueled fires raged around the state. Homes, businesses, entire towns were reduced to rubble and ash. On one day in particular, the sun did not shine in San Francisco, blocked by a cloud of smoke so thick and large that astronauts could see it from space, leaving the city and the wider region shrouded in a dark, otherworldly orange.

I lived just south of San Francisco, and this was happening in my backyard, so to speak. Neighbors and community-members were affected — and it made the importance doing something to help, in some way, feel immediate. Because the need was immediate.

A personal mantra of mine is “if you can, you do.” While this was not the first year that we saw wildfires in California, it was different — the fires were bigger, more people were impacted, and it really was so close to home. I decided to do something.

To be clear: I am not trained to offer emergency services. I am not a first responder, nor am I an expert in fighting wildfires. I would wager most of us are not. But I can give, so that is what I did. I began, alongside many Visa employees, making meaningful donations to the Red Cross — donations that Visa and Visa Foundation has, and continues to match, doubling and sometimes tripling the impact of any one individual. All told, Visa, Visa Foundation and Visa employees have given more than $30 million, thousands of volunteer hours and countless units of blood to the Red Cross in our more than 30 years of working together.

Part of what makes an organization like the Red Cross such an obvious choice in times of crisis is their speed to mobilize. They can do this thanks to organizations like Visa Foundation who are Annual Disaster Giving Program members, which allows the organization to have response tools at the ready — increasing their speed to mobilize. When something bad happens, the Red Cross is there — with volunteers bringing blankets, food, water, shelter, and a caring and lending hand in a time of need. Their ability to set up the infrastructure of support — of comfort, care, and humanitarian aid — often before a disaster has even begun to subside is something few can claim. They are dependable, reliable, and there when help is needed most. They have earned the trust of individuals and organizations the world over by showing up, time and time again.

In my more than 25 years at Visa, I have thought plenty about what it means to earn the trust of many. As an organization, trust is core to what we offer — a service that, even in times of crisis, can be relied upon by businesses and individuals the world over. More than payments, though, our purpose — to uplift everyone, everywhere — puts us in alignment with what the Red Cross does day in and day out. When folks are at their lowest, the Red Cross helps to lift them up.

It gives me great pride to see the spirit of “if you can, you do” play out in Visa’s continued commitment to the Red Cross. And while I’m humbled that we, as an organization, are being recognized for our efforts as the 2023 Red Cross Philanthropic Company of the Year, my hope is that our example is just that: something that encourages more individuals and organizations to donate and volunteer and do what they can to make an impact — to show up for their communities in a real, tangible way.

Learn more about Visa and Visa Foundation's dedication to supporting communities.

Tag: Social Impact Tag: Visa Foundation Tag: Life at Visa

The Visa Blog Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and views from Visa