The Ultimate Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with Step-By-Step Instructions

Consumers want to do business with companies who practice corporate social responsibility – and for good reason.

Companies that have a good CSR program have a long-term view on doing business and understand their impact on society. These companies know their business has a ripple effect, so they focus on how they can do the most good without sacrificing profits.

Companies that take the time to design and implement a thoughtful, intentional CSR strategy are often rewarded with loyal customers, a strong, talented workforce, and a positive public image. 

In other words, consumers want to buy from businesses that are making a lasting positive social impact and employees want to work for those same companies doing good in the world.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) helps create a framework for greater corporate purpose, and promises a better future with sustainable business operations.

In this Ultimate Corporate Social Responsibility Guide, we define corporate social responsibility and explain how to align and leverage CSR best practices for your company. We also give you tips on how you can make your company socially responsible and how to make the case for including CSR programs to your executive team.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is the integration of societal and environmental concerns into the strategy and operations of a business. 

It consists of initiatives and policies founded on the principle that companies should play a positive role in the community and be accountable for the impacts they have on society as a whole, alongside making profits. 

Corporations accomplish this by ensuring existing business practices are responsible and sustainable, and that corporate philanthropy supports causes that are meaningful and aligned to their core business.

With a commitment to implement a strong CSR strategy, companies have an opportunity to determine where and how their business intersects with communities. They can support solutions to a range of social problems like poverty, hunger, and disease. 

For example, the food company Campbell’s saw an opportunity to align its core business with the challenges surrounding access to healthy and nutritious food. In response, they implemented a 10-year program to improve food access in Camden, New Jersey.

Companies also have a responsibility to protect the environment, maintain a safe, inclusive workplace for employees, and even consider how a portion of profits could support social and environmental initiatives, such as programs that provide clean water to those in need, or help maintain and increase access to free public parks in underserved communities.

Companies that operate with CSR best practices are proud to share how they give back to society, often through cause-related messaging, to encourage employees to volunteer and customers to support business.

As a byproduct, companies that grow in size also grow the size of their CSR programs. This growth gives corporations the opportunity to make a larger social impact as well as bring in more profits.

Why does CSR Matter?

Growing expectations by consumers and employees around the positive role that companies can and should play in society means that CSR matters more than ever. Increasingly, it can impact the bottom line – with consumers rewarding companies for their efforts to operate responsibly by purchasing their products in larger quantities, and with higher prices, just to name a few.

Corporations must learn how to adapt to the demands of this shift in consumer behavior while continuing to produce the goods consumers want.

Reasons why companies practice corporate social responsibility

Business Longevity

In the past, a corporation’s main responsibility was to make money for its shareholders. And while that is still important, it is also true that shareholder value can be increased through a business model that is more responsible and sustainable. 

An example of a company that has grown and benefited by integrating CSR into its core business practices is Dr. Bronner’s. Not only has their CSR program improve customer loyalty, it’s helped make a positive social impact.

Employee Engagement and Retention

Employees, especially the Gen Z workforce, increasingly want to work for a company that aligns with their values. Employees are most engaged with a company that is giving back to the community. A growing trend in business shows that employee satisfaction and employee-to-company relationships directly impact performance.

Companies with strong CSR practices can see increased productivity from their employees, less turnover and attrition rates, less absenteeism, enhanced loyalty and goodwill towards the organization, and positive word of mouth.

As a byproduct of a company’s CSR efforts, employees also feel their individual interests being taken care of, especially for those who offer employee benefits packages that include health, retirement, and charitable giving programs that empower employees to give to charity. 

Attract and keep customers

It is possible that some, if not most, of companies’ customers will have a social agenda of their own and may not be willing to support a company that is not socially responsible. Research has shown that customers are four to six times more likely to buy from and trust a company that has a strong sense of purpose.

The companies that can tap into consumers’ sentiments around social and environmental issues and prove they are responsible corporate actors will likely have an edge over competitors who don’t.

Public Reputation

It’s no secret that a company’s reputation and their social responsibility are closely linked. Practicing social responsibility gives a company a chance to have the secondary benefit of making a positive impact on their reputation. 

Having a good reputation in the community and with the public is a major factor in growing a successful business.

Corporate social responsibility benefits

While few People Leaders see CSR as a burden of business operation, corporate social responsibility campaigns actually afford several benefits to businesses.

A good CSR campaign that promises to improve employee retention saves a company in onboarding and training expenses as well as the opportunity costs that come with losing talented employees.

Furthermore, companies with useful CSR-supporting software can save on hiring data-entry specialists. Tools like Groundswell can cut out the administrative duty needed for managing a corporate giving program.

How to Build a CSR Program

  1. Identify important company goals
  2. Understand consumer interests
  3. Brainstorm programs
  4. Carry out program plans
  5. Measure results

Designing and implementing a CSR program must be guided by the company’s business strategy, customer expectations, and employees’ interests. It is often shaped by the company’s operational footprint, the industry or sector, and where employees are based. 

1. Identify important company goals

The first step is to identify and prioritize important company goals and how the CSR program supports those. This includes understanding your industry and the challenges that you are going up against, both today but also what is on the horizon.

Take note of how the business is going, who the detractors are and who the supporters are. This information will help guide your CSR campaigns during planning.

2. Understand consumer interests

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and what they might be looking for. You’ll find this exercise enlightening and helpful in deciding where to put your resources. Do they support your business (product, service, etc) because of an existing CSR program that inspires them?

Aligning your programs to not just meet the expectations of your customers but give them a sense of pride and true connection to your business puts the company in a better position to compete with companies offering similar products or services.

It also helps to find out what employees care about. Often, employees are also consumers, so getting to know your workforce can provide strong insights.

3. Design programs

The communities closest to your business, its operational footprint, and reach of the product or services, will be the first to experience your social impact. This can be mapped based on geographic footprint as well as demographic groups. Based on this mapping, you might identify and provide funding to nonprofits that are serving those communities closest to the business.

If your employee base is also local, then supporting local schools, community centers, and other social programs can result in a healthier, thriving workforce. 

Aligning your CSR programs with stakeholder interests helps your company’s reputation, as well as helps build stronger, positive relationships in the community. 

As you brainstorm and design programs, think of ways you can make a positive impact on the lives of your employees, customers, and the broader community.

During the design phase, it’s also important to articulate your overarching goals and develop Key Performance Indicators to help you measure progress against those goals. This is a critical part of program design that will enable you to report back to internal and external stakeholders on the value of the programs.

4. Carry out CSR programs

Once the planning stages of your CSR program are complete, it’s time to carry out your campaigns.

After some time, your company’s CSR program will go through several changes and continue to refine itself. As long as your team puts an effort in organizing and managing the CSR program, you can feel confident that you’ll develop a program that works best for your business.

A great way to get started with a CSR program that requires little-to-no administrative requirements, corporate giving and matching programs work well.

5. Measure results

In order to celebrate the successes but also make necessary adjustments, it’s important to gather data and keep track of your progress by measuring your program’s impact. 

Some key performance indicators (KPIs) of a good CSR program could include a number of community members served/impacted by the nonprofit programs your company supports; level or percentage of employee engagement in a giving or volunteer program; and an improved or positive ‘score’ on CSR rankings (e.g. Dow Jones Sustainability Index, 3BL Corporate Citizens Awards, Sustainable Brands, etc).

