Everyone Is Philanthropist on the Warner

Studio's Impact program invites employees to determine company's charitable partners

When it comes to corporate social responsibility, Warner Bros. likes to enlist some help from its employees — all of them.

That’s the philosophy at the core of Warner Bros. Impact, started in 2008 to give those working in the company a voice in its philanthropic efforts. While WB has year-round staff dedicated to implementing the donations it chooses to make, everyone at the studio gets to decide exactly where that money will go.

“Employees are the face of the company,” says Lisa Rawlins, senior veep of public affairs. “We think it’s important to give them an opportunity to select organizations they’re passionate about, and drive this company’s community outreach.”

Warners invites each employee to submit one organization for the company to support over a two-year cycle. A steering committee whittles down the submissions to 24 nonprofit candidates, from which employees vote on the final 12 partners.

Eligible organizations earn a two-year partnership with Warners, and the orgs are invited to collaborate with employees on events and fundraisers.

Some foundations, like Habitat for Humanity and a Place Called Home, tend to be tapped cycle after cycle. It’s also common for workers to support area organizations, like Burbank Boys & Girls Club. But WB employees also have a soft spot in their hearts for animals — a quarter of the organizations currently partnered with Warners are dedicated to critters.

Rawlins says a key tenet of the of Warners’ Impact initiative is to focus on strategic giving rather than “checkbook philanthropy.” Still, the company will contribute to an organization in which an employee sits on the board for at least a year, or donates 30 volunteer hours.

Warner Bros. also matches annual employee charitable donations, with a set limit per individual.

While Impact is a “do good, feel good” initiative, Rawlins says campaigns to decide corporate partners have a tendency to get pretty heated. Thirty-seven percent of the company participates in Impact programs — 18% above the corporate average. (An added sweetener: Impact participants are invited to early screenings of Warner Bros. films.) Sometimes entire divisions will rally behind a specific cause to make sure their chosen org makes the cut.

Indeed, as much as Impact is about philanthropy, it’s also about bringing WB employees together around something other than the water cooler. Rawlins remembers one exec who asked her whole department to join her for a Habitat for Humanity build.

“She utilized it as a way to both help the cause, and get the department engaged with each other,” Rawlins says.

And with Impact events staged at least once a month, another often-seen rallying point around the studio these days should surprise no one: courtesy of the Best Friends Animal Shelter — a pop-up puppy kennel by the commissary.

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