Our employees have a long history of recognizing how important charity and volunteering is to our communities. And while giving money to worthy causes is important, we made it clear that we wanted to be in the thick of things, and actually have the chance to volunteer our time as well.
This prompted our People and Culture department, along with the R&R Partners Foundation, to roll out an initiative encouraging R&R employees to use up to 40 hours of extra paid-time-off time to perform volunteer work within our communities. This time-off can range anywhere from personal interest programs to company-sponsored initiatives. The only limitations are our imaginations and, of course, that the work is done for a 501(c)(3).
We kicked this off in true R&R fashion and gathered a group of employees that was able to take off a Friday afternoon (score!) to help volunteer in our community (double score!). We decided to go to Three Square Food Bank, a local food bank that has been instrumental in helping to feed families in need in the Las Vegas area. As an agency, we have a long-standing relationship with Three Square, as we have groups that go annually to help volunteer. (You can read more about Three Square here.)
This particular visit, our volunteers helped with the Backpack for Kids program, which provides food to children who are hungry in our community. And boy, did we help! Our volunteers packed 4,260 meals that will provide kids enough food to eat through the weekend. Think about that: In the three hours we were there, we helped feed 4,260 kids!
We’re very fortunate that we’re given the opportunity from our employer to go out and volunteer in the community. But then again, that’s what R&R is truly all about—serving with a purpose and attitude.
“People are in love with the IDEA of activism, but not the WORK required.”
DeRay McKesson, Civil Rights Activist
“You’re a bleeding heart”, my dad always says to me. It’s true. Throughout my life, I’ve been plagued with this burning desire to change the world for the better. It’s something that I can never fully explain to others – but I have always felt that my greater purpose is to be the voice for those who need it most.
Earlier this year, I had an epiphany. Though strong, my voice isn’t enough. I realized that I wanted to do more than say “I support” – I want to be a part of something greater that inspires ACTUAL change. But, as we know, change also takes physical work and it isn’t something that presents itself, wrapped up in a bow. While a march may set the tone, only the devoted can keep the pace to ensure change actually happens.
For this reason, I found myself enrolling in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Sturm Fellows Leadership Program. ADL’s Robert B. Sturm Mountain States Leadership Fellows Program was created to involve people who are committed to ADL’s mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” The Sturm Fellows Program, which runs from September-June, exposes participants to educational programming about the substantive issues of ADL’s agenda and gives them the opportunity to become ADL leaders in the community.
The highlight of the program was the opportunity to attend the ADL National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, which I attended earlier this month. I cannot explain the gratitude I felt to be in the presence of so many people who want to do good – and not only with words, but with action. The program included presentations from ADL leadership, community leaders and activists, and legislators including Sen. John McCain (AZ), Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Sen. Al Franken (MN); representing that civil rights will never be a partisan issue, but a human issue.
One of the speakers, former FBI Director James B. Comey, had powerful words for our group that revolved around unity. One story he referenced was his visit to Orlando immediately following the shooting that occurred at Pulse Night Club in 2016, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded. He reminisced speaking to an individual who helped those at the scene after the shooting had occurred. He relayed to our group the words of this individual, who said to Mr. Comey:
“I heard the gun shots, and I started running toward where I heard them. I didn’t care what religion the victims practiced. I didn’t care who the victims loved. I didn’t care about the race of the victims. I knew they needed help and that was the bottom line.”
SO WHAT NOW?
It seems that today, more than ever, I have friends/family/colleagues say to me, “I want to do something to help, but I don’t know what. I feel paralyzed. I don’t know where to start.” With so much at stake, I too at times feel overwhelmed. However, I recognize that as one person, I cannot do everything at once. Though still fresh in my activism career, I have learned some helpful tips from those around me:
1. Follow your passion(s): what particular issues are you passionate about? Start there. Have many, like myself? Start with one to get your feet wet to determine what kind of time you have to commit.
2. Reach out: what organizations align with your passion? Reach out to them and ask what type of help they need most.
3. Determine your commitment: can’t afford to give financially? Volunteering is just as impactful. The organization you reach out to should have a list of opportunities that are available and ways you can help.
4. Local politics ARE important: reach out to your local representatives and talk to them about the matters which concern you most. Participate in City Council meetings. Stay engaged in the local elections and local issues that directly impact your community.