Examples of Companies with Amazing Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company based in Ventura, California. Their mission is to create quality products that last a lifetime.

In addition to its sustainability practices and its clothing-repair program, Patagonia donates its profits to its nonprofit, Holdfast Collective, an organization dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.

Starbucks is a coffee company based in Seattle, Washington. This people, planet, and profit-positive focused company has CSR programs focused on inclusion and diversity.

Starbucks established the Starbucks Foundation in 1997, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with the goal of strengthening humanity by uplifting communities. As part of their mission, the have the goal of hiring 25,000 US military veterans and spouses by 2025 as part of their program.

Toms is a shoe company based in Los Angeles who pioneered the One for One model–which was a program that gave away one pair of shoes for every pair sold. 

Today, Toms gives away ⅓ of profits to fund grassroots initiatives to help those in need of support for mental health. Since 2006, Toms has given away over 100,000,000 shoes and impacted just as many lives.

Bombas is a clothing company based in New York whose mission is to put thoughtfully designed, essential clothing into the hands and onto the feet of those in need.

The company donates the #1, #2, and #3 most requested items to homeless shelters as well as donates one pair of socks for every pair of socks purchased. To date, Bombas has donated over 75 million items.

Pitching your CSR Program to Your Executive Team 

1. Frame Your Pitch

When pitching your CSR campaigns to your executive team, you want frame your presentation in a way that speaks to why the programs are valuable to the business and not just “for the good of society.”

Executives have a responsibility to grow the business and return value to shareholders, so a CSR program needs to stay aligned with business objectives to be considered worth the budget required to execute it.

Framing your pitch to speak on the goals of the business, how the CSR program will help employee performance, how the program aids in employee retention, and how it reduces the cost of onboard and training new employees will help your executive team understand the benefit from a business point of view.

2. Collect Supporting Data

As you create your presentation, include a section that discusses the impact CSR campaigns have had on business results in recent years.

Look for information highlighting employee satisfaction and retention as a result of CSR programs as well as reports on employee productivity and performance. 

There’s a strong correlation between employee performance and CSR programs that have been proven through scholarly research. 

The Wall Street Journal reported companies experience 52% lower turnover among newer employees involved in corporate-purpose programs.

3. Choose the Right Program Software

Part of managing your CSR programs is having the right software to support your team’s needs.

Depending on the CSR programs you have in place, there are a handful of software you can use to take the hard work out of implementation, organization, and management.

For example, when considering how best to empower employees to donate to charities, Groundswell Giving is an example of a corporate giving platform that takes the work out of managing a workplace giving program. What’s more, Groundswell provides program administrators easy access to the data to help report back to key internal stakeholders about the causes that are supported, top charities, total funds sent to charities, and level of employee engagement in the program.

4. Present to Your Team

During your presentation, be sure to communicate how the corporate social responsibility program will help the company achieve its larger business goals.

While you’ll want to speak to the broader importance of practicing corporate social responsibility, your message will resonate most with the executive decision-makers when your message is paired with the business case for the CSR programs.

What Is Corporate Philanthropy and Why Should You Care?

If the words “corporate philanthropy” call up images of pink ribbon campaigns, big donations to very visible causes, and big brands improving their image through charitable donations, hang tight.

There’s a lot more to the picture than big-dollar donations to well-known charities and causes. In today’s business world, businesses of all sizes and in all sectors are committed to giving back to their communities through some form of charitable giving — and “charitable giving” takes on many forms.

In fact, as of 2021, 85% of U.S. companies have a formal corporate giving program in place, and they donated a combined $20.77 billion to charitable causes.

But what is corporate philanthropy, exactly, and what are the best ways for your company to give back to the community? The answers to those questions are evolving as a society — and employees — become more knowledgeable, engaged, and interested in how the companies they deal with affect the world around them.

What Is Corporate Philanthropy? 

Corporate philanthropy refers to activities and investments voluntarily made by businesses to make a positive impact on the community around them. 

That’s a very broad umbrella. It covers everything from giving money to donating expertise and encouraging employees to volunteer for community organizations. If your company hosts a food drive for Thanksgiving, buys uniforms for a local soccer team, or offers a matching donations program for charitable giving, it is engaging in corporate philanthropy. 

Learn more about corporate giving and why it’s important in our resource section.

Who Benefits From Corporate Philanthropy?

The benefits of giving back are many, and not just for the organizations on the receiving end of donations. The business also reaps benefits, as do the employees and the general community. 

In a world where consumers increasingly expect companies to be socially responsible partners in our world, having a formal corporate giving program in place is a vital part of doing business. Charitable donations aren’t just a sunk cost of doing business, though. There are clear benefits for the company when they make the choice to give back. Those include:

7 Types of Corporate Philanthropy

The face of corporate philanthropy has been evolving rapidly, especially in light of the last few years of upheaval and technological advances. These are the seven most common forms of corporate giving. Many companies engage in more than one, and many more are rethinking their strategic corporate philanthropy plans as corporate social responsibility takes on more importance to customers and employees. More on that later. 

Employee and Board Stipends

Some corporations provide cash stipends to employees or board members, which they can donate to the charities or causes of their choice.  

Volunteer Support

Companies may organize, support or give paid time off to employees who volunteer for organizations in their community. The support may be technical — an accounting firm may provide training and expertise to a startup nonprofit, for example — or more general, such as gathering a team to help paint houses or build playgrounds in the neighborhood. 

Corporate Sponsorships

The Little League team, a fundraising event by the local food bank, a fashion show put on by a local charity — these are all examples of businesses using corporate sponsorships as part of their overall corporate philanthropy strategy. The corporation makes a donation to charity in return for being prominently mentioned during the event. 

Community Grants

A company may offer grants to community organizations that apply for them and meet specific criteria to qualify. Walmart, for example, offers grants ranging from $250 to $5,000 to local community organizations. Often, the grants are given through a foundation established by the company for the purpose of making corporate donations.

In-Kind Donations

In-kind donations are donations of goods or services instead of cash. This type of donation is more common among smaller businesses, such as restaurants donating pizza to a local homeless shelter, or providing coffee and donuts free of charge to a weekly parents’ group meeting. Similarly, many companies donate a “portion of x sold” gifts to charity. Stop and Shop, for example, donates a dollar to a local organization for each reusable shopping bag purchased by customers.

Donor-Advised Funds

Donor-advised funds — DAFs — are a variation on making grants to charities and causes through a foundation. In a nutshell, a DAF is like a personal charitable giving account, similar to a health savings account. The donor can make donations at any time and receive an immediate tax advantage. The funds sit in the DAF until the donor decides to disburse them to the charity or cause of their choice. DAFs offer several benefits that make them the fastest-growing charitable giving vehicle in the U.S.

Matching Donations

We saved this one for last because matching donation programs are among the most common corporate giving programs — 9 out of 10 companies have employee matching programs

Traditionally, an employee makes a donation to a charity or cause, and then either they or the nonprofit submits a form to the company, which then makes a second donation to the charity, effectively doubling — or sometimes tripling — the original amount. 

Despite their popularity, matching gift programs account for only about 12% of cash donations received by nonprofits, and an estimated $4 to $7 billion in matching gift money is never distributed. That’s because the entire process can be cumbersome, both for your HR department and for the nonprofit receiving the donation. 

