Men and women who work in the field of corporate volunteering do not have easy jobs. Being tasked with “making a difference” is almost always less rewarding than we imagined, and it’s easy to lose sight of what we had hoped to accomplish in the first place. At Realized Worth, we work hand-in-hand with these practitioners, digging ditches and building infrastructure. It may not make the work any less challenging, but it redirects it toward purpose, accomplishment, and impact.
Corporate volunteering practitioners have the opportunity to create transformative experiences that produce the kind of people who live and behave in ways that benefit the world around them. But how do you know if you’re creating transformative experiences through corporate volunteering? How do you know if what you’re doing matters?
What kind of data are we talking about?
First of all, what kind of data are you currently collecting? You may be working with an external vendor who is helping you determine the SROI (social return on investment) at your company. This is a good place to start. You may also be collecting basic program numbers such as hours, volunteers, nonprofit partners, and dollars. If you have workplace giving and volunteering software (examples include Benevity, CauseCast, YourCause, Good Done Great, Profits4Purpose), you have access to your company’s demographic data, providing you with a sense of who is interested in what causes.
This data is a useful baseline from which to begin an analysis of program success. But you can go further. And you should.
Effective corporate volunteering programs do more than achieve impact for communities and causes; they impact the employee volunteers themselves. In fact, programs that are scalable and meaningful are those that focus on the employee as theproduct. While there’s no way to clearly measure the transformation corporate volunteering triggers within an individual, we can observe changes in behavior and draw strong conclusions. Are they experiencing a sense of purpose? Is that sense of purpose driving a higher level of performance? Are they more engaged with their colleagues? Do they talk about their experiences?
What to measure
The answers to these questions and more can be found in a measurement framework that we use with many companies. If practitioners focus on creating space for transformation while implementing the right measurement structure, results worth sharing will follow.
Here’s a brief description of the four categories of strategic program measurement:
1. Competency of leadership
Are volunteer leaders equipped and empowered to create transformative space?
Equipping employees who are leading volunteer events with the proper skills and understandings should be the key focus of program practitioners. The best indicator of the success of all other measurement categories is whether or not these volunteers are following through on the key activities required to create transformative space.
Are they able to find an organization with which to work and scope a project?
Do they mobilize colleagues to volunteer?
Are they able to manage the logistics of an event?
Do they frame the event by setting expectations and facilitating critical reflection?
Do they know how to meet volunteers at their highest level of contribution?
2. Engagement of the individual
Are employees meaningfully engaged? (Remember: showing up is not necessarily engagement.)
A simple and effective way to measure engagement is to enable your volunteer leaders to use the Net Promoter Score. Surveying volunteers after an event should focus on questions that put employees in one of three categories: detractors, passives, or promoters. Some sample questions include:
How likely are you to participate in future volunteering and giving opportunities through the company?
How likely are you to recommend volunteering with the company to a fellow employee?
How likely would you be to discuss your participation/experience in the company’s giving and/or volunteering program to a friend or colleague?
Having participated in this event, how likely are you to recommend working at this company to a friend?
These are typically answered on a scale of 1-10 and measure intention rather than action. Take into account that volunteers will respond more positively immediately following an event due to what’s known as the “helper’s high.”
3. Capacity of the program
Is the program able to mobilize employees to take action?
Measuring the ability of the strategy and structure to mobilize individuals to take action includes three interrelated components:
Self-assessment of the stage of engagement and competency of volunteer leaders
Clear targets and definitions of success
A complete framework including a questionnaire and scorecard with which to monitor progress toward the next stage of engagement
Equipping volunteer leaders with one clear standard of what success looks like and then empowering them to independently track that success produces not only engagement, but results that make sense across the company.
4. Results of the program
Will the program achieve the desired results?
A best practice in program measurement requires the development of a logic model to evaluate success for all three stakeholders: the employees, the community, and the company. The logic model should include the following elements for each stakeholder group:
What resources do you already have and which will you need to operate your program?
When you have access to these resources, to what activities will you apply them?
If you accomplish your planned activities, what kind of numbers will you produce (i.e. 10,000 volunteer hours)?
If you accomplish your planned activities and produce the outputs you intend, how will your participants benefit?
If you accomplish your planned activities, and produce the outputs and outcomes you intend, what systemic changes will occur?
Benchmarking Your Program
Benchmarking a corporate volunteering program requires some good resources that give you a sense of what other companies are doing. Here are two worth mentioning:
Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs for large companies globally. Reach out anytime to discuss your program challenges and potential solutions! Contact us via email or find us online on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Matthieu Ricard, a French Buddhist monk who has dedicated his life to studying altruism, gave an excellent TED talk on the topic. Listening to it, I found myself thinking about how altruism relates to the work we do at Realized Worth. In particular, how helping others can make us less selfish and more caring, and not toward just those we are helping, but to every person we encounter in our lives, and to the world in general.
