Employee Engagement in Grantmaking Programs

Corporate grantmaking programs are as diverse in operations as they are in size, budget and focus areas. Some programs include an employee engagement component where staff is involved at different levels of corporate grantmaking. An emerging and unique model is including employees in the grantmaking process. In this post, we’ll look into how two organizations—the Yahoo Employee Foundation (a corporate advised fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation) and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation implement these initiatives. 
Yahoo Employee Foundation
The Yahoo Employee Foundation (YEF) amplifies the impact of Yahoo employee donations by funding grants to charitable organizations and enables Yahoos to support causes closest to them. YEF is a unique foundation as it is 100% funded and led by employee volunteers on the YEF board. The YEF board is comprised of a diverse group of employees across the company. It sets the strategy for grant making, fundraising and community engagement efforts. It is an opportunity for employees to gain valuable experiences by serving on a board, engaging in philanthropy, grantmaking and being stewards of a corporate advised fund. 
YEF board and grants committee members attend and lead grantmaking trainings, review grant proposals, make funding decisions and lead company-wide employee engagement initiatives. These experiences not only ignite giving back to the community but also allow Yahoos to build skills not germane to their day-to-day roles. It is evident through surveys and anecdotes that YEF members are often more engaged in the community and feel more pride working for Yahoo due to YEF's mission and impact. Since 1999, YEF has granted more than $20 million in more than 1,000 grants. 
Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
With total assets of just over $2.1 billion, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation provides grants totaling approximately $100 million each year to nonprofits that provide direct services to low-income and vulnerable individuals and families, primarily in the U.S. and Israel. The Weinberg Foundation’s Employee Giving program was launched, with funding from the Foundation, in 2007 after adopting a similar program from its Hawaii office. Foundation employees – not including the trustees or the president – handle every step of the grant evaluation. This includes selection of the grantee, a site visit, collection and review of financials, and preparation of the final grant recommendation. The Foundation’s Board then reviews each recommendation to ensure that the grant is consistent with Foundation grantmaking goals and guidelines. Once approved, employees are able to present their grants directly to the charities during a celebration.
After many years of providing Employee Giving grants of $10,000, in 2013 the Weinberg Foundation increased these gifts to $20,000. Since the inception of this professional development and mission-focused effort, Weinberg Foundation employees have distributed more than $1 million to the local charities that they personally recommended. Many employees choose nonprofits that are especially meaningful to them and often with whom they have had a personal connection. 
“The Employee Giving Program is always a very special event for all of us at the Foundation,” said Rachel Garbow Monroe, Weinberg Foundation President and CEO. “Every year, it seems these grants reveal deep personal connections and stories which only magnify the significance of the grants themselves. We are proud and delighted to provide the entire staff with the opportunity to engage directly in the grantmaking process in such a personally meaningful way.”
Many kudos to YEF and Weinberg Foundation for creating higher employee satisfaction and professional development opportunities through these innovative philanthropic initiatives. To learn more visit YEF and Weinberg Foundation.
For more information on how Silicon Valley Community Foundation can support your corporate responsibility work, including supporting your employee engagement programs, please contact donate@siliconvalleycf.org.