CSR Center

I’ve spent a lot of time in my career building models and strategies that deliver results ranging from reputation management and risk reduction to brand storytelling and employee and community engagement. I also spend a lot of time providing advice to other companies about how to leverage these disciplines for true business value. I partnered with Kathrine Smith at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship to write this book to share these perspectives and provide a guide for those who are either just starting out in Corporate Citizenship, CSR, or any effort that touches the environmental, social, or governance (ESG) dimensions of business — or who want to refresh or refine their CSR program.

This is a book about building a successful business in the 21st century. It’s a book about leveraging all the tools, trends, and assets at the disposal of business to drive bottom-line results, value chain resiliency, productivity, innovation, long-term shareowner value, and benefit for the community. We set out to provide a set of practices and checklists that can help you ensure that you are considering ESG impacts and assets to create competitive advantage for your company and a better world for us all. We use terms like sustainability, corporate responsibility, and social impact to help explain concepts and translate frameworks, but this is all about creating the most successful business possible in the 21st century competitive landscape.

If you work your way through the sections of this book and implement the tools and tactics described, you will develop both yourself as an effective advocate for corporate citizenship and your organization’s 21st century business strategy will be more resilient, agile, and successful than your competitors.

All of the profits from the sale of this book will benefit the BC Center for Corporate Citizenship. Click here to purchase your copy today.

Dave Stangis serves as Vice President-Corporate Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer for Campbell Soup Company. Dave designs Campbell’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability strategies, goals, policies, and programs. He leads the Company’s strategies and external engagement related to CSR Strategy, Responsible Sourcing, Sustainable Agriculture, and Operational Sustainability. Working closely with other senior leaders, he advances Campbell’s operational and communication strategies in these areas.

“Corporate policy prohibits us from funding staff or operational expense. We only fund programs.”

I was speaking with a community affairs manager of a major company this morning, and they told me their company’s particular version of the above statement. On the surface, that seems like good stewardship of the company’s philanthropic investments—the money should go directly to impact, not to rent, salaries, or printer ink. The theory is that the most efficient nonprofits are also the most effective at delivering impact without needless spending. (I won’t be talking in this post about whether overhead is needless spending. That’s been discussed before.)

When I was managing CSR programs for more than 15 years at Wells Fargo, I was skeptical about that theory because no one ever talked about what happens in the extreme case when every donor requires their donation be 100% spent on program. Now that I serve on Community Health Charities’ national board plus work for a nonprofit myself, I see that the “we only fund programs” approach not only ignores some important realities, but it can actually incentivize inefficiency or, worse, ineffectiveness.

The reality for many nonprofits is that they do get a lot of unrestricted donations, mostly from individuals, that end up paying the electricity bills and other essential operating expenses. But even when this is the case and the nonprofit can legitimately promise a corporate funder that 100% of their grant will go to program, the grant itself brings with it additional burdens.

Although there are exceptions, in my experience, most corporate funders have three expectations that make sense in the corporate office, but which are not in the nonprofit’s nature:

  • Reporting on impact, in the company’s language

Good nonprofits measure the effectiveness of their programs in one way or another. At Cancer Support Community, we capture important information through surveys and measurements every year that help guide our program development and delivery. But companies tend to want their own metrics, on their own schedules. In some cases, companies can help the nonprofit improve their measurements, but in my experience, a lot of what companies ask for is designed to support the company’s CSR mission, CSR communications, or management confidence—not necessarily the nonprofit’s mission. If what the company asks for is different from what the nonprofit needs, the nonprofit will have to create a new process to report to the company in the format and language it demands. Loath to upset the funder, the nonprofit will typically find a way to add this to their work without telling the company how much of a staff and financial burden it is.

  • Recognizing the company’s “partnership”

Every nonprofit I know is profoundly grateful for every donation received, and they want every donor to feel that gratitude. Large nonprofits, especially those with huge communications teams, are equipped for and competent in creating communications that promote their donors. Small nonprofits, however, often don’t understand what recognition would be meaningful to their corporate partners, or don’t have the channels to include that messaging. Thus, many larger companies gravitate toward the larger nonprofits, to the neglect of many outstanding and often more impactful local organizations. It’s so much easier to drop a big grant on a big brand who knows how to recognize the company… even if a small nonprofit would more effectively deliver the impact the company actually wants to create.

  • Customizing program delivery to the company’s specifications

A lot of my peers in the nonprofit space talk about how they don’t want to “chase the money,” but many companies are so focused on their strategic priorities that they dream up impact they want to create, then shop around until they find a nonprofit willing to do the work they’ve ideated. Some companies do a great job of partnering—bringing the company’s competencies to the table and hearing what the nonprofit’s competencies are, then collaborating on making a profound impact together. The power dynamic in these conversations, however, is imbalanced, and nonprofits are too often seduced into believing they have to agree to a company’s desires no matter the cost in order to get the funding they need. This can lead to mission scope creep and delivery dilution as the nonprofit customizes their programs to different funders in order to give those funders what they’re asking for—whether it truly supports the nonprofit’s mission or not.

These expectations seem completely natural to corporations, but they are not at all natural to nonprofits that are built and staffed to deliver their mission, not to serve the corporation’s mission. As a result, nonprofits that get large corporate grants end up filtering into two groups:

  • Those that burden their mission staff with serving the company’s demands, thus diluting their effectiveness, and
  • Those that build a whole new staff internally to serve the company’s demands, which in aggregate reduces the organization’s focus and efficiency.

Smaller nonprofits that “chase the money” tend to fall into the first category, and large nonprofits that can absorb more overhead tend to fall into the second. Many nonprofits simply put all the burden on their development director, who ends up not being able to singlehandedly bridge the divide between the mission staff (who think pleasing the donors is the development director’s job) and the corporate funders (who think the development director can influence program design). This is probably one reason that the average tenure of a typical development director is less than 18 months.

Since jumping the fence from corporate to nonprofit, I’ve become more aware of how I fell into these corporate mindsets in the past. I’ve also learned that a lot of people whose careers have been spent entirely within nonprofits don’t understand the corporate mindset or the pressures from management and other stakeholders that CSR program managers face.

Too often, I think companies look at nonprofits as an extension of their own staff—the company wants to feel they are “moving the needle,” so they fund a nonprofit to accomplish whatever goal they’ve created, and then they demand that the entire donation go to “funding the program, not overhead.” In 15-plus years of looking at CSR programs, however, I’ve observed that the most effective corporate donations are those that take the venture capitalist’s approach: Find the best nonprofit that is aligned to the same intended outcomes, and give them the money they need to accomplish their goals. You’re investing in the leadership, not hiring a vendor. Learn to use the metrics the nonprofit produces for their own program adjustments rather than demand they learn your specific corporation’s vernacular.

Ultimately, everyone involved in the process wants to better the world in some way. Corporate funders often don’t realize the unintentional and unnatural burdens they are unwittingly putting on nonprofits in the name of effectiveness and inefficiency, however—often creating new inefficiencies that exist for the sole purpose of supporting the grant.

Peter Dudley, Chief Development Officer, Cancer Support Community, former Wells Fargo SVP, Community Health Charities board member

A recently released study of 140 U.S. companies found that those who embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce outperform their peers. These companies are not merely compliant or acting out of perceived obligation, but are excitedly embracing the advantages that come with employing more creative, industrious and well-rounded people.

Making a positive impact on the unemployment and underemployment rates for people with disabilities, however, is a challenge that requires a collaborative effort.

Last November, Microsoft gathered experts and influencers from over 75 different organizations from across the Seattle-area for the second annual Microsoft DisAbility Employment Symposium. The event generated discussion on common challenges, lessons learned, and innovation in disability employment. We celebrated people with disabilities and committed to our ongoing efforts towards inclusion.

Below are three steps your company can take to continue the journey to positively impact disability employment.

