Seventy nine percent of today’s graduates consider a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments when deciding where to work, according to a recent Cone Communications study.
Once they arrive on the job, they want to be involved in doing good from the start. The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) 2016 Giving in Numbers study states, “Employee volunteer participation rate with their company’s community efforts continued to rise to 33% in 2015 from 28% in 2013.”
Businesses know that investing in good is crucial to attract and retain top talent, and most business leaders expect this trend to increase. Brands of all shapes and sizes are embedding CSR into their operations, aligning business with purpose.
Mark Shamley, CEO of the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals (ACCP), highlighted the growing role of CSR as an integral part of business: “I expect that CSR will become even more entrenched throughout companies. Rather than having CSR sit off to the side, more and more companies are weaving CSR into their operations.”
There’s a difference between paying lip service to corporate citizenship and really walking the walk — and employees catch on quickly when efforts aren’t authentic or geared to their needs. How can you embed CSR in ways that are empowering and personalized to your employees? Here are some examples we found working with Corporate Philanthropy programs of all shapes and sizes:
Volunteer on the Clock
If you give employees the opportunity to volunteer during work hours, you show that you respect their time and are willing to invest in doing good in the communities your company serves.
Quicken Loans gives all of their team members eight hours of paid volunteer time each year which they can use to explore non-profits in their cities and find ways to make a difference in the community. This commitment to CSR pays dividends for Quicken, where over half of the lender’s employees are millennials. Fortune named Quicken on its list of 100 best places to work for Millennials and 98 percent of young employees say “I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community.”
Pick Your Cause
People want the ability to make a difference in the causes closest to their hearts. Having a single company wide cause does not meet the needs and preferences of all employees. Giving employees the opportunity to choose makes all the difference.
JetBlue decided to honor their crew members’ commitment to giving back by launching Community Connection – a crew member volunteer program designed to align corporate giving with individual crew member passions. To date, JetBlue crew members have volunteered over 400,000 hours of service, resulting in more than $1.5 million of in-kind donations impacting their local communities.
Consider Your Skill-Set
Nielsen’s Wendy Salomon, VP, Reputation & Public Affairs sees an increase in companies moving from old-school philanthropy to “skillanthropy” or skills-based contributions. Examples include a consumer packaged goods company addressing access to healthy food, a bank educating vulnerable populations on financial literacy, or a shipping company getting supplies to storm-battled regions.
“There is a particular “stickiness” when skill-based programs are part of a CSR portfolio, as they allow the company to shine a light on the good it does in the world and the expertise it brings to the marketplace day in and day out,” said Salomon.
PositiveNRG, NRG Energy’s Philanthropy Program, shows the benefits of skills based philanthropy. In their work with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a robotics and STEM education program. NRG employees use their real-world expertise to mentor FIRST teams. This multi-faceted approach to giving-back brings everyone together as valuable contributors and allows NRG to make more significant advances for those they serve.
If you’re not sure how your program stacks up, ask! Survey employees to get feedback on what they like and don’t like about the way your programs are run now. Find out what you can do to get them more engaged. Be prepared to adapt as you go because even with the best plan in place your programs will continually evolve, just as the needs of your business and community change. When you really meet the needs of your employees and the community at large, you’ll reap significant benefits.
Versaic’s program management system is behind many of the best-known corporate philanthropy programs from some of the biggest brands around. You can schedule a free demo here.
I believe we are living through one of the best times in the history of work. Thanks to the advancement in technology and instant access to information, our generation has a greater sense of empathy, ethics, and values. In the past, job seekers would be looking for a place that would pay them well and give them good benefits. Now, job seekers are looking for organizations that have great cultures. Companies need to offer individuals a sense of belonging and a mission to accomplish something remarkable. With no culture, an organization, is not sustainable in the 21st century. I have come up with five elements that are essential to building and sustaining great organizational cultures. Those elements are: purpose, ownership, community, effective communication, and good leadership.
Purpose: Going back to the premise that we have a greater sense of ethics and empathy. We are less selfish, and we want to be a part of solving a problem greater than ourselves. We need to understand the why of what we do. Companies now need to have a strong mission statement where they can share the why with their team members. A great example that comes to mind is SpaceX, a company that builds rockets for space exploration. This is their mission statement: “SpaceX was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Now… that’s a mission statement! That’s something bigger than anybody.
