Just a few years ago, invoking the term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) would have elicited blank stares from most corporate executives. Even though the term has been around since the 1920s, and made an appearance in the Harvard Business Review in 1951, it didn’t translate from concept to broad-based acceptance (or from academia to the Board Room) until much more recently.
Fortunately, this is NOT a few years ago.

The CSR rush has burst on the scene with so much vigor that now many corporations consider it to be a core values issue. Today, an ever growing chorus claims that CSR is no longer an “option,” rather it has become a “requirement.”

So, the choices are down to: 1) get on the train; or, 2) chart the path for others to follow. Yahoo and its employees (known as Yahoos), prefer choice number 2.

Since its non-profit beginnings in 1999, with leadership from Yahoo!, Inc. founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, the independent Yahoo Employee Foundation (YEF) has been proactively driving innovation and positively impacting communities. According to Emmy Negrin, Program Manager, Yahoo For Good and Yahoo Employee Foundation, “the Yahoo Employee Foundation has given more than $20 million dollars to over 1000 organizations. This year, $2.5 million in grants will be distributed globally.”

If you are thinking something like, “Well, it’s easy for Yahoo to be generous, they have lots of money,” you’d be way off the mark. The money YEF spends comes entirely from the Yahoos:

The Yahoo Employee Foundation (YEF) is a grassroots, philanthropic group that brings together the talents, time, and financial resources of Yahoo employees to serve the needs of communities around the globe. YEF is a unique foundation, as it is employee run, employee driven and employee funded.

Official Website

Yahoo Employee Foundation

Although Yahoo does provide some financial support, it does so only when specifically asked by an employee – through the Yahoo Matching Gifts program (up to $1000.00). Ensuring that all decisions about recipients of grants are made at the employee level, YEF helps fulfill a basic Yahoo CSR goal – empower Yahoo employees.

While other organizations getting involved with CSR initiatives are still debating what programs to support, who gets how much, what brings the best value back to the organization, etc., – always either top-down decisions or with executive approval, Yahoo is and has been witnessing – and benefiting from – the positives that happen when a corporate social responsibility philosophy and approach includes active employee social responsibility.

Historically, Yahoo employees have volunteered their time to serve on the 17 member YEF Advisory Board and committees to make all grant decisions. This year, Emmy Negrin decided to take the grants program to a new level by reaching directly back into the actual employee base and empowering Yahoo’s Employee Resource Groups to make grants to organizations reflecting the passions of the specific ERGs. Coordinating with Margenett Moore-Roberts, Yahoo’s Global Head of Inclusive Diversity, each of the 8 ERGs (Yahoo Pride, Yahoo Black Network, ERES, Yahoo Veterans, Yahoo Chinese ERG, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo South Asians, Women in Tech) could distribute up to $75,000 spread amongst a minimum of three different groups – no recipient organization could receive more than $25,000 during this grant cycle.

To avoid any appearance of favoritism or qualification issues, every organization that applied for a grant from an ERG had to provide financial statements, participate in interviews, and be vetted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Additionally, each organization had to provide an opportunity for Yahoo employees to volunteer their time in support of the organization. For example, Yahoo employees provided hands-on support during the AIDS/Life Cycle, a project of San Francisco’s AIDS Foundation. The AIDS/Life Cycle is a bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to end AIDS.

Recipients of 2016’s grants were:

Pride ERG
• SF AIDS Foundation
• LifeWorks (LA LGBT Center)
• Out in Tech

• Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley

Yahoo Black Network ERG
• Thread
• NAACP (DuPage Chapter)
• Dance 411 Foundation

Veterans ERG
• Fisher House

Based upon the enthusiasm shown by this year’s grants recipients as well as the employees of the participating ERGs, both Ms. Negrin and Ms. Moore-Roberts anticipate that all 8 of the ERGs will be making grants in 2017. Now that the process is understood, an increase in applicants is also anticipated. Prospective organizations are realizing the benefits of offering Yahoo employees a chance to actively participate in their activities and are reaching out to Yahoo’s ERGs. The new program is a win for Yahoo, a win for the Yahoos, and a win for the communities they serve.

Through its on-going creativity and innovation, as well as its commitment to the communities it serves, Yahoo’s Employee Foundation is not only raising the CSR bar, it is helping to refine and redefine the very term.

Tech Diversity Magazine thanks Carolyn Clark, Director, Yahoo Communications for her assistance in making this story possible.