We need caring economics. The Homo Economicus cannot deal with poverty in the midst of plenty, cannot deal with the problem of the common goods of the atmosphere, of the oceans […] If you say economics should be compassionate, they [organizations] say, “That’s not our job.” But if you say they don’t care, that looks bad. We need local commitment, global responsibility […] and, we need to dare altruism.
Before I continue, let me explain something about the word altruism, defined as the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Volunteering should never be entirely disinterested or selfless. When we give expecting to receive, we are more trustworthy givers because we position ourselves as equals with the population being served. The use of the word “altruism” in this article assumes that the most selfless person is the one who expects to receive as much as they give when they engage in prosocial behaviors.
The brain says that if the business is to continue functioning, it has to pay attention to the bottom line.
This caveat is important because Realized Worth works with corporations to develop employee giving and volunteer programs. This will not be surprising to most, but corporations were not created to be altruistic.
This is how corporations often conceptualize corporate social responsibility (CSR) within the organization:
Especially among companies beholden to creating value for shareholders, decisions to invest the firm’s resources into CSR initiatives should be made with an eye toward using these initiatives to not only “do good” but also to increase competitiveness, improve reputation, attract and retain better employees, and enhance goodwill to, in turn, increase a firm’s financial performance.1
It’s not a bad thing to focus on profit. Profit is the brain of the corporation. But CSR is the heart. The brain says that if the business is to continue functioning, it has to pay attention to the bottom line. If money and time are to be available to invest in CSR, the business has to do business. But “business ethics” is not an oxymoron, and the brain can’t function without the heart. And, the best people to trust the heart of your business with are your employees.
A corporation as an entity might not be altruistic, but its employees, as individuals, can be. As Dr. Ricard says, every individual has “an extraordinary potential for goodness, but also an immense power to do harm. That all depends on our motivation. Therefore, it is all the more important to foster an altruistic motivation rather than a selfish one.”
The selfless concern for the well-being of others and what you do for a living are deeply connected. Did that sentence seem weird to you? If it did, it’s probably because you don’t work at a place that encourages that kind of thinking. At Realized Worth, we believe that it is up to employees and corporations to turn work into more than just a job that pays your bills. This is made possible by transformative employee volunteerism. If Realized Worth has a contribution to Dr. Ricard’s “caring economics,” it’s the role we play in bringing altruism and work together. But, how does a corporation, whose motivations are not altruistic, motivate employees toward altruism?
Here’s the thing: you can’t have a high-functioning employee volunteer program without engaged employees. Though there’s no standard definition of employee engagement, one common factor running throughout the literature I’ve been pouring over is that the most effective engagement is intrinsic.
What they [the definitions] tend to have in common is that they view engagement as an internal state of being. Engagement is something that the employee has to offer and cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract or objective setting process.2
What does intrinsic engagement look like in practice when it comes to workplace volunteerism? It starts with the company aligning its values to those of its employees. It also starts with making volunteer work – and by extension, office work – meaningful.
… if your employees volunteer, it can have an immensely positive effect on your overall employee engagement.
A recent blog on the looming employee engagement crisis provides excellent data supporting how employee volunteerism can help you mitigate that crisis and align your company and employee values. It’s important to remember that overall engagement at your company and employee engagement with volunteer programs feed into one another. It’s not a one-way street; if your employees volunteer, it can have an immensely positive effect on your overall employee engagement. But, the same is true for the reverse: engaged employees volunteer. More than just a chicken or the egg dilemma, this can become a positive, self-perpetuating cycle. This is because individual change and cultural change complement each other.
A transformative employee volunteer program can be created with the understanding that these two pieces have the potential to create this cycle of engagement, motivation, and altruistic behavior. If we want to go a level deeper (which I always do), what should fuel the program is the understanding that volunteering can become a calling.
Yeah, let’s get cheesy.
When employees embrace volunteer work as a calling, they aspire to complete tasks on a voluntary basis to benefit society in accord with their calling orientation, which can be understood as a global and generalized perception that their [volunteer] work is their purpose in life.3
Frederick Yim and Henry Fock conducted a study placing great weight on what they refer to as the social responsibility climate (SRC) at an organization. The examined the effect it has on the meaning employees can find in their work and how it can influence volunteering to become a calling. They say that pride in volunteer work is positively correlated with the meaningfulness of volunteer work, and that the relationship is more positive when the SRC is stronger. 4
We conceptualize SRC as employees’ shared perceptions concerning organizational stakeholders’ values, expectations, and practices that emphasize the responsibility of individuals as a member in society.5
SRC is employee perceptions and sentiment around the values, expectations and practices of their co-workers, managers, and customers within the context of the organization and in relation to social responsibility. A company can build a positive SRC through many channels – corporate giving, transparent sustainability practices, investments in environment – but corporate volunteerism provides, “the potential to improve the firm’s perception within the community, to benefit society at large, to become an attractive employer to those interested in social concerns, to improve corporate culture, and to build a positive reputation for ‘doing good'”. 6 And, a positive SRC is also an ecosystem where altruistic behavior and habits are given space to grow, and where those same habits loop back around and contribute to making SRC more robust.
