Participation Rates and the Perils of Conformity

Employee volunteering programs with ambitious participation rates may not be generating value for the company. Worse, they may even be creating a negative culture.

By Chris Jarvis

Why Participation Matters

Among CSR and corporate community investment teams, the most important measure of success for employee giving and volunteering programs is typically participation rates. Why? Because the general belief is that a good employee volunteering experience can either enhance existing job satisfaction levels or compensate for work that may be viewed as mundane or not meaningful. And the research supports this belief:

In general, employees’ desire for meaningful experiences grows from their positive work experiences and translates into increased volunteering. At the same time, the nature of the interaction between job and volunteer meaningfulness provides support for the compensation lens. Employees who report lower levels of meaningfulness in their jobs may also increase volunteering to the extent that it provides the desired sense of meaning.1

Either way, this is a win. Employee volunteering and giving programs improve employee satisfaction and performance. Additionally, despite the concerns of some, the research demonstrates that these programs don’t distract employees from their day jobs. 2

It is then reasonable to suggest that a high participation rate in employee giving and volunteering is a good goal in and of itself.

Or is it?

There are some very real dangers to persuing the goal of high participation in your companies CSR and citizenship programs without considering whether people “feel” it was their voluntary choice and free of workplace pressure.

Here’s why:

Participation is not engagement

First, let’s be clear about what we mean by the word participation. Sometimes the word is used interchangeably with engagement, but when it comes to employee giving and volunteering programs, these words have entirely different meanings. While you cannot have engagement without participation, you certainly can see people participate in a fairly unengaged way, acting in a kind of spectator role. In this context, engagement includes two observable behaviors:

  1. Participation. Obviously, if you don’t show up, you’re not engaged.
  2. Sharing. If people find the act of giving time and/or money engaging they will either tell someone about and/or invite others to try it out as well. This is connected to the concept of social capital. We generate social capital when we share tips on good restaurants or offer cautions such as what movies are not worth seeing.

With this in mind, participation is an important output metric, but it should be considered neither an outcome nor impact. In fact, fixating on participation rates without understanding what the desired outcomes and impacts are for the company, community, and the employees themselves, is dangerous.

Participation through pressure (even if it’s gentle and polite)

While we may understand that our employee giving and volunteering programs are voluntary, as soon as we set goals around participation without thinking through the outcomes that we are hoping to achieve through that participation we run the real risk of reducing engagement in the workplace. Author Francesca Gino explains in a recent Harvard Business Review article Let Your Workers Rebel:

Conformity at work takes many forms: modeling the behavior of others in similar roles, expressing appropriate emotions, wearing proper attire, routinely agreeing with the opinions of managers, acquiescing to a team’s poor decisions, and so on. And all too often, bowing to peer pressure reduces individuals’ engagement with their jobs.

Most of us would agree with Gino’s observation. Those responsible for community investment programs will likely argue that they are very careful not to pressure people to participate out of obligation. But for organizations that tend toward a culture of conformity, programs tend to be influenced by broader cultural norms.

In a recent survey of 2,087 U.S. employees in a wide range of industries, nearly 49% agreed with the statement ‘I regularly feel pressure to conform in this organization.’ This takes a heavy toll on individuals and enterprises alike. Employees who felt a need to conform reported a less positive work experience on several dimensions than did other employees.

Pressure to be good makes us bad

Besides feeling less positive, there is another – perhaps more dire – consequence that results when employees feel pressured to participate in voluntary, prosocial behavior such as giving and volunteering. As Justin Teo points out in his article, research produced this past year (2016) by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School study From Good Soldiers to Psychologically Entitled: Examining When and Why Citizenship Behavior Leads to Deviance clearly makes this link. The article states that any type of coercion or pressure to engage in Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) will ultimately result in a display of negative behavior in the workplace:

The negative behaviours observed from the research range from; stealing office supplies, neglecting core work duties and intentionally working slower than one could have, to yelling or cursing at fellow co-workers, treating customers poorly, and behaving rudely toward co-workers.3

Why does this happen?

When employees feel compelled to engage in OCB by external forces, they will subsequently feel psychologically entitled for having gone above and beyond the call of duty. Furthermore, these feelings of entitlement can act as moral credentials that psychologically free employees to engage in both interpersonal and organizational deviance.

How bad is bad?

Apparently, employees who felt this pressure not only displayed an entitlement to behave badly in the workplace but also acted uncharacteristically negative towards friends and family. This suggests that forced OCB may be experienced in some workplace giving campaigns, creating negative experiences across employee social networks. If we think carefully about our own experiences with feeling pressured or obligated to do something good, this may not be a surprising result. Remember when your parents forced you to follow a rule? They had you clean up your room or act in some other prosocial way in your own home? Didn’t you resent being forced to do something good? And on occasion, didn’t you use that event as justification for breaking a rule or behaving badly? (For example: I feel pressured to babysit my sister. I agreed, but I certainly don’t have to be nice to her while doing it.)

