Each year, CECP, in association with The Conference Board, releases a comprehensive report of the corporate volunteering and giving industry. By surveying 271 companies (including 67 of the Fortune 100), and providing some of the best analysis in the business, the report details the clearest snapshot and benchmark for practitioners in this space.
The link between profit and purpose is a strong one.
In a year-over-year comparison, companies that gave 10% in cash and other donations financially outperformed those that didn’t. Proving causality is hard to do with a snapshot like this, but there are other studies that have proven the link, including this one from the London School of Economics.
But despite the evidence, few companies are measuring it. According to the survey, only 29% of participating companies are measuring the business value of corporate volunteering and giving programs. If you’re like most people in the industry, this is a burning question that you’ve always want answered. Some enlightened companies in Canada (aren’t all things enlightened in Canada?) are tackling the ROI of Corporate Volunteering in an effort to tie their programs directly to core business.
So as you toil away each day, wondering if you are making a difference to the health of your company, know that the work you are doing is making your company stronger. Sooner or later though, you’ll need to prove it.
Your company’s contributions likely represent only 0.1% of total revenue.
This should be cause for concern. Average contributions continue to hover at less than 1/10th of a percentage of total revenue. This number hasn’t changed over the past 3 years, despite the U.S. GDP growing 4% during that time. While some companies have increased their giving (more than half of those surveyed report this), others are pulling back, resulting in the number remaining stable. With global attention being paid to increasing social and environmental issues – and the United Nations rallying the world around the Global Goals – are your company’s contributions helping to match the scale of the issues the world is facing?
Participation rates are still low …
Like most in the industry, you have likely developed a matching gift program for donations and/or a dollars for doers program for volunteering. Providing an incentive continues to be one of the most popular ways to encourage your employees to get involved in the community. Despite this, participation rates for incentive programs continue to be shockingly low. The average participation rate for a year-round donation matching program is only 10%; and the average participation rate for dollars for doers programs is only 3%. While we’ve written extensively about this in the past, we were dismayed to learn that 65% of companies offering these types of programs were satisfied with their success!
While it may be encouraging to know that your program is in the same boat as your peers, it’s disheartening to know that everyone’s boat is slowly sinking. Which is why we were happy to learn …
Most community investment practitioners are tinkering with their programs.
The report revealed that 78% of respondents are planning on changing some aspect of their donation matching programs this year. This proves that we’re all still trying to figure it out; it shows a willingness to improve existing programs for greater impact. Some of the best companies in this space have incorporated some common elements to drive more engagement and participation. This includes leveraging the social capital of your “Champions”, developing opportunities that meet people at their highest level of contribution and creating meaningful events that make a difference to the beneficiary and the individual.
Your job is sexy right now!
Companies are seeing growth in FTEs responsible for community activities. Even when a company experiences a downturn, community investment teams either hold steady or grow. Not only are corporate teams resilient during downturns, but leadership teams are bringing “Chief Engagement Officers” closer to the C-suite. You may have noticed a shift in the past 18 months, as the “nice to have” community programs are being consulted on key elements of strategy in the company. This is an encouraging sign, and one not without precedence. Ten years ago, sustainability specialists were in the same position, but over time the position grew in stature. The same thing is happening with your job.
Questions about the survey? Your corporate program? Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs. Call us to discuss opportunities for your company, or email us via email@example.com. You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.
As companies are maturing in their understanding of strategic and impactful employee volunteering and giving programs, they are learning to ask better questions. For Realized Worth, the scale has tipped. The pile of questions we’ve received in recent months related to giving and volunteering policies – namely, what counts as volunteer time – has motivated us to compile the answers for those of you who haven’t asked yet. We tried to keep it simple, but contact us if you need to discuss more complicated concerns specific to your company.
Note: When we say a particular type of volunteering counts as volunteer time, we are saying it is eligible for a dollars for doers or volunteer rewards match.
What is the definition of corporate volunteering?
While the definition of corporate volunteering is constantly evolving, it can generally be defined as the encouragement and facilitation of volunteering in the community through the organization by which an individual is employed. If a company simply encourages its employees to volunteer on the weekend without offering any support (like matching the hours with corporate dollars or providing transportation to the volunteer activity), this should not be counted as corporate volunteering. Time employees spend on their own – without a material contribution to the process from the company – should not be reported as time the company donated to the community.