When a corporation leverages its employee volunteer programs to make space for altruistic, prosocial habits … we start to see individual change affecting cultural change at work.
What this translates to in Realized Worth terms is meaningful employee engagement. When a corporation leverages its employee volunteer programs to make space for altruistic, prosocial habits to flourish, it is then that we start to see that self-perpetuating cycle – we start to see individual change affecting cultural change at work. If volunteer work offered through a corporation is structured to be meaningful, and if an employee feels pride by taking part in that meaningful volunteer work, that pride is a shift in engagement with the program itself. But if you have employees across the company experiencing this same shift, it becomes a cultural movement. It truly does make CSR the heart of the company.
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.
From time to time we get asked to feature programs from companies. We don’t often to do it; but when we saw this piece, we were so compelled to share it that we reached out to the author and publisher for permission to do so. What you’ll find in this article is an absolute clinic on company leadership regarding community issues. Originally posted in the Orange County Business Journal, 9/7/2015.
Organizations, like people, have a social consciousness.
Each of us has a relationship with an organization, whether an employer, a business venture, a church, a university. The employment relationship is often at the heart of what we accomplish in our careers and how we feel about those accomplishments. Together, the personal relationships we form based upon a set of shared beliefs and behaviors across an organization constitute its culture.
Being in the financial services industry, PIMCO has a culture that is anchored in its mission to serve our clients, placing their interests ahead of our own. There are strong arguments for having a culture of service in other ways as well.
First, let’s take a closer look at the workplace.
For many working adults, most of our conscious hours are spent either at work, doing work from another location or thinking about work. The workplace and the people with whom we work form a community. We derive a degree of contentment from the personal bonds of friendship we form with our colleagues, and when we succeed together, the sense of achievement is richer.
Yet, it goes further than this. Organizations, like people, have a social consciousness. One way to get an authentic look into a firm’s corporate conscience is to review its approach to service. Approaches vary widely across companies, and factors to look for include the level of support an employer provides – can employees take time off to serve, for example – and the level of participation across the organization.
Personally, I believe service is transformative. When done well and from the heart, it enriches all involved and any company that directs its efforts to encouraging service will reap benefits from those efforts.
Through service, we can bring our whole selves to the office. We increase our creativity, our innovation and our diversity of thought. We stretch ourselves, and we become better leaders.
I have been considering this all recently as at PIMCO we recently completed our seventh annual Global Week of Volunteering, in which employees stepped away from their spreadsheets and trading terminals to volunteer around the globe in more than 100 diverse, community projects – from painting murals in California schoolyards to teaching disabled adults in London how to use a PC. The effort is part of the year-round volunteer initiative spearheaded by the PIMCO Foundation, which was established in 2001 to support nonprofit organizations operating within the firm’s communities.
I am proud that generally about half of our 2,400 employees participate in our corporate volunteer program; that is an impressive participation rate. Yet, I also wonder why they do it.
I am continuously surprised by the hundreds of faces I see at the larger events, including Share the Harvest, around the holidays, and the Special Olympics each summer. Many of our company’s senior leaders participate, which I believe sets a good example.
Yet, the consistently high level of participation is a sign of greater factors involved, and these factors are why companies should support, facilitate and commit to service. Through service, we can bring our whole selves to the office. We increase our creativity, our innovation and our diversity of thought. We stretch ourselves, and we become better leaders.
Camaraderie can blossom as colleagues participate together, and they have the opportunity to interact with members of the company that they might never have met otherwise. Special friendships are formed, and connectivity is enhanced not only with colleagues but also with our employer and what it stands for.
The ties can grow even stronger if employees involve their families, which we encourage.
… employees are introduced to experiences and organizations that lead to further involvement and lasting relationships.
My wife, children and I have participated in events in support of Olive Crest, which provides safe homes for abused, neglected and at-risk children. Mending fences and painting walls, I have hoped to give something back and also have hoped to instill in my children the principle that we must give back to our local community, as we have been fortunate.
I recognize that it may be naïve to believe one can have a meaningful impact on a community in just one week of volunteering. My response is twofold. First, some good is better than none. Second, the initial engagement can lead to lasting involvement. In the best cases, employees are introduced to experiences and organizations that lead to further involvement and lasting relationships. Simply put, we hope for ripple effects. I have seen this occur many times with colleagues, and it has happened for my family. For example, we have expanded our involvement with Olive Crest, where my wife currently serves as a board trustee of their Orange County chapter.
One more benefit of volunteering ingrained in an organization’s culture, as I believe it to be at PIMCO, is the draw for those entering the workforce.
Looking at our latest generation of new hires and generations that will follow, I readily observe that their ambitions are far more encompassing than compensation and promotion potential. I see an ambition to join firms that have social consciousness, that sponsor and support their local communities and contribute to a sustainable world. We want this for our people and for our company, for at the end of the day, our good corporate citizenship is a result of the efforts and contributions of all.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.