What does this “pressure” look like?

First of all, let’s be clear: whether or not the company has a culture of conformity, the real problem is when participation rates are held up as the ultimate measure of success. They are not. Holding to this metric as success contributes to a negative corporate culture.

Secondly, the pressure to participate in giving and volunteering programs can come from a variety of sources. If participation is the point, then it will be expressed through manager demands (as in many “month of giving” programs), peer pressure, and in constant reminders to record hours.

Focus on getting the right leaders, and participation will lead to engagement.”

If these dynamics are at play as a result of our fixation with participation rates, then, as Teo points out, employees “engage in negative behaviour because they believe that they are accumulating ‘credentials’ by providing something which is above and beyond their job requirement. This allows them to draw on the credentials necessary to give them a sense of entitlement to engage in negative/self-serving behaviours.”


So … what is the solution? Shouldn’t we want high participation in our employee volunteering and giving programs? What about the benefits cited at the beginning of this article? What about getting to engagement (because engagement cannot happen without participation)?

Just change two things: the measure and the means of success.

Focus on modeling leadership and not coercing participation

Employee volunteering and giving programs that focus on finding the right leaders and giving them a platform upon which to model that leadership will produce the right kind of results. In a fascinating article, Prosocial Conformity: Prosocial Norms Generalize Across Behavior and Empathy, researchers found that people are incredibly susceptible to the influence of prosocial behavior and empathetic responses to need. When people see others, especially leaders, engage in OCB, they are likely to find voluntary expressions of mimicking such behavior. But the research also discovered that observing the behavior was not actually a requirement. Even seeing how leaders respond to others matters in that “prosocial behavior can emerge simply by observing empathic norms.” That means that “merely observing empathic or non-empathic responses to homeless individuals influenced how much money participants donated to a homeless shelter.” 4

Focus on getting the right leaders, and participation will lead to engagement.

Wondering about next steps? Here are some helpful resources:

You may be interested in an online course Chris is leading this March (click the image for details):

Realized Worth is a global consulting firm that works with companies to design and implement employee volunteer programs. We focus on equipping individuals to lead programs in a scalable way, achieving impact for the company, the community, and the employee. Would you like to discuss your program with us? We’d be happy to hear from you! Email us directly at, or find us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Chris Jarvis
Realized Worth Co-Founder & CEO
Connect with Chris on LinkedIn
Follow Realized Worth on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn


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2017 CSR & Employee Volunteering Conferences

Now that the new year is ten days in, are you ready to really get it started?

Realized Worth is pleased to provide the following list of corporate social responsibility (CSR)  and employee volunteering conferences happening in 2017. We hope to attend most of these events and learn from the best in the industry, so please let us know if you’re going to be there – we’d love to see you! If you’re curious about our personal opinions on the best and worst events, just reach out at and we’ll direct you to the most knowledgeable team member.

You can also easily connect with us via Facebook and Twitter.

You’ll notice this list only includes conferences that have at least one session or track focused on volunteering and/or employee engagement. If you’re looking for supply chain and sustainability events, click here. If you notice CSR or employee volunteering events we missed, or if you’re privy to updated details, please email us and be sure to include the date, location, and link.

Editor’s note: Most of the descriptions below are taken directly from their corresponding event’s website and do not necessarily reflect RW’s views.

Additionally, all fees are USD unless otherwise noted. 

Sustainability with a Dash of Employee Volunteering

GreenBiz Summit
February 14-16 // Phoenix, Arizona

“Sustainability leaders from the the world’s largest companies gather at GreenBiz 17 to explore pressing challenges and emerging opportunities in sustainable business today. The event offers a unique blend of presentations, workshops and networking opportunities framed by the State of Green Business report, GreenBiz Group’s award-winning annual research and analysis of key sustainability metrics and trends. Attendees return from GreenBiz 17 both inspired by what’s possible and prepared to immediately tackle their organization’s greatest sustainability challenges.”