Back in 2010, Chris Jarvis had some scathing words for a large telecommunications company in the US that was “stealing the social capital of their employees” through their corporate volunteering program. Needless to say, that company is doing much better now.
Should employees be paid to volunteer?
First of all, when companies offer paid time off for volunteering, are they literally paying their employees to volunteer? Sure,in the same way they pay their employees to take a vacation. This is not corporate altruism. Companies offer paid time to volunteer and vacation because they believe those activities benefit the organization. Paid time off to volunteer demonstrates a forward thinking belief in the bottomline value of volunteering.
Some companies don’t have the option to offer paid time off due to budget constraints or bureaucratic hoops. Other companies don’t believe in it (yet). For these companies, just remember: as long as your company is supporting the volunteering taking place (through volunteer rewards or logistical resources, for example), you are free to claim the time employees give as corporate volunteer hours.
The 2014 CECP Giving in Numbers report includes the following graph showing percentages of companies in particular fields that offer paid time off. The 2015 report is due out soon!
Does fundraising and event sponsorship count as volunteer time?
Yes and no.
Most companies count fundraising as volunteer time. The key, of course, is being able to connect it to a 501c3. This keeps most inappropriate fundraisers out of the system and usually serves to filter out unwanted activities. The actual time spent fundraising is impossible to verify, so most companies choose the honor system. If employees are lying about their volunteer hours, you have an entirely separate problem to deal with. Regarding event sponsorship, most companies count the time at the actual event and omit anything leading up to it. Training for a charity run, for example, would not be counted. The hours at the run itself would be counted.
CECP’s Giving in Numbers is again a great reference for information on best practices in giving and volunteering.
Do athletics, religious activities, or political activities count?
Yes and no.
Whether or not athletics, religious activities, and political activities are supported is entirely up to each company’s preference – and in many cases, legal will need to speak into these policy decisions.
Generally speaking, most companies do not match donations or volunteer hours that are given to religious organizations that solicit in any way. However, most companies do match church related activities that are in no way religious. (The employee is expected to demonstrate that the activity was unrelated to … Sunday school, for example.)
Regarding political activities, most companies do not support these activities in any way. The potential PR nightmare is not worth the effort. A nonprofit, meanwhile, cannot legally be involved in any political activities while maintaining its 501c3 status.
The choice to support athletic volunteerism such as coaching a child’s soccer team is usually affected by two factors:
Does the company’s focus area include sports? If health and physical activity is the focus, for example, athletic volunteerism fits perfectly. If the focus is hunger and food scarcity, however, athletics may not work as well. Realized Worth recommends a tiered structure* so focused volunteerism and personal volunteerism can be supported at different levels.
Does the company’s culture lean toward athleticism?Emera, an energy company in Nova Scotia, has an employee base that is heavily involved in sports. In order to demonstrate that the program is relevant to who their employees are, Emera chose to support athletic volunteerism.
*EXAMPLE: At tier 1, signature nonprofit partners receive a high level of support and visibility; at tier 2, nonprofits that fit within the company’s focus areas (but are not signature partners) receive a modified level of support; at tier 3, all personal volunteering with eligible organizations is supported with a financial match.
Do overnight volunteer events count – if so, all night?
Most companies count an 8-hour day for camping (Boy Scouts, for example) or similar overnight volunteer events. This can be approached similarly to billable time for work while traveling. Time spent sleeping doesn’t count even though it involved a commitment to be away from home.
Do volunteer vacations (voluntourism, etc), sometimes lasting weeks at a time, count as volunteer time?
Yes and no.
If the volunteering is taking place on vacation, it is a personal choice and should not be matched. However, if the volunteering was facilitated in some manner (and organized by a firm similar to MovingWorlds) and the company wants to encourage voluntourism, then yes. That type of “vacation volunteering” should be counted under the same stipulations as overnight volunteering (8-hour work days only).
Does time spent training for a volunteer job/activity counted as volunteer time?
Some organizations require a significant amount of time for training before volunteering can occur (for example, working with at-risk youth). Others include it just prior to the event (like WeDay). Either way, training is a requirement as part of the volunteering commitment so it should be counted as volunteer time.
Does time spent participating in an “-athon” like a walkathon count as volunteer time?
