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Gap Foundation: 40 Years of Good

Values, CompanyMandy Mooney, Global Communications1 Comment

“It was the natural thing to do.” That’s what Doris Fisher, co-founder of Gap, said about starting Gap Foundation. In 1977, just eight years after opening the first Gap store, Doris and Don decided to start Gap Foundation, an organization devoted to their mantra of “doing more” than just selling clothes. 

And the truth is, it’s never been about just selling jeans and t-shirts. From the very beginning, our founders believed in creating opportunities for everyone – the young people who worked in the stores, the women who made the clothes, and the employees at headquarters who ran the business. Doing good is good for business… because when our communities thrive, so does the company.

Forty years later, those same values are embedded deeply into Gap Inc.’s culture. People are often drawn to the company (and stay) because of its commitment to the community. Volunteering is a regular activity for employees, both in their personal time and during work hours. It’s something they truly believe in.

Our employees are as obsessed with giving back as they are with our product. Last year alone, employees all around the world volunteered over 450,000 hours to improve their local communities. They shared their professional skills and expertise with nonprofits, participated in donation drives, mentored kids, and much more.

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Doris herself is no stranger to supporting her community. “I’ve been volunteering since I was 12,” she said. “It touches you, the difference you can make in someone’s life.”

At the heart of Gap Foundation, and the work that it does, are its two signature programs, This Way Ahead and P.A.C.E., which have been changing lives for the last decade.

This Way Ahead, our paid store internship program is unique, in a world where internships are common. Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Gap each host young people who are selected from local nonprofits to come in to the store and get real, on-the-job experience as part of a paid summer internship. Store managers and store associates volunteer their time and talents to make sure each kid walks away ten weeks later with a great first job experience, and one that will hopefully open new doors and change their lives for the better.

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Because a first job is about much more than a first paycheck – it’s about a first chance.

“I showed my dad my first paycheck and said it was for him,” remembered Cal Montejano, a This Way Ahead intern. “He refused and said, ‘Just give me a dollar.’ He folded it into an origami heart and said, ‘I will remember this as the first dollar you ever earned.’ He still carries that heart in his wallet today.”

Gap Foundation also invests in women around the world through Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. program. P.A.C.E. was founded on the belief that all women deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential. The program has proven to improve women’s opportunities at home and at work through tracked assessments like improved communication skills, self-confidence, and productivity.

“Before joining P.A.C.E., I didn’t have goals or very much confidence. Now I have lots of dreams in my life.” – Sujata, P.A.C.E. Graduate

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So far, 71,000 women have participated in P.A.C.E., increasing their confidence and capabilities, and our goal is to reach one million women by 2020.

Over the past 40 years, Gap Foundation has touched millions of lives through partnerships with nonprofits all over the globe. And this community investment is only magnified by our employees worldwide who have volunteered thousands of hours over the last 40 years.

As we look back on the last four decades of “doing more”, we ask ourselves: what does the next 40 years of good hold? The possibilities are endless.