 1. GET READY: Nurture a culture of inclusion

Celebrating people with disabilities within your organization will ignite a sense of disability pride that results in a more inclusive and productive workplace. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Recognize Talent: People with disabilities are an asset to the workplace. From innovation to troubleshooting to project management skills, each individual with a disability brings with them a unique set of skills that they have honed as a result of their disabilities. Remember that 70% of disabilities are non-apparent, so you likely have someone with a disability in your workplace today who is already adding value to the team.
  • Create opportunity for connection: To build a culture you first need to build a community. Our Disability Employee Resource Group is a long standing group of employees, who have helped to define disability inclusion at Microsoft. If you are looking for a first step in this journey, start here. Just a few passionate employees with common experiences can support your business in the creation of truly inclusive culture.

2. GET SET: Invest in accessibility

Embedding accessibility into the fabric of your company is key to recruiting and retaining talent with disabilities:

  • Be creative, be frugal, and be resourceful. “Investment” does not always mean “budget” allocation. Utilize resources that are available for free on public platforms. For example, watch Introduction to Disability and Inclusion to learn the basics, and educate your colleagues by using Microsoft Accessibility Training Resources particularly our At a Glance series, which provides bite-sized accessibility trainings.
  • Leverage technology to empower people with disabilities. The role of technology is indisputable in empowering all people, including people with disabilities. From accessible career websites to assistive technologies like screen readers (e.g., Narrator and JAWS) for people who are Blind or Low Vision, accessible technology can make your company more attractive to talent with disabilities. As an individual, you also have a role in making your workplace more accessible with a few simple tricks. Try using the Accessibility Checker before sending an email or turn on Translator within PowerPoint during your next meeting. If you want to know more about accessibility features check out our Accessibility Feature Sway and at the Microsoft Accessibility Site.
  • Accessibility in all levels of your company. Senior leaders are immensely influential as accessibility champions. Ignite your leader’s passion for accessibility by sharing personal stories about how your company’s business has positively impacted the lives of people with disabilities. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provides six accessibility feature demos: Inclusive Presentations, Seeing AI, Xbox Adaptive Controller, Learning Tools, Soundscape, and Eye Control.

3. HIRE: Hire someone with a disability today!

While nurturing your company culture and integrating accessibility into all that you do, actively seek candidates with disabilities to join in your journey. People with disabilities are just the problem solvers you need to provide feedback on your efforts as you strive for improvement.

  • Transparency in recruiting: candidates appreciate transparency in your company’s inclusion efforts and clear timelines on the accessibility journey. For hiring managers, open communication is key to confront bias and to allow for discussion around your company’s policies for workplace accommodations and benefits.
  • Identifying gaps: partner with your internal talent acquisition team, HR, legal, or other stakeholders to understand the process for working with candidates with disabilities. Ensure that your organization has a process for soliciting and responding to requests for accommodations. Offer trainings to all members of a recruiting ecosystem and co-create resource guides that are specific to your business. Don’t wait for the processes and  policies to be perfect.
  • Resources abound: check out the Disability Equality Index (DEI), which serves as an neutral benchmarking tool to evaluate, measure, and improve your company’s disability inclusion efforts. We are sharing even more of our learnings through our Disability Inclusion Sway and the Microsoft Inclusive Hiring Site.

Above all, be curious, be bold, and be collaborative. Hire someone with disabilities and they will guide you along the way.

Jessica Rafuse is the Senior Program Manager for NGO Engagement within the Office of the Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft. Jessica is responsible for Microsoft’s strategic engagement with organizations that focus on people with disabilities and accessibility. Jessica holds a position on the Board of Directors for Disability Rights Washington.

Ghandi once said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.” Ghandi believed that personal and societal transformation go hand in hand. He also struggled with the reality that one person’s actions alone aren’t enough. Social transformation takes the rigorous and persistent action by many. I must say I agree. But, big change in society starts with an individual’s actions. Whether it’s the birth of a social movement like Me Too (or #MeToo), protests like The March for Life and The Women’s March, or the act of eliminating plastic straws from consumer facing storefronts, it started with individual action. Over time these actions gained consensus with many and swept the landscape. Now, I should say that I’m not seeking to create a movement. I only share those examples because we must understand that individual action towards similar or like minded ideas have implications. Some good, some bad. This is most certainly the case when trying to create a more sustainable future.

Those who know me remember I studied sustainability in graduate school. The academics focused on the implementation of sustainability principles into companies, organizations and government agencies. However, those very principles are applicable to daily actions in our personal lives. I admit that while I do a fair amount to be responsible every day, there’s so much more I can do. So, I’m making a commitment to do better, be better. What does that mean? Well, I’m doubling down on implementing sustainability principles into my own daily actions. Before I get further into the actions I’m taking and how you can follow this journey in Instagram, it’s important to understand what sustainability is.

The definition of sustainability can vary based on who you ask. To keep it simple I define sustainability using the UN World Commission on Environment and Development’s guidelines. Sustainability is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is with regard to the use and waste of natural resources that support environmental, social, and economic health and vitality. Sustainability as a concept presumes that resources are finite, and that they should be used wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences based on the way we consume them. You may have also heard the term “circular economy.” A circular economy is a regenerative system that is different to our current economic model of “take, make, dispose.” In a circular economy we minimize resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops. This is achieved through designing longer lasting products, and then maintaining, repairing, reusing, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and upcycling those currently in circulation. That same concept can also be applied to our own personal decisions as consumers. That’s part of what I aim to achieve. I must point out that this concept is important (to me personally) because it’s estimated humans are using natural resources 1.7 times faster than can be regenerated. Or to put it more simply, we consume 1.7 Earths each year.

January marked the beginning of my journey. Implementing sustainability principles can be difficult, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the concept or steps that can be taken. So, I encourage you to follow my journey on my new Instagram profile where I’ll share tips, tricks and facts while giving a glimpse into my daily life. Some immediate choices include the following;

  • Shopping local to support small business: I’ve chosen to do my grocery shopping from local farmers markets once a week. This requires that I plan ahead and am very deliberate with what I purchase. By supporting small business I’m doing two things; contributing to the economic sustainability by investing in my local community, and also sourcing items that are seasonally produced. Items that are seasonal are in higher supply and tax the Earth far less. Additionally, because these are locally sourced, it produces a smaller carbon footprint since they’re not being sourced from another country or region. Fewer “food miles” means less carbon emitting vehicles required to transport.
  • No Single-use Plastic: This is harder than it seems. Most items come in or require a person to use a single-use plastic bag or container that’s not recyclable.  Think about all the plastic water bottles, plastic grocery bags, packaging, takeout orders and containers, bubble wrap, plastic cups, cigarette butts, and so on. Over 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans and elsewhere. So, now, I carry my own bamboo utensils, a stainless steel straw, cloth napkin, and reusable coffee cup sleeve everywhere I go. I even have reusable bags on standby in my car. But, if I don’t use these items my effort is a waste of time. Intentionality is more important in this because there are many places for missteps. Here’s the thing, it’s impossible to avoid single-use plastic, but we have to do the best we can. I think we all know the benefits of ditching the single-use bags, it’s just better for the environment. And maybe, just maybe that’s one less piece of plastic that ends up in the stomach of a whale. Yes, that actually happens.
  • Adopt Zero-waste Practices: Becoming zero-waste means a lot of things. Simply put, I’ll think twice before discarding any item. I will ask the question of “can this be reused, regifted, or extended in lifespan?” For food this is easy, don’t prepare more than I intend to consume. 40% of all food is wasted in the United States, that’s a shame. But it also means being more innovative in what I prepare and if I can use portions of the food that is generally discarded. An example of this is orange peel. Normally discarded, it can be recooked into orange peel candy. Our societies culture of over-consumption is a part of this problem. By rethinking the portion sizes and how much we eat will eliminate some of the waste of these resources.
  • Reduce My Carbon Footprint: Whether I order something from Amazon or drive to work I increase the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. So, wherever possible I will seek using public transportation like the bus or metro. I’ve also sought to use more ridesharing apps and carpool where available. For longer trips where a train or aircraft is necessary, I will seek opportunities to purchase carbon offsets. Lets face it, air travel is a must in this day and age, but it’s also one of the most environmentally harmful methods of travel. Whether or not you believe in climate change, reducing carbon emissions is just simply better for society. Here’s why. Let’s imagine for a second you don’t believe the Earth’s temperature is changing from man-made activity or causing ocean levels to rise. That’s fine, we can have that debate later. However, you probably believe in your own health and vitality. And we all know the carbon monoxide from your car’s exhaust is harmful. It’ll kill you. That stuff is getting pumped into the air you and I breathe. In places like Los Angeles and Beijing (China), the air quality is so compromised citizens sometimes wear face masks or they risk having chest pain and lung complications. To me the benefit is clear. We make the air quality better while minimizing our imprint on the Earth’s climate.
  • Continuing My Plant-based Diet: I hardly eat meat as it is. By hardly, I mean I probably eat something with meat (or dairy) once a week, or every other week. I’ve adopted a mostly vegan diet. Personally my body just feels better, and it works best with my exercise and training schedule as an ultra-marathoner. In addition to that, plant based diets are much easier on the environment. Why you ask? Because they require fewer resources to maintain compared to land-intense agricultural products like beef and other types of animal farming. 14.5% of all greenhouse emissions are a result of animal based agriculture (i.e. methane from manure and fuel used to transport product). By adopting a plant-based diet will reduce the health risks assumed by eating meat and other processed items. Additionally, we’ll reduce the amount of land and water used and carbon emissions emitted.

