Thermo Fisher

Thermo Fisher Scientific

How can you effectively engage employees in corporate philanthropy?

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s mission is to enable its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. This may seem ambitious, but with 50,000 employees working in 50 countries around the world, the company has both the knowledge and reach to make a difference. 

In 2009, Thermo Fisher realized its corporate giving and employee engagement activities needed a cohesive strategy and direction. “The program needed organization and structure,” says Taryn Corbino, Director of corporate social responsibility.  

Thermo Fisher wanted to create a fully integrated strategy. It hired The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) to help align its philanthropic plan with business goals and values, engage employees and create a signature initiative that focused on its areas of interest – math and science education.  

Through a series of conversations with top executives, Thermo Fisher’s CSR Committee agreed upon a philanthropic focus: To promote science education by supporting initiatives that inspire students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  Building upon this theme, we identified gaps in STEM funding and suggested where Thermo Fisher’s involvement could spark and sustain interest in STEM careers. 

We provided a variety of recommendations for Thermo Fisher’s overall philanthropic plan, including a framework to create employee-led Community Action Councils (CACs). The goal of the CACs is to engage employees more deeply in communities where Thermo Fisher operates, foster leadership development and better coordinate volunteering efforts in various locations.

Since our first engagement in 2009, we’ve continued to work with Thermo Fisher to operationalize the CACs, implement a matching gift program and integrate their philanthropic strategy throughout the company. Most recently, we’ve helped them develop a new STEM Scholarship Program, design and manage their Children of Employees Scholarship program, and plan their annual Community Action Councils Summit with the CAC Coordinators. 

With the support of senior leadership, the Thermo Fisher Community Action Councils (CACs) are helping to attract and retain talent, build employee morale, and are having real impact in the communities in which the CACs work. 

The Thermo Fisher Community Action Councils (CACs) give employees the freedom to choose what will be most appropriate for their local business, their employees and their community. Employee volunteers manage their programs locally so that they can evolve organically.

“We’ve done some really interesting things so far,” says David Schlesinger, Product Manager at Thermo Fisher in Madison, Wisconsin and leader of the Community Action Council there. “Now, we’re starting to work with the local school district in Madison. We identified one school that’s particularly in need. It has one of the highest poverty rates among its students. Our goal is to seed a new laboratory in that school so that they can build their own biotechnology curriculum.  We’re providing them with all of the equipment. They gave us a wish list and we’re prioritizing that list.”

The pilot CACs began in six key locations throughout the United States. Based on the success of these pilots, the program quickly expanded to 17 CACs located in the U.S., Europe and China. Through the CAC efforts, employees have volunteered thousands of hours. While participants represent a variety of departments and have varying levels of experience and expertise, they all have one common thread – they want to be involved in their communities.