Typically, companies will match the time spent at the actual ‘-athon’ activity. This does not include time leading up to it (training for a charity run) or following (collecting donations pledged). Also, hours per year are typically capped at anywhere from 5 to 25 hours. Without this boundary, you may end up with an employee claiming the time they spent growing their hair to donate it to Locks of Love. True story.
Does time spent organizing workplace volunteer activities count as volunteer time?
Typically, companies count only the volunteering itself. One reason for this is the hours need to be connected to a legitimate 501c3. The opportunity to organize is the investment of the employee; the benefit is realized in the actual volunteering.
What other questions are you dealing with as you write or update your volunteering and giving policy? Let us help you find the answers. Send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us on our social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
At Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View, we’ll meet with industry leaders to discuss the trends and opportunities available to drive the ROI of corporate volunteering and giving. This event is designed to synthesize and share actionable strategy, tactics, and advice from the most recent Charities@Work Summit on Employee Engagement and Corporate Citizenship held in NYC this past April.
At this event, LBG welcomes Chris McLeod (Program Manager, Right to Play) as their guest speaker. He will share techniques to measure impact among children, vulnerable communities, and among stakeholders where language could be a barrier to impact measurement. A group of the Realized Worth team will be there and we’ll be looking for you!
The 2015 LBG Canada Annual Meeting is an opportunity for community investment professionals to connect with peers from across the country, to explore emerging trends, and to discuss different approaches to maximize value – for the community, for employees, and for the business. Chris Jarvis will present practical steps on how to make engagement strategies (volunteering and giving) meaningful to employees, meaningful to the business, and meaningful to the community. Find more insights on this topic here.
We’re excited to speak alongside Carol Cone at the event where the topic will be corporate community engagement as a 21st Century business necessity. Disney, Google, IBM, PwC, and thousands of smaller businesses involve their employees in giving back to the community. Whether your business has three or 300,000 employees, dozens or millions of customers, stakeholders expect you to do good, not just well. You can still register for this event if you’d like to join us.
International volunteering opens up new and exciting global impact opportunities for your business and employees. This workshop focuses on leveraging your existing employee engagement programs while showing the value of integrating an international volunteering option for broader economic and social change. Join Realized Worth and Uniterra in one of three cities (Toronto will be added shortly) to learn new ways to motivate, empower and sustainably engage your employees in a global volunteer movement.
While some of the team is in Germany, others will be facilitating a volunteer event and training with the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto. We’re looking forward to a great day with this well-respected organization!
While the whole conference promises to be engaging and educational, we’re especially excited about three sessions. One is called Employee Engagement: What’s Working and What’s Not. Chris Jarvis will have the opportunity to present alongside Charlie Agee from Altria and Spring Lacey from Prudential and London Roth from Humana. Then, we’re pretty excited about our session alongside the authors of Volunteer Engagement 2.0. We’ll talk about the ideas and insights that are powering transformative change in the way relationships, strategies, partnerships, and technology impact volunteer engagement in today’s world. Finally, IMPACT 2030 will be presented at a session entitled Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Through Employee Volunteerism. Lots of great stuff. Hope to see you there!
From the geniuses behind the Cause Marketing Forum, Companies and Causes Canada enjoyed its inaugural event last year and promises to be even bigger and better this year. Realized Worth will be there talking about employee engagement. There’s a big difference between getting people to show up for volunteering opportunities and creating experiences that energize your colleagues. Join us to discuss further. And don’t miss Harvard Business School Professor Michael Norton as he shares field-tested research from Canada and around the world demonstrating how cause campaigns generate increased purchases and loyalty for companies while boosting customer and employee satisfaction.
This event will showcase inspiring practices in corporate community involvement from the perspective of two lenses. First, within the company itself – engaging, encouraging, and enabling growing leaders within the business through the corporate volunteering efforts of the company. Second, outside of the company – through collaborative and innovative partnerships with nonprofits, government and community leaders; interesting projects and forward-thinking ideas. Look for Realized Worth’s Corey Diamond at this event, not to mention other high-caliber thinkers on the impressive list of speakers.
We’re excited to join VolunteerMatch for this summit of like-minded professionals in the fields of employee engagement and corporate responsibility. Every year, the summit proves to be an energetic space to get together, share best practices, and learn from industry experts. The previous 13 Summits have only been open to VolunteerMatch corporate clients, but this year, they’re inviting companies far and wide who are committed to community engagement. There’s still time to register!
