“Executive involvement is part of our DNA. We go in deep – it’s not checkbook philanthropy.”
The Civic 50, a groundbreaking initiative launched in 2012 by the National Conference on Citizenship, Points of Light and Bloomberg News, identified the top 50 community-minded S&P 500 corporations that best use their time, talent, and resources to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business. The ranking is based on seven dimensions - community partnerships, measurement and strategy, leadership, design, employee and civic growth, cause alignment, and transparency.
In part five, Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship, decodes the fifth dimension: leadership.
Matthew McGowan, an eight-year old with cancer, had so much fun at Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Fla., that his father, Rich, went straight back to the community relations department at Hasbro Inc. to urge them to support the nonprofit resort for kids with life-threatening illnesses. Rich is also a manager of inventory and accounting at Hasbro’s Pawtucket, R.I. headquarters.
Turns out the giant toymaker was already in discussions with the organization and had in development a special edition of its famous Candy Land board game for the families as part of the Village’s 20th anniversary.
“When the first of those games came off the assembly line six weeks later,” recalled Pam Landwirth, president of Give Kids the World, “we invited Matthew to be there so we could give him one.”
Rich McGowan said the boy was delighted. “He looked at the board and said, ‘That’s where the dinosaur squirted us, that’s where we got ice cream’ and so on. It just brought back so many good memories.”
“Nobody from Hasbro ever just watches,” Landwirth said. “They want to be involved. They think nothing of getting into a polar bear suit or a Christmas tree costume for the group’s Winter Wonderland parade and Santa gift-giving events. Hasbro also funds the event’s floats, presents and costumes. That tells you something about the culture of the organization,” she said.
Going in Deep
For valuing executives willing to moonlight as polar bears, Hasbro earned honors in leadership last year from The Civic 50, a ranking of America’s most community-minded companies.
The Civic 50, a partnership between National Conference on Citizenship and Points of Light, ranks corporations on seven dimensions of local involvement. The leadership dimension requires a firm to show how it involves its executives, board members and senior managers in its community engagement programs.
“Executive involvement is part of our DNA,” said Karen Davis, Hasbro’s vice president for community relations. “We go in deep – it’s not checkbook philanthropy.”
Leaders of the $4.3 billion corporation are evaluated not just for their success in promoting Monopoly, GI Joe, Transformers, Play-Doh and Hasbro’s countless other toys and games, but also for their hands-on neighborhood involvement, Davis said.
Country managers worldwide have philanthropic budgets they can allocate to local nonprofits, and Hasbro matches employee donations of time at child-centered community groups and hospitals with donations of up to $2,500 in cash.
“Most every management team member serves on a [nonprofit] board of directors,” she added. “We use our contacts and our company assets to help nonprofits whenever we can.”
Beyond Checkbook Philanthropy
In the case of Give Kids the World, Hasbro’s leadership offered the use of its classic brand IP like Candy Land and My Little Pony to create some truly magical experiences for the children and families staying with the non-profit, not to mention the thousands of toys and games donated each year. Hasbro employees have volunteered their talents to assist with the design of different elements, while others have dedicated time volunteering at the Village, including a group of 30 employees who did a mission trip there last winter. Hasbro’s CEO Brian A. Goldner also sits on Give Kids the World’s advisory board.
Hasbro now donates 10,000 free Candy Land games plus 20,000 toys each year to Give Kids the World Village. The resort has hosted 121,000 families of seriously ill children from all 50 states and 74 countries. Matthew’s Boundless Playground, which also doubles as a larger-than-life sized Candy Land board, was named after Matthew McGowan, who died shortly after his visit to the resort.
In 2009, Matthew’s Boundless Playground was added to the Give Kids the World Candy Land game, the same game Matthew himself originally saw come off the assembly line years before. Hasbro donates the game to every single family that stays at the Village.
From Toys for Toddlers to Youth Empowerment
Experiences like those at Give Kids the World are just some examples of how Hasbro works to help children in need. In 2010, the company’s leadership team approved the expansion of its philanthropic focus to include youth empowerment. This resulted in a multi-year grant made through the Hasbro Children’s Fund to launch generationOn, the youth service enterprise of Points of Light, designed to help empower millions of young people to make their mark on the world through volunteer service.
Nina Mahalingam, 8, got involved with generationOn after the tsunami in Japan. “I felt overwhelmed and sad,” she recalled. “We decided we would make paper cranes as a symbol of hope.”
Her “Wish Upon a Crane” idea brought in $18,000 in donations from 12 countries and nearly 10,000 cranes, which now make up an art installation in Japan’s Sendai train station. “I feel happy when I do things for others,” she said. “I don’t think that I’ll ever stop giving.”
As proof that anyone can make a difference in the world, regardless of age, Hasbro honored Mahalingam and five other Hasbro Community Action Heroes as standout volunteers at its annual gala in NYC co-chaired by Hasbro’s CEO Brian Goldner. “We try to bring the best of who we are to the table for each and every philanthropic program we support,” Davis said.
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