Faces of Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporations are becoming increasingly aware of the need to give back to their communities. 

We caught up with some organizations that are leading the way engaging in social change through corporate responsibility and asked them to share with us about their programs. 

Lauren Ziegler

Community Outreach Manager

VMLY&R

What is your role at VMLY&R and how long have you served with the VMLY&R Foundation?

I am the Community Outreach Manager for VMLY&R and have been part of the agency since 2012. I manage the VMLY&R Foundation and the corporate giving arm of our agency.

How have you been able to engage employees for outreach efforts on both a local and corporate level?

We have 18 offices in the United States with just over 3,000 employees and over 6,500 employees globally. Every year, we have a Worldwide Foundation Day where employees and their families participate in a day of service. This year has been a little different with COVID restrictions; we’ve had to take a more virtual and self-organized approach compared to past years where we served in large groups together. But, we still managed to keep the tradition!

There are ways we give back throughout the year as well. The VMLY&R Foundation has four key focus areas: pro bono work (which is how we donate our skill set to meaningful causes), general volunteering, financial contributions and support for our employees who serve in community leadership roles outside of normal work hours.

What drives the decision making when it comes to which outreach opportunities you choose to support?

It comes in a lot of different flavors, and is both structured and organic. The most typical way is that employees bring forth organizations that they have a personal connection with and are passionate about. Our employees are really active in the giving piece of the foundation. We have a 501(c)3 that we’re able to use to make grants to various organizations on behalf of our members and employees. We can also extend those partnerships and include them as Foundation Day activities. Sometimes it’s as simple as a group of employees who go on their own to volunteer at a nonprofit, like a food bank, and then that develops into a bigger relationship with the foundation. We always try to leave room so that new organizations can flow in and be well supported. It evolves every year. The cool part for me is that I get to help engage both locally and at a broader level, and get to see firsthand the impact they are making.

Is there one campaign that has been particularly fun for you?

Yes, the Helping Hops Nanobrew Fest. It’s based out of the Kansas City office and supports Hope Lodge and the American Cancer Society. The Lodge offers cancer patients and their families a free, comfortable place to stay while undergoing treatment. The event started small, with just a few employees who were passionate about the cause, but, it’s grown into a popular local event. It raises $5,000+ each year and attracts over 100 attendees.

Another initiative I’m proud of is a special matching gifts campaign we held back in June in partnership with our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practice. It was open to anyone in the company, and we matched up to $100 in donations to organizations of their choice that met the criteria. It was the first time we had tackled a social justice issue through a matching gifts campaign, and we raised almost $42,000 through that initiative. It was really rewarding to see that come to life.

I understand that your Foundation Day is typically at the end of September. With COVID-19 and all of the restrictions, how were you able to pivot this year?

One thing we have noticed in the midst of the pandemic is that the move to a remote work environment has made employees even more purposeful about finding meaningful ways to engage. It’s been really positive, allowing employees to have even more autonomy and personal connection in the ways they choose to give back. We’ve seen everything from helping with virtual workshops for their child’s class, to going out and cleaning up nearby parks. Another thing we’ve seen is that employees love being able to include their families. We’ve also seen a lot of people taking their skills and reaching out to small businesses and nonprofits to offer their services. A whole group of employees in New York reached out to help small restaurants that had been hit financially. It’s been amazing to watch people activate organically for Foundation Day as we’ve had to pivot and adapt.

Why do you feel it is important for corporations to give back through charitable outreach?

There are so many reasons. I think for me, it’s important to give back to the communities that foster your growth. On the flip side, being able to give back to your community through your workplace is not only satisfying for employees, it’s also a great way for an employer to provide support through career growth and experience.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Over the past six months I’ve noticed a dualism, with corporate responsibility taking on both a hyper-local and a global dimension. It begs the question: How is community outreach evolving, and what will it look like moving forward? That’s something we need to figure out so we can adapt. We have to be cognisant of things like tax laws and how that impacts giving, but at the same time, don’t want that to limit us to our U.S. offices. My next step will be determining how to be connected beyond our U.S. operations and on more of a global scale, while still maintaining our thriving local outreaches.

Tracy Galermo

Senior Account Manager

North Texas Honda

You have the responsibility of coordinating volunteer opportunities for the Honda team in North Texas and are behind those inspiring “Helpful Honda” ads that we all love. Honda has a unique philosophy when it comes to corporate engagement. Explain to us what that is, and why you intentionally chose this photo for our article. 

The Helpful Honda campaign isn’t about a specific individual but a collection of people being helpful throughout North Texas. The North Texas Honda Dealers Association introduced Helpful Honda to north Texas Residents in October of 2017. It is our job to be helpful, and we give back to the local community in many ways with donations, volunteering, hosting events and giving back to local communities, schools, organizations and individuals.