Well, I hope that gives you an idea of the steps I’m taking. And while I’m adopting other practices not outlined above I hope you follow this journey. This will certainly be one that evolves through 2019 and beyond. I should also mention that this isn’t a year-long resolution or anything of the sort. This for me is just another lifestyle change as I evolve as a person. That said, I’m not perfect, so I imagine there will be great lessons learned from this change. In all, I will be sharing both my successes and failures along the way. If you have tips, suggestions or have made similar changes in your life I’d love to hear from you. In any case, whether you’re seeking tips or sharing them, don’t be a stranger.

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.

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of people. Call me optimistic, but I think people naturally want to make the world a better place. They want to help those around them achieve success. As business leaders, it’s our job to harness that optimism and passion, and focus it on serving our customers and communities. Unfortunately, most businesses miss the mark. Employees are historically disengaged at work and that lack of engagement costs companies billions annually.  In fact, according to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy’s 2018 Giving in Numbers report, the average participation rate in employee volunteer programs is just 30%.

To overcome those low levels of engagement, Berkshire Bank put our employees at the center of our corporate social responsibility strategy, connecting them to our core purpose of helping everyone, everywhere realize life’s exciting moments. Our commitment to being a socially responsible company extends to every aspect of our business, ensuring we use natural resources effectively, offer a dynamic, ethical and inclusive workplace, and use the power of our core business to support under resourced populations.  While that work is at the heart of our brand, harnessing the power of our human capital is what has made our corporate social responsibility efforts so impactful. Our strategy empowers our employees to use their time, skills and expertise to contribute meaningfully to the communities where we live and work.

The XTEAM®, our corporate employee volunteer program, provides employees with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours at a series of company-supported projects. Offering paid time off to volunteer is hardly a revolutionary concept, nor is it what makes our program unique or so successful. It’s our people. By empowering them to be local change agents, giving them choice and providing them with the framework and resources to make it all happen, they’ve been able to achieve some incredible results, including a 100% participation rate in each of the last three years.

The true measure of our success is the impact we’ve had on our community and business. In 2018, we proudly achieved our goal of impacting one million individuals with our volunteer work. That’s one million lives changed because our employees took the opportunity to contribute their time, skills and expertise in our communities. Our success extends to our business, with data showing that our volunteer efforts enhance reputation, increase brand affinity, mitigate risk, develop talent, and generate new business. A strong volunteer program not only helps create a more engaged workforce, it builds a stronger more inclusive business.

So why am I sharing our story?  To encourage and support other businesses in launching their own efforts. There are dozens of free resources and experts willing to help you on your own journey. My tips? Put your employees at the center of your strategy, align their work with your core purpose and empower them to be local change agents.  Starting is simple:

  • Get a plan in place
  • Build support and buy-in
  • Empower and engage your workforce at all levels by providing choice, incentives and recognition to encourage participation
  • Measure your success beyond outputs and communicate with your internal and external stakeholders using a combination of stories and data

And remember, it takes time to build a successful employee volunteer or corporate social responsibility program. It won’t happen overnight. You’ll have setbacks and successes but always keep in mind the end goal: the student who can read better, the family with the new home, the young adult who can finally go to college and the business that achieves success by being a responsible corporate citizen.

Gary R. Levante is Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility at Berkshire Bank, America’s Most Exciting Bank®, and leads corporate responsibility and sustainability for the company and its’ subsidiaries. Under Gary’s leadership, Berkshire has earned more than two dozen awards including the 2018 Gold Halo Award for the top corporate community engagement program in North America, PR Daily’s 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Award and a 2017 International Communitas Award for leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility. A leading expert on human capital investment and community engagement, he has been featured at conferences throughout North America, on social media and in national publications. He contributes his talents to his community serving on the boards of local non-profit organizations and on the national board of America’s Charities. In addition, Gary acts as the Regional Voice Lead for IMPACT2030, a United Nations and private sector collaborative. Gary holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.

At a recent speech I was asked about the role of sponsorship in women’s career paths. I responded that I considered it a moral imperative to sponsor other women and for leaders to mentor those who may not know where to find a helping hand.

It was an incomplete answer. It didn’t really do justice to why sponsorship profoundly matters or how to advance it. So I’m suffering a bit with “l’esprit de l’escalier” or “staircase wit” – when the right riposte fails you at the party, only to occur to you as you’re leaving the building. The speech is long over. But I have heartfelt feelings about this question, and so I thought I’d answer it more fully here.

There is a universality in connecting to each other through our stories. Sharing our stories binds us, builds trust and – if we are fortunate – allows us to collectively apply our diverse experience to accomplish great work.

Joseph Campbell, the late scholar of comparative mythology and religion, believed we all share the story of a hero’s journey, which has hallmarks that appear in everything from ancient myths to Star Wars: a call to adventure, a mentor, a series of tests leading to a great ordeal, a reward and a path back that allows the hero to help others.

Early in what Campbell calls the “monomyth,” a person is called to adventure but wavers at the prospect. Then a mentor appears — maybe it’s Yoda, a fairy godmother or some kind of guide or teacher. At this critical point in the story, as the veteran story consultant Christopher Vogler puts it: “Sometimes the mentor is required to give the hero a swift kick in the pants to get the adventure going.”

By this description, the mentor is truly a sponsor. If mentors advise you and sponsors advocate for you, then it’s the sponsor who pushes you to boldly answer the call. Many adventures would not happen – or would unfold more meekly – without that person. Whoever you are, wherever you are, we’re connected to this truth: a sponsor can fundamentally transform your journey.

There is ample data to support this idea for women in particular. Women in the Workplace, a joint initiative between LeanIn.Org and McKinsey, recently studied the gender-parity gap in my field of financial services.  Here’s the issue: In North America, women represent half of the entry level workforce in the industry but only one in five C-suite roles. A critical way to change that? Sponsorship, according to a survey of 14,000 employees at nearly 40 financial services companies as well as conversations with the small number of women at the top.

An overview of the research notes the important correlation in career advancement and receiving advice from senior leaders, which, unfortunately, early-tenure women are receiving less of than their male peers.

