Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service: Reflecting on the Civic 50
This past week, I had the privilege of joining some of the nation’s most service-minded companies, along with their intermediary and nonprofit partners, at the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service. The three-day convention offered a wealth of insights, many of the most poignant and inspiring centering on the vibrancy and artistry of our host city, Detroit.
When professionals with a shared passion for cross-sector collaboration and service gather together, buzzwords and soundbites tend to fly freely, as conversations jump from impact measurement to employee engagement faster than you can say “corporate social responsibility.” Yet, these various topics all converged in one, exciting discussion about this year’s Civic 50 Companies, who were unveiled mid-way through the Conference.
The Civic 50 is an annual initiative of Points of Light to recognize the 50 most community-minded companies in the nation. Now in its fourth year, the initiative has progressed beyond simply honoring the biggest givers or the splashiest CSR sideshows. Rather, this year’s selection showcases companies that are “turning good intentions into sound business practices,” and breathing life into the ideology of shared value. Honorees were selected based on their fulfillment of four dimensions of success: investment, integration, institutionalization, and impact.
Investment – The companies featured on this year’s list are moving the needle on their chosen community causes not just with isolated initiatives, but by harnessing all of their financial, human, and natural capital to achieve concentrated impact. Civic 50 honoree State Street Corporation embodies this focused, wraparound investment. The State Street Foundation has coordinated its financial giving, its hands-on and skilled volunteering, and its diversity & inclusion initiatives to focus on the specific goal of creating 1,000 jobs for inner city youth over the next four years. 
Integration – Corporations on the Civic 50 list have realized that true community investment is not driven just by altruism but, also, by a cogent connection to their key business functions. Hasbro, Inc., for instance, recognizes that a healthy supply chain for their business depends on their ability to minimize their own environmental footprint, as well as to promote environmental responsibility within their employee base and their community. By focusing their impact work on causes that have strategic importance to their business, they’re able to rally leadership, middle managers, and employees to concurrently solve business and environmental challenges, thereby minimizing their environmental footprint and maximizing their social one.
Institutionalization – Companies are only able to meet the call for multipronged investment and integrated CSR if they are able to achieve a culture of service. Half of Civic 50 companies are connecting community engagement work with skills development and 56% are including it in performance reviews, making it an essential and natural part of associates’ career trajectories. Furthermore, companies are getting creative about how they involve all employees – not just new hires or senior level talent – in community programs. They are engaging remote employees, appointing regional community ambassadors, and tapping into employees’ pro-social tendencies to engage every level and branch of the organization in work that delivers value to both the company and the community.
Impact – Those in the nonprofit world know that, in recent years, corporate funders have been holding nonprofits to a higher standard of accountability when it comes to measuring their impact on target constituents. The same standard applies to corporations themselves as they strive to quantify the ultimate outcome of their social investment. While 78% of Civic 50 companies measure the social impact of at least one aspect of their community involvement work, there is still much progress to be made. Like nonprofits, corporations struggle to move from outputs (the services delivered) to outcomes (the resulting improvements in a social condition). There are exciting initiatives afoot in this arena – spearheaded by organizations such as True Impact and Impact2030 – to align impact measurement across companies and to create a global evaluation standard. Much of the conversation at the Civic 50 session and throughout the entire Conference indicates that coordinated impact measurement will be the next frontier in the corporate social responsibility space, particularly as technology and big data continue to redefine the volume and variety of information that can be analyzed.
There will be plenty of opportunities, over the next year to continue the conversation about the “Four I’s” and to witness the innovations that the 2017 class of the Civic 50 will introduce to the continually growing field of impact work.
What other dimensions do you think Civic 50 contenders should be evaluated on? What examples have you seen of companies practicing strategic and effective community engagement? Comment below - we’re eager to discuss further with you!
 State Street Bank to create 1,000 jobs for inner city youth, Sacha Pfeiffer, June 16, 2015