25 Top PR Agency Community Involvement Programs: Part I
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25 Top PR Agency Community Involvement Programs: Part I

Paul Holmes

8. JohnstonWells Public Relations

Almost a decade ago, JohnstonWells established a policy to select and support two nonprofit organizations annually and provide public relations services and professional counsel. Guidelines require that the nonprofits support women, children and the arts, and in the fall of each year, JW solicits applications from nonprofits and pledges $15,000 in public relations services over the course of the year.

The firm is also proud of its signature program, Cocktail Talk, which helps people interact in social situations and talk about the businesses they work for or the organizations they support and promotes better understanding of the business or nonprofit. Cocktail Talk involves a series of skits and role-plays in addition to messaging training to explain an organization's messages and give board members a chance to try them out. In 2002, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the firm provided Cocktail Talk sessions free of charge to the boards of directors of 30 non-profit organizations in the Denver community.

Last year, the firm developed a pro bono internship program called “Get Your In.” The half-day seminar teaches recent college graduates how to professionally market themselves. In addition, staff at JW donates time to teach classes in public relations theory at local schools., and once, the entire staff taught a semester-long upper division class in the Journalism Department at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

9. A&R Partners

A&R Partners focuses its philanthropic efforts on early childhood literacy. The firm sponsors pre-literacy programs for two Head Start preschools in underprivileged districts of San Francisco, providing training and board books for children, their teachers and caregivers who take part in the Raising A Reader program. In addition A&R encourages its employees to participate in a read-aloud program at these schools that puts A&R staffers in the classroom to read books to the preschoolers. In 2003 our employees held a highly successful book drive, bringing many gifts of books to the children, some of them the first books the children had ever owned.

Beyond the pre-literacy cause, employees propose involvement in a variety of volunteer programs, and A&R typically offers these employees and their peers both time off to participate and matching funds for all employee donations. Programs benefiting have included the American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days, Lee National Denim Day for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge for the San Francisco School Volunteers Group.

10. Schenkein

“Community contribution” is one of six core values at Schenkein, and the firm has created an internal community involvement team to ensure that it maintains its focus. The team works directly with the agency’s senior leadership to structure a community involvement program for each year. Agency leaders serve on a variety of nonprofit and civic boards and committees including Colorado Public Radio, the Colorado Ballet, the American Red Cross, the Women’s Vision Foundation and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Other staff are encouraged to seek out board and committee involvement, with the management team serving as a clearing house for such opportunities, identifying community involvement opportunities and forwarding them to staff members.

In addition, Schenkein staff formed a team and raised over $2,000 for the annual AIDS walk this year and staff participated in Denver Metro Volunteers annual “Visit from St. Nick.” Several staff spent a Saturday stuffing backpacks for distribution to students; other staff members decorated classrooms and were present when the backpacks were distributed to the students. Schenkein staff also participated in the Children’s Museum of Denver’s Trick or Treat Street, helping distribute candy and assist with arts and crafts. Finally, the agency sells “Schenkein Shares,” stickers that allow employees to wear jeans if they have purchased a $5 sticker for $5 each. All proceeds go to charities voted on by the staff: in 2003, the firm contributed more than $1,300 to local nonprofits through this effort.

11. Capstrat

Last year, to formalize its community involvement, Capstrat formed The Boomerang Society, an employee-driven program designed to encourages volunteerism and focus the firm’s philanthropic activities. The Boomerang Society and the employees who run it determine Capstrat’s community contributions, set criteria for and select pro bono work, and work to increase employees’ involvement in community projects.

Every year, the Boomerang Society selects one new pro bono client, and the firm dedicates 120 employee hours a year to that client, along with 40 hours per month for pre-existing and ongoing community work.  In addition, Capstrat spends $10,000 annually on charitable contributions, also determined by the Boomerang Society, and offers a $5,000 matching gift program allocates a $250 donation for every 50 hours volunteered by an employee. The Society also creates Volunteer Days, such as Habitat for Humanity Week, during which the entire firm spends a week building a Habitat house and posts opportunities for volunteering.

12. Qorvis Communications

The commitment to community service at Qorvis starts with the firm’s pro bono work with Suited for Change, a non-profit organization that provides professional clothing, job training and ongoing career education to low-income women seeking employment, many of them from welfare-to-work programs. The firm provides media relations support, arranges strategic partnerships for fundraising events, and has also recruited area employees to help locate and donate clothing to the group.

Qorvis is also a sponsor of several local Washington area organizations, most recently supporting the Knock-Out Abuse Against Women event, which raises money for women’s shelters in the greater Washington area including House of Ruth and Bethany House of Northern Virginia. And employees have assumed leadership roles with area charitable organizations: founding partner Doug Poretz has served on the board of the Northern Virginia Hospice for a number of years, while founding partner Karen Vahouny serves on the board of the Fairfax County Schools Business/Education Partnership program.

13. MWW Group

Several years ago, MWW Group formalized its philanthropic efforts under the CommunityWorks banner (a companion to the firm’s TeamWorks professional development effort). MWW employees receive 10 hours of paid time off to pursue community service activities of their choice. Some employees volunteer at a child’s school, others are big brothers or big sisters, others work at a soup kitchen, others serve on the boards of philanthropic and educational organizations.

MWW also identifies and offers employees quarterly opportunities to volunteer. The firm has organized work for Habitat for Humanity (spending two days building houses for those in need); the Center for Food Action (preparing and distributing Thanksgiving meals for those in need); and the Letters from Santa campaign (shopping and wrapping toys from the gift lists of needy children).

14. Dittus Communications

Dittus Communications sponsors many community and philanthropic programs including the Wolf Trap Foundation, American Cancer Society, The Kennedy Center, and The Washington Opera. Founder and  CEO Gloria Dittus serves on the board of directors for the Wolf Trap Foundation, National Press Foundation, Washington Project for the Arts/Corcoran, The Greater Washington Board of Trade, and the Public Affairs Council and in 2003, co-chaired the Wolf Trap Gala and raised $500,000 to support America’s National Park for the Performing Arts.

In addition, Dittus Communications provides pro-bono services to non-profit organizations, including the Suicide Prevention Action Network, Save the Children, CapNet, Women in Housing and Finance, and Knock Out Abuse Against Women.  And the firm makes a special effort to involve Dittus clients and employees in the community during the Christmas holiday season.

15. Dome Communications

Dome Communications has created a program it calls Dome Cares, which allows employees a full paid week off in addition to their vacation time to volunteer for a cause of their choice. Employees participating in the program have built homes in the Yucatan Peninsula, ridden a bicycle across country to raise money for AIDS research, and walked 30 miles in support of breast cancer research. The firm also offers resources to several non-profit pro bono accounts, and supports Chicago-based charities including The Gus Foundation, Chicago Youth Centers, and the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.

Part III

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