ViacomCBS Finds New Ways to Strengthen and Invest In Communities

Dec 3, 2021 10:30 AM ET

As featured in the ViacomCBS Social Impact Review

This year was truly a testament to the nature of the people who make up ViacomCBS. Service has been a part of our company from the very beginning, and 2020 was no exception. From making our annual Community Day into a virtual event, to connecting veterans to new opportunities and moving our programs online for students, we found new ways to give back and engage our employees throughout the year.

We are committed to deepening the connection between our employees, audiences and the community. We collaborate with nonprofit, public and private organizations and inspire community-centered solutions including volunteerism, strategic resources and philanthropy. Through our charitable investments, we celebrate collaboration and champion belonging, well-being and the power of content.

Showing Up for Each Other

Giving back is a part of who we are. Even though we weren’t physically together this year, we wanted to create opportunities for our employees—96% of whom feel that volunteering experiences are part of what makes them feel that ViacomCBS is a great place to work—to come together in service of the greater good.

Virtual Community Day

This year, we needed each other more than ever. Without skipping a beat, we took our annual day of service—a ViacomCBS institution in its second year—online for the first time. The virtual setting broke down geographic barriers and allowed employees from around the globe to collaborate on projects. We worked with over 75 partners around the world on a range of projects like consulting with nonprofits, giving feedback to young writers, making friendly calls to seniors and painting and posting rainbows to thank frontline healthcare workers.

Partnership with The Topѐ Project

The UK office partnered with “The Topѐ Project,” a volunteer run and youth-led organization which aims to combat loneliness for young care leavers (children in foster care) throughout the year. The Topѐ Project is named after a 23-year-old care leaver who took his own life in 2010. In memory of Topѐ, the project reaches out to young people who have been through the care system, in which children and young people are taken into the care of local authorities because they cannot remain at home. On Virtual Community Day, Topé-led employees through a workshop with young people from the community, exploring how we can all be more supportive. It also raised questions around systemic racism and why so many young BIPOC people fall into the care system. 

Common Impact Rapid Fire Community Brainstorm

The global COVID-19 pandemic has widened the existing gap in nonprofit resources, budget and capacity faster at an unprecedented rate. Organizations pivoted to virtual programming in order to meet demand and continue serving their stakeholders. During this Virtual Community Day volunteer opportunity, more than 90 ViacomCBS employees joined together for a strategic nonprofit hackathon. Volunteers were placed into teams with 8 nonprofits to come up with creative solutions to real capacity challenges surrounding issues like social media, marketing and branding as well as event planning. These creative brainstorms resulted in a projected $60K in savings for the nonprofits through pro bono services provided by our employees.

ViacomCBS Veterans Network

From helping the U.S. Marines take their annual celebration online to consulting with content creation teams to ensure that sensitive topics are discussed responsibly, our motto when it comes to working with veterans inside and outside the company is: “What can we do to help?” Our initiatives are designed to serve those who served by providing support and creating connections, but we also want to make sure we inspire the broader community to serve with us. Some highlights from the year include:

  • The ViacomCBS Veterans Network spearheads a series of ‘vetworking’ events with other media companies, coffee sessions with veterans, themed panels, and career development workshops to provide business skills and connections that they may not have received while in active duty.
  • The Paramount Volunteer Crew honors former and active armed services members annually through volunteering. This year, we invited colleagues at the ViacomCBS Veterans Network to join the 2nd annual Veterans in Entertainment Summit in support of the organization Veterans in Media and Entertainment, which helps people transition from service to civilian life and provides insight into potential careers in film and television.

Mentoring the Next Generation With UP Mentoring and UP Creative

Our employees have a long history of harnessing their creativity to fuel social impact. Many of our mentoring programs across our family of brands focus on democratizing access to careers in the arts.

Since 2014, Unlimited Potential (UP) Mentoring has connected Viacom employees in New York City with high school students for mentoring and other forms of career and college preparation.

When COVID-19 shut down in-person meetings, we partnered with the LinkedIn social impact team to conduct a session for students interested in leveraging LinkedIn for their budding careers. Instead of meeting weekly and in-person (as we did prior to COVID-19), we now produce events on topics guided by student interest. Above all else, we are proud that this mentoring program continued and thrived through a transition to virtual in the midst of the pandemic.

UP Creative is the eccentric younger sibling to UP Mentoring focused on providing support and guidance to aspiring creatives in the media industry. To meet that challenge, we partnered with Reel Works, a local non-profit organization that seeks to empower the next generation of creatives and filmmakers, and the Nickelodeon Creative Marketing team to create UP Creative in 2016.