A New Kind of Corporate Philanthropy — Philanthropy as a Service

Groundswell believes that it’s time to rethink how matching donations programs work. Groundswell makes it easy for companies to launch a charitable giving program that takes advantage of all the benefits of a DAF for them and their employees. The Groundswell platform unlocks the potential of DAFs reimagining corporate philanthropy using the x-as-a-service model. 

Philanthropy as a service — PHaaS — lets you skip the complicated process of setting up a foundation, hiring accountants and handling all the day-to-day nuts and bolts of managing a charity. 

Instead, you get a simple, transparent platform that allows your company and your employees to support the causes they believe in without all the friction that accompanies traditional matching donation programs. 

Your company reaps the benefits of having a defined charitable giving program. Your employees are more engaged, with their privacy protected and their autonomy honored, and the causes they support get their donations without the hassle of chasing down the matching funds. 

It’s a win-win-win solution that empowers everyone in the equation.

Final Thoughts

Corporate philanthropy has evolved over the years, and it’s evolving faster than ever thanks to technological advances and changing social attitudes. If you’re ready to take the next step in corporate philanthropy, reach out to us to learn more about what PHaaS can bring to your company.

How To Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

It’s easy enough to incorporate DEI into your values statement and add a page or two to your website. But like every other aspect of your business, when it comes to implementation, things can get a bit more complicated. If you find yourself wondering how to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the real world, you are not alone.

The good news is, however, that it can be done. It’s worth getting it right, too, because the rewards will come. For many companies, it’s not just a matter of sentiment. In fact, diversity doesn’t always feel warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it can feel a little uncomfortable. But that’s when you know it’s working and you’re reaping the benefits.

In today’s climate, diversity, equity and inclusion matter. In this article, you’ll not only learn more about why it matters, but you’ll also understand how it feels. Finally, we’ll give you some ideas on how to promote DEI in the workplace.

Why DEI Matters

The data just keeps stacking up. Diversity is good for your business. Of course, DEI is competing with a myriad of other business imperatives. But when it comes to cultivating a high-performing organization, there are many compelling reasons that DEI should garner attention. Diverse teams are more engaged and productive. The best teams are adept at problem-solving and spawning innovation. Teams that are gender diverse are powerhouses, but teams that mix ethnic backgrounds? Even better.

Yet many organizations simply have not matured in their DEI efforts so that they can reap the full benefits. In a 2022 HR Research Institute survey, although 44% of respondents said that their organization’s DEI initiative plays a role in strategic planning, just 9% of companies said that the effort was very effective. That leaves a lot of room for improvement.

The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse. The 2020 Census revealed that nearly half of the population under the age of 18 identify as something other than white. Companies that invest resources into their DEI initiatives will be able to reap long-term benefits. Those that do not will fall behind.

Forget About How It Looks. What Does DEI Feel Like?

Diversity is something you can try to quantify. But the numbers alone are not enough. In order to get the benefits from your DEI efforts, you need to cultivate an equitable and inclusive work environment. In short, this means that employees feel a sense of belonging. While there are various reasons employees give when asked why they feel they do not belong, researchers at Columbia Business School say it comes down to “identity threat.” 

Identity threat is anything that makes someone feel different than others. This can be relatively minor, such as when a manager talks to a group of low-income employees about vacationing in Italy. It also includes micro-aggressions, such as when a highly qualified Black manager is told that she is “so articulate.” Researchers found that participants reported an average of 11 such experiences a week. 

Although identity threat is associated with feeling excluded, that isn’t all. More importantly, individuals feel that they cannot be themselves at work. Predictably, this leads to discontent and may explain why some companies lose diverse employees as quickly as they bring them on. 

How To Get the Most Out of DEI Efforts

DEI isn’t about walking on eggshells. However, it does require that managers think more deeply about how to root out systemic and institutional biases. Laying blame on groups or individuals for implicit biases doesn’t help, nor does it ingratiate employees to the cause. Either they feel exonerated because their biases are not their fault, or they feel blamed because they have chosen to embrace their biases. 

We all have biases, implicit or otherwise. The larger problem is that some of the most harmful biases are ingrained in the policies of our institutions. So it helps to think broadly about what must change. Tackle the big issues and the smaller issues start to fade. It is apparently what has happened in the gay and lesbian community. 

As more people came out, the idea became less foreign. More connections, or the “contact hypothesis” as psychologists have called it, led to greater acceptance and the shedding of biases. The same thing can happen in the workplace.

Meanwhile, here are five ways to systemically promote DEI in the workplace.

Examine Your Company Policies

When you created your company DEI policy, you may have reviewed other policies to ensure alignment. Go back and revisit those documents with a fresh eye. 

There may be bias embedded in these policies that you didn’t recognize. Or perhaps you need additional guidelines. For example, many diverse employees may be primary caregivers. Does your leave policy take this into account?

Promote Pay Equity

According to the HR Research survey, just 9% of companies say that equitable pay is a top priority for executives. The gender pay gap still exists in 94% of all occupations. During the pandemic, women were net losers, dropping out of the workforce in record numbers, exacerbating inequities that existed pre-COVID. There is no better time to refocus on pay equity.

Train Often

DEI training should never be considered complete. You don’t need to throw out your bias training. But remember the big picture. Focus on how inequities are built into systems. The goal is to raise the overall level of cultural sensitivity and reflect these values systemically. 

It helps if senior executives split their attendance among multiple sessions and offer kudos, both publicly and privately, to employees who are there. Offer refresher courses annually and reward participation so that everybody attends. 

Mix Things Up

Ensure that teams, workgroups and task forces are diverse. Bring lower-level employees into executive meetings when possible. Encourage groups to participate across functions and include upper management when it seems appropriate. 

Mixing things up can feel uncomfortable. But this is how new and different ideas emerge. Promote your best team leaders — those that ensure that all team members feel included and heard.

Facilitate Feedback

It’s essential to understand how diversity is working in your company. It’s also essential for diverse employees to receive feedback. 

Giving feedback is a difficult job for many managers. They may be especially reluctant to offer feedback to diverse employees. This means that diverse employees receive less mentoring and guidance and fewer opportunities to make course corrections and advance in the organization. 

Ensure that the feedback conversation is a two-way conversation. Train your managers as needed. 

Support Nonprofits

Align your philanthropic activities to support nonprofits that improve diverse communities. Remember that people like to work for companies that share their values. When you provide matching donations, as well, it democratizes the process so that every employee can have a voice. 

There are many benefits that accrue to businesses that figure out how to build a truly inclusive culture. With a proactive approach, your company can push your DEI initiative beyond the numbers and retain the diverse talent it attracts

If you need a better way to set up and manage your corporate giving program, Groundswell can help. We can get your program up and running fast, providing an excellent giving experience for your employees.

The Problems With Corporate Volunteer Programs and How To Avoid Them

Why Corporate Volunteering Programs Are Often Ineffective

The concept of corporate volunteering is one of the fair-haired darlings of the corporate social responsibility conversation. Corporations who are looking to give back to the community in a meaningful way often turn to corporate volunteer programs as an easy win-win that provides benefits for everyone involved. 

The proponents of corporate volunteerism tout it as an effective way to communicate company values, cement teams and boost employee engagement and loyalty, while improving relations with local organizations and community, all wrapped up in a neat “socially responsible” bow. While those benefits are real, companies that set out to build corporate volunteer programs often overlook the other side of these widely used programs. 

If you’re seriously considering a volunteer program for your business, it’s important to weigh the benefits against the work you need to do to create and manage an effective, engaging program that works for your company, your employees and the causes you support.