How have you been able to engage employees for outreach efforts both on a local level and a corporate level?  

Our Helpful Honda Guys can be spotted throughout North Texas—from Weatherford, Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas, Duncanville, Frisco, Denton, up to Paris and everywhere in between—we spread random acts of helpfulness to everyone, everywhere!

What drives the decision making when it comes to which outreach opportunities you choose to support?  

We support organizations that focus on giving back and helping people in need in their own community. Whether it be food banks, food pantries, schools, individuals, churches, senior centers, community groups—we are grateful to be part of any group, organization, or individual whose focus is to give back to their own community.

In what ways have you had to pivot this year in order to accomplish your community service goals? 

During these unprecedented times, we’ve continued to give back and help local communities throughout the DFW area, making sure our team members wear masks and are being safe during all our events. By volunteering with local organizations and groups, we’re able to show our support and also engage and talk to our neighbors to get to know our own community even better.

Have there been any projects that have been particularly impactful for you?  We recognized that we could give back in big ways as well. In May, we donated PPE equipment and face shields to Baylor Scott & White Health Center. We helped first responders in Dallas and Fort Worth with free gas and helpful goodie bags filled with snacks. We also surprised a local Fort Worth teacher with school supplies to better enhance her kindergarten class for distance learning. We helped Honda drivers and veterans with free gas during the summer and will be back at local gas stations again in November with more free gas for residents. We brought some fun to residents by giving away free ice cream sandwiches on National Ice Cream Sandwich Day and giving away free cheeseburgers at Keller’s Drive-In on National Cheeseburger Day. To keep the Halloween spirit alive, we surprised families with free pumpkins at local pumpkin patches throughout the DFW area, and gave away free candy and trick-or-treat pails across our social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). For the holidays, we’ll be partnering with a local Fort Worth Boys & Girls Club to surprise kids with free bikes, and will also work with local organization Human Impact to serve holiday meals to the Dallas homeless community. Supporting those who are giving back and being able to help people in need, it’s just one more way we’re being helpful.

Why do you feel like it is important for corporations to give back through charitable outreach? 

It is important for corporations to let the community know we understand that there are many people who are struggling, in need, and could use a helping hand, or even just a friendly face during these times. 

Carter Holston

Director of Real Estate and Community Relations

NEC Corporation of America

What is your role and how long have you worked at NEC?  

I am the Director of Real Estate and Community Relations—I’ve been at NEC 20 years.

 

How have you been able to engage employees for outreach efforts on both a local and corporate level?  

We have found that employees really want to be engaged in meaningful projects where they can see results. Each year we adopt a Dallas ISD school to serve. We paint hallways, provide landscaping, fix maintenance issues, and improve the campus overall. This year, due to COVID, we held a food drive. We started by asking our employees to visit our office on a Friday and bring seven food items. We took these items and assembled food boxes for the Irving Police Department. The police held these boxes in their vehicles and when they witnessed a family in need they gave the family a box of food that would sustain them for three days. The employees embraced this project and we had so much food we made boxes for Baylor Scott & White Irving, Irving Cares food pantry, and DISD. We held the drive in May when our offices were closed and our employees really wanted to see one another at the food drop-off and it was our single most important event of 2020. 

What drives the decision making when it comes to which outreach opportunities you choose to support?  

We have been focused on education. However, we have worked with veterans programs, food programs, and missing children. We have flexibility, but always want to focus on our local community first.

In what ways have you had to pivot this year in order to accomplish your community service goals?  

Right now, we can’t go into the schools, so I find myself spending time mentoring and providing support to the principals of the schools and listening to the vast list of school and educational needs. 

Have there been any projects that have been particularly impactful for you?  Operation Finally Home, which is a program that provides mortgage-free homes to wounded veterans. The Dallas Builders Association provides labor and resources to build homes for these most deserving heroes, and our NEC foundation donated the gap funding. The City of Irving also provided support and a local home builder donated materials and labor. We built the home in a revitalization zone so everyone won—the city, veteran, partners and the neighborhood. The veteran, Major Eric King, who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, became wounded and was staying with family.  Building him a permanent home provided the stability he needed and started the process of rebuilding his life. Our employees raised money to furnish the home all the way from the bedrooms to the basketball goal in the front yard! Now, 2 years later, Major King is giving back to the community and has started a website for other veterans to educate them on the benefits that are available to them, vetswhatsnext.org. Seeing the transformation that this project brought to a family and the community is one of the most impactful projects we’ve worked on. 

Why do you feel it is important for corporations to give back through charitable outreach?  

Especially now during COVID, companies are really struggling to identify their culture. I can think of no better way than to give back to the community to help define who and what you believe as a company. The needs are tremendous and we all need to do our part.

Check out our resources