Ownership: The second element in building a great organizational culture is ownership. Ownership is about giving people the opportunity to be accountable for their results without being micromanaged. Giving people the autonomy over their time to accomplish their goals. Basecamp is a company that builds software for project management. They are a great example of a company that promotes ownership. They have an office in Chicago, but everyone has the chance to work from wherever they want. The CEO doesn’t know how many hours his employees work. They just set expectations and give people the opportunity to build their own schedules around their projects. But how do you keep people engaged with a sense of purpose? Well, you do that through the third element, community.
Community: Community is that sense of belonging to a group of people that shares the same or similar principles, goals, and values. Community is a place where there is camaraderie. Focus Lab is a branding and design agency that understands community. They have company standards instead of values. Their argument is that you can’t change a person’s values when they walk into your company, but you can uphold everyone to specific standards. Some of their standards are: work to live, ask more questions, and never stop learning. The culture of their company breaths these standards through their work. Building community is something as simple as having lunch and learns, hangout times on Fridays, and company trips. It varies from company to company. Community, is unique to each organization.
Effective Communication: The fourth element in building a great organizational culture is effective communication. Effective communication sounds like common sense, but through my work I have realized it is not common practice. It means consistency in processes and investing time learning the personalities and communication dynamics of team members. Google created a research project called Project Aristotle, where they found that the most collaborative teams are the ones where everyone speaks equally. In many of their engineering teams they have a list with checkmarks to make sure everyone is speaking the same number of times during their meetings.
Good Leadership: I would say this is the backbone of the cultural dynamics of any organization. The leader has to be constantly be pushing the mission, standards, community, and processes of the company. Without effective leadership the other four elements cannot thrive. People want leadership with integrity and compassion. People want authenticity. People want a leader who is clear on expectations. People want to know they have a leader who cares about them.
The elements I just mentioned are not new to people. People have always liked purpose, ownership, community, effective communication, and good leadership. It’s in our own human nature. But now we found words to describe those things to build high performing cultures. I would like to encourage each of you to be intentional about applying these elements, and building great cultures in your organizations.
About the Author:
Andy Cabistan is one of the Co-Founders of Watson Works, a culture development company helping teams communicate and collaborate better. Andy is passionate about helping companies with diverse groups of people build high performing teams. Andy is a Business Economics graduate from Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia, and a master’s student in the Professional Communication and Leadership program at Armstrong. In his spare time, Andy travels around the country developing leadership programs with children of military families in partnership with the Department of Defense. Andy is also active in Savannah building the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He believes that entrepreneurship, technology, and a sense of community are key factors to make economies thrive.
An Interview with Kristin Meyer, Associate Director of Community Partnerships
Since 2009, Global Citizenship has been a cornerstone of Starwood’s business strategy. Global Citizenship provides Starwood’s guests, customers, communities, owners, and associates a better way to experience the world. A key component of influencing lasting, sustainable improvements in communities around the globe is accomplished through collaborative partnerships with the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Foundation, Inc. (“Starwood Foundation”) and international charitable organizations. The Starwood Foundation is dedicated to enriching communities by supplying financial grants to select partner organizations driving change in three key focus areas: Workplace Readiness, Human Rights, and Community Vitality (includes: Sustainable & Ecological Development and Disaster Relief).
When we first started a partnership, the Starwood Foundation team knew they needed to track, quantify and evaluate their social impact and put a system in place to manage the complexity. As a first step, the Starwood Foundation contracted with The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) who suggested a shift in mindset from ‘funder’ to ‘investor’ to achieve a portfolio approach. With that perspective, the Starwood Foundation created a strategic framework to clarify results for their signature program grants. With clarity on what results they were seeking, they could be more strategic in how they identify partners, educate those partners, align the application and selection process, create effective grantee reports, and implement performance assessments. The flexibility of the Versaic online solution made it possible to streamline the grantmaking process and aggregate results across programs.
One year ago, Versaic wrote about Starwood’s grants program in this ebook. We wanted to follow up with Kristin Meyer, Associate Director, Community Partnerships, to get an update on the Starwood Foundation’s grants programs and the impact they are having.
The interview is hosted by Jennifer Spencer, Content Marketing Manager at Versaic:
1. Thanks for joining us Kristin. Let’s start by talking about the Starwood Foundation’s workplace readiness program. The investments the Foundation has made in this focus area and the impact it has had on your hiring in those communities is such a great example of tying corporate philanthropy programs to business goals. Can you elaborate on your signature workplace readiness program and the results the Foundation has seen?