What Goes Into a Successful Corporate Volunteer Program?

Running a successful, effective volunteer program within your company is a lot of work, and the work starts well in advance of the launch. 

Volunteer Hub, which provides software for managing an employee volunteer program (EVP), lists eight steps to launching a successful EVP, each of them time consuming but essential to success. 

A couple of key steps highlight some of the most common pitfalls these companies encounter.

Assess Community Needs and Employee Interest

Far too often, companies start an EVP because someone in the company leadership saw a cool idea and thought it would be a good fit for their company. They launch into it without taking the time to research the community needs or consulting employees for ideas and interest. The end result can be a program with low employee engagement that is a headache for the causes they hope to promote and support. 

Partner with the Right Organizations

If part of your incentive in creating an EVP is to raise your profile in the community, it’s important to choose organizations that align with your business’s objectives and values. Ideally, those will be causes or charities that resonate with your employees, but that might not be the case for all of them. Programs that focus narrowly on one or two organizations risk shutting out some employees who may have other priorities for their volunteer time.

Assess and Quantify Impact

Record-keeping and assessment are an essential part of managing a successful, ongoing EVP. Collecting and managing the info — especially if your EVP includes paid time off or volunteer stipends — is an additional, time-consuming burden on your HR department. 

Publicize Your Program

Marketing your EVP has two main targets: your employees and the community. In both cases, it requires time, effort and expense on the part of your company and those who are managing it. 

The Pitfalls of Corporate Volunteer Programs

While the benefits of employee volunteer programs are widely known, there’s not as much conversation about the problems that often arise in running and managing them. Beyond the time and expense involved in managing an EVP, companies may run into one or more of these issues that diminish the impact it might have.

What Employees Say

Recent research into employee motivations and lived experience of employee volunteer programs highlighted some of the challenges and negative outcomes they experienced. Some of the issues included:

  • The pressure to volunteer makes some employees feel that they are being judged or evaluated for their commitment to the company, especially if they aren’t connected to the volunteer work.
  • Many employees felt that they didn’t have enough time to do volunteer work and still keep up with the demands of their job. 
  • Volunteer programs may inadvertently shut some employees out of participation. For example, volunteer activities that involve physical activity, such as building houses or fundraising walks, may be difficult for employees with mobility problems. A single parent may find it difficult to participate in activities that happen outside working hours because they don’t have child care.
  • When volunteer programs limit opportunities to one or two events, some employees may find nothing that interests them.
  • Many employees want more control over their volunteer opportunities, from choosing causes to support to planning activities for the team. 

What Nonprofits Say

Volunteer management is a specialized skill in the nonprofit world, and many larger organizations that depend on volunteers for their operations have staff dedicated specifically to that task. That’s not always the case. 

In fact, some corporate volunteer programs can make extra work for a nonprofit without a tangible gain. These are some of the issues highlighted by nonprofits who accept corporate volunteers.

In short, an EVP that isn’t planned and coordinated with a nonprofit partner, and focused on filling their needs rather than those of the corporation, can be a drain on the nonprofit’s resources.

Practical Alternatives to Corporate Volunteer Programs

The challenges described in the previous section often result when programs are conceived, planned and executed from the top down, without considering the other stakeholders — the employees and the nonprofits — they’re intended to benefit. Many of these can be alleviated by following specific best practices, including:

  • Involve employees in the planning from the start.
  • Engage in meaningful assessment with potential nonprofit partners to assess their needs and capacity.
  • Tailor volunteer activities to the needs of the nonprofit and your employees.
  • Provide wider choices in corporate volunteer program activities.
  • Measure the impact of your program periodically and make adjustments where needed.

What if, after doing the research and evaluating your capacity, you realize that typical corporate volunteer programs aren’t the best fit for your company and your employees? There are some practical alternatives to consider, alternatives that give your employees more choice and autonomy while still allowing your company to support them and the causes most important to them.

Give Them More Money To Donate

The one thing that every nonprofit always needs is more money. While volunteering feels good, nonprofits can often make better use of cash donations that they can apply to their own needs. 

Expand Your Definition of Volunteering

If you offer paid time off for volunteering, expand your definition to include the informal volunteering that many people do as a matter of course. Paying employees for the time they spend supporting the causes most important to them sends a powerful message that your company values them. 

Empower Employees To Donate in the Ways That Are Most Meaningful to Them

Employee giving programs — including employee volunteer programs — are most effective when they empower employees to support the causes and charities that are most important to them. By removing barriers to giving and volunteering, your company can provide the opportunity and means for your employees — and your business —  to make a difference in the world.

The Groundswell Difference

Groundswell makes it easy to get an employee giving program up and running with a minimum of effort on your part. It’s designed to empower employees to support the causes and charities that are most important to them, while respecting and supporting each of their diverse perspectives. You choose how and when your company disburses funds into your employee giving accounts — such as paid time for volunteering — and they choose when and how they donate those funds.

To learn more about how Groundswell can help power your corporate giving strategy and empower your employees to make an impact, contact us and ask about the benefits of an equitable, inclusive employee giving program.

Giving Tuesday Donations: Best Practices and Ideas for Businesses

Giving Tuesday is fast approaching, so we wanted to give you great Giving Tuesday ideas. Now’s the time when nonprofits ask their patrons and donors to dig a little deeper to finish off the annual donations drive with a strong push.

Normally December is the month when donations peak. Giving Tuesday donations serve as a kickoff, establishing the momentum for this important month of generosity. 

Although the proceeds from Giving Tuesday benefit nonprofits, businesses play an important role. It’s a great opportunity to help the community and invest in causes that support the company’s values. Employees, too, will appreciate the chance to participate in meaningful ways.

What Is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday rolls around every year on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, or perhaps, more appropriately, after Black Friday. But it’s not nearly as old. It was started in 2012 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City by soon-to-be-CEO Henry Timms and co-founded by the United Nations Foundation. 

Timms’s idea was to reverse the trend of heavy consumerism surrounding Black Friday and encourage everyone to give back. 

Sure, people like Bill Gates tweeted about it and helped to spread the word. But the idea was supercharged by families and small communities that embraced the idea and ran with it, asking themselves and their children what they stood for, and then donating and pitching in to help the causes they really cared about.

According to Timms’ interview with PBS, “We need to stop seeing people as donors and start seeing them as owners.” 

In the new paradigm that Timms envisioned, the role of the donor extends far beyond money. It also includes giving time, a voice and ideas to confront the problems in an increasingly interconnected world. 

What surprised and delighted Timms most was that, from the very beginning, the idea captured the hearts of people around the world who wanted to make the idea even better. Today, Giving Tuesday has become part of their traditions. 

Why Is It Important?

Giving Tuesday provides a boost to donations for the year, encouraging businesses and individuals to give in whatever ways suit them best. It’s a chance to raise more money than on an average day and serve to kick-start the year-end giving campaign. Those who want to take advantage of tax-deductible donations will be looking for opportunities to contribute. Further, Giving Tuesday donations leverage the generosity that has long been a tradition of the holiday season. 

Giving Tuesday can provide a boost to your brand. You can leverage the opportunity to let customers know about the good things your company does year-round. It’s well established that customers care about purchasing from companies that are charitable. 

And it’s not just about feeling good either. Recent research has discovered that people purchase from companies that demonstrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) because they believe that the company’s products and services are safer and of higher quality.

