CSR in 2020: Trends, Guiding Questions and Resources

Trends & Best Practices, Business Case for Employee Volunteering, Reports & Reviews


CSR, workplace giving, and employee volunteering trends tend to be reported with a positive spin, which doesn’t mean they’re not accurate but that they need to be carefully weighed and considered. What events triggered this trend in the first place? Was the trigger negative or positive? Does this trigger and resulting trend have any influence on our program goals or immediate actions? While trends should be taken into consideration, they do not always provide an accurate representation of innovation or best practices.

Therefore, it is essential that companies who lead the field in CSR practices do not get swayed or distracted by trends and so-called best practices, but that they commit to consistently ask guiding questions in order to determine whether or not those trends and best practices effectively achieve the objectives for which the program exists.


1. Activism: Employees want to see their companies “take a stand” or “be more vocal” – and they want to be given ways to participate in these efforts.

2. Engagement: 70 percent of respondents believe “volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.” 89 percent of respondents believe companies that sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment.

3. Internal integration: Collaboration between CSR, HR, and D&I is enabling all three groups to work together to achieve shared goals and increase their collective value to the company.

4. Measurement: Corporate citizenship programs are investing in tracking and measuring legitimate data to aid decision-making and demonstrate meaningful, sustainable impact.


Messaging: Does our messaging appeal to intrinsic motivators?

While “make an impact” is good, it appeals only to extrinsic motivations. It also implies that “an impact” is not already being made. Program messaging must speak to what employees want without feeling pressured to want it. People want to connect, belong, and grow – does our messaging speak to these motivators?

Governance: Are we providing structure and support that allows us to get out of the way?

Our goal is to manage a system, not manage/hand-hold individuals. If someone isn’t doing their job, we have three options: manage them better, transition them to a different role, or transition them out. If the structure we’ve created doesn’t allow for this kind of management, we need to fix the structure and avoid getting pulled back into hand-holding.

Investment/Commitment: Does this program matter enough to work hard and remain committed to results?

CSR programs that achieve results beyond numbers require the same commitment as any corporate program that is expected to benefit the business over time. Results require careful planning, attention to change management, flexibility, and time. If the program is important enough, CSR managers must decide the program is important enough to merit their commitment.


STUDY: Employees’ Participation in Corporate Social Responsibility and Organizational Outcomes: The Moderating Role of Person–CSR Fit

This study explains why CSR managers must understand how to connect company CSR efforts to personal values. It also provides practical contributions toward CSR activities.

Angela Parker

Co-Founder, CEO

Our results suggest that employee CSR participation can improve organizational outcomes. Thus, it informs CSR managers that managerial attention should be paid to foster an employee’s participation in CSR activities. However, CSR managers need to carefully design CSR practices in ways that can encourage employee CSR participation and continuously emphasize organizational CSR policies that can also reflect an employee’s participation. The importance of person-organization fit in CSR participation has been highlighted by our findings. Accordingly, managers must place effort in strengthening CSR values to meet employees’ personal values, which then can further promote organizational outcomes such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment through CSR activities. Managers must also communicate the organization’s CSR values and activities to organizational members in order to improve person–CSR fit.

STUDY: Designing volunteers’ tasks to maximize motivation, satisfaction and performance: The impact of job characteristics on volunteer engagement

This study explains how the role of the CSR manager is to facilitate self-determination rather than drive participation.

“Gagne showed that actual volunteer turnover can be predicted by the degree to which managers encouraged participation, offered choices, and listened to the volunteers.”

STUDY: The work of middle managers: sensemaking and sensegiving for creating positive social change.

This study finds that it is more important to have employees involved in developing and leading the program than to have managers advocating for CSR activities. Also, only leaders who model the behavior should advocate for it as a company virtue. If the prosocial behavior by leaders is unseen any verbal or written communication is immediately suspect.

“At the most basic level, corporate social initiatives aim to create social benefit while being embedded in a context that also promotes the achievement of profit goals. As such social and profit goals may hold a fundamental tension between purpose of the firm and “legitimacy and value of corporate responses to social misery.” Even if compatibility is found in the goals of the initiative as reflected in phrases such as the ‘business case for social responsibility’ it is in the practices of ‘doing’ the initiative that the organizational actors may experience contradiction.”


There are three challenges that consistently face large companies with global volunteer programs:

1. The first challenge is internal awareness and broad participation. Many companies having a strong culture of giving and volunteering, but the same people show up again and again to volunteer opportunities. So the question they are asking is,“ How do we broaden participation and involve people who never considered getting involved before?”

2. Secondly, we hear that there is a heavy administrative burden on small Community Engagement teams and there’s often no light at the end of the tunnel for that small team. While they want the program to grow and improve, they’re barely keeping their heads above water as it is. And so, these companies are asking, “How do we grow and scale the program without adding resources?”

3. The third thing challenge many companies face is measuring and reporting impact. Many companies have signed on with a workplace giving software provider, hoping it would automate tracking and reporting. But the average participation rate on workplace giving platforms is 10% – not because the platform isn’t good, but because employees need a personal and intrinsic reason to use it. The question they’re asking is, “How do we integrate our giving and volunteering strategies so there is intrinsic motivation to use the giving tool?”

These three challenges have led to a shift in three key categories:

1. The first key shift is from programs to movements. Programmatic elements such as dollars for doers and recognition programs are important, but they are only one part of enabling a company’s ability to scale. A social movement, on the other hand, creates its own energy, allowing for exponential growth and impact.

2. The second shift is from participation to agency. Participation is critical to the success of any employee giving and volunteering program but agency is far more important. Equipping employees with a strong sense of agency to make a difference and teaching them the duplicatable behaviors that create change is the key to generating long-term, meaningful participation, and measurable impact.

3. The third shift is from helping to belonging. In a transactional model of giving and volunteering people use terms like “helping” or “doing.” There is a strong focus on ‘making a difference’ by making changes to the world. These are important terms and we should be compelled to help when we can, but a transformative model focuses on the change that takes place in the person helping as well as the person being helped. This focus enables the volunteer to move to a sense of belonging which breaks down the barriers of “us and them” and enables even greater impact.


Deloitte’s Volunteer Impact Report include stats specifically about millennial employees:

  • Twice as likely to rate their corporate culture as very positive, as compared to millennials who rarely or never volunteer (56% vs 28%)
  • More likely to be very proud to work for their company (55% vs 36%)
  • More likely to feel very loyal toward their company (52% vs 33%)
  • Nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career (37% vs 21%)
  • More likely to be very satisfied with their employer (51% vs 32%)
  • More likely to recommend their company to a friend (57% vs 46%)

Network for Good’s Employee Engagement and Philanthropy Guide includes stats like:

  • 75% of employees want to be involved in their company’s giving and volunteering programs
  • “According to recent IBM study, 88% of past volunteers said an international corporate volunteer experience increased their leadership skills and 76% are now more likely to complete their career with the company. Similarly, according to a recent CdC development Solutions’ survey across several corporations, 97% of past volunteers are more motivated in their jobs, while 94% are more invested in their company’s future.”
  • Companies with the highest sustainable engagement scores had an average one-year operating margin of 27%

Please find additional helpful links on the benefits of employee volunteering here.

Realized Worth helps companies go beyond volunteering to do citizenship better. We work with companies to create impactful citizenship strategies and programs that empower and engage employees, that focus on empathy and inclusivity, and that align with your most important business objectives. Talk to us today to learn more!

Trends & Best PracticesBusiness Case for Employee VolunteeringReports & Reviews

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