Caring for the Community Has Talent Impact

Thirteen years ago, Comcast Corp. and NBCUniversal started Comcast Cares Day, a nonprofit event in which thousands of employees volunteer across the country at local food banks, parks and schools.

In addition to helping connect and serve needy areas in the local communities, the event has also boosted a sense of commitment among Comcast employees. Charisse R. Lillie, vice president of community investment at Comcast, said company-led volunteering programs help employees more closely engage with their co-workers and the company at large.

Talent Management spoke with Lillie about the other benefits of corporate volunteerism. Edited excerpts follow.

What type of projects do Comcast and NBCUniversal employees take part in on Comcast Cares Day?
Our 13th Comcast Cares Day took place with tens of thousands of Comcast and NBCUniversal employees, their families and their friends volunteering with local nonprofits across the country to improve the communities where we live and work by revitalizing neglected neighborhood parks, beautifying schools, creating community gardens, stocking community food banks, planting trees, landscaping, installing and wiring computer labs at community centers.

How did Comcast Cares Day start?
Comcast Cares Day began as part of Philadelphia Cares Day. The city’s residents joined together to clean and paint local schools and playgrounds. About 200 employees volunteered in 1996, including several Comcast executives. We wanted to replicate Philadelphia Cares Day nationally.

The first Comcast Cares Day was held in 2001 with about 6,000 volunteers at around 100 project sites. Today, Comcast Cares Day has grown into the nation’s largest single-day corporate volunteer effort with more than 80,000 people working on more than 700 projects across the country and around the world. Since Comcast Cares Day began in 2001, we have achieved 3 million volunteer hours and half a million volunteers. We have also contributed more than $14 million to local nonprofit organizations.

What about participating in Comcast Cares Day gives employees a more favorable experience at work?
While Comcast Cares Day has a significant local impact on the communities it serves, it has also proven what many HR surveys have found — that employees and prospective employees want to work for a company that cares about corporate social responsibility. The recent Cone Millennial Cause Study found that 80 percent of a sample of 1,800 13- to 25-year-olds want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society.

We have many, many stories of committed and passionate employees that go above and beyond on Comcast Cares Day. But we find that the effort means something special to everyone involved.

How will Comcast Cares Day expand in the future?
Participation in Comcast Cares Day and the number of project sites has grown each year to date. Last year, we expanded our reach internationally for the first time. This year, we will have projects in at least 12 countries around the world, including sites in England, Singapore, France, Germany, India, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Australia and Italy. In the future we hope to increase our impact in the communities we serve by growing our employee participation and further engaging with third-party organizations.

What steps do HR leaders need to take to start something similar to Comcast Cares Day within their own company?
I think it’s important to create many different types of volunteer opportunities for employees so that there is a wide range of opportunities, depending on people’s interests. For example, when planning Comcast Cares Day projects, we work directly with our field teams to identify the projects that vary from painting to repairing fences and landscaping to installing computer labs.

Eric Short is an editorial intern at Talent Management. He can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.