Giving Tuesday is also an opportunity to remind employees that they are part of a company that cares. Employees who work for companies with generous giving initiatives are likely to be happier and more engaged than employees who work for other companies.

How Companies Can Make a Difference When It Comes to Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is more than a once-a-year symbolic movement of generosity. It’s about individuals who ask what they can do and then act in powerful ways to help others. It’s about mobilizing communities so that they are empowered and self-advocating. But it’s also about companies, both large and small, doing what they can to support the communities they serve. Everybody and every organization can make a difference.

Companies with CSR initiatives are uniquely positioned to do more than individuals. CSR is all about companies taking a positive role in the community. In addition to considering the ethical and environmental impact of their operation and making sound fiduciary decisions, the most progressive companies are proactive in their philanthropic pursuits. That means making the world a better place. There are many ways to do this including donating to worthy causes and creating their own trusts.

Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to highlight your company’s ongoing activities such as volunteering, matching donations and other activities. Treat it as part of your overall corporate philanthropy strategy

Giving Tuesday Best Practices

Here are some best practices that companies have used to ensure that their Giving Tuesday event is successful. 

Set Your Values 

It’s important to have alignment between the company’s values and its decisions and actions. This is equally important with your philanthropic efforts. Revisit why charitable giving matters so that as you develop your strategies you develop a long-term plan.

Define Targets

Before you establish goals, you’ll need to think about the targets. Your Giving Tuesday initiative should have something in it for the community as well as for your customers and employees. For example, giving a portion of sales is a good way to include customers.

Inventory Your Resources 

There are always more needs than there are resources available to help. But just remember, Giving Tuesday goes beyond dollar donations. There is also employee time, goods and services, managerial talent, facilities and social media reach. 

Establish Goals 

Take stock of your resources and commit to specific and measurable goals. Edit and prioritize so that you can devote sufficient time to achieving the goals you set.  

Make a Plan 

Choose some ideas and decide how to implement them. Start planning early so that you have time to fine-tune the details. To support your efforts, ensure that your communication strategy is buttoned up. Include, for example, an email campaign, social media outreach and a robust webpage.

Establish Metrics 

Measure so that you will have benchmarks for your future efforts. In addition to the ROI, you will also want to know who benefited from your efforts and what to repeat or improve next year. Did you actually increase your overall giving?

Giving Tuesday Ideas

There are hundreds of Giving Tuesday ideas that your company can implement. Following are just a few suggestions on what you could include in your initiative.

  • Ask employees to nominate and select a long-term charity partner.
  • Create a Giving Tuesday hashtag and donate each time the hashtag is shared.
  • Match the proceeds of a fundraising event planned by employees.
  • Coordinate with other local businesses to host a charity auction.
  • Host a meet-and-greet for nonprofits with local businesses to extend their network.
  • Donate a portion of sales to a nonprofit group.
  • Give employees a charitable stipend to give to a nonprofit of their choice

Make It Easy

The best way to manage Giving Tuesday ideas and all your philanthropic initiatives is with a corporate giving platform. Groundswell can help with its frictionless setup and administration. We can have your program up and running in no time with minimal investment of your staff and resources. Contact us today.

What Is “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”?

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. The concepts aren’t new but they’re more important than ever. Most companies have some sort of DEI initiative. But diversity, equity and inclusion in today’s workplace go beyond the concept of equality. Whether you’re looking to optimize the framework you already have or are starting from the beginning, it’s good to understand DEI in greater detail. As the world becomes increasingly diverse, DEI is a business imperative. 

The Components of DEI

So, if DEI is not equality, what is it? It’s perhaps best to address that question by first understanding each of the components of DEI and how they look in action.

What Is Diversity?

Workplace diversity starts with hiring people from different backgrounds and life experiences. Although early definitions centered around race and gender, diversity also applies to ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, background, education, personality traits and more. And it’s not just about bringing in diverse people, it’s also about ensuring that these valuable employees can participate and contribute in ways that benefit the individual, the company and society at large. 

What Is Equity?

Equity is a term frequently conflated with equality. The terms are similar but when companies pursue equality over equity the outcomes will be strikingly different. Equality is about treating everyone the same regardless of what they need to succeed and despite the systemic inequities that have existed for generations. Equity, on the other hand, recognizes that historically unequal access is inherent in economic, educational and social structures. So what’s required is the application of different methods so that everyone has an opportunity to succeed. That’s how equity differs.

What Is Inclusion?

When the workplace is inclusive, employees feel valued and accepted as part of the larger organization. It happens without them having to become something they are not. Inclusive companies celebrate and encourage diverse ideas and approaches, giving everyone the same opportunities for advancement.

What Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Looks Like

As useful as it is to understand what DEI is, it’s equally important to understand what DEI is not. Superficial treatments of DEI initiatives predictably lead to less-than-stellar outcomes. Here are a few examples.

This is DEI:

  • A visually impaired worker is given a large, high-quality monitor and other low-vision accommodations.

This is not:

  • The weekly staff meeting is always held in the late afternoon even though the single parent who must attend has a childcare issue. 

This is DEI:

  • Resume screening during the hiring process is blind, eliminating names and addresses.

This is not:

  • Job candidate information on the resume helps decision makers identify candidates by gender, race, ethnicity or neighborhood. 

This is DEI:

  • The company conducts a regular pay gap analysis to ensure gender pay e quality.

This is not: 

  • Salaries are never included in job postings despite suspected discrepancies between men and women. 

This is DEI:

  • Religious and cultural holidays are acknowledged and employees are automatically given the time off to observe these occasions.

This is not:

  • The company holds a yearly Christmas party and other holidays, like Rosh Hashana, pass by without mention.

It’s not unusual for management to feel overwhelmed by the number of small details that impact their DEI efforts. It can seem impossible to do everything. It’s important to remember, however, that small gestures go a long way toward ensuring that DEI is ingrained in the culture and is a responsibility assumed by all, not just a yearly check-box initiative. Once DEI becomes business as usual, it will be as natural as taking a breath. When that happens, you’ll reap the benefits that accrue to a truly diverse organization.

How To Set Up DEI Strategy That Actually Works

Diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t new, but it’s more important now than ever before. That’s because the world is changing and so is the marketplace. Companies need diversity to innovate and grow to meet evolving needs. Diversity is important in the upper ranks, as well. In fact, when it comes to gender, companies in the top quartile of diversity are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile. 

Companies that currently have a DEI initiative can optimize it to ensure that it accomplishes their objectives. Those with no DEI framework can ensure that they build in certain components from the beginning. 

Here’s how to set up a strategy that works:

Start From the Top

A committed DEI program must have committed leaders. You don’t just need a sponsor; you need a top-down commitment to make change a priority. Your DEI effort goes beyond lip service. It changes the way employees work together. Tie DEI goals into your company objectives and values. That means that in addition to organizational data and metrics that really matter, you’ll need someone to hold managers accountable for meeting the objectives of the program.

Hire Good Resources 

Ensure that you put the right people in place. You may have the people internally to lead the effort but it never hurts to bring in outside consultants to facilitate the setup. DEI conversations can be tricky and the last thing you want is a ham-fisted approach that puts the people you need most on the defensive. DEI is going to be everyone’s job. 