Kathleen Murphy, President of Fidelity Personal Investing, acknowledged the ease at which men, in general, take career risks for the reward of advancement and warns that the cumulative effect of career-long conservatism “is that you aren’t going to advance nearly as much as the person who takes risks.”

In other words, we sometimes hesitate to make a great leap because it can appear daunting. We fall prey to the pitfall of comparison, causing us to pass on the bigger opportunities.

Jacqueline Molnar, Chief Compliance Officer of Western Union, explained in the study how a sponsor jumpstarted her adventure: “When I was in my twenties, I had what I call a ‘first believer’—a man who said, ‘Why don’t you apply for this principalship?’ I had excluded myself in the typical way: ‘I’m too young. I haven’t done this before. I only hit seven and a half of the ten requirements.’ Having had that sponsorship, particularly by a man, was profound for me.”

Sponsors at work – of any gender – are like those of the monomyth, preparing our hero for the unknown. They, along with role models, help women see how they can succeed.

The McKinsey/LeanIn study concludes by urging companies to establish formal sponsorship for women. I agree and believe sponsorship programs are important not just for women but for all of us. They’re critical to promoting all forms of diversity.

I would add to these recommendations a personal commitment to serve as a sponsor. I can’t think of a higher calling than being the helping hand to an adrift adventurer. I want to do more for the many heroes among us who are wondering how to find their own ways onward and upward. Too many of them do not get the opportunity to be written into the universal story, but they should. They must. I am dead certain we’ll get to a better ending if they do.


Katya Andresen, SVP Card Customer Experience at Capital One

Imagine that a vicious competitor secretly installed an evil device in your company’s lobby. Without workers knowing, the contraption zaps away half their motivation and productivity. Perky people approach the building, but wilted workers arrive at your meeting.

Guess what? If your company is like most, that nasty demotivating device is already firmly installed. According to research by Georgetown University’s Christine Porath, it has zapped 98 percent of workers.

Don’t, however, look for a science-fiction gizmo in the rafters. Look at your work culture. With its hard edges and intolerance for inefficiency, today’s dominant work culture is sterile and cold. Workers are not comfortable caring for others or even expressing concern for human suffering. A central part of their personality, their Inner Giver, is exiled from their place of work. Without the softening influence of Inner Givers, workplace rudeness is acceptable because it’s direct and efficient; meetings might be harsh but decisions are timely; and employees rarely stray from their assigned tasks. This might sound productive, but it’s not.

A work culture devoid of kindness makes workers feel emotionally unsafe and, thus, triggers their evolutionary response to danger. Their nervous systems secrete cortisol. This “stress hormone,” as it’s known, awakens the part of their personality that protects – using violence if needed – the self. It unleashes the Inner Egotist. You’re now left trying to manage a team of frightened individuals chemically predisposed to hurt each other. Porath studied 800 managers and employees in 17 industries and found that performance dropped in 66% of workers experiencing incivility, as she calls a culture overrun by Inner Egotists.

Fortunately, putting a small crack in an uncivil culture is usually enough for a few courageous workers to unleash their Inner Givers. Their example, in turn, makes it safe for a few others to follow. Before you know it, Inner Givers run your workplace, Inner Egotists are mostly exiled and you suddenly enjoy your team.

The question, then, is how the heck do you crack open customary incivility so that workers’ buried benevolence can flourish?

The fix

With his angular jaw, tall shoulders and over-sized gestures, you might confuse Charles Antis for the tough superhero who appears in ads for Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, the company he founded. I, however, know better. I’ve seen Charles do something anathema to a superhero. I’ve seen him cry.

As CEO of Antis, Charles decided to reward one high-performing team member with a company-branded charitable gift card at every staff meeting. The winners direct the $25 donation to the charity of their choice and, at the following staff meeting, can share which cause they helped and why. Staff members talk about the high-school mentor who never gave up on them, about hospice caring for their dying mother and about a societal injustice they wish to vanquish. It is at these touching presentations that you can catch Charles wiping away tears.

Charles’ gift-card program is a brilliant example of the practice that restores humanity in uncivil cultures: structuring and modeling giving behaviors. First, Charles provides a space where employees can express their Inner Givers without taking a big risk or feeling awkward. Second, he models such expression.

Charles admits that, once upon a time, his workplace was uncivil. “People were looking over their shoulder. Dyads and triads would form and immediately fall apart because of generalized distrust.” Some urged him to catch and punish those who stole from the company, disrespected others and perpetrated other incivilities. On a hunch, Charles decided to do the exact opposite: try to “catch workers doing good” by instituting the giving-card program. It was an act of desperation but, to his delight, it worked. “I’m amazed that opening the door to simple kindness sweeps away workplace nastiness.” I can attest that today it’s hard to find nastiness at Antis.

For the record, Charles bristles at the suggestion that there’s any connection between him and heroism. If you’re mired in a miasmic culture, you might disagree. His workplace turnaround smacks of a superhuman feat. However, Charles is right. You, and all managers, can also soften your harsh culture. No superpower is needed, only the ordinary management practice of structuring and modeling giving behaviors. Oh, and you might also need a box of tissues.

Bea Boccalandro helps people mess with their jobs for good. Specifically, she increases the social impact of jobs and, therefore, makes work more enjoyable and fulfilling. “Job purposing,” as this practice is called, has been shown to heighten employee engagement, performance and wellbeing while making meaningful contributions to social causes.

Bea is founder and president of VeraWorks, a global firm that advises corporate boards and leadership on job purposing and that helps companies implement job purposing and measure its business and societal impact. Her clients include Aetna, Allstate, Bank of America, Caesars Entertainment, Disney, Eventbrite, FedEx, HP, IBM, Levi’s, PwC, TOMS Shoes and Toyota. Bea also conducts research and thought leadership on job purposing and corporate community involvement.

Her book, Do Good at Work, will come out in 2019 (Morgan James Publishing). Learn more at www.BeaBoccalandro.com.

When you were in school, did you have little tricks that you used on your papers to try to get a better grade?

Did you increase the margins, double space after periods and do little things to your font to help you reach that eight-page mark? Did you right click for synonyms to try making you seem smarter, more astute?

I did too. And there’s one secret I wish my English teachers would’ve told me much sooner: Your reader may be capable of reading at a higher level, but that doesn’t mean that they want to.

Plus, no one carries around a thesaurus in their back pocket… OK, we all do. It’s our phones. But, how often do you pull out your phone to look up a word you don’t know? (I got you on that one, didn’t I?)

If your readers don’t have to look up words, they will grasp your point faster and have a better chance of staying engaged.

In my role, I’m usually the first person to “edit” content. And, that content is always about a new program or initiative that a team of people has worked really hard on. Many of them work so hard on drafting their messaging and materials, they consider it their “baby”. They love it, they cherish it. Then, they package it up and send it over to me, hoping that I will smile and tell them it is beautiful.

Unfortunately, most of their babies are not as ready for the world as they think. Most of these partners are experts on the topic, and they may have studied it for 10 years. Most of the time, the drafts are written as though everyone is an expert on the topic. But, for those who did not study the topic over the last decade, it’s like trying to read a foreign language. That’s the key to crafting a message. You have to remember that your knowledge is not the same as your readers.

With newer writers, they may have a message that’s fairly simple to start with. Often, I get the feeling that the simplicity made them feel vulnerable and like they didn’t do enough. So, they move their mouse over those little words, right click and replace them with the bigger ones.

After I receive these drafts and we figure out their cascade plan (how the message will be delivered through the organization one level at a time), audience, what they are trying to solve for, etc., I start to read these messages and try to understand it from the perspective of the audience who are reading it for the first time. My goal is to translate what they are saying into efficient messages that our audience can easily understand and take action on…without investing valuable time trying to study it to comprehend it all.

My team works to make complex issues easier and cash in those dime-sized words for nickel-size words. But, we don’t all get a team of communicators to help with all the messages we send. So, my challenge to you is to be a clean writer. Write simply and clearly. Write in a way that you don’t limit your audience to just those with your level of understanding on a topic. And, for goodness’ sake, put away the thesaurus.

