Common Impact Blog

The CSR Scoop - 8/19/2015

By Molly Weinstein | Aug 19, 2015

This week, we’re talking about purpose. What is it? How do we channel and leverage it? Why bother? Read on to find out!

The Scoop:


We talk a lot about the “purpose-fueled employee,” the “purpose-driven workplace,” and the “purpose economy.” But what does purpose actually mean in practice? Does workplace purpose, in essence, translate to CSR? Drew Bonfiglio points out that each individual derives purpose from different sources. An office manager may get jazzed about a task that a project manager would find tedious. An animal-enthusiast will find inspiration in a different cause than a sustainability nerd. A music virtuoso likely sees a value in an impeccably pitched scale that a math nerd will find only in a perfectly balanced equation.

This represents both an opportunity and a challenge. The challenge: workplaces will need to get creative and look beyond CSR to provide a diverse suite of positions, working environments, extra-curricular opportunities, and employee engagement activities that inspire, activate, and motivate a varied employee base. The opportunity: diverse perspectives drive innovation. Each purpose-driven individual is primed to identify opportunity in a different place, to derive passion from a different challenge, and to approach an issue from a different angle. By tapping into each individual’s unique purpose orientation, we can drive tremendous business and social impact.

Homaira Kabir defines productivity-producing purpose as “personal growth, meaningful relationships, and the knowledge that [an employee] is making a difference.” She claims that the relatively recent diversification of the workforce – particularly the increase presence of women and millennials in the labor market – has created a need for employers to incorporate purpose into the workplace in new ways.

“Women and millennials are the forerunners in the shift towards the purpose economy. They are the initiators of a trend that places a high priority on purpose in life. For women, this is partly due to the biological nature of motherhood and the dual commitment to both family and work…For millennials, it is driven by an increasing consciousness of their place in the larger context of life and a concern for how they will be remembered after they are gone.”

Kabir shares 5 strategies from positive psychology that organizations can use to structure meaningful, motivating work experiences for these purpose-centric employee populations.

WeSpire CEO Susan Hunt Stevens confirms that “as the workplace modernizes, employees expect and demand that their employers provide opportunities for empowerment and personal growth, leading to more fulfillment in and out of the workplace.” We love her suggestions to empower employees and support personal growth by:

  1. Implementing tools and programs that improve the work experience. Hunt provides the example of sustainability programs that track and reward employee participation to be particularly effective drivers of job satisfaction and good will.
  2. Making work social by fostering collegial connections both in and out of the everyday office environment. Common Impact suggests getting folks out of the office and working together on something unrelated to business operations. You’d be surprised what a change of scenery and a common goal can do for group bonding and team building.
  3. Don’t overlook individual passions. Here’s where purpose comes into play. Think about your staff as composed of people, rather than employees, who have unique interests and passions that ground and motivate them. Volunteer programs are a great way to tap into employees’ personal causes, but they’re not the only way. Think broadly and creatively about the talents and interests of your staff. Stage office musicals for local schools or retirement homes; provide a training on the latest technology that’s everyone’s talking about; create employee book groups. And our best suggestion: see what your employees propose. Empower them to take the reins, follow their purpose, and propose how they can harness their drive and talent to contribute back to your workplace and to the community at large.

Common Impact CEO Danielle Holly speaks to the work/life balance conundrum in the nonprofit sector and how we can create healthier and more sustainable lifestyles for ourselves and our employees. We nonprofiteers can’t sustain ourselves if we don’t consider our health and wellbeing as important factors, both inside and outside of the workplace.

But how, you ask? It may seem impossible to think about your own physical and mental health, when the mission of your organization is inherently based on serving others. Danielle provides us with a few strategies to help nonprofit employees think about this challenge.

  1. Talk about it. The idea in itself is simple, but often forgotten. Share your own wellness goals and practices with the rest of your team to encourage them to do the same. We all need some motivation to head to the gym after a long day anyway.
  2. Calibrate your workplace.  One size rarely fits all and it’s important to create an environment that caterers to the health and productivity of all employees, no matter their workstyle.
  3. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.  Advocate for what you need in your day-to-day to sustain a long-term healthy lifestyle and make you happier at work. Whether it be flex time, days spent working from home, or a gym stipend – be honest with your manager about what will make you perform at your highest level of productivity.

Looking for a company that’s not only talking the “purpose-driven” talk, but also walking the walk? Look no further than Clif Bar, a company that places equal emphasis on sustaining the health of five core purposes: Business, Brand, Community, Planet and People. Clif Bar recognizes that the latter three pillars - community, planet, and people – feed directly back into the success of their brand and business. By encouraging volunteerism, committing to local, organic, and low-waste production, and providing well-being-enhancing employee benefits, Clif Bar is able to build a stronger, purpose-backed brand, staff, and consumer market.

“Working for [a company] that means something, that’s trying to do something important in the world, is what it’s all about…otherwise, you’re dealing with that 80 percent of people who just do not want to be there!”

Clif Bar CEO Kevin Cleary



We’re spotlighting four upcoming conferences that take this concept of “purpose” to the next level of complexity. How can cross-sector groups find shared purpose? How does purpose intersect with profit? What tools exist to help companies and nonprofits achieve their purpose? Find out at these exciting industry events!

We love events that bring together our corporate partners and our nonprofit clients for joint learning. Salesforce’s Dreamforce does just that - bringing together thought leaders, industry pioneers, and thousands of your peers for four high-energy days of fun, inspiration, networking, and giving back. With over 1,500 sessions and thousands of live solutions from the world’s largest cloud ecosystem, Dreamforce has tailored content specific to every industry, role, and organization size.
September 15-18, San Francisco, CA

We can’t wait to attend SOCAP for the first time this year! Join Common Impact along with leading impact investors, word-class entrepreneurs, and other innovative cross-sector practitioners for three full days of engaging content at the intersection of money and meaning and conversations about creating a global society that is rooted in doing well by doing good.
October 6-9, San Francisco, CA

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Annual Corporate Citizenship Conference
The theme of this year’s annual conference is Connect the Dots: How Businesses Solve Global Challenges Locally. The content will focus on how businesses can successfully and strategically build engagements that align local impact to global strategy. Join speakers and attendees from leading corporations, foundations, and domestic and international NGOs to discuss how inter and intra-sector partners can develop innovations, collaborations, and partnerships that crease a lasting impact for communities around the world.
October 5-7, Washington DC

The 23rd Net impact Conference is coming to Seattle, where student and professional leaders will come together to tackle today’s toughest social and environmental problems. Keynotes feature corporate leaders, nonprofit visionaries, and ground-breaking entrepreneurs like Chelsea Clinton, Daniel Lubetzky, and Sue Desmond-Hellman. Check out the conference program to learn more.
November 5-7, Seattle, WA