In spite of the hurdles introduced by the pandemic this year, the team adapted the curriculum to a virtual environment. During the six-week program with Reel Works, students learned how to create promotional short-form content using iconic Nickelodeon intellectual property, like beloved SpongeBob SquarePants characters, while receiving career advice from seasoned Nickelodeon writers and producers.

UP Creative helped fill a learning and opportunity gap that was exacerbated by COVID-19. Our students walked away with a better understanding of how content gets marketed to consumers and of the technical ins and outs of voiceovers and video editing. 

The impact of the UP Creative program goes in both directions. The mentors hone their communication skills and take on leadership roles they may not have in their day-today positions. The program also provides our own creatives with the fulfilling opportunity to share their talents with potential rising stars.

Making Learning More Accessible

Nickelodeon’s School Partnership Program builds on the objective to provide educators with complimentary access to resources that help make learning more accessible, fun and innovative.

Nickelodeon prioritized fostering long-term relationships with 31 under-resourced schools, including Title 1 schools in New York City and across the country, impacting over 14,000 kids. The program also includes three school districts in Miami, Chicago and South Carolina; it reached over 200 schools and 275,000 kids in 2020.

One of the most innovative and popular initiatives to come out of 2020 was Slime in Space, which sought to answer the age-old question: What happens when you send Nickelodeon slime to the International Space Station? Born out of an innovative collaboration with ISS National Lab and NASA, Slime in Space brought teachers and students along for a unique, and understandably messy, STEM-based learning adventure.

Get Schooled

Celebrating its tenth year, Get Schooled, a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to helping young people get into and succeed in college, stepped up to provide students with resources to navigate the stressors of COVID-19 in 2020. This included information about the stimulus package, access to benefits, and how to navigate the job market. They also launched #WeBelongInCollege, a national social-media storytelling campaign that shines a spotlight on students who have felt like they don’t belong in college, allowing them to tell the story of how they’ve persisted in order to complete their degrees. Get Schooled received more than 600 powerful stories centered on the idea of belonging, many from BIPOC youth, and awarded more than $50,000 in scholarships.

Get Schooled, one of ViacomCBS’s longest-standing grantees, has helped more than one million young people on their path to college and first jobs. The nonprofit concentrates on engaging BIPOC youth and first-generation college students from low-income communities.

Save the Music Foundation

Founded in 1997 by VH1, Save The Music Foundation helps students, schools and communities reach their full potential through the power of making music. Despite the pandemic, Save The Music delivered grants to 42 schools across 21 communities in 14 states to support K-12 music education in 2020.

Save The Music also continued to find ways throughout 2020 to support its network of thousands of schools, teachers and students nationwide by delivering online learning resources, teacher professional development, virtual artist drop-ins and music-specific PPE. Within days of the first school closures, Save The Music created an online Music Education Resources guide consisting of 100+ free tools, content and webinars for teachers and parents. The resource page has been accessed more than 35,000 times. In addition, they host ongoing virtual professional development sessions attended by 500 educators, arts administrators and students from 34 school districts nationwide.

Exposing Students to Careers in Publishing

RISE is Simon & Schuster’s annual creative arts and publishing collaboration with our adopted high school, the High School for Media and Communications in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. In its sixth year, this collaboration focuses on educating and exposing young adults to the vast world of publishing. We partner students with our employees to help them go through the process of publishing their own books, which they share at an open house.

Taking the Lead

Paramount Pictures was granted the Heroes of Hollywood Award from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation for a deep commitment to volunteerism and civic engagement in the Hollywood community.

The Paramount Fights HIV/AIDS Initiative was among the first to support AIDS WALK LA since its inaugural event was held on the studio lot in 1985. While the events have grown larger than the studio can safely accommodate, we still contribute to the event stage and banner campaign. In 2020, we recruited a fundraising committee and a virtual walk team in support of AIDS Project Los Angeles and the many other service organizations in southern California.

Last year, Paramount Pictures also hosted projects within the studio lot, across Los Angeles and at our global offices to connect nearly 1,200 employees with 42 nonprofits and community schools in volunteering efforts. These collaborations advanced causes including homelessness, education, social justice, essential worker safety and food security.

Paramount Pictures led nearly 20 social impact initiatives related to COVID-19 alone, plus four mentor programs with 100 volunteers and an additional 30 community service and learning opportunities.

Since 2008, Paramount’s Kindergarten to Cap & Gown program has served over 500 students through more than 10,000 employee mentoring hours. Each year, 100 Los Angeles- and UKbased Paramount employees volunteer in public schools to share with students what we do best in film and entertainment: sparking imagination, creativity and exploration through storytelling.

Nearly 90% of the students participating are from BIPOC families, helping expand academic opportunities for students who have historically been under-resourced.

Read the 2020 ViacomCBS Social Impact Review here