Ethical Corporation Responsible Business Summit
March 27-28 // New York, NY

The 2017 conference brings the best, the most innovative and most inspiring brands in responsible business to New York at #RBSNY – 200+ attendees learn how to deliver purpose for commercial success, the environment and stakeholders, including topics such as:

  • Profit: Use sophisticated data to build a more effective CSR business case
  • People: Influence stakeholders and drive culture change to make the right “sell”
  • Planet: Accelerate progress through technology, environmental and supply chain risk mitigation

6th International Conference on Social Responsibility, Ethics and Sustainable Business
September 28-29 //Berlin, Germany

“This is a series of academic conferences that creates networking opportunities for both researchers and practitioners to discuss recent insights on corporate responsible practices in the non-for-profit and for-profit sectors. The conference welcomes scholarly papers and practice contributions on the following topics: CSR and Sustainability, CSR and Business Ethics, Social Media and Grassroots Campaigns, CSR and Education, Communicating CSR, CSR Initiatives and Strategies, Corporate Governance, NGO Marketing, CSR in the Digital Age, Reputation and Crisis Management, Ethical Stakeholder Engagement. This conference is an effective platform for growth for early career researchers and practitioners and it fosters a strong professional and academic network worldwide.”

ICCSRSD 2017: 19th International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development
January 19-20 // London, UK

“This event aims to bring together leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development. It also provides a premier interdisciplinary platform for researchers, practitioners and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns as well as practical challenges encountered and solutions adopted in the fields of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development.”

International Conference on CSR, Sustainability, Ethics and Governance
July 26-28 // Perth, Western Australia
$227-772 (AUD)

“The event is one of the largest international conferences focusing on responsible business with delegates from over 40 nations expected to present their latest research and its practical implications for business, society, academia and politics. In a series of academic and practitioner panels critical insights from research and praxis will be shared in areas such as management, finance, tourism, and education as well as nonprofit management, development studies and other fields of interest.”

5th International Conference on CSR & Sustainable Development
May 9-10
 // Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

“The conference will bring together business representatives, non-government organizations, consultants, researchers, academicians, students and representatives from other elements of civil society to discuss a broad array of topics related to corporate social responsibility across the various parts of the world. Conference organizers welcome paper/case study/poster submissions from all disciplines on topics including but not limited to: supply chain sustainability, human rights and business sustainability, the role of NGOs and other elements of civil society, and more.”

Business for Social Responsibility 2017 Conference
Details TBD

“BSR is a global nonprofit organization that works with its network of more than 250 member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world. From its offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, BSR develops sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research, and cross-sector collaboration. Learn more about BSR’s 25 years of leadership in sustainability.”

We look forward to more information on BSR’s 2017 annual conference!

April 26-27 // San Francisco, CA

“Good governance, transparency, stakeholder engagement and bottom line performance are all hallmarks of a truly sustainable and profitable 21st century corporation. Across the globe, leading investors and corporations are accelerating innovative sustainable solutions that are building long-term value, while protecting the health of our planet and the economy.

Join us at the Ceres Conference 2017 in San Francisco as we hear from leaders who are catalyzing the biggest breakthroughs on these issues and recognize that, regardless of political headwinds, sustainability is the bottom line.”

Sustainable Brands Events
March 8-9, Tokyo, Japan // April 20-21, Istanbul, Turkey // May 7-9, Madrid, Spain // May 22-25. Detroit, MI, USA // October 30-November 1, Copenhagen, Denmark // October, Bangkok, Thailand // October, Cape Town, South Africa
Fees vary

“Sustainable Brands® events were founded on the belief that unleashing the best of our human ingenuity and innovation can change the shape of business, and with it, the world. Connect with professionals from different perspectives and disciplines in an optimistic, collaborative environment and create a shared vision of what is possible. Attend an upcoming event and learn more about past events by watching video highlights here.”

A Broad Focus on All Things Corporate Citizenship

The US Chamber of Commerce Corporate Citizenship Conference
November 15-16 // Washington, DC

“On a daily basis, businesses serve as powerful forces for good around the world. From job creation to corporate citizenship initiatives, the private sector’s impact on society is enormous. Building corporate purpose has the potential to unlock even greater societal impact. A strong corporate purpose can unify a company and empower employees. It transcends business units to unlock the full potential of a company. It can strengthen supply chains and attract more customers. And if this sense of purpose infuses the entire value chain, real progress can occur.”

The US Chamber puts on a thought provoking corporate citizenship conference every year. We look forward to more details on the 2017 event!

2017 Shared Value Leadership Summit
May 9-10 // New York, NY

“The 2017 Shared Value Leadership Summit will be held on Tuesday, May 9 and Wednesday, May 10 at the Conrad New York. We’ll be hosting for the fourth time in New York City and will feature a two-day agenda gathering more than 400 shared value practitioners. What can you expect at the summit? The 2017 Shared Value Leadership Summit will not only offer inspiration to the innovators who create shared value – but also the tools to get the work done. Expect to be inspired: The plenary stage will feature inspirational speakers who find business opportunities in social challenges.”

ACCP: The 2017 Conference
March 12-15 // San Antonio, TX

“The mission of ACCP is to empower corporate responsibility leaders to improve the world and strengthen their companies. The conference will explore the ‘how’ of working across your organization and the ‘how’ of linking what you do to your company’s core reason for being. The conference features general sessions, learning labs, workshops, and The Masters’ Series. Be prepared to be inspired! Learning labs are 60 minute sessions that give you an opportunity to drill down into a topic in a small group setting and allow you to walk away with knowledge you can put into action.”