Find Mechanisms to Expand the Dialogue 

Every good DEI initiative begins with a conversation. You’ll need to keep the conversation uplifting and productive. Affinity groups can help. They can give a voice to those who are underrepresented, provide input into critical decision-making processes, and help companies decide how and when to weigh in on important social issues. 

Recognize the Culture Change

DEI is a cultural change in most companies. You’ll need to examine your systems and policies, your language and even your values. Diversity doesn’t just happen. Companies that are diverse and inclusive get there through a series of deliberate and proactive decisions. There are reasons why there may not be qualified people from every community and identity in your workplace and why, when they do come, the outcomes may not be as expected. Culture change will require aligned systems to support the beliefs and behaviors you want to instill.

Find a Common Cause

Companies that truly believe in diversity reflect those values by showing up in the communities they serve. One of the best ways to participate in the many underserved world communities is through philanthropic activities. Such efforts are good for humanity, good for the planet and a great way to engage employees. It can be a challenge to find something the company can do together to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion values. Groundswell is one way to make giving an employee benefit as well as to embrace diversity as a corporate value.

Groundswell can get your corporate giving program up and running effortlessly. No more tracking of donation receipts or vetting nonprofits. Each employee is set up with a personal giving account established just for them. It works just similar to a 401(k), only it’s for charitable giving. Now your company can easily support diverse perspectives with a giving program that is equitable and inclusive.

Diversity Is Increasing. Are You Ready?

In the years to come, the people you hire will be increasingly diverse, coming from different backgrounds and life experiences. This diverse perspective will help shape both your culture and your destiny. Your company will need to invest time and energy to yield the benefits promised. 

In the ever-changing business landscape, companies must be able to adapt and evolve. The concepts of diversity and inclusion are not new, but are becoming more important than ever before. With a diverse group of employees, companies can gain new perspectives, learn from one another and become stronger as a result. Start today with Groundswell.

5 Benefits of Donor-Advised Funds for Corporations

Here are numerous reasons why donor-advised funds (DAFs) are the fastest growing charitable giving vehicle in the United States. They combine versatility, flexibility and simplicity when it comes to reporting to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Their appeal is widening too. Once confined largely to high net worth donors, their reach now extends to corporations of all sizes. Groundswell is playing a key part in empowering philanthropy using DAFs. Learn more about the five main benefits of donor-advised funds. 

Recap of the Donor-Advised Fund

A DAF is a personal giving account with some big tax advantages and no minimum distribution requirements. That immediately puts it at an advantage compared to a private foundation, which must disburse a minimum of 5% annually. 

Giving to a DAF is straightforward, especially with Groundswell. You create a giving account and start making donations. There is no minimum annual contribution, and you don’t have to decide from the outset which charities you wish to support. 

The only restriction to be aware of is that the broker who manages the DAF retains control of how and when funds are disbursed. Donors can advise, but they do not make the final decision. Neither can you withdraw a donation once you’ve made it, since they are irrevocable.  

5 Benefits of DAFs for Corporations

With these features of DAFs in mind, what can businesses look forward to in real terms? It’s not just a question of paying lower tax, even if that is the most eye-catching advantage. DAFs can make a positive impact on the internal business culture too. Here are five areas that make DAFs hard to resist.   

1. Reduced Tax Liability 

DAFs allow companies to look beyond short-term performance when it comes to charitable giving. That’s primarily because donations are immediately tax deductible at the time of giving, but the funds don’t have to be disbursed until later. In short, that means you can take advantage of tax deductions in a windfall year and advise on where funds should be disbursed when you’re ready. Instead of giving only in bumper years and having to rein in philanthropy in leaner ones, corporations can lock in the tax deduction in the former and release the funds throughout the latter. 

From a tax planning perspective, the reduction in liability is significant. Individuals can offset up to 60% of their adjusted gross income, although charitable donations cannot exceed 25% of taxable income. 

2. Save on Capital Gains

If the prospect of handing over 15% to 20% in capital gains tax to the IRS every time you liquidate assets rankles, donor-advised funds offer a welcome solution. You don’t have to pay capital gains tax on assets transferred to a DAF, whether they are stocks, bonds or real estate. Moreover, you can transfer assets at the fair market value rather than the purchase price, provided you have held them for more than a year. 

For corporations who’ve seen their assets perform strongly in a bull market, the idea of giving up a substantial portion of the gains to the government without having any say in where the money goes can be unpalatable. Donating the assets to a DAF allows the business to release the tax deduction and put those assets toward a more clearly defined purpose. 

3. Multiple Donation Options 

Many nonprofits are restricted from accepting complex assets (i.e., other than cash) as donations if they want to stay on the right side of IRS 501(c)3 regulations. Donor-advised funds provide the mechanism, however, for businesses to donate real estate, private and public stocks, or inventory. 

On the giving side, corporations can fuel their account with a variety of assets and amalgamate a large number of individual donations into an easy-to-administer fund. Compared to private foundations in particular, the administrative burden is significantly lower

4. Unlock Investment Opportunities

Investments in donor-advised funds grow tax-free and you can donate mutual fund shares, trusts, private equity and hedge fund interests and even cryptocurrency. When it’s time to release the grants, you can unlock the appreciated value of the assets without deducting tax. 

Admittedly, that’s not always the approach some corporations take with their investments. Criticism is often leveled at DAFs as a means for institutional investors to “park” assets in funds and collect the upfront tax deduction without disbursing any grants. That’s “zombie philanthropy” in action, but Groundswell is geared toward moving grants as efficiently as possible to the nonprofits that desperately need support. 

5. Increased Employee Engagement

Donor-advised funds empower companies to align their charitable giving to their corporate goals. Instead of making smaller, less formal donations on an ad hoc, reactive basis, leadership can collaborate with employees on a long-term philanthropy structure:

  • Focus donations on the sector your business operates in. For example, if your business is in the hospitality sector, you can “give back” by supporting charitable causes linked to food banks, sustainability or homelessness. 
  • Tie your donations to your founder story or company ethos. Donations can ensure that the obstacles the company had to overcome in its early years are resolved for future generations (from equity and diversity to health and accessibility).
  • Invite input from your employees and customers and reflect their wishes. What matters to them?

DAFs provide a great way to define and improve company culture. A more engaged workforce leads to a more profitable and productive company, after all. You’ll also have a stronger case for attracting top talent if you can demonstrate a commitment to causes that resonate with your future employees and offer a stakeholder role as part of your financial wellness benefits.

Employees can sit on the committees that set philanthropic goals and nominate causes to support. Whether the committee decides to support a single cause or a collection of charities linked to a global mission, a proactive approach gives clarity and consistency. 

It also makes it easier to deal with ongoing requests for charitable support during the financial year. While there is no obligation for a business to reveal the causes it supports through a DAF, it’s an opportunity for transparency and positive PR. List the nonprofit organizations the company supports in company reports and on the website, and show fundraisers how to apply for grants. 

How Groundswell Is Different

The philanthropy-as-a-service (PhaaS) model pioneered by Groundswell is giving fresh impetus to corporate giving. Not only do we allow your business to set up a giving account faster, we provide a better giving experience too:

  • Accessible: You don’t have to be a high net worth individual with millions to spare. Groundswell allows you to start with a contribution of just $1. 
  • Efficient: We create personal giving accounts for each employee, which can be easily administered without tracking receipts and vetting nonprofits. Think of it as a 401(k) for corporate giving. 
  • Discreet: All employee donations are kept private, so your giving program is more equitable and inclusive. We respect that charitable giving is an anonymous, private affair for many. 
  • Diverse: Instead of nailing your company mission to a single cause, Groundswell allows you to respect and support all of your employees’ diverse perspectives. 