Romana Rolniak is a 10-year associate of Walmart, Inc. where she is currently responsible for communicating with 1.4 million U.S. store associates. Prior to the U.S. Communications team, she held several roles with the Walmart Foundation, where she supported volunteerism, workplace giving, communications and programs like Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Associates in Critical Need Trust. She led teams across the business to plan and execute giving campaigns and led the development of multiple comprehensive stakeholder recognition strategies and multi-year fundraising strategies. Between 2010 and 2015, Romana served on the United Way Global Corporate Leadership Advisory Council, representing the Foundation. Romana holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from the University of Arkansas.

Here are some tips from Jerome Tennille, Marriott International’s Manager of Volunteerism, Culture, and Business Councils, to ensure that your nonprofit leverages volunteer efforts to build successful partnerships with companies:

  • If possible, avoid the unsustainable single day of service that most companies want because they are typically more of a time-burden for the organization the company is seeking to serve. Rather, volunteer programs should be turnkey and operations friendly.
  • Think longer-term and create something that is mission driven and includes the diversity of your corporate partners.
  • Do not ask for money when seeking volunteers from a company. Volunteer coordinators should only seek volunteers, not funds.
  • Understand the motivation of the company’s efforts and reconfigure your volunteer programs accordingly to accommodate the company.
  • Research before you engage to understand the company’s funding structure, philanthropic goals, and employee availability. If the information about the company isn’t readily available, ask!
  • Position volunteerism as a business solution that utilizes employee skills and helps solve business challenges.
  • Don’t force any opportunity that isn’t best for your organization or mutually beneficial. Volunteer engagement is vital, but don’t waste your time or theirs with projects that don’t make sense.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the full recording here, or read “5  steps for successful corporate-nonprofit partnerships.”

There are many well-documented business benefits that spring from employee volunteering programs (EVPs). The CSR industry is becoming increasingly familiar with the value of EVPs, but there is another growing body of literature emerging about the benefits of EVPs for employees. As EVPs continue to evolve, companies need to start thinking harder about the WIIFM (“What’s iifor me) for the employee. You certainly can’t run an EVP without the “E.”

When a company asks employees to volunteer, there is a tendency to lean heavily on community impact as a benefit. Impact is certainly a benefit to the community, and a desired result. Yet, when it comes to the WIIFM, there are plenty of benefits to the individual that CSR practitioners can leverage to engage employees more effectively in volunteerism. One of the most significant benefits is the effect volunteering has on personal health and well-being.

A 2017 study by United Healthcare and Volunteer Match confirmed many findings over the last decade that demonstrate the mental, emotional and physical benefits of volunteering. The study found that, of respondents that volunteered in the last 12 months, 76% felt healthier, 94% felt it improved their moods, and 78% reported lowered stress levels. But let’s dig a little deeper into this – health and well-being come in many forms. We’ve plumbed the depths of our resources to give you a high-quality selection of the most relevant articles and information on the health benefits of volunteering. We hope you’ll share them with your employees!

I. Mental and Emotional Health

  • Happiness. A study from the London School of Economics found that the more you volunteer, the happier you are. Interestingly, researchers compared the difference in happiness levels of non-volunteers and weekly volunteers to that of those with a $20,000 annual salary compared to $75,000-100,000 annually, respectively. Impressive!
  • Decreased stress and anxiety. Meaningful connections to the beneficiary and other members of a volunteer community can reduce stress and anxiety. As discussed in Chris Jarvis’ Empathy in Motion, social contact and helping others can lead to the “Helper’s High,” working not only to decrease stress and anxiety, but increase happiness levels as well.
  • Individual fulfillment. If done correctly, volunteering is shown to increase a person’s self-confidence and sense of purpose. In turn, happiness levels and the ability to fight depression will increase. A boost in self-confidence becomes a ripple effect in a person’s ability to expand their social network and take on more leadership responsibility, which has shown to contribute to individual career development.
  • Career advancement. Expanding a volunteer’s social network and the development of new “on-the-job” skills can contribute to their career development. The 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey found that 80% of hiring influencers believed that employees who volunteer move into leadership roles more easily, and 82% of hiring influencers are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience. Assumedly, career advancement will have a positive effect on a person’s economic health, translating to better mental health up to a certain point.
  • Decreased risk of depression. The ability to combat depression with volunteering can be attributed to many of the benefits already listed. In addition to increased happiness levels and decreased stress and anxiety, a sense of purpose and a strong social support system are effective tools for fighting depression. The simple act of getting out of the house or office for physical activity is linked to fighting depression as well.

II. Physical and Physiological Health

  • Longevity. Volunteering can help you live longer, according to both a University of Exeter study and a CNCS study. This is largely due to many of the aforementioned mental and emotional benefits by way of decreasing stress, anxiety, depression and the associated physiological effects. Increased longevity is also due to the following physical benefits.
  • Decreased risk of hypertension. A 2013 study by Carnegie Mellon University found that volunteering can lower the risk of high blood pressure, specifically in volunteers over the age of 50. This age demographic remains a critical part of today’s workforce, and instilling healthy volunteering habits in millennials and generations in between will promote their heart health long-term, thereby decreasing the risk of developing heart disease.
  • Decreased back pain and obesity. Especially for employees whose work environment involves hours of sedentary desk-sitting, volunteering can get employees out of the house and office and promote physical activity. As a result, acute problems like back pain can be relieved, and obesity levels lowered.
  • Decreased risk of disease. The onset of diseased related to a sedentary lifestyle can be delayed or avoided through the exposure of physical activity and social interaction of volunteering. Studies have shown that diseases such as colon cancer, breast cancer and diabetes are more likely in people with sedentary lifestyles. Further, socially active lifestyles can result in the slowed progression of mental deteriorations, such as Alzheimer’s. The latter is due to the increased brain elasticity that can be achieved through regular social interaction and acts of service.
  • Increased use of preventative health care. According to a 2016 study in the Social Science & Medicine Journal, active volunteers are more likely to use preventative health care services including flu shots and cancer or disease screening. Harvard Health suggests that this

III. Leverage a Transformative Volunteering approach to maximize employee health benefits

A study from the University of Exeter found that although it is perceived that people tend to volunteer for altruistic reasons, if they do not feel they are getting something in return, then the positive health outcomes on volunteers are limited.

A Transformative Volunteering approach puts employees at the center of EVPs to ensure its benefits, such as health outcomes, are realized. Of course, the basic benefits of EVPs such as increased physical activity or the introduction to a social network will stand true for most EVPs.

However, there are elements of Transformative Volunteering that will allow volunteers to realize some of the more significant health benefits. For example, tactics used in Transformative Volunteering, such as including a disorienting dilemma during the brief and self-reflection in the debrief, provides the opportunity for volunteers to identify with a stronger sense of purpose. As the research shows, this is linked to higher levels of happiness and help fight depression.

Further, meeting volunteers at their highest level of contribution, whether that be as a Tourist, Traveler or Guide, will allow volunteers to continue developing skills that may translate to their workplace and aid in career advancement.

These are just a few examples of how Transformative Volunteering can strengthen the significant health benefits associated with traditional volunteering.

IV. Food for Thought

Positive health outcomes start with the employee volunteer—but don’t end there.

Employee volunteering, if done correctly, can kickstart a powerful cycle that promotes the health of not only the beneficiary and the employee volunteer, but also the employer and community at large—a whole other topic in itself.

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson [ Source]

Realized Worth offers consulting on employee volunteering and giving programs. We are a global agency that specializes in program design, employee volunteer training, and employee engagement. Contact us to learn more!

Jessica Jenkins, Project Manager at Realized Worth

Reprinted with permission.

I never thought quantum mechanics would teach me a lesson about the human experience, but it did.