CECP 12th Annual Board of Boards
February 27 // New York, NY
Invite only

“CECP’s Board of Boards, a Forbes-named top three ‘power player’ event for CEOs, is a three hour, closed-door networking discussion. A benefit of being a CECP CEO, the event provides the opportunity for peers to discuss the business imperative for infusing stakeholder needs into core business strategy. Remarks from CEO Force for Good honorees inform a board meeting-style conversation. This year’s event includes first ever strategic investor presentations in the afternoon.”

Council on Foundations Annual Conference: Leading Together
April 23-26 // Dallas, TX

“Leading Together is the premier conference for the philanthropic community. It’s a rich, immersive, thought-provoking experience dedicated to exploring the essential role that philanthropy – and you – plays in society and creates transformational change. At Leading Together, you’ll learn, connect, and grow. You’ll mingle with thought leaders, industry pioneers, and more than a thousand of your peers from across the country and from all foundation types – over four energizing days filled with dynamic keynotes, sessions, and networking events. Plus, you’ll walk away with a renewed love for what you do – and what philanthropy can accomplish when we lead together.”

The 2017 Global Pro Bono Summit
March 7-10 // Lisbon, Portugal

Since 2013, the Taproot Foundation and BMW Foundation have convened the leaders of the pro bono movement to share challenges and best practices among peers. The summit format and location change each year to accommodate the varied needs of attendees.

The 2016 Global Pro Bono Summit was held in Singapore and drew CSR and pro bono movement leaders from over 23 countries. The Summit challenged pro bono movement leaders to identify ways to increase their impact and hold each other accountable to delivering and facilitating pro bono work that drives social change.

We look forward to more details on the 2017 Global Pro Bono Summit in Lisbon, Portugal!

2017 Net Impact Conference
October 26-28 // Atlanta, GA

“The Net Impact Conference is the leading forum for students and professionals who want to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems. In addition to the 10 conference tracks, 100 sessions, and 300 speakers, each Net Impact Conference offers a whole host of special events, including networking opportunities, boot camps, offsite business tours, and impact workshops.”

We look forward to more details on the 2017 event!

CGI 2016 Annual Meeting
Details TBD

CGI’s Annual Meetings have brought together 190 sitting and former heads of state, more than 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. Meeting participants analyze pressing global challenges, discuss the most effective solutions, and build lasting partnerships that enable them to create positive social change. To date, members of the CGI community have made more than 3,400 commitments, improving the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries.

Tried and True Events for CSR and Employee Volunteering

2017 International Corporate Citizenship Conference
March 26-28 // Boston, MA

“The 2017 International Corporate Citizenship Conference is uniquely tailored to corporate citizenship professionals. The annual 2.5 day conference brings together industry experts and more than 600 CSR practitioners from around the world to network, learn, and grow. This year’s theme is corporate citizenship ecosystems.”

7a Conferencia Regional IAVE de Voluntariado de América Latina
October 18-20 // Antigua, Guatemala

“Las Conferencias Regionales de IAVE se realizan en los años intermedios de las Conferencias Mundiales. Para el 2017, se ha elegido a Guatemala como sede de la VII Conferencia Regional de Voluntariado para América Latina y al Centro de Voluntariado Guatemalteco como coorganizador y anfitrión local para tan magno evento. Esta alianza es una gran oportunidad para que los líderes voluntarios de la región se reúnan y compartan experiencias, herramientas y conocimiento en temas de voluntariado. El evento se llevará a cabo en la hermosa Ciudad de Antigua Guatemala en octubre de 2017. ¡Empieza a preparar tus maletas!”

IAVE European Corporate Volunteering Conference
May // Madrid, Spain

“Since the first world conference in 1970 in Los Angeles, IAVE has convened 22 more times in world conferences. Twice in that time, the conference has deviated from its tradition of meeting in even numbered years – in January 2001 in Amsterdam to kick off the United Nations International Year of Volunteers (IYV) and in January 2011 in Singapore in celebration of the 10th anniversary of IYV.

The structure of the conferences always includes plenaries with challenging and inspiring speakers; forums that dig deep into challenging issues confronting the field; workshops that are designed to present new ideas, expose highly effective practices and stimulate participant dialogue; and, ample time to meet informally and to learn about the host country.”

We look forward to additional details on the 2017 conference in Madrid!

