Playing with rescue dogs. Reading to kindergartners. Sharing job-readiness tips with soon-to-be-paroled prisoners.
These are some of the more unusual ways that Navy Yard-based RevZilla.com, an online retailer that sells motorcycle apparel, accessories and parts, is giving back to its community.
“There’s a business case to making your employees feel connected to their community,” said Martina Mansell, corporate giving coordinator at the 250-employee business. “If they feel more fulfilled outside of work, when they’re at work, they’re a more engaged workforce.”
According to a 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey, more than three-fourths of the 1,000 working Americans surveyed about their volunteering say company-sponsored community service is essential to employee well-being. Nearly 90 percent think companies that offer community service opportunities have an overall better work environment than those that do not.
RevZilla, for one, has made a commitment to move beyond holiday toy drives or corporate donations. This year, it implemented a new program that allows employees 16 hours of paid time off to give back. The company donates annually $40,000 to various nonprofits, Mansell said. On top of that, workers last year gave 352 hours of time without pay and $5,700 in dollars and in-kind donations. Under the new program, RevZilla has a goal of 4,000 volunteer hours, she added.
It’s all part of ZLAnthropy. That’s the cute name for RevZilla’s corporate social responsibility program that includes its bevy of Zillan-driven volunteer gigs.
“There’s a huge push with millennials to not just give money to a nonprofit but actually be involved in an integrated way with our community,” said Mansell, herself a millennial at a company where the average employee age is 31.
Traditionally, the 11-year-old company has put its money toward nonprofits focused on tech and entrepreneurship education. It still does. But as RevZilla has grown—more than doubled in size in the last three years—it has expanded its efforts.
Mansell came on board in 2015 and surveyed employees on causes they care about deeply. “I didn’t want it to be a top-down mandate that we’re going to focus on tech education,” she said, “when we have employees who care immensely about animal welfare, social justice, homelessness and poverty.”
As a result, Zillans have gone on lunch break to nearby John H. Taggart School to read stories to kindergarteners—an outgrowth of an employee suggestion to have a more direct impact. Employees also donate school supplies (things like light bulbs, hula hoops and socks, based on teacher requests) and help plant Taggart’s garden.
Customer service team leader Joseph “Joe” P. Chirik is a volunteer librarian and often reads Dr. Seuss favorites to the students. “I wanted to be able to share my passion for reading and knowledge and the ability to interact with other people who are the future of our neighborhood, our city, our country and the world,” said the 30-year Harley-Davidson rider who impressed his young charges with his two-foot-long gray beard. “The kids were so excited to see us.”
RevZilla’s community service program not only aims to improve the city where many of its employees live but also to provide low-risk ways for staff to acquire new skills, such as mentoring, according to Mansell.
When another employee suggested a corporate donation to New Leash on Life USA, a favorite charity based in Narberth, RevZilla.com stepped up and then held a doggie playdate at the office to further support the prison dog-training program. New Leash matches shelter dogs with inmates, who socialize the animals to make them more adoptable and along the way learn handling skills.
This year, the company will rev up its game. Employees, including Mansell, will help offenders involved in the program with job readiness skills, such as interviewing and writing resumes.
“You have to keep trying new things,” said Mansell, echoing one of the company’s core values. “We need to keep on finding more and better ways we can keep involved and help our employees give back to the community as well.”