2019 in Review
This year at the Yelp Foundation, we continued to think hard about maximizing our social impact and supporting the needs of the local communities where Yelpers work and live. Our mission is to support charitable organizations and activities addressing the needs of local communities, including access to information, education, local economic development, and freedom of expression, and to promote a culture of philanthropy among employees of Yelp. The main way we have achieved our mission since founding is through our Give Local grants, which award funds to local organizations that align with our mission, and of course we will continue these annually.
What we did differently in 2019, however, was identify ways to give to our grantees beyond capital, whether further evolving our grantmaking process or responding to the needs of our partner organizations.
We found ways big and small to share our company and employees’ resources while learning from the lived experiences of folks working in our communities. We’re excited to talk more about our work in 2019 and our grantees below.
Adapting How We Give
One of the Foundation’s highest impact initiatives this year was in improving how we give, and we found the solution in a simple but time-tested way: asking and listening.
Monetary donations are always appreciated by nonprofits, but we wanted to make sure we were giving in the most effective way possible. Through conversations with all our grantees throughout the year, we decided to implement a few best practices for giving money. We reduced operational friction for our grantees as much as possible by sending our checks the same day we committed the funds to the grant recipient, continuing to commit unrestricted funds, and reducing any grant reporting to a simple, short phone call with each grantee. We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our grantees about our grantmaking process, and the time and stress saved enables them to further the impact of their mission instead.
Without further ado, we are excited to announce our 2019 grantees and highlight the ways we’ve given in kind to them in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, and Phoenix.
Celebrating our Grantees
San Francisco, CA:
826 Valencia: Supports creative and expository writing skills for underserved youth.
One Degree: Offers a platform for low income families to find, manage, and review nonprofit and social services.
La Cocina: Cultivates low income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses.
Free Spirit Media: Amplifies the voices of underserved youth through hands-on media production experience.
Chicago Literacy Alliance: Works to eradicate illiteracy in Chicago.
i.c. stars: Offers technology-based workforce development and leadership training program for low-income adults and then connects them with career opportunities
The Literacy Lab: Provides low-income children with individualized reading instruction to improve their literacy skills.
Washington Area Community Investment Fund: Promotes equity and economic opportunity in underserved neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. region.
Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Press Freedom Tracker: Documents press freedom violations in the United States to protect, defend, and empower public-interest journalists and freedom of speech.
New York, NY:
Hot Bread Kitchen: Creates economic opportunity through careers in food through offering culinary training and incubating low income food entrepreneurs
The Writing Revolution: Workshops best practices with educators in teaching writing to youth.
826NYC: Develops creative and writing skills of underprivileged youth.
Local First: Provides underserved business owner communities with funds and expertise.
Seed Spot: Supports impact-driven entrepreneurs in schools and communities.
Fresh Start Women’s Foundation: Helps women transform their lives through education, resources, and support.
Giving in Kind: Space, Skills, and People
Many of the new ways we gave this year involved giving in kind, not cash: services, skills, and other resources that we could offer our grantees and other local nonprofits without much cost to us. We donated building space and resources in our offices, put the professional skills of Yelp’s employees to use for nonprofits, and connected employees with nonprofits in need of more supporters or volunteers.
Real estate in major U.S. cities is often in short supply and very expensive, and large event spaces and the personnel required for them (security, check in, etc.) can be out of financial reach for most nonprofits. In making our meeting rooms and large common spaces available to nonprofits free of charge, we enabled hundreds of hours of meetings, networking, and training for our grantee nonprofits and more. Beyond the space, we go the extra mile to ensure nonprofits can focus on the event at hand: our security and events teams bring their extensive experience working with external groups to make check in and setup smooth sailing, and at many of these events, our events teams order catered food (from local businesses, of course!) for attendees.
Leveraging job skills and professional development curriculum from our employee base was a low lift, high impact contribution we made to nonprofits. In our New York office, we connected Hot Bread Kitchen trainees with Yelp employees to practice interview skills during Yelp’s lunch hour. These trainees were preparing to interview to work as prep cooks, bakers, and pastry cooks, but a majority of them had never worked or held a job in the U.S. and were nervous ahead of their first job interviews. A lot of us take for granted the range of skills required to interview for a job much less land one. Thirty-five Yelp employees volunteered their lunch hour (and many more applied) to conduct over 90 mock interviews and debriefs with 30 Hot Bread Kitchen trainees, offering trainees a valuable opportunity to practice, and in the process, furthering our grantee’s mission to create economic opportunity for their trainees.
Yelp Employees accepting the “Leader in Literacy” award from the Chicago Literacy Alliance at the Literacenter in May 2019.
A key part of the Yelp Foundation’s mission is to promote a culture of philanthropy among Yelp employees. We did this by dedicating the month of October to philanthropy, creating an internal campaign in every U.S. office bolstered by events and talks. We brought opportunities to volunteer with dozens of local nonprofits directly to employees through fairs in Yelp’s San Francisco, New York, and Phoenix offices. On top of more regular volunteering opportunities, we focused in particular on encouraging employees to join nonprofit boards of directors and associate boards. Many nonprofits are desperately in need of board members ranging in age, professional experience, and background, and our employees with their perspective and experience are already strong candidates. We’ve created the impetus in the last year for employees to apply and successfully join the boards and associate boards of several local nonprofits, including several grantees (Chicago Literacy Alliance and Local First Arizona, to name a couple), and we hope to see this number increase in the year to come.
Another way we fostered philanthropy among employees while raising awareness for our grantees was creating opportunities for employees to learn more and engage with our grantees’ work. In San Francisco, we celebrated the launch of grantee La Cocina’s new cookbook by hosting a lunch panel with a few of their entrepreneurs and recipe contributors, complemented by catering from a La Cocina incubated business, TACOTHAI. In New York, we set up a Hot Bread Kitchen pop-up market to showcase goods from their entrepreneurs, offering a smorgasbord of innovative items ranging from drag-inspired hot sauce to kombucha popsicles.
Finally, Yelp’s Chicago office this year exemplified a culture of philanthropy among employees: we were astounded by their employee-organized Race for the Causes campaign, which started as the infectious energy of a few employees and became an office-wide movement. Employees set a bold goal to raise $5,000 in donations for three local nonprofits, and over the course of a couple months, engaged the entire office and hosted several large scale fundraising events. By the end of October, they had raised $12,500, over double their original goal, and proudly donated the proceeds to SocialWORKS, The Center on Halsted, and The Autism Project.
We are amazed by the work of our grantees and so many other organizations, and we feel grateful to be a part of furthering their missions and impact. While we may write a check to our grantees once a year, we are finding ways to promote their work and connect them with resources on a continual basis. Beyond the Foundation’s work, Yelp’s employees showed this year that they have so much to contribute to their communities, and we believe they’re just getting started. We are constantly looking for ways to give more and give creatively, and we are looking forward to giving, hosting, and connecting more with local grantees and nonprofits in the coming year.