There are likely more stops in the US, Canada and abroad to come! Where will you be? We’d love to see you. Send us a note, give us a call, or leave a comment below.
Realized Worth works with companies to design and implement employee volunteer programs. We also offer presentations and workshops. Contact us to discuss your needs at email@example.com or reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.
Despite the popularity of programmatic elements like skills-based or pro bono volunteering, these expressions of community involvement cannot produce meaningful engagement on their own. Even much vaunted strategic methodologies such as shared value struggle to generate meaningful engagement for employees.
The numbers don’t lie. Despite the incredible growth and resourcing of corporate volunteering strategies over the past three years, participation rates are flat. Internal awareness among employees hasn’t budged. Despite all the new technology to support giving and volunteering, the actual use of these platforms is only marginally better than it was on outdated technology. And practitioners, for the most part, continue to see the same group of employees volunteering over and over again.
Here’s why: we’re confusing efficacy with engagement.
What (or who) is the point?
New corporate citizenship strategies typically promise incredible and laudable capacity for beneficial change. These strategies tend to follow a “command and control” management model based on an approach called “deliberate” strategy as championed by management thought leaders like Michael Porter. This deliberate approach outlines management’s vision and mission that is then broadly communicated to the actors (employees) responsible for its successful execution. In this approach, efficacy is the highest determining principle driving all other principles and means of execution.
Develop the plan. Communicate the plan. Execute. Assess and repeat.
The problem with this approach is that the primary actors – the employees – are viewed as a means to an end and are not necessarily expected to be affected by the change process itself. Employees are a means to an end, but not the end itself, which of course makes perfect sense. It is the entire premise of the industrial revolution where we learned that anyone can be taught a skill, join an assembly line and work with thousands of other employees to produce amazing results. But no single employee, beyond the most senior leaders, need ever understand the process. Show up, do your job, and good things will happen.
That is efficacy. It is not meaningful engagement.
Employees are the point
Meaningful engagement can have multiple definitions depending on the context. Here, we are talking about the employee’s sense of connection to the organization’s goals and objectives and the correlating amount of enthusiasm and positive action they are willing to contribute to the shared outcomes.
In order to achieve meaningful engagement, employees must be invited into the change process itself. The strategic application of resources and activities to produce a change in the world around us does not automatically mean everyone understands or cares about the end result.
In order to achieve meaningful engagement in corporate volunteering, CSR, or any other corporate citizenship activity, people must be invited into a transformative learning experience. When corporate volunteering goes beyond transactional and is instead transformative, participants experience “a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions.” This shift of consciousness can “dramatically and irreversibly alter our way of being in the world.”
Let’s have meaningful engagement
I’m thrilled to be invited to explore this topic and present practical steps on how to make engagement strategies (volunteering and giving) meaningful to employees, meaningful to the business, and meaningful to the community. I will be presenting as part of LBG Canada’s two-day event, Achieving Impact! 2015. I am honored to be joining other practitioners offering expert insights and live examples of achieving impact goals through community investment, employee volunteering and giving activities. Such practitioners will include:
Phillip Haid, CEO of Public Inc., a creative agency assisting corporations to enable social change through their business operations.
September 29-30 at the RBC Centre in Toronto, Ontario (155 Wellington Street West, 18th Floor, Americas Room).
To view a list of hotels near the venue, click here.
I hope to see you there!
More about LBG Canada
LBG Canada is a network of companies seeking to maximize the impact of community investment – for society and for the business. Our network currently includes companies from many sectors, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, retail, telecommunications, pipelines, oil and gas and credit unions, among others. More information about LBG Canada can be found here.
The 2015 LBG Canada Annual Meeting
This is an opportunity for community investment professionals to connect with peers from across the country, to explore emerging trends, and to discuss different approaches to maximize value – for the community, for employees, and for the business.
To access the agenda for the 2015 LBG Canada Annual Meeting, click here.
“The LBG Canada meetings are inspiring. I think that after the two days you go back to the office and you’re refreshed and you’ve heard great ideas from other companies and other community partners.”
– Kia Pyrcz, Senior Community Investment Advisor, Vermilion Energy
Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs. Call us to discuss opportunities for your company, or email us via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.