Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: And this evening, we’ll all be taking a trip to Washington, D.C., and to the headquarters of World Wildlife Fund. Well begin the segment with their President and CEO, Carter Roberts and then hear from some members of the staff.
Carter: I would say this: it’s that we have a culture right now that regularly looks at the trend lines in the world, realizes the scale of what we’re up against, and has a great sense of urgency about getting after those things where we can. We have a culture that, because of who we are and how we were born, is deeply attentive to the different cultures in the world and in building bridges with other parts of the world. The best stuff we do is when three or four or five of our country programs come together, connect the dots, and it all comes together in a single place. And that is built not on structure, but on relationships.
Catherine: When I took this job, it felt like I won the lottery, and five years later, I still feel that way. This is the first job of my career where every Sunday night, I look forward to starting work on Monday morning. There’s no Sunday blues or dreading the grind – that kind of thing. It’s actually a really positive element of my life. I think a big part of that is because it’s fun. This work is really interesting and challenging and also really rewarding.
Elan: My first sort of reaction to working here is that it achieved this three-part perfection that’s very hard to find in any work which is that, the work is meaningful. I have a work-life balance, and the work is fun. Usually you can find two of those things where you like the work, and it’s fun but you’re working constantly. Or, you’re not working constantly, you’re not working that much, and it’s not that fun. So, it’s not big of a deal. WWF does a really good job of empowering people to do work that means a lot. But also we have every other Friday off. They’re called Panda Fridays.
Mary: I agree with everything that’s said before me but I want to say that I appreciate that WWF also walks the walk. We compost. We have a green room. We recycle 10 different batteries. We recycle plastics. We recycle wires. It’s just really nice to have that as the backbone of the organization too.
Brian: I would say one of the best things about working here is that I’ve been given the ability to grow not only as a network engineer but professionally, if I decide to leave WWF for whatever reason, I’ve been given the tools and given a lot of the ability to seek out education and certifications that are important to me that will be important to my career regardless of whether it’s useful here at WWF. Being able to have that backing for professional development is excellent in my opinion. I’ve been given the opportunity to go to conferences, take boot camps for certifications, obtain certifications. It’s been great.
Nikhil: I think the work that we do is always evolving. We have strategies, and these strategies are not set in stone. As new priorities come up, if it aligns with our mission, we’ll often try to tackle those. So the job I think is a result of that. Your job description is always evolving slightly. In my case, it’s been within the same team but there’s also a lot of opportunities for people to move amongst different teams in the organization. I know of people who just want to get their foot in the door somehow. They’ll start off in any position they can and then try to work their way up to that position that they aspire to be in.
Gayle: I have seen this place grow, change. I’ve met so many people. So many interesting people, so many smart people. I tell people all time, you can learn something new every day here. I love every one’s energy, their interests, their thirst for knowledge and their passion about our work.
Catherine: I was given the space to find a partner who would co-create this augmented reality app. It became the first augmented reality app for environmental science. When it was released in March, it was announced at the Apple event which was a huge boom. In the six months since then, we have had almost a million downloads. That means that this message, the app basically puts a river basin on your coffee table and lets you play with it and interact with it and see how different actions impact that river which impacts wildlife and people. Those messages are now in the hands of a million people all the around the world. The reason the app was able to come to creation was because are given that freedom, that space to pursue these kinds of dreams.
Diana: Thinking about culture, thinking about the type of people that we want to have here in the organization and especially what we are really interested in having as part of our big family is someone that is passionate. Passionate about what we do. We basically don’t want anyone that is not attached from the heart to our mission because one of our slogan and our phrase that is really imbedded in our organization is, “Together possible.” It means that we are seeking for people that is willing and enjoy collaboration because that’s part of our day to day.
Brian: For example, we have a junk mail distribution list. You can find anything from parking passes to someone selling a pair of shoes to someone who is an expert in pivot tables for excel from junk mail. So, that being an outlet for anyone in the organization to toss a question out there. Nine times out of 10, you get 20 to 30 good responses is amazing because not only do you have a new friend now or someone you haven’t talked to but you also learn what you need to know. You have a resource that you can depend on later on down the road.
Nikhil: For the last few years, we’ve had this internal innovation fund and the idea is, when you have some idea that you want to test for project and you just want to see – it’s a testing phase. You want to see what potential it has. We have this internal pot of money that each goal team has access to and you can apply for one year of funding from that.
Alex: I will just say quickly that I think the institution does want to foster innovation and tries to make pathways for that despite being a big institution. I think one of the best ways they do that is actually with hiring because the people that work here are insatiable. Seems like an odd word to use but there’s a churn of energy that doesn’t stop. If anything, the organization probably does have to fend off some innovation because there is so much. There are so many ideas. Everybody is passionate. Everybody wants to make their thing happen because they see a path to make a better world. So there’s some work to navigate that but as long as we keep having the kind of people that we have, it’s never going to stop.
Gayle: World Wildlife Fund is good with listening to staff. No matter where you are on the chain, you always have the opportunity to express an opinion, offer an idea, and if it’s a good one, people do run with it and they explore the possibilities. I don’t think that you get everywhere. I think that’s what makes WWF special and different.
Elan: The other thing is that a lot of people here and Lou included, everyone here has a high degree of emotional intelligence which is really important when you’re working on a team. There’s a language, there’s a way of working with each other that you’re able to be more honest and more productive with each other because you know that people have high conscientiousness and high sensitivity and that played out during my performance review but it also actually plays out every day here.
Diana: There is a really high respect for woman here. I never felt that because I belong to a minority plus I’m a woman, I feel I’ve been treated differently. I say this not because I belong to the Human Resources Department. I’m just saying what I need to say because I feel it. I haven’t been discriminated in this country but I’ve been treated differently because of my accent. In an interview, somebody asked me if I was willing to work on my accent to get the job or I was treated differently because I didn’t have the skin color of the majority of the team in the place that I used to work. So, I know what is being treated differently in United States, and I say this because it’s just how I feel, and I appreciate that I don’t feel I have to wear a mask while performing my job in WWF.
Mary: One the items she mentioned that I remember distinctly is there has to be trust in the organization and amongst your colleagues, and I feel that WWF staff have a lot of trust in each other, so that we can make mistakes, we can forgive ourselves, we can be the best that we can, and we’re coming from a place of good intentions rather than a place of, lack of a better phrase, evil intentions.
Denver: I would like to thanks Sarah Fogel for arranging my visit, and to all who participated in this piece, Catherine Blancard, Elan Strait, Diana Esper, Mary Naby, Brian Nelson, Nikhil Advani, Alex MacLennan, and Gayle Brown. To hear this again, read the transcript and see pictures of the participants and WWF offices, just come to www.denver-frederick.com, where we will have a link to my full interview with Carter Roberts, the President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund.
The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving