The Future of Purpose-Driven Technology: An Interview with Benevity’s Chief Impact Officer

Technology for Good, Corporate Social Responsibility, Employee Volunteering, The Future of Purpose-Driven Technology Series

Realized Worth is proud of our partner, the RW Institute, and their recent launch of the 2021 Corporate Volunteering, Giving and Grants Review. What goes into gathering the extensive data and insights in this report? We’re glad you asked! With this 3-part series, we’re pleased to offer an inside look at the conversations that took place behind the scenes with industry leaders. Want to hear what software executives and CSR managers have to say about workplace giving and volunteering? Dive in and get the inside scoop. We hope this series will provide an additional layer of rich insight into the world of technology and for those reading and using the 2021 Corporate Volunteering, Giving and Grants Review. Enjoy! 

 This is part 1 of a 3-part series.  

An interview with Sona Khosla, Chief Impact Officer at Benevity. 

10 years from now, how do you hope technology supports corporate citizenship? How do the events of 2020 (i.e. COVID-19, Black Lives Matter) play into that vision? 

 Issues of equity are not new. Yet, the events of 2020, including COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, generated mass awareness of these gaps and heightened expectations of business to do something about it. There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that equity will continue to be central to most corporations’ focus and actions for the next decade. And I sincerely hope that we will act with greater urgency and focus than we have in the past.  

 Technology is the key to continued empowerment of grassroots organizations and grassroots movements, led by individuals, supported by corporations – whether it’s through sharing content, advocacy, engaging in learning, starting up or participating in giving, volunteering and matching opportunities, or simply fostering connection and community. The more goodness we can put in more peoples’ hands, the more likely we will see collective action and impact. 

 As companies seek a broader engagement of stakeholders at scale, technology will be the backbone that will help not just with engagement but also the delivery of impact. We need to continue to evolve technology to create new and different ways to reach individuals wherever they are, and enable action as inclusively as possible. 

Is virtual volunteering here to stay? How do you think the technology marketplace needs to evolve in order to support this trend? 

The truth is that virtual volunteering was here before the pandemic and it will be here after the pandemic. But there’s been a transformational shift. People expect their digital experiences to generate at least some of the same feelings of those in real life. As more people choose hybrid work, technology will need to create rich and meaningful volunteering experiences and foster deeper and ongoing relationships between people and causes, in a virtual world.  

Also, what counts as volunteering is evolving from a legal definition to something more catalytic and encompassing. Many companies now include things like acts of kindness toward neighbours and colleagues. For example, Benevity client SAP created a program where employees host activities for children of other employees – things like guitar lessons, game sessions and crafts – to help relieve parents. Promoting and capturing these kinds of acts will be important because they proliferate goodness in the day-to-day, shaping culture. 

What do you feel are the key features in a platform that people are asking for? What’s missing from today’s technology marketplace? 

Aside from continuously enhancing data and measurement, we’re seeing a rising desire from people and companies to convene on issues and collaborate to come up with ideas to solve the world’s biggest problems. So, while cross-sector collaboration is important, more companies will be looking for ways to bring people together in their workplaces, customer communities, or amongst themselves, to mobilize around cultural change. The need to engage in dialogue, ideation, learning, collaboration and action as a community will demand new features that are about finding kindreds on a cause, connecting, sharing, problem-solving, and then taking action together. 

What stops companies from investing in workplace volunteering and giving technology? 

The biggest barrier to technology adoption is the lack of genuine buy-in of a democratized approach to goodness at the leadership level. It’s not just the technology investment, but also in the scale and support they are willing to commit to drive purpose and impact for everyone in a company’s ecosystem. The once-dominant top-down model of fundraising events in partnership with single organizations eliminates the need for technology that enables individual choice. It’s an approach that’s slowly waning, although we sometimes come across this mentality within large, traditional organizations. 

Sona Khosla

Chief Impact Officer at Benevity

If you had to put yourself in the shoes of your customers – the people in Corporate Responsibility making the choice to bring on a technology vendor – what do you think are their biggest priorities when looking at a solution provider? 

There are three main things everyone is looking for: data, security and content. There’s a critical nature to privacy and trust. And content and insights are what will ultimately help them foster deep engagement in their programs. 

In addition, they also want: 

  • an international platform – so their people can easily support causes in small communities around the world, especially communities in which their people live and work 
  • a holistic solution – turning to employee engagement if they’ve been doing community investment – or vice versa – or shifting to customer and supplier engagement.  
  • experience and innovation – This is a complex and fast-changing space. Having leading-edge expertise in things like vetting, disbursements, international regulations and GDPR is critical, as is a vendor who can see where the puck is going next. 

What didn’t we talk about that you wished we talked about? 

There’s something that’s been rattling around my head over the last 18 months or so. And it’s that the pandemic brought families together in their homes for a prolonged period of time, so children were closely watching their parents cope with social issues at a scale no one had seen before. And these children saw their parents step up, give back and get involved in new and meaningful ways. I can’t help but think this will create a more goodness-oriented generation who will have learned these behaviors around collective thinking and action. More companies are going to need to think critically about this as these children grow up and become the next generation of consumers, employees, leaders and investors! No longer is social impact a Millennial, Gen Z or even Gen Alpha thing. It’s an everyone thing. 

More about Benevity 

Benevity, a certified B Corporation, is a leading provider of global corporate purpose software. Its community investment and employee, customer, and nonprofit engagement solutions power the purpose of more than 700 iconic brands in ways that better attract, retain, and engage today’s diverse workforce, embed social action into their customer experiences and positively impact their communities. To-date Benevity has processed more than 7 billion dollars in donations and 38 million hours of volunteering time, 340,000 positive actions and awarded one million grants to 303,000 nonprofits worldwide. 

More about Sona Khosla 

Sona Khosla is Chief Impact Officer at Benevity, Inc., the leading provider of global corporate purpose software. At the helm of Benevity Impact Labs, an incubator and resource hub, Sona and her team bring cutting-edge data, research, insights and best practices to help organizations and individuals maximize their impact and authentically live their purpose. Prior to Benevity, Sona spent 15 years marketing disruptive tech-based companies including the world’s second largest independent online payments business and Getty Images where she led a campaign that ranked #2 on Adweek’s Top Stories of the year. Now the host of Benevity’s podcast, Speaking of Purpose, Sona makes guest appearances on shows discussing topics such as building purpose-driven brands, authentic employee and customer engagement, corporate giving trends and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. 

Realized Worth helps you take a transformative approach to volunteering. We work with companies to create scalable and measurable volunteering programs that empower and engage employees, focus on empathy and inclusivity, and align with your most important business objectives. Talk to us today to learn more!

Technology for GoodCorporate Social ResponsibilityEmployee VolunteeringThe Future of Purpose-Driven Technology Series

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed