Veronica Valerio on Nurturing a Passion for Social Impact Work
Wondering how the Creative Writing Awards come together? Meet Veronica Valerio, Senior Manager, Corporate Giving and learn more about her Path to Penguin Random House, what drives her passion for social impact work, and what moments of the CWAs have been most memorable throughout her 22+ years of working on the program!
How would you describe the course of your path to PRH, including practical, professional, and educational?
In 1999, I started working at the Media Workshop, a project of the Bertelsmann Foundation which helped teachers integrate media in their classrooms. I was the administrative assistant to the Executive Director. The office was in the heart of Times Square in the Bertelsmann Building and we had a beautiful view.
In 2003, the program closed but my supervisor was offered the position of Director of Corporate Giving at Random House. I was hired as a freelancer to support her and then I was eventually hired as an Administrative Assistant, Corporate Giving. I supported the director with events, book donations, and the Creative Writing Awards which was the only awards program at the time. Eventually, I was promoted to coordinator, administrator, assistant manager, manager and in 2021, I was promoted to Senior Manager of Corporate Giving.
In my role as a Senior Manager of Corporate Giving, I create, develop and leverage new and existing charitable partnerships. I also manage U.S. corporate charitable contributions and in-kind donations, including matching gifts program and our awards programs like the Creative Writing Awards, Grants for Rural Libraries & Teacher Awards. I collaborate with publishing, editorial, publicity, sales, marketing and productions teams locally and nationally on social responsibility initiatives and connect them with nonprofit organizations and partnership opportunities.
When choosing initiatives or partners, what are the top three things you consider?
First and foremost, we look for organizations that share our mission and values and that will let us go beyond the books we publish. It’s also crucial they align with our sponsorship guidelines, such as including non-profit status, tax documentation. Finally, organizations we work with must not be religious or political, and they must adhere to our diversity, equity and inclusion policy.
Last year marked 20 years with PRH. What’s been a highlight of your PRH career?
The highlight of my career has been working with so many talented people over the years! Last year, for our Creative Writing Awards Program we partnered with Amanda Gorman and named our $10,000 Poetry award after her. This year, we partnered with Michelle Obama and named our memoir award after her. I’ve also moderated CWA events with some of our authors, including Nic Stone and Mahogany L. Browne. Meeting our talented CWA winners each year has been so inspiring!
I am lucky to be in a position where the company I work for supports these charitable and humanitarian initiatives. I get to help and work with these amazing organizations that do great work in the community. It gives me a sense of purpose and overall, a great feeling. When we give book donations, we sometimes get pictures of the kids and many of them show these huge, beautiful smiles holding up their book like a prize. You know these kids will treasure it. For some kids, this will be the first book they get to keep and take home. Seeing the smile on their faces to me is priceless.
We provide book donations to various nonprofits that serve underserved communities, including prison education programs. I am always proud of how we try to support the numerous requests we receive. I always joke around with my colleagues that I am the wrong person for this job because I am too giving. Last year, I worked with the warehouse to set up new prepacks for Prison Education Programs. Most prisons do not accept hard covers and they are limited on what type of books they can accept. We now have pre-packs that are set up specifically for these programs. We also now have prepacks for Pre-School, K-4 and Young Adult. By donating these we also help free up space at the warehouse!
What would you say to a colleague who’d like to become more involved in social impact work?
Having a passion for what you do is key in social impact work, as it is with anything. If you want to make a difference and positively affect society — whether locally, nationally, or globally, I highly recommend a career in social impact work. You can find purpose and value in what you do.
Tell us about your hobbies!
I love cooking and baking. I am very family oriented so I enjoy going out for dinner, bowling, and traveling!