CSR Center

Jerome Tennille, an employee engagement professional who specializes in volunteer management, recently presented “Corporate Social Responsibility – Making it Work for your Organization’s Volunteer Program” with candid recommendations for how companies and nonprofits can best align for mutual benefit.

5 Takeaways:

  1. Do your research first. Due diligence is critically important in understanding a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Some companies have specific causes they focus on, and others may more broadly support the community and giving back. Before asking for money or seeking volunteers, nonprofits must align with those corporate goals.  Doing research offers useful insights into a company’s core focus areas and demonstrates alignment (or not) with a nonprofit’s mission. “I get solicitations all the time from people who clearly have not done their research,” said Jerome. “Unfortunately, that is a waste of time for both sides.”2
  2. Focus on impact and authenticity. This applies to both sides of the partnership. It’s not authentic when a company comes at the last minute asking for large-scale employee engagement activities that a nonprofit has to create in a rush, diverting resources from their mission. It’s also not authentic when a nonprofit treats a company like an ATM machine and is only interested in money. “Don’t go for short-term gain and risk the long-term relationship,” cautioned Jerome. “A company is a business and has to be successful and make money before it can give it away.” The best corporate-nonprofit partnerships focus on building long-term relationships to achieve real impact, aligned with the company’s business goals and the nonprofit’s mission. Ultimately, the goal for both partners is to serve the community.
  3. Get creative. In his experience, 90% of companies are looking for a turnkey, single day of service for employee engagement. Rather than put pressure on nonprofits to provide volunteer activities for hundreds or thousands of employees on one day, Jerome suggests companies and nonprofits look for new and more meaningful ways to work together. Ensure any project meets a real community need and is mission-driven, not sacrificing program integrity. While at The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), when large companies with thousands of employees kept approaching him for ready-to-go volunteer projects, Jerome worked jointly with program managers to solve the challenge. They stayed true to TAPS’ core services and developed “Thousands of Thanks,” a volunteer program for employees to write or draw leaves and create beautiful thank you trees—a “forest of thanks”—that encouraged visiting families who were grieving the loss of a military loved one. This program has now expanded to custom quilts as well. “It took a lot of brainpower to get to that point,” Jerome said.
  4. Understand motivations: Employees might volunteer to help the cause, or to enhance their résumés, boost business reputation, or fulfill a company mandate. Nonprofits need to take the time to listen to a company and its employees’ motivations. Equally, nonprofits can work to educate companies, especially key leaders, on community needs and the costs involved in mission work and meaningful impact. For example, although most companies want to volunteer at a food bank during the holidays, the real need is during the off-months.
  5. Make it about mutual benefit. A company’s business goals and philanthropic strategy can align seamlessly with a nonprofit’s mission and work for both sides. For example, Jerome recommends nonprofits position volunteering as a solution to a business challenge—not just unpaid work that takes away company revenue. “Find a mutual benefit and position yourself to solve their problems,” Jerome advised “Help them reach their goals while not sacrificing yours.”

 

Jerome shared two examples that demonstrate how mutual benefit in corporate-nonprofit partnerships works.

  • The hospitality industry at large is working to eliminate food waste while serving communities in need. Similarly, many food banks, pantries, and distribution centers want to eliminate food waste and serve communities too. So, it’s not uncommon that companies that source high volumes of food want to donate what’s not used, plus, company volunteer can help sort this food in the food pantry’s warehouse, while also sourcing unique skills from their employees to develop best-in-class processes to more efficiently receive and distribute the food.
  • The entire hospitality industry is experiencing a staffing shortage. Volunteering can be a solution. Some companies in this industry provide job training, résumé writing, interview practice, mentorship, and more with a special focus on youth, diverse populations, women, people with disabilities, veterans, and refugees. Employees volunteer with these communities to provide employment skills, helping eliminate stereotypes and providing hope and a future for underserved groups. “Youth are four times more likely to choose a job if they are exposed to it early,” said Jerome. And by developing a talent pipeline for the hospitality industry, companies engaged in this type of volunteering position themselves to better meet a business need.

 

In the end, creating partnerships for mutual benefit is the only way to build long-term, sustainable relationships with maximum community impact.

