Time Warner’s President, Richard D. Parsons spoke with Chet Cooper about their nationwide volunteerism program and how the company encourages as well as rewards community involvement, stressing that corporate America needs to keep reaching its helping hands out to the very communities that support it.
Chet Cooper: The recent excitement generated by President’s Summit for America’s Future has kept its momentum, with more and more leaders in corporate America supporting community needs. Explain some of Time Warner’s community involvement and how you support employees who volunteer?
Richard Parsons: One way or another we’re involved virtually in every community in which Time Warner has a major presence. “Time to Read” was what I call a ‘top down’ involvement, where we had someone at the corporate level start a program or generate support for a program at the top level. Time Warner’s access to printed materials combined with employees who would volunteer to help adults and children learn to read or read better. Then we have what I call “grassroots” initiation of corporate involvement. That is, when an individual employee gets involved in their community programs….. they bring the company in with them by coming to us and we in turn donate through our many resources or in other ways assist in that employee’s involvement with the program of their choice.
CC: How does Time Warner participate in a community project that an employee brings to their attention?
RP: Well, we put our money where our employees efforts are, whether through our “Match a Gift” program or donations of some kind. A good example, one of our assistant secretaries is involved with the program “City Meals on Wheels”. When they have their “City Meals on Wheels” walks we (corporate) donate hats, T-Shirts and similar items.
CC: Communities that are struggling economically benefit by your employees creating new commerce.
RP: Yes, you need a vibrant community to do business. I’m personally involved in Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. Nine zones in the US are targeted, and the object is to get the local community involved. A few Federal and State dollars are associated with a struggling area, but mostly corporate capital comes in and assists in building up or empowering the area to grow. Los Angeles has an Empowerment Zone. Time Warner supports this program because I do.
CC: I’ve heard about the Andrew Heiskell Award. Could you explain that program and how it works to promote volunteering in the community?
RP: Sure. The way that program works is every year, supervisors can nominate for this award someone who works for them. It all happens below the supervisor level. Those who are involved in their own communities, who are on their own time, and usually drawing on their own resources. There’s a selection committee that chooses eight to ten outstanding nominees and the company recognizes them at an annual awards luncheon. The winners receive monetary gifts in recognition of their efforts in the community and then the company also makes an additional contribution to whatever charity or non-profit organization the winners designate. And let me tell you also, that in many cases the winners donate their award monies to their favorite charity or philanthropic program, but it’s their call.
CC: The President’s Summit in Philadelphia focused on “mentoring” what are your thoughts on mentoring?
RP: Actually, as a direct outgrowth of the Summit’s approach to mentoring, HBO will be putting out some very dramatic electronic PSA’s, public service announcements, on that very issue. America’s youth need responsible parenting and responsible teaching but, in the absence of a responsible adult in a young person’s life, then mentoring can definitely be a good thing. Time Warner – has also for years been involved in the “Partnership for a Drug Free America”, lending our creative talents and doing electronic and printed messages for this worthwhile program.
CC How has supporting your employees efforts, say with donations and recognition, affected employee relations?
RP: Well, you know, an employee who gets involved in the community and then finds support at work….its a smart thing to do as far as employee morale and employees satisfaction with their whole life….. doing good while doing well at the same time.”
Here just few of the tips offered for reach the community and becoming teer.
Tips for employees:
– Pick an activity or issue you are interested in or one that enhances your job skills.
– Find a balance for your time needs. Family comes first but all agreed that weekends and evenings were the best time for volunteering.
– Don’t over commit yourself. Volunteering can be a rewarding but often challenging experience. Donating just one hour a week can make a difference.
Tips to corporations:
– Be aware of your employee’s involvement in volunteering and support their efforts with flexible schedules whenever possible.
– Sponsor seminars or informational meetings for volunteering and provide information on the community’s needs, organizations that exist and who to contact.
– Recognize employee volunteer efforts through award programs and internal publications, such as company newsletters.
The following are some of the programs Time Warner has developed and supported for volunteerism and community services.
• The “Time to Read” program, which is presently the country’s largest corporate sponsored volunteer literacy effort, will be expanded to provide 1 million hours of tutoring by the end of 1998. It operates at 250 locations nationwide.
– “Time to Read” trains volunteer tutors and pairs them with adolescents and adults who are reluctant readers.
– Since the program’s beginning in 1985, it has graduated more than 100,000 learners.
• The Goodwill Games will receive matching contributions of a dollar for every volunteer hour donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, up to $1 million. In addition to the two expanded programs, they remain committed to the Arts by sponsoring a number of cultural institutions and organizations, including their three-year $1 million grant to the New York Philharmonic so that they may continue their 32 year tradition of free concerts in the city’s parks.
– 400 New York City schools that previously were without art programs have now been exposed to a variety of musical experiences through the Time Warner-assisted Carnegie Hall Link-Up.
• Time Warner understands the importance of the family structure and has committed to children and families through a variety of television programming, workplace policies and community initiatives.
– The network has already received eight Greenlight Awards from the Parents’ Television Council for pro-family programming.
– To provide further assistance to employees and their families, the company provides child care centers for kids from three months to 12 years, complete with structured development programs.
– Start-up funding to the Children’s Health Fund to bring medical care to homeless and indigent youngsters in New York City and Los Angeles.
– A portion of the ticket sales at their Six Flags Theme Parks goes to Ronald McDonald’s Children’s charities.
• Time Warner continues to “promote a civil society” and sees the rich diversity of their staffs backgrounds as a major contributor to their success.
-“It’s US: A Celebration of Who We Are in America Today”, a photographic exhibition accompanied by a national essay contest, was developed to further cultural understanding in the schools.
-The first complete collection of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. will be available to future generations because of the joint publishing venture of Intellectual Properties Management and Time Warner.
• Community service remains one of Time Warner’s commitments and is evident throughout the corporate culture in the many ways they help out those employees who would like to give back and are interested in making a difference.
– The Volunteer Bulletin, which describes community nonprofit organizations that welcome volunteer, for interested employees.
– Through the Warner Bros. Volunteer Corps, company members promote local projects whose 170 participants aided the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Walk for the Cure. An employee support team participated in the AIDS Walk in Tampa, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York, where more than 800 company employees representing every New York based Time Warner division broke records by raising more pledge money than any other team in the history of the event
by Linda A. Buday