When I was taking a physics class once, we spent a little time learning about Wave-Particle Duality. This is a quantum mechanics observation that light can be both a wave and a particle at the same time, depending on how it’s observed.

At the time, I didn’t think much of the theory beyond what I needed for the class. But flash forward 20 years, and I’m finding a new relevance in these observations. It was evident in my previous work on Zillow products, and then even more so as I moved into working with people and our corporate culture: Human experiences often behave in the same duality that light does, in that two opposing states can both be valid at the same time.

Understanding this is important because the way forward through tough problems requires the space for multiple experiences to exist, even when those experiences are conflicting. We need to be able to hear each other, understand opposite perspectives and then be as flexible as light in deciding the right state to adapt to. A few examples of this come to mind.

Love and fear

A mentor of mine shared with me the idea that there are only two emotions: love and fear. A single situation can play out so differently simply by switching between leading with love and leading with fear.

For example, as women in technology, we can trick ourselves into feeling fear that only a few women will make it through the ranks in such a male-dominated field and that we must compete with one another to get ahead. But in the same situation, we can lead with love and help one another along. When we do that, we realize that it’s not a zero-sum game after all, and we can go further together than we can alone.

Assuming intentions

Every interaction we have with someone results in a story that we tell ourselves about what happened and why. That story is our own perspective and can be guided by the intent that we assume in the other person. When we assume the worst intent — thinking that people have unjust motivations or are out to get us — relationships can dissolve, and collaborations can become ineffective. When we assume a person has good intentions, then even if we disagree with their perspective we are still able to move forward productively.

There is a saying, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” And I believe that everyone is doing what they think is the right thing in a given situation, based on their priorities, beliefs and experiences. This belief system creates space for us to assume best intent, and that yields both stronger relationships and less self-doubt.

Meritocracy vs. equity

Meritocracy is a popular belief system, especially within the tech sector, that suggests rewards (such as opportunities, compensation and recognition) are directly tied to ability and performance. Equity is a growing focus in corporate America too — and a focus in my current role. Focusing on equity means that we are taking into account barriers, oppressions and opportunities that people have encountered then dedicating extra effort to bringing people up to a level playing field.

A colleague asked me recently how we can reconcile the narrative that these two concepts are mutually exclusive — that we need to either focus on rewarding the best and brightest or focus on creating equitable business practices. I believe the answer to this lies directly in this quantum mechanics metaphor. Not only is there space for both belief systems to exist at the same time, but it is necessary to honor both perspectives in order to bring everyone along. And, of course, the punchline is that in focusing on removing barriers and creating opportunities for those who have experienced oppressions, we do end up seeing better business results and celebrating highly skilled teams. Meritocracy and equity are the wave and particle of workplace values.

Once I started recognizing the dual nature of most problems and experiences, I started seeing and embracing those opposites everywhere. What used to cause me cognitive dissonance now provides new inspiration for creative solutions. We will always have our different experiences and perspectives, and embracing those differences will help us see the light (pun intended).


Rebekah Bastian is Vice President of Community & Culture at Zillow Group, leading efforts around Equity & Belonging, Social Impact Products and Cultural Engagement. Rebekah was one of Zillow’s first employees, coming over from Microsoft in 2005, and spent her first 12 years leading product development across many areas of the company.

Rebekah serves on the Board of Directors of Bellwether Housing and the Advisory Board for the University of Washington School of Mechanical Engineering. She is also an advisor to technology startups, a respected thought leader and community partner. She writes articles in multiple publications and is a frequent speaker at conferences and community events. She has been recognized in the Puget Sound Business Journal 40 Under 40, the Inman 33 People Changing the Real Estate Industry and the Female Founders Alliance Champion Awards.

Rebekah earned her Master of Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley and Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington. She is also a mentor, a mother to two boys and an aerial acrobat.


This post was originally featured here. Reprinted with permission.

Typical human resource theory and practice has suggested that the best way to strengthen employee commitment is through benefit packages that appeal to the individual’s self-interested motives to receive. New research is beginning to show that this is only half the story – and possibly not the most important half. 

Turns out the well-known phrase “it is better to give than to receive” is profoundly true when it comes to employee engagement.

Prosocial Sensemaking

Whether we are award of it or not, as employees, we are continually trying to answer the question, “Who am I within this organization?” This is a natural process that all people use to make sense of their experiences within a given context or organization.

Prosocial behavior is defined as: “A voluntary behavior intended to benefit another” and is usually expressed through acts of sharing, donating, and volunteering. These two concepts of prosocial behavior and sensemaking come together when companies launch employee giving and volunteering programs. Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School and author of the upcoming book “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success” suggests:

The act of giving to support programs strengthens employees’ affective commitment to their organization by enabling them to see themselves and the organization in more prosocial, caring terms.

This is a stunning assertion.

If Adam Grant and other researchers are correct, it means that the billions spent by corporations in typical HR benefit packages may not be enough. In fact, by comparison, the ROI of these benefits may be less than those of a robust workplace giving and volunteering program at a fraction of the cost.

 It’s about the brain; not the wallet.

In a recent article, “The Neuroevolution of Empathy” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, author Jean Decety conducted research that clearly demonstrated that:

The fronto-mesolimbic reward network is engaged to the same extent when individuals receive monetary rewards and when they freely choose to donate money to charitable organizations.

Decety found through behavioral and functional neuroimaging studies that prosocial actions release dopamine and make us feel good (we’ve written about this effect before). What is most fascinating about Decety’s work is that she is able to offer an explanation why our brains are hard-wired to reinforce prosocial behaviors such as giving and volunteering.

Turns out it has been a survival tactic among humans for millennium. Obviously, we are instinctively set to look after our offspring and immediate family members, but the groups of people and cultures that thrived throughout history are those that expanded their care-taking beyond their own family unit. Those who stayed primarily focused on family at the expense of others in the immediate group failed.

Which means that today, we have evolved to the point where nearly all of us are capable of choosing prosocial behavior, even when it means the wallet takes a hit.

The ROI of Prosocial Behavior

Given our predisposition to care for others, we value cultures and organizations where this is our experience as well. Nobody wants to feel like they are a ‘means to an end’ or just a ‘cog in the wheel’. Instead, we desire to know we matter and will be cared for in an ethical and just way. Equally important, we desire to be a part of groups that allow us to demonstrate our commitment to care and act justly toward others.

When companies offer their employees space to act in a prosocial manner they began to ‘make sense’ of the organization and their place within it in a positive manner. This is prosocial sensemaking.

Grant conducted multi-method research at a Fortune 500 retail corporation and found that offering employees the opportunity to give within the workplace:

“strengthened affective organizational commitment by triggering prosocial sensemaking about the self—a process through which employees interpreted their personal actions and identities in more caring terms.”

Workplace giving and volunteering is a practical step companies can take to prove they care, “signaling that helping, giving, and contributing behaviors are valid, acceptable, and encouraged.” As employees interpret these signals, they begin to form an identity that will contribute to the overall productivity and profitability of the company. Here’s how:

1. Productive

Giving triggers a “process of prosocial sensemaking about the self and the company that strengthens employees’ affective commitment to the company.” Affective commitment is key to driving down absenteeism, encouraging engagement and facilitating teamwork.

2. Ethical

When companies provide the opportunity to act in a prosocial manner they encourage employees to view themselves as ethical, prosocial people. This self-identity creates value systems to support that identity and guide decision making processes.

3. Grateful

When companies create opportunities for employees to give and volunteer the employees develop strong emotional bonds with their employers. This is because when “employees engage in prosocial sensemaking about the self, their commitment is based on gratitude to their organization for facilitating their own giving behaviors and caring identities.”

4. Proud

Similarly, when companies enable employees to gain a positive sense of themselves through volunteering and giving, the employee transfers a positive image back on to the organization. This positive image is expressed through feelings of pride resulting in stronger allegiance.

