20 years ago, Synopsys decided to set up a corporate foundation (The Synopsys Foundation) and an operating foundation (The Synopsys Silicon Valley Science & Technology Outreach Foundation.
Over those 20 years, the Outreach Foundation has enabled 2.1-million STEM projects for K-12 teachers and students throughout the state of California. Now, they're working on a way to commemorate that milestone while expanding their impact on students and teachers.
The bulk of their investment through the Outreach Foundation is via a program that offers resources to students and teachers, with the goal of sparking their interest through hands-on science and math projects and introducing them to new things.
“For the anniversary, we decided to develop a month-long campaign that would honor teachers and promote their work and communicate their successes,” she said. “It was not going to be a one-time party.”
Ahead of the campaign, Erin said their team is promoting the anniversary across their communication channels — both internal and external.
Those communications included a press release in partnership with their PR team, internal communications so their employees are aware of it and can feel proud of the work the company is doing, as well as external promotions via local news and magazines (both on and offline).
The official celebration campaign will focus on honoring the teachers they work with.
Through a nomination process, students and teachers will be able to submit teachers' names for the award, and the foundation will provide 20 winners with award money and celebrate the work they're doing. Erin said those winners will be selected by a group within the Outreach Foundation from their list of specific criteria.
According to Erin, however, the planning process around this campaign started nearly two years ago.
“It was originally going to focus on our two-million STEM projects being enabled by 2018, but we saw an incredible opportunity to celebrate 20 years in 2019,” she said.
“Typically, we default to a party or an event because that's what we've always done, and our company culture typically refrains from patting ourselves on the back or communicating broadly,” said Erin. “For this, I was impressed with the president's ability to listen and take the advice of what the Outreach Foundation really wanted to do and celebrate in a different way.”
Erin said once the Outreach Foundation had decided on a direction for the celebration, the effort has had broad internal support.
“We worked closely with our internal communications team who wanted to make sure we celebrated in a way that was specific to our culture,” said Erin.
It was a terrific collaboration between the Outreach Foundation and Synopsys communication teams to ensure we had the right messages and focused on key audiences and locations that our programs are focused on.
According to Erin, the Outreach Foundation wouldn't have been able to have accomplished so much if their co-founder, chairman, and co-CEO, Aart de Geus hadn't had such a passion around the responsibility of giving back and investing in future technologists.
“It really feeds into the company values that he established,” said Erin. “Especially with this idea of ‘it's just the right way to do business.'”
She also said that getting employees involved in their CSR efforts and making sure that community is at the forefront of the company has helped give the Outreach Foundation such longevity and stable funding over the years.
To make sure that stability continues into the future, Erin and her team worked with an internal governance team and the CFO to put together a plan for the program.
She said it's been worked out not only with the board members of their Synopsys Foundation, which are employees of the company, but also with company leadership who now just understand these CSR efforts as a course of doing business.
She said their work with the foundations has also benefited from the fact that they've shown consistent, predictable success over the years.
“I'm somebody who's been here for 20 years, and I fell into the community role and helped build it as part of our CSR program,” she said. “But when you're here for so long, it's important to make sure to document and keep things replicable and scalable from the beginning.”
Above all, Erin said her philosophy is to keep trying different things.
“Some will work, some won't, but we have a lot of flexibility in trying new things,” she said. “We have amazing innovators at this company, and we apply innovation to the Outreach Foundation programs.”
And with 120 offices in over 30 countries around the world, they also keep a focus on doing work at the local level. “We want to give them a framework but let them localize it, especially when it comes to involvement in volunteering or employee giving,” she said. “We have a hyper global, local type of program that we run, with a lot of dedicated employees around the world.”
For anyone working on developing a corporate foundation or operational foundation like the outreach foundation right now, Erin emphasized understanding your internal audience.
She said it's important to understand what the overarching strategy is and what the motivators are for individuals and departments.
But more than anything, she said not to give up.
“In our role, we might not always be internal leadership's top priority, but you have to be patient and persistent,” she said. “Even with our growing corporate social responsibility expectations around the environment, social, and governance, we wanted to understand the trends and how we fit into the ecosystem. At the beginning, company management was not completely there yet. But the minute they were, we already knew what we wanted our strategy to be and how we could help implement that for the company. Don't take it personally if it takes other people in the company time to see your vision.”
Erin Guzman has been a member of the CSR Board since 2019. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.