By adopting more of a results-based framework, we’ve been able to apply what we’ve learned from our partnerships with NGO’s around the world to better understand what needs to be done in the private sector to support the requirements of the community. In the area of workplace readiness specifically, we know from the results shared by our partners that training is not enough to move the needle in the workforce development space. Our partners were achieving phenomenal success equipping individuals and marginalized populations with the appropriate skill set as well as the social and emotional support to enter the job force. Yet many of our partners often commented on how time consuming and challenging the process was to establish employer partnerships and place their clients into local jobs. In addition, employment retention was quite challenging, not because the clients weren’t adequately prepared, but because employer expectations were sometimes not aligned.
We have taken some of the learnings from our investments on the CSR side and applied that to how we can do our part as a business within those communities. How do we better train and equip our hotels to ensure they are working with those same NGOs on the ground, and actually hiring from that talent pool? How do we make sure they really understand not only what an NGO does, but the populations that they serve, and how those populations may differ from our typical candidates? What are the practices they may need to alter internally in order make sure that those individuals are adequately supported starting from an initial interview, through onboarding, hiring and retention? That is really where our program has been successful. We learned from our philanthropic investments the impact we’re achieving and where there are gaps, and are applying that to our business model to ensure that as an organization, we are playing our part by hiring from the talent pool we are helping to create.
2. Regarding the other pillars that you’ve focused on, are you getting the same kind of results, learning, and impact in those areas that you’ve achieved in workplace readiness?
Sustainable & Ecological Development is another area where we’ve used a results-based framework to manage our charitable investments. Through this approach, we have been able to make investments in environmental organizations around the world. Similarly to Workplace Readiness, we are able to capture learnings from our NGO programs and apply that knowledge to our business operations. For example, one of the funding streams under Sustainable & Ecological Development is water risk, encompassing water access, quality, scarcity, security, stress and sanitation & hygiene. My colleague, Claire Cutting, works with our partner NGO’s within this focus area. Through these relationships, she is able to better understand the conditions that can lead to any one of these water issues as well as prevention and remediation actions. In one such case, the analysis from coastal and watershed restoration projects, funded by the Starwood Foundation’s results-based investments, has provided learnings that led to the creation of a water risk framework for our development team, ensuring that we, as a company, understand how to properly mitigate a community’s water risk as we build new properties. Applying knowledge from our Foundation investments to our business allows us to contribute positively to a community and ecosystem’s health. We also are able to share examples of successful business practices with our NGO partners so that they can share with other relevant stakeholders.
3. Can we talk a little bit about how you are collecting the data needed to analyze results and communicating impact?
We collect all of the data directly from our grant partners. We worked collaboratively with the Versaic team as well as our consultants at TRI to establish the results framework, which was specific to Starwood and the impact we were trying to drive. From there, we approached a small group of our grantees, showed them the results we were seeking, and asked them to help us understand what steps were involved for them to accomplish the desired results. That process helped us build out a more robust grant application that included the right indicators of success. We ask our grant partners to project their expected results during the application process and then we collect progress updates on a semi-annual basis, which makes it simple for them to submit and easy for us to discuss successes and challenges.
In addition, The Starwood Foundation team does a lot of training at the beginning of the relationship with a new NGO partner. If I were to call out one thing that we do as a best practice, it would be this initial training. Asking our new partners to attend a two-hour training on results-based impact is understandably a tall order, but many have since come back to us and said how worthwhile the training was for them. We want our partners to clearly understand the results-based framework, how to think about setting milestones, and what we mean when we talk about impact. Having our partners share their results is imperative for us to understand our larger impact as a Foundation. To understand the progress of our grant portfolio, we built scorecards that enable us to look at the results of each individual grant, as well as aggregate the results of our investments. As an example, for Workplace Readiness, we can look across our global portfolio to understand not only how many individuals have been served, but how many of them have achieved a certain education level or how many have retained employment for a certain period of time.
4. How has your impact reporting affected your brand and business?
For the Starwood Foundation, our results-focused approach has definitely elevated our exposure and reputation within the nonprofit field. The Starwood Foundation has become a respected partner within the charitable community. In addition, the work of the Starwood Foundation has enabled us to understand where there may be opportunity to have even more impact as a company. We’re able to more effectively evaluate and consider opportunities with both business and social returns. The Workplace Readiness program is a perfect example of this in action. As a result of the Starwood Foundation’s investments and the strategic framework, we were able to identify an opportunity on the corporate side in terms of how Starwood can more effectively drive social impact and tap into a new potential talent pipeline.