Action Steps

Start with something simple to give your employees the chance to be prosocial. For example, Charity Giving Cards. There are a number of options from great organizations:

  1. Network For Good offers the Good Card® which is a charity gift card with stored value that can be redeemed as a donation to more than 1.2 million charities. Good Cards can be distributed physically or via email and can be completely private labeled by corporate partners. Call Allison McGuire (888.707.8950) to place your order.
  2. The TisBest Charity Gift Card is a donation gift that works like a conventional gift card but instead of buying stuff, the recipient “spends” the TisBest card by selecting which of our 300+ charity partners receives the money. Personalize any TisBest card with your own message, image and/or company branding. Contact – [email protected] or 206-501-3005.
  3. Benevity Charitable Gift Cards: Create charity gift cards where recipient redeems to give to cause(s) of choice at branded redemption site. The Benevity platform is a highly customizable “giving engine” that helps companies attract, retain and motivate customers and employees.



Some Notes

“A recent neuroimaging study sheds light on a possible biochemical explanation for the positive psychological effects of helping others. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, it was found that the brain’s mesolimbic system was active in participants when they chose to donate money. The mesolimbic system also shows activation in response to monetary rewards and other positive stimuli. Thus, choosing to donate to charity results in an activation of a brain region that produces feel-good chemicals that promotes social bonding, increases happiness and promotes prosocial behaviour.”

^ Moll, J., Krueger, F., Zahn, R., Pardini, M., de Oliveira-Souza, R., & Grafman, J. (2006). Human fronto-mesolimbic networks guide decision about charitable donation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103, 15623-15628.

“The reunification of Germany caused the collapse of much of former East Germany’s volunteer structure. Controlling for other variables, Meier and Stutzer found that reduced opportunities for volunteer work led to a decrease in happiness.” More here.

“Furthermore, prosocial motivation is a theoretically and practically significant phenomenon because it has a substantial influence on employees’ work behaviors and job performance. Recent research suggests that prosocial motivation can drive employees to take initiative (De Dreu & Nauta, 2009), help others (Rioux & Penner, 2001), persist in meaningful tasks (Grant et prosocial Motivation at Work 2 al., 2007), and accept negative feedback (Korsgaard, Meglino, & Lester, 1997).” More here.


Some ways we can help

Most of the blogs we write are geared toward managers responsible for employee volunteering, workplace giving, and sustainability programs. Our intention is to help you be more successful – whether you engage us formally or not. The work you do is critical to addressing the huge social and environmental issues facing our global society. The role you play in the company you work for is key to humanity’s future.

If you’d like our help with your employee volunteering or workplace giving program, please feel free to drop us a line at [email protected], leave a comment below, or call us at 855-926-4678. You can also reach out to us on Twitter,  LinkedIn, and Facebook.



Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer, Realized Worth  

Executive Director, RW Institute

Chris Jarvis co-founded Realized Worth in 2008 with his partner, Angela Parker. Chris’s research and presentations focus on corporate citizenship as a powerful mechanism to address the critical social and environmental issues facing our global society.

Chris’s work and thought leadership are all geared toward helping practitioners strategically grow and scale their employee volunteer programs. He provides one-on-one guidance to C-suite executives on the strategic alignment of CSR and business objectives. 

Chris assumed the role of Executive Director of the RW Institute in 2017 and is a key founder of IMPACT 2030.

Realized Worth is a global agency that specializes in employee volunteer training, program design and employee engagement.

As an organization focused on connecting talented business professionals with nonprofit organizations to build capacity for the social sector, Common Impact is excited to see an increased appetite for pro bono service across companies of all shapes and sizes. Our experience tells us that when done right, skills-based programs hold tremendous potential for corporate volunteers and the nonprofits they support. While it is great to see so many companies bought into the concept, we know from our nearly twenty years of practice that for programs to be most effective, they need to facilitate meaningful cross-sector partnerships and generate transformational community impact.

This is a concept we call “The Knitting Factor”, coined in our Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “The Promise of Skills-Based Volunteering”. The Knitting Factor brings together three key conditions that enable skills-based engagements between the private and nonprofit sectors to create strengthened, sustainable solutions that don’t come undone when partners part ways.

  • A Panoramic Perspective:  Taking a bird’s eye view when crafting partnerships, by looking at people and organizations beyond their titles and sectors and allowing value to transcend profit
  • Skill Sharing: A focus on two-way talent exchange, where pro bono professionals and their companies are learning as much from the nonprofits they work with as those nonprofits learn from them
  • Sticky Relationships: A commitment to building long-lasting partnerships that drive nonprofit missions and business engagement forward

An example of a program that embodies all three of these characteristics, is Skills for Cities, one of Common Impact’s newest models for community engagement in partnership with IMPACT 2030 and SVP Boston. Skills for Cities is a citywide, cross-company day of service event that activates regional skills-based volunteers across industries and invites participation from smaller organizations without traditional pro bono programs. The first of these events will be launching in Boston, MA this September and will bring together community-minded professionals and impactful local nonprofits to tackle some of the city’s most pressing social issues.

Here’s a snapshot of how Skills for Cities Boston hits all three characteristics of 
The Knitting Factor:

  • A Panoramic Perspective:  Skills for Cities Boston brings together leaders from across industries and backgrounds to direct their talents and expertise towards a targeted and shared purpose – making an impact in the communities in which they live and work. The idea for Skills for Cities initially started in collaboration between senior leaders in the public and private sector, leveraging the cross-sector expertise of Common Impact, SVP Boston and Berkshire Bank’s Gary Levante, who runs the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. Gary played an integral role in getting this program off the ground by leveraging Berkshire Bank’s strong footprint within the Boston community, as well as his regional involvement with IMPACT 2030, a collaborative initiative itself that engages corporate, social and academic leadership to develop employee volunteer programs that advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Skill Sharing:  By bringing together corporate and nonprofit professionals who otherwise may not have crossed paths, Skills for Cities Boston provides a unique opportunity for individuals from all sectors and leadership levels to learn from one another and develop new skills that they’ll bring back to their organizations.
  • Sticky Relationships:  Skills for Cities Boston combines the expertise of three socially conscious organizations, Common Impact, SVP Boston and IMPACT 2030 to launch the first-of-its kind skills-based day of service. This event is designed to focus on the needs of the greater Boston community and deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our hope is that these partnerships will ultimately sustain far past the initial day of service and continue to make a deep impact in the local community for years to come.

The Common Impact team is looking forward to launching this new model and giving back to the community in which we were founded almost twenty years ago. Follow us on our blog for event updates and connect with us on Twitter to get involved in the conversation!

About Danielle Holly

Danielle Holly is CEO of Common Impact, an organization that designs programs that direct a company’s most strategic philanthropic asset – their people – to the seemingly intractable social challenges they’re best positioned to address. Danielle has supported hundreds of nonprofit organizations on positioning and branding strategies to more effectively scale their models of social impact.  In addition, Danielle has helped numerous corporations navigate the new era in corporate social responsibility and skills-based volunteering, including global powerhouses JPMorgan Chase, Charles Schwab, Marriott International, and Fidelity Investments. She is a contributing writer for Nonprofit Quarterly on strategic corporate engagement.  She is a member of the NationSwell Council, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and Net Impact NYC. You can reach her via email at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @dholly8. 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved dramatically over the last decade. Most companies are no longer satisfied with just writing checks to charities or sponsoring events. Now, corporate leaders are aligning social impact and employee engagement with business objectives. That means measuring results and ensuring CSR and employee engagement efforts demonstrate real value to the company.

Read the full article on Forbes

Why Millennials and Gen Z Matter

It should come as no surprise that we’re living in strange times. I spend more time than I should glancing at Twitter, getting an unfortunate daily dose of intolerance, confusion, and anger. But, more often than not, I still walk away optimistic as I see my feed filled with the positive statements and actions of a generation that’s been discounted, one that’s only just beginning to get everyone’s attention: the young Millennials and Generation Z. These groups represent the college grads who’ve recently entered the workforce and the students who will start their career search within the next 3-5 years.