IAVE 15th Asia-Pacific Corporate Volunteer Conference
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia // November

“Since the first world conference in 1970 in Los Angeles, IAVE has convened 22 more times in world conferences. Twice in that time, the conference has deviated from its tradition of meeting in even numbered years – in January 2001 in Amsterdam to kick off the United Nations International Year of Volunteers (IYV) and in January 2011 in Singapore in celebration of the 10th anniversary of IYV.

The structure of the conferences always includes plenaries with challenging and inspiring speakers; forums that dig deep into challenging issues confronting the field; workshops that are designed to present new ideas, expose highly effective practices and stimulate participant dialogue; and, ample time to meet informally and to learn about the host country.”

We look forward to further details on IAVE’s 2017 conference in Malaysia!

Engage for Good (formerly The Cause Marketing Forum)
May 31-June 1 // Chicago, IL

“This year, on its 15th birthday, the Cause Marketing Forum is getting a makeover. This field of companies and causes doing well by doing good together has changed enormously since 240 souls gathered at the first CMF conference in 2003. There’s still a huge way to go, but corporate social initiatives are becoming more longterm, integrated and strategic than the more promotional efforts we focused on back in the early days. In keeping with that evolution, we’re excited to share we’re changing our name from the Cause Marketing Forum to Engage for Good. It’s a brand that better reflects our mission of helping companies and causes succeed together by engaging consumers and employees in a variety of ways.”

We look forward to more information on the Cause Marketing Forum’s annual event!

PYXERA Global Engagement Forum: Live
April 4-5 // Washington, DC
Request an invitation

On April 4-5, 2017, PYXERA Global will convene an invite only forum focusing on specific solvable problems related to global health, agriculture, and economic opportunity. Join leaders from across sectors for two days of intensive collaboration to move the Global Goals from aspiration to achievement.

Companies and Causes Canada
Details TBD

“Companies & Causes Canada is an initiative of the US based Cause Marketing Forum. Since it was founded in 2002, CMF has worked toward the goal of increasing the number of successful company/cause alliances by providing business and nonprofit executives with the practical information and connections they need to succeed.”

Each year, David Hessekial and the Cause Marketing team put on a spectacular event. We hope to see more details on this year’s conference soon!

Volunteering, Specifically

Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service
June 19-21 // Seattle, Wa

“Points of Light’s Conference on Volunteering and Service is the largest service related convening of nonprofit, government, business and civic leaders in the world. Each year, thousands of people who really care about the future of volunteer service convene in one place – to learn from, share with and get inspired by one another – to work together to increase the number of volunteers in the world and the impact of the work they do.”

CEV Capacity Building Conference
April 6-7 // London, UK

“Representatives from CEV member organisations from across Europe will gather together with interested UK / London based stakeholders in April 2017 in order to consider the volunteering strategies that are needed in Europe and how to design and implement them. Workshop leaders will share their experience and practice together with participants with a view to building capacity and developing a best practice guide for use across Europe by governments, local authorities, volunteer centres, volunteer organisations and companies.”

HR and Employee Engagement

Your Workplace Conference
June 1 // Toronto, ON
$595 (through February 17)

“Your Workplace Conference is presenting innovative, cutting edge Canadian and international trends in HR. Designed to spark conversation and connection, this event will be delivered with the theme, imagine your workplace — what you could achieve if deliberate intention rather than unconscious reaction drove your business. This unique event will blend science with the art of implementation to improve the quality of organizations. Come and learn how to achieve high employee engagement and inject unprecedented productivity into the soul of your organization.”

The CIPD Employee Engagement Conference and Workshop
January 25-26 // London, UK

“In a world where we are seeing an increase in remote and flexible working, it is becoming harder to engage and motivate staff. Organisations need to think of innovative ways to connect employees and improve the employee experience as a whole. With a variety of formats; this year’s conference will provide the tools to use technology to connect a dispersed workforce, create a value based company culture and improve wellbeing and engagement across a diverse workforce.”

HCI 2017 Employee Engagement Conference: Creating an Engaged Culture through Purpose, Connection, and Neuroscience
July 24-26 // San Francisco, CA

“Engaged cultures are made up of fierce, change-ready people who drive innovation, and challenge the marketplace with products and services that connect directly to the customer base. HCI believes that to build this type of culture, organizations must clearly articulate their purpose and values and reinforce those values by recognizing and rewarding behaviors that further those competencies.

HR leaders need to rethink the behaviors we reward to ensure we’re not rewarding actions that don’t propel the organization forward. It’s just as important to understand the ‘why’ we recognize before thinking about ‘how’ we recognize.”

Employee Engagement Summit: Europe’s biggest employee engagement event
April 20 // London, UK

“The third Employee Engagement Summit to be held once again at the Victoria Park Plaza in Central London on April 20 2017 promises to be the biggest and best yet. The 2017 Summit will include delegate friendly interactive technology designed to encourage networking and full immersion into the day’s proceedings covering topics such as: Employee Engagement, Links to Performance & Profitability, Evolution of Work, Transformation & Change Management, Technology, The Digital Employee, and Reward & Well Being.”