As for how I’ll change the world and the legacy I may leave behind, I’m not quite sure of that yet. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by many other like-minded individuals who also wish to change the world, and trailblazers who provide inspiration for us daily in how to accomplish that.
To all the other bleeding hearts that I’m fortunate to know, work with, or be in the presence of – don’t stop and keep the dream alive for a better tomorrow. I am with you.
Clark County Department of Family Services needed help getting more people to consider becoming a foster parent. So, how do you show everyday people what a rewarding experience fostering a child can be? You make it relatable by speaking to things they’re already passionate about.
We created a campaign that featured familiar hobbies and interests being shared with a foster child. These miniature stories tell how there’s nothing greater than experiencing a child discovering something new. Images simply captured how a hobby or interest can open up both foster parent and child to a whole new, unforgettable experience. The ultimate goal is that audiences might even find that sharing their passion becomes their new one as a foster parent.
Budget constraints can often complicate the creative execution of a campaign, but when people are passionate about the subject matter, amazing things can happen. Eric Klein, a photographer based out of Chicago, offered to waive his fee so we could afford to have the campaign shot professionally. He was happy and willing to do so because he was involved with the foster community himself. Which just goes to show the level of passion and dedication that fostering a child can bring.
Throughout 2016, the R&R Partners Foundation has been on the move, continuing our work of transforming lives and strengthening communities. Of the great work being done for our Foundation clients, here are a few examples we just had to share.
Santuario De Luz
The first pro bono collaboration with our Mexico City office produced a beautiful and touching video for a hospital in Autlan, Mexico, which is supported by Carlos Santana’s Milagro Foundation. In addition, we produced a fundraising brochure for Milagro Foundation’s telemedicine program that will seek to provide the best medical care possible for patients of Santuario De Luz.
The Animal Foundation
We saw the completion of our two-year engagement with the Southern Nevada nonprofit that produced the award-winning “In-fur-mercial” campaign.
Flip the Script
Our anti-bullying initiative is alive and well, completing our first school year of working directly with local middle schools to create customized respect campaigns. Becker Middle School, Fremont Middle School and Greenspun Junior High School all had the opportunity to work with R&R employees to create their own student-led anti-bullying campaigns. All were a great success and have become works-in-progress as students continue with their R&R teams for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition, we have selected three new middle schools to work with this year: Brinley, Swainston and Findlay. We’re looking forward to launching their new campaigns in January.
Lastly, we’ve also made some exciting structural changes to our Foundation, including:
Our Employee Board
Because our Foundation is a reflection of the culture and generosity of R&R Partners, we created a board of employees to help ensure that our Foundation stays true to that culture. They have done a fantastic job this year! We wish to thank R&R team members Catherine Cole, Nick Vassiliadis, Piper Overstreet, Bruce Wilcox, Mark Sundermeier, Steve Wright, Monica McCafferty and Courtney Barrett for their service. We also want to congratulate and welcome our new employee board members – our chair, Jennifer Lopez, James Coleman, Melissa Keegan and Mandy Walsh.
Employee-Directed Giving Fund
This year, the Foundation established an employee-directed giving fund that matches the amount of money an employee chooses to donate to a charity, up to $100. We expect this fund will benefit some great causes that our employees care deeply about. Go R&R!
Although it may at times feel otherwise, 2016 is not without its occasions for national unity and celebration. As the National Park Service turns 100 years old, our national treasures and those leaders dedicated to preserving them deserve our awe and admiration.
One such leader, former Congressman Steven Horsford, currently directs R&R Resources+ and manages the Washington, D.C., office of international marketing communications and government affairs firm, R&R Partners. In 2014, Congressman Horsford and other members of Nevada’s congressional delegation worked in a bipartisan manner to pass legislation that would create the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. “The fact that a literal ice age of artifacts exists just miles from the Las Vegas Strip and can be shared with local residents and millions of tourists alike, made it something I had to get behind to push through Congress,” said Horsford. More than 22,000 acres in size, Tule Springs is revered for its numerous paleontological and archeological sites.
