One Must-Know Mindset Shift For Social Impact Practitioners Who Want To Scale

Strategy & Execution, Corporate Social Responsibility, Employee Volunteering, Social Impact Program

You’ve been tasked by your company to operationalize purpose – big commitments to “make an impact” on an important social issue – maybe it’s childhood hunger, STEM education or homelessness.

You’re charged with engaging employees around this critical issue – at scale.

You’re reminded that it’s important that you consider this critical issue through an intersectional lens because diversity, equity and inclusion are a priority for your company. You’re told that it would also be fantastic if you could find a way to make it connect with your company’s sustainability goals, as well (thanks so much!).

Oh, and it will just be you leading this effort. There’s no budget for additional FTE. When you ask what your budget will be to execute against these huge goals that have the potential to change people’s lives (including those of your employees), it’s a tenth of what you estimate you’d need.

Good luck!

You’re braving the social impact wilderness alone.

Trust us when we tell you that you are not alone in being an island of one in a sea of lofty, purpose-focused goals with big executive pronouncements but not enough support. Many of our clients find themselves in this exact situation – even those that sit within global, well-resourced organizations are often a team of one, maybe two full-time colleagues sharing the workload that could conceivably be delegated to a full department.

In a recent RealTalk webinar, we offered a few thoughts about ways to navigate this lonely social impact landscape without experiencing burnout and being able to maintain your passion for the work. Here are a few highlights (see the recording here).

Transitioning from “Doer” to “Leader”

If you’ve historically been a “doer”, it’s time to transition to the role of “leader”. Often, people charged with making magic happen when it comes to community engagement initiatives are “get sh!t done” type of people. They’re entrepreneurial and they figure out how to make things work, even given a limited or vague roadmap. While that is an incredible skill to employ while you’re in a “building” phase, you can easily get bogged down in doing all the things as your program expands and develops. And, before you know it, you’re just burned out – stressed and exhausted. The work is no longer enjoyable.

Instead, start to channel that enthusiasm and entrepreneurial energy into seeing yourself as the leader of an internal startup – an organization within an organization. The first and most difficult task is to raise yourself up and take stock of the importance of your role – but it is absolutely game-changing.

Laying your foundations

Now that you’ve created a new identity for yourself, lay the foundations you need to build your “enterprise”. Take some time to form:

1. A clear mission

When it comes to impact, “making a difference” or “doing the right thing” are not clear and compelling rally cries. As captain of the U.S.S. Impact, it’s up to you as the leader to get crystal clear about why you’re really doing all this impact “stuff”. Host conversations with stakeholders in your organization to ask, “Why do we do what we do? Do all of our programs all contribute clearly to one shared mission?” You must know why you exist and be willing to shutter or adjust the programs that don’t effectively contribute to that mission. It’s your company. You’re responsible for its future. Get real about what to say yes to and get proud of what you say no to.

2. A business case

Your business case shouldn’t be a case for why employee volunteering benefits companies in general. Those stats are everywhere and they belong to everyone. Your business case should be a clear case for why you want to bring all programs together under your shared mission. How will clear direction, cross-departmental collaboration, and employee participation benefit the company, the community and the employees? Be prepared to make the case for your plans, your career, your startup. You may need to have additional internal conversations to clarify your direction and find alignment.

Megan Strand

Director of Strategic Consulting

3. A framework

Organize what you know so far into a simple framework. If the individual responsible for each component of your plan is you, it’s time to start delegating responsibility. Identify the ideal characteristics and skillsets for each area and start to think about who might be able to support you. How do you recruit these people? Turn back to your mission – your rally cry – to attract the individuals who will be motivated to help you achieve that mission. Provide them an opportunity to develop leadership skills by tackling a new challenge. Then start to socialize your framework within the context of the mission and the business case to start building support.

4. The right people

You may or may not be able to influence who gets hired to be on your team – and you may or may not be able to influence whether your team grows –but you should have influence and authority about who fills the volunteer roles that are supporting your mission. The people on your councils, the people leading volunteer events, the people spearheading giving campaigns – they are the ones that will make or break this thing you’re trying to build. If this program – if its mission and your company’s future investment in it – really matters, then get serious about kicking out the volunteer leaders who are obstacles to achieving the mission – and get excited about populating the network of volunteer leaders with the right people. Here are three steps to get you started!

Too much too fast? Try starting small.

Does any of this feel unwieldy or “too big” right now? Here are a few baby steps you can take in the next few weeks to start moving toward this bigger vision.

  1. Imagine a great leader. Imagine a leader you admire – what makes them a great leader? Who was your best manager/teacher? What did they do? What qualities might you want to emulate? Write them down to begin the work of mapping the vision of who you’d like to be as a leader.
  2. Enlist the help of those you trust. Set up phone calls with three people in your network whose professional opinion you trust. Ask for their input as you start to formulate your personal vision for leadership, the mission of your impact work and/or your thoughts on a business case or framework.
  3. Make a list of things to STOP doing. We often produce mass volumes of work but we may not always understand the deeper purpose behind it. Make a list of the items on your “to do” list as you go throughout a week. At the end of the week, take a hard look at everything you spent your time on. Which of them could you stop doing right now with minimal impact? Which of them could you potentially delegate to someone better suited for the task? What would it take to accomplish that? Start working toward those objectives.

You may feel alone right now but we have confidence you have what it takes to build something truly excellent! Creating lasting impact starts with you and your ability to embrace that most important mindset shift from “doer” to “leader”. Give yourself permission to start small – choose even one of the baby steps above and see where it leads you. You might be surprised!

And remember that we’re here to support your efforts, provide resources where we can and cheer you on as you continue on your social impact journey. If we can be of assistance as you clarify your mission, build your business case and construct a framework, don’t hesitate to reach out!


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!

Strategy & ExecutionCorporate Social ResponsibilityEmployee VolunteeringSocial Impact Program

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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