When you work in corporate social responsibility (CSR), attracting and retaining key talent who will participate in your company’s community engagement programs is something you give a lot of thought to. The 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement study found that 88% of Millennial employees say their job is more fulfilling when employers provide opportunities to make a positive impact. These young adults give me hope and drive me to create CSR programs that not only deliver impact but also engage participants in a meaningful way.

Of particular interest to me in my current role are those Gen Zers and young Millennials who are taking an interest in the rights of all women to have access to feminine care products. One great example is That Time of the Month’s Alissa Mayhaus. Alissa is the driving force behind the Dallas chapter of TTOTM, a monthly women’s night out that aims to connect women, while working to provide feminine products to women in need. From monthly happy hours where attendees bring donated feminine products, to delivering products to local shelters across Dallas, Alissa is using the power of positivity, connectedness, and fun to shine a light on a basic need for women across the region and engage colleagues in organizations throughout the community.

Whatever your company’s corporate responsibility focus may be, look for ways to attract and engage all generations of employees, but don’t overlook these younger demographics. You may not only find willing participants, but in fact, champions who can help take your efforts to the next level for years to come.


Erin Gollhofer is the Global CSR Consultant at Kimberly-Clark, Corp., where she develops CSR strategies to support business growth in key international markets and North America, including the global Toilets Change Lives program. Last spring she worked to deploy the Kotex / Plan International social impact program in Bolivia, helping adolescent students and teachers in four rural communities gain access to clean, safe toilets and menstrual hygiene management education. Erin serves on the Community Health Charities Board of Directors and resides in Dallas, TX.  

The other half? Managing workplace values – how people treat each other at work.

What’s on your to-do list today? I’ll bet that “improving workplace relationships” isn’t on your list – but it’s something that all nonprofit executives and leaders should focus on daily.

Why? Because our workplaces aren’t very fun, inspiring, or validating places to hang out in.

Christine Porath found that 98% of the employees she’s interviewed over the past 20 years have experienced incivility or rudeness in the workplace. Make Civility the Norm on Your Team

Only 35% of employees across the globe are actively engaged at work. That number hasn’t shifted significantly in over two decades.  Dismal Employee Engagement Is a Sign of Global Mismanagement

Respectful treatment of all employees at all organizational levels occurs in only 38% of global workplaces. 2017 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Doors of Opportunity Are Open

Your organization may be much better than these studies indicate – but I’ll bet you know there are areas you need to improve upon.

The quality of your work culture is the leader’s responsibility.

Why don’t leaders invest as much time and energy in creating a healthy work environment as they do in managing results? Because they’ve never been asked to manage culture. Most don’t know how to do it. They’ve never experienced a successful culture change, much less led one.

The good news is that executives agree that culture matters. 80% of executives rated the employee experience – organizational culture, engagement, and the employee brand proposition – as very important or important. And only 22% believe their companies are excellent at building a positive employee experience. Improving the employee experience | Deloitte Insights

I work with organizations of all types and sizes around the globe, helping senior leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. My process follows three vital steps.

The first step, define, requires business owners to formalize their desired culture through an organizational constitution. An organizational constitution is a written document that specifies your company’s servant purpose, values and behaviors, strategies and goals.

Your servant purpose clearly describes your agency’s present day “reason for being” besides making money. Making money (through selling policies or – for that matter – selling cars or coffee, etc.) is certainly important for the long-term success of your business, but making money is not the end-all, be-all for many humans. Your team members know that making a profit is important to the success of the business, but a more natural motivation can make a huge difference.

A servant purpose describes what you do (your product or service), whom you do it for (your customers or consumers), and “to what end” – how what you do improves customers’ quality of life every day.

Most company mission or purpose statements don’t meet these criteria – and they don’t have a positive effect on employees. Here’s an actual purpose statement for a real company:  “Creating superior value for our customers, employees, partners, and shareholders.”

Is it clear what they do? No (they are a tire company). Is it clear who the company’s primary “customers” are? No. Is it clear how what the company does improves others quality of life? No.

Compare that to this purpose statement from a pharmaceutical company (Bristol -Myers Squibb:  “To discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.” Mission, Vision & Values of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company

Is it clear what they do? Absolutely. Is it clear for who they do it? Absolutely. Is it clear to what end employees are toiling – how they improve customers quality of life? Absolutely.

Once you’ve formalized your servant purpose, senior leaders must define values in observable, tangible, and measurable terms – just as performance standards are defined in observable, tangible, and measurable terms. Very few companies have defined their values in measurable terms.

Only when values are behaviorally defined do they become actionable. Behavioral definitions shift values from vague ideas to clear requirements for trustful and respectful treatment of others in the course of one’s work.

One culture client, a seven-state region of the world’s largest retailer, defined their customer service value with behaviors like these:

  • I initiate friendly hospitality by promptly and enthusiastically smiling and acknowledging everyone who comes within 10 feet.
  • I ensure that each customer is assisted in finding requested items.
  • I deliver a clean, fast, friendly experience to each customer.

These behaviors (three of eight of their service behaviors) are measurable. Someone could observe me working over a week’s time and be able to rate the degree to which I model these specific behaviors.

Strategies and goals are probably already defined in your organization. Including them in your organizational constitution ensures that team leaders and team members understand that values demonstration and performance accomplishment are equally important.

The hard part: Alignment

The second step, align, is the most important and most complex of this process. Senior leaders must demonstrate their organization’s valued behaviors in every interaction – and coach everyone else to do the same, every minute.

By formalizing your organizational constitution and announcing the new servant purpose, values and behaviors, etc., remember this: don’t assume that anyone will embrace your valued behaviors. They won’t do that until they see senior leaders living them, coaching them, praising them, and redirecting mis-aligned behaviors.

When senior leaders model your valued behaviors and hold everyone accountable for demonstrating your valued behaviors in every interaction, they make values as important as results.

One critically important piece of alignment is that you will no longer tolerate bad behavior from anyone. You don’t allow or ignore aggressive behavior, rude behavior, demeaning behavior, harassment, teasing, etc. ever again.

Just as you monitor performance traction with daily dashboards of key metrics, you must create a clear, reliable means to monitor values alignment. A custom values survey allows employees to rate their bosses on how well those bosses demonstrate your valued behaviors.

A values survey must be done regularly – at least twice a year. Some clients are using weekly pulse surveys (one question a week – takes 3 minutes for employees to complete it online with their smartphones or computers) to keep a more frequent tally of values alignment.

The third step, refine, happens every two years or so with a review of your valued behaviors. You’ll update the behaviors list by removing well-embraced behaviors (they won’t disappear in your environment), revising some behaviors, or adding new behaviors to address “opportunities” for better citizenship in your evolving work culture. Your servant purpose and values rarely change. Your strategies and goals might change annually.

Through these steps – define, align, and refine – you can craft a purposeful, positive, productive work culture. Don’t leave your culture to chance. Be intentional with an organizational constitution.

For over 28 years, S. Chris Edmonds has helped senior leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures.

He is a speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder of The Purposeful Culture Group Purposeful Culture Group | S. Chris Edmonds. He’s one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Top Leadership Speakers The Top 100 Leadership Speakers for 2018 | Inc.com and was a featured presenter at South by Southwest  Driving Results Through Culture|SXSW 2015 Event Schedule.

Chris is the author of the Amazon best seller The Culture Engine The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace: S. Chris Edmonds: 9781118947326: Amazon.com: Books and five other books. He tweets on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration at @scedmonds S. Chris Edmonds (@scedmonds) | Twitter.

Chris’ crisp, rich Culture Leadership Charge video episodes can be found on YouTube S. Chris Edmonds – YouTube. Check out this culture refinement process: https://youtu.be/Fpj99XXeSqs


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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.