While enthusiasm for the preservation of the fossil beds was expected from a broad range of conservationists and scientists, business leaders also applauded the designation, indicating once more that companies understand that sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are not passing trends. Horsford notes, “From the very beginning of the process, business leaders joined with the conservation community and local elected officials to make the case for why Tule Springs should be designated as a national monument.”
CSR and Diversity
Horsford doesn’t just grasp and provide leadership on issues surrounding CSR and sustainability. As the first African-American elected to Congress from the state of Nevada, he also knows a thing or two about diversity. He oversees R&R’s integrated services efforts in diversity media training and corporate communications, workforce and vendor/supplier engagement, and international affairs for R&R’s nine offices throughout the U.S. and Mexico City. “Moreover, the idea that young people from all over the surrounding communities, including those from diverse backgrounds who may not have the same opportunity to experience something like what Tule Springs offers, also was a major selling point,” he said.
Horsford has a commanding presence at the crossroads of diversity, politics, business and sustainability. This intersection represents today’s business reality and is a place from which we should all be striving to lead—after returning from celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary at Tule Springs, of course.
In the July-August 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review, authors of three articles tackle the topic of diversity in the workplace. Find our Key Takeaways and Top Five Do’s to integrate with or update the diversity pillar of your business’ current Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.
An abundant number of studies have shown that “a diverse workforce measurably improves decision-making, problem-solving, creativity, innovation and flexibility” (Burrell, 2016). Given the large resources dedicated toward diversity programs, organizations seem to be embracing these findings.
However, many companies have been using approaches developed in the 1960s, and are failing to measure whether or not those diversity programs work. Unfortunately, findings by researchers dedicated to measuring the effectiveness of diversity programs indicate certain approaches are not only not working (“[diversity training programs] largely don’t change attitudes, let alone behavior” (Bohnet, 2016), but are working against the very outcomes sought.
For example, mandatory diversity training programs are even associated with backlash, i.e. activation of bias. With the failure of diversity programs to produce desired results, the following should be of no surprise: “Black men have barely gained ground in corporate management since 1985. White women haven’t progressed since 2000. It isn’t that there aren’t enough educated women and minorities out there—both groups have made huge educations gains over the past two generations” (Dobbin, 2016).
In order to address lackluster approaches, companies should seek out diversity programs that researchers have found to be most effective in positively impacting workforce diversity. “Interventions such as targeted college recruitment, mentoring programs, self-managed teams and task forces have boosted diversity in business” (Dobbin, 2016). Designing your organization’s processes to avoid biased decision-making in the first place will also lead to better outcomes. These methods, and other “do’s” below as culled from the HBR authors’ insights, can help your organization make strides toward a diverse workforce.
Top Five Dos
Collect and study your organization’s diversity-related data. This will allow you to make informed decisions about the areas where you need improvement.
Define success for and measure the impact of your diversity program(s). Rigor in this area should match that of any other.
Ease up on the control tactics on your managers. It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability—the desire to look fair-minded (Dobbin, 2016).
Re-design your processes to prevent biased choices in the first place, an approach known as choice architecture. For example, use structured interviews where every candidate is given the same question and strike self-evaluations from performance appraisals (which tend to benefit certain demographic groups). Behavioral design can be effective in mitigating bias.
Challenge perceptions of merit. If those making the hiring, promoting and compensation decisions in an organization fail to understand the research tying good fortune to good success, it can have negative implications for underrepresented demographic groups.
Bohnet, I. (2016, July-August). Designing a Bias-Free Organization. 63-67. (G. Morse, Interviewer) Harvard Business Review.
Burrell, L. (2016, July-August). We Just Can’t Handle Diversity: A Research Roundup. Harvard Business Review, pp. 71-74.
Dobbin, F. (2016, July-August). Why Diversity Programs Fail And What Works Better. Harvard Business Review, pp. 53-60.
R&R Partners is a part of and attended a recent Nevada Corporate Giving Council. The renowned guest speaker, Edmund Cain from the Hilton Foundation said that CSR is no longer being looked at as social responsibility, but rather as corporate survival. All companies whether their size should do their part to impact society.
Cain provided three helpful tips as it relates to prioritizing your corporate social responsibility programs: be respectful of the donor intent (ideally it’s for impact versus for cost of doing business); do the analytics (what are the pressing issues); how can your works be leveraged (with collaboration amongst other groups funding).