Mental Health in the Workplace: Creating an Engaged, Productive, Mentally Healthy Workforce
May 16-17 // New York, NY

“As an HR professional or leader workplace mental health is one of the most important challenges you face. It impacts productivity, absenteeism, health care costs, employee engagement and corporate culture. This first time program will provide an essential forum and vital information on this increasingly critical subject covering topics such as: recognizing and addressing the impact of depression and anxiety in the workplace, creating a wellness culture, using the insights from positive psychology to create a happier more engaged workforce, using mindfulness to optimize employee mental health, addressing the issue of stigma around mental health, the impact social isolation can have on your workplace, and the role of mental health in fostering work life balance.”

Fun and Practical Events by Workplace Giving Tech Providers

VolunteerMatch Annual Client Summit
Details TBD

“VolunteerMatch, is a nonprofit organization best known for its web services, which aim to strengthen communities by making it easier for people to find good causes. The organization also partners with businesses to provide tools and services to help companies, brands, campuses and government manage volunteer programs and support corporate social responsibility initiatives.”

Each year, VolunteerMatch puts on a great event for clients and partners. We hope to see more details on this year’s conference soon!

YourCause CSRWorks: It’s Up to Us
April 11 // Plano, TX

“YourCause is a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider using proprietary technology to build meaningful connections between corporations, employees and nonprofits. We don’t let anything get in the way of innovating how connections support global change. See how YourCause got its start and what drives our future.”

Each year, YourCause hosts two fun-filled days in Dallas connecting, collaborating and communicating on how to make a greater impact in our companies and the world for clients and friends. We look forward to more information on this year’s event from Matt Combs and his team!

+Impact Conference by CauseCast
Details TBD

“Causecast is the leading provider of workplace giving and volunteering solutions for visionary companies who know that highly engaged employees are the engine for business growth and enduring social change.”

In 2016, CauseCast hosted the inaugural +IMPACT Conference where inspirational change makers, community impact leaders and employee engagement professionals came together for insights, advice, and networking. We look forward to another great event this year by Ryan Scott and his team!

Goodness Matters by Benevity
February 7-9 // Palm Springs, CA

“Benevity is the global leader in online workplace giving, matching, volunteering and integrated grant management solutions. Some of the world’s most iconic brands rely on Benevity’s award winning solutions to power their Goodness Programs and corporate philanthropy, helping them attract, retain and engage today’s workers by connecting people personally to causes that matter to them.”

Each year, Benevity holds a client summit that receives rave reviews from attendees. Click here for an example. We look forward to more details on this year’s event by Bryan de Lottinville and his team!

BBCON 2017 by BlackBaud
October 17-19 // Baltimore, MD

“Hosted by Blackbaud, bbcon conference brings together thousands of fundraisers, philanthropists, educators and industry thought leaders to discuss current trends, best practices, and outcome based solutions that help advance the social good movement. Whether you’re a nonprofit, individual fundraiser, corporation, foundation or educational institution, the conference offers unparalleled learning experience and innovative technology insights that will fuel your passion and guide your fundraising strategies to help you make greater impact for your organization and its mission.”

This list will be updated regularly throughout the year. Again, please do reach out to us if we’ve missed anything, or have not yet updated details you’re aware of. Thanks!

Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs. Call us to discuss opportunities for your company, or email us via You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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One Last Thought for the Road

Dear friends of Realized Worth,

Last week, the RW team gathered around a holiday feast in Toronto and happily raised our glasses to the hope of a new year. We said hearty goodbyes to 2016 and allowed ourselves to laugh as we recalled the challenging events of the year. We made it through. We did well. And we are grateful.

Like so many others, the challenges of 2016 took us by surprise. From public health emergencies to heartbreaking celebrity deaths; from Brexit to the US Presidential election, Brussels, Nice, Istanbul, Orlando, and Aleppo. These are the true, important and astonishingly painful stories that fill our news feeds, while in our daily lives we have witnessed the heartbreak of our own children, the unexpected loss of loved ones, and the hopelessness of friends.

I heard someone say, with conviction, “Now, that’s what I need at a CSR conference.”

Looking back on the past twelve months, we have seen that with suffering comes a call to intervene. This year, compassion and empathy have emerged in full force through art and expression, corporate initiatives and volunteering, social movements and peaceful protests. In March I attended a conference where – at a rowdy reception at the end of a long day – a woman with a strong and peaceful presence asked if she could read me a poem. When I nodded and she began to read, a hush fell over the crowd around us.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there….

