Common Impact Blog

The CSR Scoop - 6/19/2015

By Lauren Salzman | Jun 19, 2015

With summer upon us, we look forward to sunshine-filled weekends, and of course, our weekly roundup of the latest and greatest in the cross-sector space! This week’s Scoop features articles about purpose-driven business, the importance of both top-down and bottom-up involvement in corporate culture, and transformative volunteering. Read on to enjoy some of our favorites!

The Scoop:


The corporate mandate has shifted; millennials want a higher sense of purpose than just making money. A survey conducted by WeSpire, reinforced this, finding that while only 33% of employees over 60 and 44% over 50 said they’d like to get more involved with their organization’s volunteer, sustainability, or social responsibility initiatives, a whopping 71% of employees under 30 sought increased involvement with such initiatives.

With this knowledge, Maureen Kline, Director of Public Affairs and Sustainability at Pirelli Tire North America released an article claiming that businesses of the future will thrive and cultivate an engaged workforce only if they can articulate a clear social purpose. Kline illustrates her point with a powerful study from the EY Beacon Institute that found that 64% of ‘best in class’ purpose-driven companies have seen 10 to 30 per cent revenue growth over the past three years.

Kline’s article not only makes a compelling argument for the ever-increasing centrality of corporate purpose, but also provides suggestions for how corporate leaders can move the needle within their own organizations. Think carefully about the order of operations Kline suggests; we’ve seen that it is of critical importance for an organization to thoughtfully define, communicate, and activate their purpose before developing the programmatic initiatives to achieve that purpose and engage employees and customers.

As we celebrate the U.S. unemployment rate’s return to healthy pre-recession levels, we lament a parallel drop in American volunteerism, prompting Fortune to pose the question: Can Volunteerism Survive 5.4% Unemployment? Historically volunteering rates have tended to track unemployment levels, but we at Common Impact argue that this need not be so!

As more and more Americans are back at work, we must be conscious about integrating volunteering into the workplace. By leveraging volunteering as a dual-sided tool to build community and develop the workforce, we can simultaneously strengthen the American society and economy.

Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager study found that employees who are supervised by highly engaged leadership teams are 39% more likely to be engaged themselves. With this in mind, Entrepreneur shared 5 leadership behaviors that lead to a highly engaged workforce, including providing growth opportunities for employees and authentically living into with the company culture.

While engaged leadership and top-down promotion can indeed go a long way, often peer-to-peer advocacy for community engagement and volunteerism is an even more effective way to drive employee engagement. As Ryan Scott reports, the key to driving employee participation and creating a robust pipeline of corporate volunteers lies in building a bottom-up approach that empowers employees to have a voice in the program and encourage their colleagues to participate.

Philanthropy used to be very top down, depending on what the CEO liked, and it is not that way anymore. It’s now more democratically driven…If you want philanthropy to be real and not just something that’s stamped on your marketing collateral, you’ve got to have the company’s people own and drive it.”

– Suzanne BiBianca, Salesforce Foundation

Realized Worth emphasizes the critical difference between transactional volunteerism and transformative volunteerism, arguing that the latter fosters greater employee satisfaction, effort and growth by clearly connecting volunteer activities with their ultimate social impact.

In skills-based and traditional volunteering, embracing Realized Worth’s tips – starting with the why, engaging employees based on their past experience, and finishing with critical reflection – will make for volunteer experiences that resonate and drive engagement and fulfillment.

We can all agree that evaluation and reporting are critical to the legitimacy and advancement of any initiative – be it a business venture or a nonprofit program. Yet some things, like social impact or community engagement, can be tough to distill, track, and communicate quantitatively. To help, BCCCR offers some tactical tips for corporate citizenship professionals looking to enter the complex world of ratings and rankings.

Our favorite takeaway: Apply what you learn. In school, an A on your report card only gets you so far if you soon forget all the information from a course. Similarly, the true value of the corporate citizenship rating process stems not from the score you receive but from the company-wide conversation, reflection, and learning that the process generates.

This week, the State Street Foundation announced the launch of an exciting new initiative to develop Boston’s future workforce, called the Boston Workforce Investment Network (Boston WINs). The Foundation will provide an investment of $20 million over four years to five powerful Boston youth development organizations and will reinforce its investment by hiring 1,000 of the students who are served by the organizations.

