Work hard. Play hard. Give back.

In 1988, when Genentech was a young and not yet profitable company, founders Herb Boyer and Bob Swanson began to think about ways they could give back to the community. They wanted to establish a framework for philanthropy from the start, so that giving would always be a core part of the company’s foundation. They came up with an innovative plan: they would divert an entire revenue stream — the royalties and licensing payments from early patents based on research by Arthur Riggs and Keiichi Itakura — to philanthropy. Using those proceeds, they created and funded the Genentech Foundation for Biomedical Sciences.

At first, the Foundation focused on funding science and biotechnology projects in local schools. But as proceeds from the patents increased, so did the number of charitable causes, including support for veterans with PTSD, families of children with cancer, and the hungry and homeless in communities around Genentech sites.

The Foundation is just one piece of a much larger giving ecosystem at the company. Genentech's charitable giving, including the Foundation, amounts to $42 million a year, and supports local communities, advancing scientific knowledge, and enhancing patient care. Among the many programs, Futurelab mentors local students in science learning from elementary school to high school graduation, Give Skills matches employee volunteers with nonprofits that need their professional skills, and through Employee Match, the company will match donations and volunteer hours contributed by employees.

Today, the founders’ desire to give back is clearly visible through employee volunteering. Though many employees volunteer year-round through corporate programs, the company as a whole bands together once a year for Genentech Gives Back Week. For five days, employees around the organization are encouraged to take time from their busy schedules and focus on charitable projects both on campus and in their local communities. Below are some highlights from Gives Back Week 2016.

During Gives Back Week, a big conference room in Building 21 was turned into a workshop with several activities happening simultaneously to support nonprofits. Camille Naea was part of a team from Human Resources that assembled Project Sunshine craft kits for kids who are in the hospital. Camille explained that with these kits, kids can decorate magic crowns to help boost their morale while they’re in the hospital. “It’s a fun day to help. It’s part of the culture to give back, and a chance for us all to catch up.”
A team of volunteers, including former CEO Ian Clark, put together hands-on science kits to help teach physical science in schools. “I’m making a spectroscope to teach kids about spectrum and light,” said Clark. He added, “We have a certain spirit at Genentech, and a mission, and people enjoy giving back.”
Gives Back Week volunteers pulled weeds at California Academy of Sciences, helping to maintain a habitat for caterpillars and butterflies. The Academy, which is also an international research institution, relies on volunteers to help support its scientific mission — and garden.
Building 21 was a hive of activity during Gives Back Week, when this team helped package over 80,000 healthy meals in two days for national and global relief efforts.
In another corner of the room, several people bent over sewing machines, stitching up bags that would hold new shoes for low-income children to wear on their first day of school, to help them feel confident.

Title Photo: Genentech employees are passionate about volunteering, and innovative in their approach. During Gives Back Week, several teams spruced up the playground at Sunshine Garden Elementary School, where employees mentor students year-round. One team solved the tedious problem of painting individual basketball backboards with “process improvement,” figuring out how to do it more efficiently. “We made a template,” says Chris Wimmer, who works in facilities, shown here with teammate Matthew Choy.