Just before Christmas a group of Warner Bros. Entertainment employees spent a half day at the Pacoima facility of MEND helping with food distribution and picking out gifts in the organization’s store. Many of the folks from Warner Bros. had never been to MEND before and were unaware of its efforts to assist the poor with food, medical and dental care, and job training and assistance. The experience was eye opening enough that some wanted to make a longer- lasting contribution to the organization through donations taken from their paychecks. “We had a lot of people that were inspired by the program and came back to the office and enrolled (in payroll deduction) and took advantage of the company match because they came out thinking it was a great organization,” said Michelle Yates, the vice president for corporate responsibility at the Burbank studio. Regardless of size or industry businesses find it worthwhile to step up with time, financial and manpower commitments that allow nonprofits to keep their doors open and serve their client base. For many of these organizations, the partnerships forged with the business community (and municipalities) have become vital. In 2007 donations to nonprofits topped $300 billion, of which corporations contributed $15 billion. Past recessionary periods have resulted in drops in donations and 2008 is expected to follow that pattern. More than a struggling economy is needed to break the bonds and the goodwill created by those bonds between the business and nonprofit agencies. Both sides benefit the agencies by getting financial help and extra pairs of hands at busy times; the companies by creating camaraderie between employees and a sense of purpose outside the workplace. “It strikes a chord to be involved in anyway that they can,” said Dan Satterthwaite, head of Human Resources for DreamWorks Animation in Glendale. Company charity involvement can take the form of organized efforts, such as the IMPACT program at Warner Bros., or in more informal ways such as at DreamWorks where the employee events are more grass roots. But being a multi-million dollar corporation isn’t necessary to give back. Pavilions and Ralphs donate food for the 850 children in the Burbank Boys and Girls Club. Comprehensive Financial Services asks clients for toy donations every December that then get distributed to the children. “That is how we are able to provide toys every Christmas,” said club executive director Shanna Warren said. Ray Calnan is a San Fernando Valley realtor who has made a name for himself by donating 10 percent of his commissions to the charities of the choice of the buyers he represents. Charity Alliance Realty gives to national charities like the American Cancer Society and local ones like the Valley Interfaith Council, the Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness, and Ride On, where disabled children and adults learn horseback riding in Chatsworth. The donations by Calnan make his realty firm stand out from others and he finds that the not-for-profits are eager to spread the word about what he does, which in turn saves on advertising and marketing. Where companies decide to spend their time and money can reflect their industry or the interests of its employees from the corporate suites on down. DreamWorks Animation, for instance, tends to gravitate toward charities for families and those that teach art and technology to young people. Warner Bros. works with two well-established charities in Burbank The Boys and Girls Club and the Burbank Temporary Aid Center. In fact, the more established a charity is the more likely large corporations will donate. New charities generally rely on individual corporations until they have proven a track record. “There has to be some indication of the ability to deliver what it says it will deliver,” said Martin Trupiano, an Encino attorney who advises nonprofits and foundations. The Burbank Temporary Aid Center benefits not just from Warner Bros. largesse but also from The Walt Disney Co. and dozens of smaller businesses and the city. Receiving assistance is never difficult because those businesses know the center and that the donations will stay local, said its director Barbara Howell. In October when a call went out for food donations to meet a growing demand, business people, churches and the city all responded. “It really is remarkable. Once we get the word out people jump on the project,” Howell said. Learning for Life sponsors the popular Exploring program where students get mentored by professionals in a variety of careers with the most well known being law enforcement and firefighting. Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City sponsors a medical post and Celebrity High magazine sponsors a journalism post. The program is always looking to add new professions to form posts around. Students make suggestions based on their interests and then companies are sought out who want to provide the meeting space and the adult leadership, said Brenda Bradford, a Learning for Life director for the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. “Sometimes (the businesses) come to me because they want to take on a youth program,” Bradford said. The motivations for volunteering or giving money may develop for different reasons but all can be summed up with wanting to make a difference and to give back to the community in which a business is located. The hands-on experience of seeing the agency working with their clients is more fulfilling than just checking a box on a donation form. “To actually meet the organization and see it at work is important,” said Warner. Bros’s Yates.