Common Impact is proud to partner with State Street, a philanthropic leader in the Boston corporate community. We look forward to hearing more about the Boston WINS program and about State Street’s impact on workforce development and youth opportunities.

This brings us back to last week’s article What’s Next For the Ford Foundation, where the Ford Foundation announced a similar approach to provide deeper and more intensive support to fewer organizations.  We continue to see a shifting trend in philanthropy from short-term incremental investments to long-term contributions, which help ensure sustainable growth for nonprofit organizations.

The latest Giving USA report contained good news about the state of philanthropy in the US: overall giving by American individuals, estates, corporations, and foundations grew by 7.1% in 2014, marking the fifth consecutive year of increases in giving. By looking into the sources of those philanthropic dollars, the report revealed some interesting trends:

  • While many nonprofits build their revenue strategies around attracting foundation dollars, the report found that a whopping 72% of donations in 2014 came from individuals.
  • Corporate giving went from a 10.6% decline in prior years to a 11.9% increase in 2014.

“If multi-sector partnerships hold the highest potential for creating pivotal shifts in our underlying systems, skills for building these effective partnerships will be increasingly valuable.”

Net Impact shared a list of skills that impact leaders will need to develop in order to form successful multi-sector partnerships and jointly tackle complex problems. Although Net Impacts piece is geared more towards public/private multi-sector collaborations, we see the skillsets they feature – building trust, establishing a governance structure, being inclusive, and communicating – as absolutely essential for fruitful pro bono engagement as well. In pro bono work, it is critical that nonprofits and volunteers:

  1. Trust one another to contribute their unique expertise and to follow through on their commitments. We’ve found that the highest quality deliverables come out of engagements in which the volunteers and the nonprofits had formed a strong relationship built on mutual respect, admiration, and trust.
  2. Establish procedural guidelines and inflection points at the start of the engagement, to ensure that all parties are on the same page on how success will be measured, how the work will pan out, and when there will be opportunities for feedback and evaluation.
  3. Include all relevant stakeholders. This includes ensuring that you have buy-in from all staff and leadership at the nonprofit and executive level support at the company.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Communication and responsiveness are paramount to every relationship, but particularly so in cross-sector partnerships when there may be barriers to communication and when constant feedback is critical. Laying out perspectives clearly, avoiding jargon, keeping one another looped in on project progress, and soliciting frequent feedback are all best practices that we’ve seen lead to impactful deliverables and exemplary project experiences for all those involved.

Events in Our Space:


Last week, Common Impact attended CGI America in Denver with nearly 1,000 industry leaders from business, philanthropy and government.  Participants came together to make 79 Commitments to Action that will move the needle on today’s most pervasive societal issues.  Common Impact was excited to bring service and volunteerism into the conversation. We, along with fellow leaders in the volunteering space, look forward to continuing the discussion about how volunteerism (hands on and skills-based) can be strategically leveraged as a resource to solve the broad range of challenges that the initiative seeks to address.

Though corporate social responsibility and employee engagement are now recognized as core to business success, many companies still struggle with defining the impact of their community investments. Join Corporate Citizenship and LBG members Denstu Aegis, Linklaters, Rolls-Royce, FirstGroup and Barclays for their Simplifying Impact Measurement Webinar to discuss how your company can enhance impact measurement.
July 2, Online

Technology offers nonprofits the opportunity to design and implement more effective processes for improving program performance; however, many organizations struggle with converting ideas into a successful outcome. 501Partners, Annkissam & Tech Networks of Boston are teaming up to co-host Nonprofit Tech Alchemy: From Ideas to Impact to share their technology stories and solutions.
July 23, Boston

Join Be Social Change and Lara Galinsky, Senior Vice President of Echoing Green for an intimate fireside chat about finding purpose in both work and life. Echoing Green is a groundbreaking nonprofit with the mission to unleash next generation talent to solve the world’s biggest problems.
July 30, New York

Stanford Social Innovation Review and the Association of Fundraising Professionals are co-producing their 10th Annual Nonprofit Management Institute. The theme of this year’s event is Building Resiliency: Yourself, Your Organization, Your Society.
September 9-10, Stanford, CA