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

Her voice took on an ethereal quality and we, a crowd of 20 or more, listened with rapt attention. When this unexpected poetry reading concluded and the poignant atmosphere merged with the surrounding post-conference chaos, I saw more than one tear quickly wiped away by both men and women in the listening crowd. Before we broke apart and returned to our networking and small talk, I heard someone say, with conviction, “Now, that’s what I need at a CSR conference.”

Ours is not a task of fixing the entire world all at once. And so, this holiday season, it’s Realized Worth’s wish that you be inspired by the world within your reach – the server who seems short-tempered or cold, the kid at work with his entitled attitude, your sister who always says the wrong thing. Or perhaps this is your season to receive, to open up to the gifts offered by others. Maybe your greatest contribution this holiday season is simple acceptance.

For much of the world, it’s been a very hard year. These holiday weeks offer a time to give and receive as best we can. To extend grace and hospitality to those who least expect it and to be kind to ourselves when we’ve nothing left to give. That night at the CSR conference, my friend ended her reading with these words:

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul … The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

Though the road ahead may be as perilous as the one we’ve just taken, we’ll take it nonetheless. And as we go, we might just discover our potential as human beings to be better than we thought we could be. On behalf of everyone at Realized Worth, here’s to being fierce and showing mercy. 

– Angela Parker, co-founder, Realized Worth

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What We Learned: Employee Volunteering in 2016

There’s a lot of ink spilled this time of year – “best of”/”worst of” lists, top 10 cat videos (OK – go to that link, but come back and read this after!) etc. While the prevailing sentiment out there is captured by this t-shirt, we beg to differ. The practice of employee volunteering is steadily improving. Every week, we are impressed with the sophistication being demonstrated by practitioners, nonprofits, and with volunteers themselves. In this spirit, we thought we’d look back on the year and share a few of our favorite things.

By Corey Diamond

1. PROOF! Employees who volunteer are more engaged and are more likely to stay.

Last year we put a call out for Canadian companies to join us in a study of employee volunteering and engagement in the Great White North. Together with Veraworks, we surveyed and studied five companies to determine the ROI of their employee volunteering program, and which program “optimizers” lead to higher engagement.

Here’s what we found:

  • Participation in company organized volunteering is linked to higher levels of engagement for respondents. However, volunteering conducted by employees independently of the company is not linked to engagement.
  • Elements that appear to augment the engagement lift of company-organized volunteering are as follows:
    • Supervisor approval/encouragement
    • When volunteer motivation is driven by desire to gain new skills
    • When volunteer motivation is driven by desire to build resume/advance career
    • Higher “dosage” of company organized volunteering (40-80) hours
  • Elements that appear not to augment the engagement lift of company organized volunteering:
    • Conducting volunteering using paid time off
    • Offering volunteer grants

(Kind of surprising, right? Reach out if you’d like to learn more.)

2. Embedding a volunteer program within your company culture works!

At RW headquarters, we live in a world of proposals, workplans, slide decks, tracked changes and forgetting to unmute on conference calls. While we’re helping to reinforce the “plumbing” of a company’s volunteering program, we are often separated from the actual impact achieved by these programs.

From time to time, we check to see if the behind-the-scenes work is leading to change on the ground. This happened recently at the retail store of a high profile client, where we were told how the introduction of the employee volunteering program – and assigning a Volunteer Champion – had galvanized staff around an issue, and actually led to higher engagement and lower absenteeism.

Check out RW co-founder Angela Parker’s firsthand account of what happened. It’s a great reminder to pull yourself away from your screen and talk to some people about how your program is affecting them.

3. PROOF! Being “voluntold” doesn’t work. 1

The field of employee volunteering continues to focus on outputs such as participation rates and hours volunteered. While you can’t measure outcomes or impact without tracking these types of outputs, focusing solely on increasing the number of employee volunteer actions can actually have negative implications.

Creating the space for meaningful experiences should be the focus of your program, rather than participation alone.

A 2016 National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School study: From Good Soldiers to Psychologically Entitled: Examining When and Why Citizenship Behavior Leads to Deviance, found that employees who engage in organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), which includes participating in volunteering programs, because they feel forced or pressured to, are subsequently more likely to display negative behavior in the workplace. The negative behaviors observed from the research range from stealing office supplies, neglecting core work duties and intentionally working more slowly than one could have, to cursing at fellow co-workers, treating customers poorly, and behaving rudely toward co-workers.

Readers of this blog probably already know this: meaningful experiences are more likely to occur if the volunteer is intrinsically motivated to participate prosocially. While most people start with an extrinsic motivation to participate (i.e., your cubicle buddy asked you to join them at the food bank), a volunteer event should focus on connecting the volunteer to the beneficiary/cause, allowing her to internalize the program for herself.