Cain also touched on his recently published blog on why foundations should keep global sustainability issues top of mind.
Cain complimented the work being done in Nevada, and gave a nod to much of Conrad Hilton’s successes stemming from his ownership days of the Las Vegas Hilton and Flamingo Hotel. For more information on the Nevada Corporate Giving Council’s annual philanthropy report, see recent BusinessPress article.
Upon reflection after the event I attended, I thought about what CSR means to R&R, and it is at the heart of everything that we do—as an agency and for our clients. Before corporate social responsibility became essential to survival, we started the R&R Foundation, as we believe our employees and partners can come together for the greater good.
Jim King, Chairman of the R&R Foundation says, “As R&R Partners as a global marketing agency is well-known for providing creative communications solutions to a broad spectrum of clients, we want our Foundation to be known for strengthening the communities we serve.” I believe that not only is this at the heart of our culture and in living our values, but part of the lifeblood of our agency.
In honor of the lives lost in Orlando this weekend, I wanted to open my LGBT blog post with a small tribute to the horrible tragedy that has impacted all of our lives. I’m sure many of you woke up on Sunday morning as I did to the tragic news coming from Orlando. Each Sunday, our kids wander into our room and we go eat breakfast and plan for the day ahead. Well, that happened yesterday too, but Hudson and Sawyer witnessed their dads paralyzed to the TV with tears streaming down their eyes. What do you tell your 2- and 5-year-olds about a senseless tragedy and about death? I didn’t know exactly what to say and I don’t think I ever will, but I will always think of the Orlando club owner when I think of my kids moving forward. She had named the club “Pulse” as it reminded her of her brother’s heartbeat, whom she lost to AIDS years ago. I will always think of my kids’ heartbeat, and also the heartbeats of the 49 victims, each and every day of my life here on earth. My heart goes out to all of the families affected by this senseless act.
Growing up in Mississippi, I was always raised with a value system to love, care for, give back and be respectful. I’ve always looked for similar shared values in the companies and clients I’ve worked for, and being a part of R&R Partners now for 10 years has been a perfect match for me. At the core, R&R is empathetic − we embed with our clients, helping them through whatever situation they are going through. R&R also puts our employees and their families at the forefront of everything we do, as we know it’s our employees who help deliver the results for our clients at the end of the day.
As an advertising executive and gay man, I carry those ingrained values that my family instilled in me throughout my personal and professional life. Recently, my partner and I served as plaintiffs in the successful Nevada marriage equality lawsuit. I was so grateful that R&R supported this endeavor that was so very important to millions of LGBT individuals throughout the world.
The high of the Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage equality victory was recently overshadowed by the ridiculously bigoted rollback of anti-discrimination laws in North Carolina and my home state of Mississippi. I was appalled by the governors in these Southern states and how they’d allow for discrimination to not only affect the lives of many of their residents, but also the economics of their state. These states are losing millions, if not billions, of dollars in tourism dollars. There’s a great website that is tracking artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Cirque du Soleil, who are boycotting these states to stand up against their bigoted leaders. While I hate it for Mississippi, I love it in the respect to standing up for what’s right, and I’m in hopes that these biased laws are overturned in short-order.
The Mississippi discrimination law situation reignited my upbringing and also my desire to work for and with companies who are diverse, respectful and welcoming. It makes me proud to work for a phenomenal, independent advertising and marketing firm that has not only created the path for LGBT visitors to enjoy Las Vegas and our resort properties, no matter who you are, but also has helped fight for equal human rights in the Nevada legislature to pass hospital visitation rights, anti-bullying laws, transgender rights and marriage equality, among other corporate social responsibility initiatives.
AdAge recently published an article with “musts” for those clients marketing to the LGBT community. I’m proud to say R&R Partners has been living and breathing these musts since their existence began 42 years ago, helping lead the way for people like me to be a successful (gay) executive in today’s society, despite the setbacks a few are making us work through.
Fletcher Whitwell is senior vice president at R&R Partners, overseeing multiple offices across the U.S. He is a devoted husband and father of two adopted children. He serves his community on many boards, including Human Rights Campaign, SampleDance, Spread the Word Nevada and Worldwide Partners.