Lights, Camera, Impact: Warner Bros. Employees Run the Corporate Philanthropy Show
This post was featured in Forbes.com.
Pop quiz: if your employees ask you how you’re going to support their community outreach efforts, is the right answer “we don’t”?
That would be an emphatic no.
Which is why Warner Bros. recognizes that if it is going to continue to attract top talent and engaged employees, it must be the company of yes.
Indeed, when you’re one of the biggest entertainment companies on the planet, you’ve got a huge corporate social responsibility burden to shoulder. But Warner Bros. employees don’t consider CSR a “burden,” and the proof is in the proverbial pudding - with the Warner Bros. giving program boasting a participation rate of 31 percent. While this might not surpass some companies’ claims of 90 percent or more employee volunteer participation, it is in fact 12 percent above the corporate average.
That doesn’t come from a bunch of employees being "voluntold” - Warner Bros. doesn’t demand participation from employees. Indeed, the company’s giving program didn’t come out of a desire at the C-suite for strategic philanthropy; rather, it grew out of employee demand for a civic engagement outlet.
Warner Bros.’ giving program, called Impact, addresses four areas that present some of the most fundamental challenges confronting humanity today: youth enrichment, global outreach, environmental stewardship and community engagement. Whereas at most companies, different areas of community impact are divided up (for example, mentoring, general philanthropy, community service, and employee matching funds), Warner Bros. manages all community involvement under the employee-driven Impact program. Employee contributions to the dialogue aren’t without management oversight; however, employees are the driving force behind where and how Warner Bros. chooses to give back to the community as a company.
The process of deciding where to get involved begins when Warner Bros. solicits employee engagement in the form of a survey. Every two years, when the company looks for nonprofits to partner with, employees nominate nonprofit organizations that they consider important. A steering committee reviews these nominations, winnowing the list down to 24 nonprofit candidates; Warner Bros. employees then vote on which nonprofits they think would work best for the company. This allows for targeted employee donations to any of 12 employee-selected nonprofit partners.
Impact boasts appealing features in more ways than one. For example, the company’s volunteer grants program goes above and beyond what we’ve come to expect from CSR standards; when an employee volunteers for 30 hours or more, Warner Bros. gives a grant of $500 to the non-profit in question.
The company also provides matching gifts of up to $1,000 for every employee at the company. During select times of the year, Warner Bros. offers double matching donations, effectively tripling an employee’s donation.
And Warner Bros. believes that showing employees how they’ve contributed is essential to keeping employees engaged. This means more than just reporting back on dollars and cents. Photos of employees pitching in or anecdotal stories about how employee volunteer programs make a difference both go a long way toward concretizing the effects of civic involvement.
So where is all this community engagement going? Within the four cause areas that Warner Bros. targets, Warner Bros. employees work with local nonprofit organizations such as A Place Called Home, a youth center in South Los Angeles and Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter, an animal service agency devoted to providing medical, social, behavioral and financial care for animals at risk. Warner Bros. also works with global organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the World Wildlife Fund and Doctors Without Borders.
The list of ways that Warner Bros. is involved in its community would be admirable for any organization, but it’s even more impressive because of the grassroots nature of Warner Bros.’ engagement. After all, few companies can boast that their CSR efforts are almost entirely driven by employee demand, which is the most genuine, sustainable and effective kind of corporate philanthropy of all.
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