Creating the space for meaningful experiences should be the focus of your program, rather than participation alone.

In 2016, we witnessed how employee volunteering is changing lives across the globe.

Here are a few examples of some great work being done:


In terms of corporate programs, Australian companies seem to have discovered a reasonable middle ground between being the first to fail or the last to try. Evidenced by the strong attendance at the RW workshop series this past August, companies are eager to learn about innovative, global practices. They’re inquisitive about what works and why. Rather than diving headlong into the most recent “best” practice, they weigh the options and take conscious steps forward into ideas that are likely to succeed as well as push past the boundaries of what’s been done before.

Want some examples of companies in Australia doing great work? Check out Bankwest, Atlassian, Woodside, Deloitte Australia, and Alcoa. We heard incredible stories and saw great work coming from the men and women leading the charge at these organizations.

South Africa

In South Africa, a company’s desire to do good seems directly connected to the desire of the people to heal the painful aspects of their history and celebrate their rich culture. At a well attended leadership forum in Johannesburg, RW co-founders had the opportunity to witness local company representatives mapping how they can work together to align their CSR work and volunteer programs with Impact 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. Unlike other leadership forums, the South Africa group brought the discussion one step closer to home by proposing an alignment with their country goals developed as part of the new millennium. Attendees in the room who had joined from other parts of the world were inspired to consider what it would take to bring the Global Goals closer to home in their own countries.


As many of our readers will know, India adopted the “2% law” in 2014. What that means is companies are required to give at least 2% of their net profits to charitable causes. Two years later, the effectiveness of this law remains hotly debated.

Some say the change in law is waking up corporate India to its wider social responsibilities. “The so-called 2% law has brought CSR (corporate social responsibility) from the fringes to the boardroom,” argues Bimal Arora, chair of the Delhi based Centre for Responsible Business. “Companies now have to think seriously about the resources, timelines and strategies needed to meet their legal obligations.”

Maybe more significantly, we’ve spoken with employees at companies like SAP India who are engaged in longterm, meaningful volunteering initiatives. Their comments? The 2% law has increased awareness and validated the importance of their community work.

Latin America

The development of corporate volunteering programs throughout Latin America is growing at a rapid pace among organizations large and small that are starting to deeply understand the value proposition and multiple benefits of these programs. Nonprofits and companies, along with other stakeholders, are building strategic partnerships that are yielding stronger impacts. Networks like Voluntare offer resources, support, and research to thousands of members across Latam, while research around metrics and the value proposition of corporate volunteer programs can be seen everywhere, including GDFE’s upcoming guide in Argentina and UNV Peru’s Red Nacional Soy Voluntaria in partnership with CENTRUM. New research that will be available in 2017 as well. IMPACT 2030 also made its first debut in Argentina and Brasil this past November, with Google and Realized Worth hosting the first regional leadership forums in this part of the world. Hearing the ideas and work that participants are doing in their organizations and communities was a clear indication that Latam is growing strong and steady.

And right here in North America we are seeing more evidence of volunteer programming that accounts for the weight of responsibility that accompanies the power corporations possess in the developed world. Perhaps more than ever before, the state of our society demands that those of us who can fight for justice and equality on behalf of those who are marginalized or living in poverty or fear. Companies are the gatekeepers of this responsibility, and this year RW has seen them become increasingly strategic as they’ve taken that responsibility more seriously. While we don’t celebrate the difficulties faced by populations all over the world, we are grateful to see companies rising to the occasion, using their great power for good.

We learned that of all the “Global Goals,” #17 may be the most important of them.

This year, Impact 2030 celebrated its first official summit in New York City at the UN Global Headquarters. Leaders from all over the world came together and created action teams through which their companies can collaborate and contribute to the achievement of the Global Goals. The movement continues to grow and live into its global name while companies, one by one, are demonstrating what it looks like to embrace Global Goal #17: Partnerships for the Goals.

GSK/SAP collaboration
One inspiring example comes from SAP, a German multinational software company, and GSK, an British pharmaceutical company, brought their respective areas of expertise together to send employees on “social sabbatical” assignments in Kigali, Rwanda.

The program assembles international teams to solve business challenges for entrepreneurial and educational organizations in emerging markets, while helping employees strengthen their leadership competencies, cross-industry knowledge and intercultural sensitivity.”

While both companies are candid about the challenges faced, this is an incredible partnership where the key issue was not sales, target markets, or competitive advantage. The key question: how can the private sector as a whole (rather than as separate entities) collaborate with the public sector to generate longterm impact? To read more about the partnership, click here.

Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs. Call us to discuss opportunities for your company, or email us via You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.

Corey Diamond
Chief Operating Officer
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  1. Basically, being “voluntold” is when management says it’s optional, but we all know it’s mandatory.
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