Common Impact Blog

The CSR Scoop - 6/26/2015

By Molly Weinstein | Jun 26, 2015

Another week gone and we are just shocked by how this summer is flying by! Let’s stop to smell the roses – and to catch up on what’s being discussed in the world of CSR. The buzz this week centered on employee engagement: as one of today’s most pressing business mandates, as an outcome of volunteering and CSR initiatives, and as a core element of the “collective impact” equation.

The Scoop:


MovingWorlds released a fantastic iconographic this week, demonstrating how volunteering can accelerate a career in any sector: public, private, or nonprofit. Some stats that resonated with us:

  • 97% of career advisors say that people can accelerate their careers through volunteering
  • 66% of managers specifically look for volunteer experience and strongly value it
  • 79% of career advisors acknowledge that skills-based volunteering helps build a person’s professional network
  • Managers say that skills-based volunteering experience builds vital skills, such as collaboration (93.8%), communication (97%), leadership (90.3%), problem solving (90.3%) and innovation (70%).

In a HuffPost article about their research, Moving Worlds emphasized that a relevant skills-based experience which is strategically articulated in a resume and cover letter can make you an exponentially stronger job candidate. And, once you’ve landed the job, your pro bono experience will continue to inform your work performance, career aspirations, and professional outlook.

One of the most common frameworks referenced in corporate responsibility is the triple bottom line, which delineates – and separates – the economic, social, and environmental outputs of a business. Professor John Maxwell argues that, while this frame has served to raise the profile of social and environmental concerns surrounding corporations, it has also separated them from corporate profits, thus marginalizing CSR as an “add-on.”

“In business there is only one bottom line, and corporate sustainability is at the heart of it.”

WeSpire shared three emerging corporate responsibility trends that they’ve noticed through their employee engagement work with companies. We at Common Impact have also seen these trends becoming more and more apparent in recent years through our complementary work:

  1. Companies are making employee engagement a top strategic priority. When Common Impact began our work in skills-based volunteering 15 years ago, companies were interested in building volunteering programs purely for altruism’s sake - employee engagement was barely a part of the corporate lexicon. Today, our conversations with our corporate partners center on shared value; they recognize that they are able to deliver greater sustainable value to the community when they are also able to measure internal returns – commonly in the form of employee engagement.
  2. Purpose-driven work is being integrated into the workplace. Millennials want to extract meaning from the 40 plus hours they are spending at work and are demanding a professional connection to causes they are passionate about. Companies, in order to remain competitive employers in the workplace of tomorrow, are listening and responding to this increasing demand.
  3. Companies are offering a larger, more diverse suite of CSR programs to appeal to an array of employee interests and preferences. Some employees prefer getting outside and working with their hands. Others prefer using their professional skills to build the capacity of an organization they care about. Some are able to commit to a 6-month nonprofit consulting engagement, whereas others only have the bandwidth to contribute a day of high-impact work. In order to drive employee participation and enthusiasm, companies must shift away from the “one-size-fits-all” day of traditional volunteering to offer a portfolio of community involvement initiatives that appeal to a diverse employee base.

Remember learning back in high school psychology class about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? Extrinsic motivation is when you do things primarily for a reward, whereas intrinsic motivation stems from the meaningfulness of the work you do. Well, these terms are much more relevant to you than you might have realized as you dozed off in the back row of Psych 101! Emerging research has shown that by focusing exclusively on intrinsic motivators, such as the meaning and impact of your work, the quality of your work will drastically improve and you will ultimately reap greater external benefits (such as promotions and higher salaries). Thus, although it may be more difficult for companies to imbue meaning and connection into the workplace than it is to just hand out pay-raises, cultivating intrinsic motivation will lead to a more productive, driven, creative, and content workforce.

Qualitative and quantitative evidence clearly shows that employee involvement with CSR initiatives is a key indicator of a company’s broader employee engagement success. However, companies are struggling to engage their workers in addressing broad societal challenges, resulting in a dual-sided under-utilization: an under-utilization of employees in furthering CSR goals and an under-utilization of CSR in furthering employee engagement goals.

Kieth Larson suggests some innovative methods that companies can use to connect their employees’ passions and interests with their broader corporate sustainability and community goals. Among them: skills-based volunteering and friendly inter-company competition.

Collective impact,” a structured, multi-stakeholder approach to collaboration, has frequently been heralded as the panacea for today’s large-scale social problems. Easier said than done. SSIR explains that to achieve true collective impact, “we need an environment in which stakeholders can perform their individual roles optimally while also collaborating with each other effectively.”

SSIR suggests that we can develop this optimal environment by: 1) building awareness for the issue at hand, 2) building the capacity of stakeholders to help them perform at scale, and 3) nurturing a culture of collective impact so that nonprofits funders and governments can meet, collaborate, and grow together.

After speaking with over 1,200 nonprofit executives and board members about their challenges and needs, Third Sector New England released a new report: Essential Shifts for a Thriving Nonprofit Sector. The report’s key findings – that many nonprofit leaders are overworking with conditions of low pay, few professional development opportunities, and persistent funding challenges – indicate a concerning state of the sector. Many of the deficits are structural, such as the undercapitalization of the nonprofit sector and the underinvestment in nonprofit leadership development. And yet, 88% of nonprofit leaders surveyed still reported that they feel appreciated, challenged, and fulfilled by their mission-related work.

From where we stand at the cross-roads of the corporate and the nonprofit sectors, these findings reveal an opportunity for each sector to fill complementary needs in the other. A strategic cross-sector partnership can inject employee fulfillment and engagement into the corporate sector, build capacity in the nonprofit sector, and cede professional development for all parties involved. However, for the corporate and nonprofit sectors to maximally benefit from increased collaboration, it’s important to dismantle the common giver-receiver dynamic between the sectors and intentionally cultivate the inherent bilateral and balanced benefits.



This week, Common Impact attended NYC Service’s Corporate Service Coalition. The coalition, comprised of organizations that work in the area of corporate volunteering and pro bono service, was developed with the mission of deepening New York City companies’ commitment to service. Common Impact is excited to add our voice to this initiative and to contribute to its effort to deepen NYC’s culture of corporate service! This year, our mandate will be to recognize exemplars in service, while promoting best practices and innovative approaches in corporate community involvement. Stay tuned for more updates from this exciting work!

The Early Bird Registration Rate for this year’s Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service ends on Tuesday, July 7th! Common Impact is looking forward to once again joining our fellow volunteering organizations, corporate partners, and civic leaders in celebrating the tremendous impact of volunteering and in examining how we can, together, create new pathways for direct action and community involvement. Join us!
October 19-21, Houston, TX

Calling all nonprofit professionals! Join Common Impact and the Women’s Coding Collective for Beginner HTML & CSS for Nonprofits with Women’s Coding Collaborative Co-Founder Susan Buck. This training will help you demystify web development, while building the skills and confidence to keep your organization's branding looking fresh in websites, emails, and other electronic media.
July 23, Boston/Cambridge

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Citizenship Center is partnering with VOX Global to offer an exclusive training program for sustainability professionals: Creating Transformational Change, Translating Sustainability Inside the C-Suite. Attendees will learn tips to become more effective leaders, network with colleagues in the sustainability space, and develop a strategic business plan that demonstrates the value of sustainability to their C-suite and company at large.
July 23-24, Washington, DC

The theme of SSIR’s 10th annual Nonprofit Management Institute will be building resiliency. The conference will examine the role that resiliency plays at the personal, organizational, and social levels.
September 9-10, Stanford, CA