 

 

Jerome Tennille is the Manager of Volunteerism for Marriott International, where he leads the company’s traditional and skills-based volunteer programs, ensuring they reflect the latest innovations, technologies, and best practices. This includes Marriott’s  global week and month of community service, providing the framework, resources, and support needed for volunteerism efforts to be executed both globally and locally.  Prior to joining Marriott International, Jerome held the position of Senior Manager of Impact Analysis and Assessment for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that offers help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s armed forces. Jerome currently serves as a board of directors member of Peace Through Action USA and on the PsychArmor Institute Advisory Committee for the School of Volunteers & Nonprofits. Jerome holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in operations management and a Master of Sustainability Leadership (MSL) from Arizona State University. Jerome is designated as Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) and is also a veteran of the US Navy.

 

Employee engagement has never been more critical. Engaged employees are happier and 22% more productive (Harvard Business Review), yet most companies find employee engagement challenging. In fact, Gallup studies show 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work.

Every company has three types of employees: engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged.

Engaged employees have a passion for the company and drive it forward, while actively disengaged staff often cost the company. For simple ways to enhance employee engagement and reduce turnover, including suggested communication methods, valuable tools, and company resources, check out “Engaging and Communicating with Employees: Empower, Communicate, and Engage Your Employees with Access to Resources.” This e-book was authored by Community Health Charities Board Member and Continuwell President & CEO Charu Raheja.

For more employee engagement resources, take a look at Community Health Charities’ Tools For Engagement GuideHealth and Wellness Guide, and Year-Round Employee Engagement Calendar.

 

Charu Raheja, PhD is the CEO of Continuwell & TriageLogic Group and has served on the Community Health Charities’ Board of Directors since 2015. Charu graduated with a PhD in Finance from New York University and her award-winning research and publications have influenced corporate governance policy and regulation.

If you aren’t measuring employee engagement, you should be. Skeptics complain that the data from employee engagement surveys isn’t fully trustworthy; any time you survey people, you have to look with a very cynical eye at the wording of the questions and whether the people surveyed believe their answers are truly confidential.

If you run employee-focused programs, however, it’s worth the effort to get to a trustworthy data set for employee engagement.

When I was at Wells Fargo, I worked with HR to correlate my volunteer and giving program usage with employee engagement data, which at that time was considered trustworthy. Through this, I learned a number of interesting things that helped me make a business case for investment in my programs. Among the things we learned:

  • Employees who donate or volunteer consistently return higher engagement scores.
  • Employees who volunteer with company-run events feel more a part of the team and think more highly of their coworkers.
  • Usage of the matching gift program did not correlate with higher or lower engagement, and in fact
  • Employees who were perpetually disengaged (low scores over a three year period) got the highest average donation match.

Furthermore, we went beyond combining basic program usage with engagement data; we cross-referenced program satisfaction surveys, and, in some business areas where management agreed to the research, we included productivity and profitability measures. We learned a number of important things from that research, but two things stood out to me:

  • Employees tend to follow their leader—if their leader volunteers and donates, employees in the workgroup tend to do so as well, and
  • Workgroups with high volunteerism and donor rates on average showed slightly lower short term profitability but had higher engagement, lower turnover, and better retention over time.

Obviously, your success may vary because every organization is different. It’s important to measure engagement, however, because until you have data that supports or refutes your beliefs, you’re just another person with an opinion. Once you have the data, you can investigate its meaning and decide whether you need to adjust your programs, change your approach, or keep your course steady.

 

Have you uncovered interesting or unexpected trends in your engagement and community involvement data? You can tell me, and pick up tips from leading practitioners, at the Charities@Work conference in New York, June 27-28.

Peter Dudley is an author and nationally recognized expert in corporate social responsibility, marketing, and employee engagement. He’s worked the last 17 years in CSR running employee giving and volunteerism for Wells Fargo, where his workplace campaign was ranked #1 nine years in a row by United Way Worldwide. Before joining Wells Fargo, Peter held various roles in high tech startups, from Marketing Director to software development to community management.

Peter is honored to serve on the Community Health Charities national board of directors as well as the Charities@Work Corporate Advisory Council, which he chaired in 2015 and 2016. He has also served on and chaired United Way Worldwide’s Global Corporate Leadership Council.

Peter lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the proud father of both an Eagle Scout and a transgender daughter.