You’ve seen the benefits. Now learn more about maximizing the ease and efficiency of your corporate giving, as well as boosting employee engagement, with Groundswell

6 Ways to Modernize Your Corporate Giving Program this Holiday Season

GivingTuesday is a global movement unleashing the power of people and organizations focused on transforming their communities and the world. In 2021, donations to global charities reached an incredible $2.7 billion from GivingTuesday, demonstrating how inspirational the movement has become.

Now more than ever employees want their values to align with their company’s values. 

In February 2022, Groundswell polled over a thousand executive-level leaders and employees working at Fortune 500 companies about how they perceive their corporate philanthropy. Sixty percent of employees said that if their company provided them with a stipend for charitable giving, it would lead to better alignment between the company’s values and its employees, inspiring more altruistic actions.

The problem is, today’s offerings for a corporate giving program are outdated and don’t fully recognize the unique perspectives and passions of each employee. Not to mention that the administrative burden of running a program can be a nightmare.

How can you modernize your corporate giving program?

Since 74% of Americans contribute to charities each year, employees have a high degree of respect for companies that offer an easy corporate giving program as an employee benefit.

If you want your company to be known as a leader of innovation in corporate philanthropy, here are six ways to encourage employees to make a big impact this GivingTuesday in a modern way:

1. Decentralize your corporate philanthropy.

Consider giving a percentage of your corporate grants straight to employees. Every employee is diverse – representing different cultures, backgrounds, religions, and lived experiences. The causes they are passionate about and the charities they want to support should reflect that diversity. Many employer-sponsored giving programs are restricted to a handful of “priority” cause areas or featured nonprofits chosen by company executives – preventing employees from giving to what they feel most connected to. Groundswell’s platform gives your employees the power to choose from over 1.5 million registered charities.

2. Make your giving program equitable and inclusive.

If you have an existing giving program, chances are it is neither equitable nor inclusive. It likely requires your employees to submit details about the donations they want to make to receive a company match. And perhaps employees are only limited to a certain category of charities. Groundswell turns the old model on its head by providing a modern donation experience that centers on your employees and empowers them to choose where they want to donate, with no additional steps to claim their match and no questions asked. They can be fully in control of the way they want to support the causes they care most about.

3. Jump-start the holiday giving spirit with a “gift to give.”

In addition to the existing matching or gifting program you may have, a special gift to kick off an end-of-year giving campaign can motivate and inspire employees to be equally generous. With Groundswell’s platform, you can pre-load funds into an employee’s giving account and they can choose where to donate on their own time.

4. Remove the red tape and year-end receipt gathering.

The sheer administrative burden of many corporate giving programs means that billions of dollars are left unclaimed. The simplicity of Groundswell is that employees do not have to send any follow-up paperwork to their employer after they click that “donate” button. And program administrators don’t have the burden of vetting charities or submitting matching donations. It’s a streamlined process – free of receipts or other paperwork – that gives your employees the confidence that they can have an impact on the causes they care most about at the end of the year.  

5. Spark shared social responsibility.

Since your employee base is your most valuable resource, empowering your team to donate through Groundswell can inspire a shared sense of social responsibility. Perhaps you have Veterans who can help shine a light on supporting mental health nonprofits that serve the veteran community; or, perhaps an employee from the Gulf Coast can share details of what it’s like to be impacted by a hurricane.

6. Provide inspiration to your employees on where they can give.

While many employees may know where they want to donate, it also helps to give them some additional inspiration – or introduce them to nonprofits they might not be aware of. Groundswell’s impact team works to research and vet amazing nonprofits that are working tirelessly across a diverse range of cause areas – found in the Spotlight area of the Groundswell app dashboard. If you want to see more ideas, check out our GivingTuesday toolkit that features additional inspiration on how to engage your employees in an end-of-year giving campaign.

Interested in modernizing your company’s giving program this year?

Groundswell can help you get a corporate giving program up and running in less than two weeks. Through Groundswell’s platform, you can pre-load funds from your company into a Personal Giving Account for employees before GivingTuesday.

How To Boost Employee Morale Before, During and After Smartsizing

Dealing with layoffs and the resulting fallout after a company downsizes can be one of the most difficult tasks to face for any manager or human resource professional. It’s no secret that layoffs can take a major hit on company morale, not just for the workers who are being laid off, but for those who remain. Finding ways of keeping morale high in a workplace that has just downsized can be tricky, but it’s vital. Taking steps to reassure your remaining workers that they are valued and their jobs are secure can go a long way toward cementing company loyalty and making your business a place where employees want to work.

Behind the Wave of Smartsizing

The headline on the Business Insider article is stark: “A Wave of Layoffs Is Sweeping the U.S.” The article goes on to detail dozens of businesses that have downsized since the beginning of 2022, including many that made headlines: Netflix, Gap, Carvana, Ford Motor Company, Peloton and Wayfair among them. These layoffs follow two years of corporate and labor downsizing during COVID-19 when nearly 15% of U.S. adults reported that they were laid off because of the pandemic. While many of those were rehired — or found other jobs when businesses reopened — other businesses shed workers they’d hired to deal with a temporary boost in work during the shutdowns. To compound things even further, the Federal Reserve’s plan to fight inflation has many experts fearing that even more layoffs are coming

The truth is, though, that layoffs are an unfortunate fact of life in the modern workplace. Even without the extraordinary pressures of the last few years, businesses often choose to reduce their workforce for strategic reasons — to cut costs in the face of bankruptcy, because they’ve adopted new technology that requires fewer workers, or because a project has ended. When layoffs happen, the fallout can negatively affect everyone involved — and your business suffers. Taking an open, transparent approach to the situation is one of the most effective ways of managing employee morale before, during and after the workforce reduction. These tips can help you plan how to boost employee morale during these difficult times.

Before Layoffs — Make a Plan and Communicate It

There are a few throughlines in managing employee morale during layoffs — careful planning, open communication, transparency and respect for your employees. This starts from the moment your company decides to restructure. 

Have a Plan and a Process

Creating a layoff process — preferably before you ever have to use it — is helpful for many reasons, not the least of which is making sure that your company is in regulatory compliance. More importantly, when there’s a process, it informs everyone in the chain of command, from the front office to line managers, of their role and responsibilities. 

Communicate Openly, Effectively and Respectfully

Carefully consider how you’ll announce the layoffs — who will tell employees, how they’ll deliver the news and what they’ll say. In general, the news should come from a direct supervisor and should be delivered in person. The announcement should include the reasons for the downsizing, the steps the company has taken and what employees can expect to happen over the next several days. The person delivering it should express compassion and understanding, and be prepared to answer questions and manage employee reactions. The manager should also explain any assistance and benefits the company will provide for the workers whose jobs will be eliminated, and make a promise to keep the lines of communication open throughout the transition to a smaller workforce. Above all else, be honest and authentic in all of your communications. Your employees deserve your honesty.

Speak With Individual Employees Privately

Schedule private interviews with employees to discuss particulars about their situations. Give them time and space to express their emotions, and listen compassionately. Have any paperwork and informational handouts prepared in advance, and go through them together. Provide them with any information they need to access accrued benefits, as well as any processes or paperwork they need to transfer insurance policies, employee giving accounts and other benefits to themselves. 