Driving inbound interest means being everything from a publicist, researcher, and writer to thought leader.
Whether it's sponsorship, grants or donation, Versaic's best-in-class solutions are easily combined and customized to provide companies of any size a comprehensive solution for managing their CSR programs. Visit www.Versaic.com to learn more.
According to The Council on Foundations (COF) Report, Increasing Impact & Enhancing Value, corporate philanthropy is as vital as ever to business and society. And yet corporate leaders are under increasing pressure to connect the value of their programs with performance drivers that matter in the business. They must demonstrate that their philanthropic investment is both effective and aligned with business outcomes. Quantifying results is not always easy and many leaders struggle to measure the social impact of their programs. While they’ve often identified broad focus areas for their program, they can find it difficult to create clear social impact metrics that can bridge their philanthropic outcomes to their business strategy.
There are no universally accepted metrics for measuring either the social impact of philanthropy or the Return On Investment (ROI) of philanthropic initiatives. Each company is unique in both their social impact goals and in their requirements for how to demonstrate the ROI. It can be difficult to translate the large-scale vision of what they hope to achieve into tangible success measures. They struggle to find effective ways to track changes in behavior or condition for the nonprofits and community members they serve.
Versaic client Starwood Hotels & Resorts is an example of an organization committed to investing the time and resources necessary to put a corporate philanthropy program in place that delivers significant value to the community as well as to the company and its employees. Starwood worked with Versaic and The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) to develop a results-focused approach and implementation plan for their corporate philanthropy initiatives. Starwood’s primary objective was to employ new tools that would automate the process and improve their ability to track, quantify and evaluate impact. Their system is now live, and as a result, their philanthropy team has freed up time and gathered better data so they can have more productive interactions with grantees and effectively measure the results of their programs .
Here are some of the key things we learned about how to design and implement a successful program from our journey with Starwood and TRI:
1) Create a strategic focus area(s): To identify focus areas that would address the most pertinent needs of the community while capitalizing on Starwood’s strengths, the Social Responsibility team looked internally for guidance. After multiple stakeholder interviews, focus groups and strategy sessions evaluating different aspects of the business, the team identified five focus areas that align community development objectives with Starwood’s strategic goals:
2) Formulate a Plan: With the focus areas in place, Starwood developed a framework to plan and assess the effectiveness of their giving. TRI helped Starwood shift its mindset from acting as a ‘funder’ to acting as an ‘investor’ in order to seek the highest human gain for the available dollars. With that perspective, the foundation staff created a strategic results framework to clarify goals for their signature program grants.
Here are some basic questions to ask when establishing a result framework:
What changes do we want to see for the people or places we want to support?
What are the predictive changes in behavior or condition that indicate those people and places are on their way to success?
What types of programs and services will we invest in to get the end result?
What type of investments will we make to affect the change we seek? Will our portfolio include programmatic, capacity building and systemic change grants?
Below is an example from Starwood showing its results framework for its Workplace Readiness program.
3) Design an Effective System: For Starwood it was essential to make their team and systems as streamlined and efficient as possible. They knew they needed to automate the process, and wanted an automation partner who could integrate their results framework throughout the system workflow. They needed a system flexible enough to track the specific outcome data points they required.
Starwood’s application process and communication system process addresses the following needs:
Educate grantees on the company’s philanthropic objectives
Clearly communicate their criteria for support
Help potential partners understand how they can engage with the organization.
Collect all relevant information required to make funding decisions
Collect necessary data to assess ROI and support impact reporting
By taking the time up front to design the right questions, Starwood now collects all the necessary information from charitable partners, from initial proposal through impact data collected post-grant. As a result, the team can demonstrate how their investments in local non-profits focused on building employments skills have resulted in a much better pool of potential employees. This is a clear win for Starwood and for the communities where they do business.
If you’re daunted by the prospect of putting an impact-focused program in place, start by asking yourself, your team and your stakeholders questions about what you want to accomplish in your business and community. Use those answers and the three steps outlined above to develop a process that will deliver the results you want to accomplish. Be prepared to adapt as you go because even with the best plan in place your programs will continually evolve, just as the needs of your business and community change. Connecting and reporting social impact with ROI requires refinement as you learn from experience.
When you take this approach, you’ll respond more effectively to the needs of your community partners, your stakeholders and your social investing team while at the same time increase your impact. It certainly worked for Starwood. Read the full story of Starwood’s journey, Going From Strategy to Impact to learn more.