During Layoffs — Be Transparent and Compassionate

The days and weeks immediately after an announced downsizing can be among the most difficult to manage. You can make it easier when you follow a few simple guidelines.

Get It Done Quickly

If possible, inform all employees that are part of the downsizing immediately. The longer it takes for everyone to know their status, the more time your employees will spend stressing and worrying if their job is on the line. 

Communicate New Directions Clearly and Promptly

Your remaining employees — known colloquially as survivors — know that things are going to be changing. Be open and honest about the plan going forward, and listen to any feedback they offer. The better they understand their evolving role — and the company’s evolving plan — the more comfortable it will be for everyone.

Be Available

As employees settle into their new workplace environment, make yourself available as much as possible. Don’t just wait for them to come to you. Go out of your way to check in with people. Reassure them, solicit their feedback on changes and step in to take up the slack as people adjust.

After Layoffs — Reassure, Reconfigure and Stabilize

As the workplace stabilizes, recognize that employees may still be dealing with the aftereffects. Downsizing survivors often have complicated feelings, ranging from continuing anxiety to survivor’s guilt. The steps you take now are not just a short-term strategy — think of them as a blueprint for employee engagement going forward.

Reconfigure and Regroup

Continue to be available to answer questions and help employees sort through their new responsibilities and roles. Listen to concerns openly and with compassion, and be willing to take feedback and criticism without taking it personally. 

Rebuild Trust and Goodwill

This is the time to turn back to everything you know about building a healthy workplace culture and put it into practice. Keep in mind that this is a key “moment that matters,” and the actions you take now will resonate with employees for as long as they stay with you. For example:

  • You can offset the reality of giving employees more responsibility by shifting to more flexible schedules that take their lives into account
  • Give employees more voice in decisions that affect them most
  • Review your current benefits package with your employees and find ways to make it more meaningful to them

The Bottom Line

Restructuring and downsizing are never fun, but this can be an opportunity to make other positive changes in your company. Setting up a meaningful employee giving program is one of those positive changes. Groundswell can help you get a corporate giving program up and running faster than any other. Our platform makes the entire giving process more efficient by establishing a personal giving fund for each employee  while reducing the amount of tracking and work for your HR department. Best of all, it’s designed to respect and support all of your employees’ diverse perspectives and shows them that you’re truly committed to building a respectful, inclusive, diverse workplace for everyone.

4 Ways That Your Business Can Make Waves of Social Impact

No matter the size of your business, it can have a social impact in the communities that you serve. Maximizing social impact is a good idea for the bottom line. It can raise the company’s visibility and ensure future sustainability by creating a favorable business climate. The bonus? It always feels good to do good, build connections and have a net positive effect.

However, for most businesses, none of this happens by accident. In an effort to ensure profitability, it can be easy to forget how important every business is to its employees as well as to the community and society at large. And it’s not just the responsibility of large corporations. Small businesses have always had an integral role in shaping society. In fact, they currently generate 44% of economic activity. That includes your business. 

So what can you do to create the type of social impact you’d like to have? A good place to start is by understanding exactly what social impact is and why it’s so important.

What Is Social Impact?

Social impact is the effect that your company has on its employees, customers, business partners and the community as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). It includes the efforts, activities and policies, deliberate or not, that the business makes to address critical social injustices and challenges. 

These challenges might include, for example:

  • Economic disparity
  • Inequalities due to gender, race, sexual orientation, physical abilities, etc
  • Contamination of air and water
  • Depletion of natural resources and energy
  • Stagnation of economic growth and job opportunities
  • Hunger
  • Poor health care
  • Disparities in educational opportunities

Of course, there are more. These are just some of the types of impacts businesses may seek to address.

In addition to actions taken, social impact can also be the result of the failure to act. In this way, business social impact can be negative. But for many companies, probably yours included, it is an essential ethical responsibility to make a positive difference. The question is how.

How Your Business Can Have Bigger Impact

As mentioned, positive social impact doesn’t happen by accident. Companies that make a difference do so by including deliberate action within their strategies. Your organization can get started by defining the areas where you can have the greatest impact and that are aligned with the company’s mission and vision. Then it’s up to leadership to create opportunities that inspire the company and its employees to participate in philanthropic and community-oriented efforts. 

4 Ways Your Business Can Have Social Impact

Here are four ways that your company can maximize its social impact. Most socially responsible companies will prioritize one over the others. But the most successful will include elements of each. They are all important to the proliferation of prosperous communities worldwide.

1. Philanthropy and Giving Back

It’s one thing to donate to a worthy cause here and there. It’s quite another to implement a philanthropy program that promotes social value. A well-designed approach signals to employees that the company shares their values while elevating your corporate giving to a whole new level and providing opportunities to community residents. 

You can capture the hearts and the imagination of your employees by soliciting active involvement, providing matching donations and encouraging volunteer support. A holistic program aims to improve the community and enhance the company’s future viability. Philanthropy can become a vital part of your business success.

2. Exhibit Environmental Social Responsibility

More companies are becoming environmentally aware. Green initiatives save money and the environment while putting the business ahead of the regulatory requirements that will surely come in the near future. Many consumers, as well, want companies to reduce their carbon footprint and be better stewards of world resources. This isn’t just limited to corporations with large energy requirements. It includes small businesses of every type that can make an effort to reduce, recycle and reuse. In doing so, companies may also find ways to innovate and create better internal processes. 

3. Support the Local Community

No company can dominate its market in the long run without community support. It may not be feasible to sponsor every soccer team that asks, but most successful businesses recognize a responsibility to be a contributing member of the community. Thriving companies create jobs and generate tax revenue. They make the area a more attractive place to work, live and raise a family. The relationship is symbiotic, however. There could be no business without a healthy and supportive community. 

Remember, too, that one of the main reasons your business does well is because the business community itself is vital and even competitive. No business wants to be one of the crowd, but remember that if you have no competitors, you may not have a viable business model for long. In fact, complementary businesses help increase your customer base. Further, competition might actually increase your chances of long-term success.

4. Exhibit Internal Social  Responsibility

It’s not enough to simply provide jobs within the community. Social responsibility means that employers carefully consider the company’s ethical practices and the impact that these practices may have on the broader society. This means demonstrating fair and equitable treatment, not just to the customers that buy its products and services but to its own employees. Research shows that employees who are treated well can engender loyal customers.

Virgin Airlines founder and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, for one, agrees: “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Companies exhibit internal corporate responsibility by implementing policies that go beyond legal requirements. Businesses that are known for creating a great culture do much more. Policies that promote sustainability demonstrate a visible and deeply held commitment to:

  • Pay fair wages in all of the communities and countries that support the company
  • Treat employees equitably
  • Encourage work-life balance
  • Support physically and mentally healthy habits
  • Hire diversity and promote diverse pipeline strategies

Beyond profit, these companies recognize that equitable internal practices are vital to their public image and, hence, to their sustained success. 

Benefits of Making an Impact

Increasingly, both consumers and communities alike expect businesses to contribute to societal well-being. Even without this expectation, however, there are many reasons to maximize your company’s social impact. These benefits warrant a complete article on their own, but, briefly, they include:

  • Reducing social risks that may impact the business in the long run, for example, the decline in the availability of critical technology skills.
  • Improving employee productivity, engagement and loyalty by cultivating happier employees who share the company’s sense of purpose.
  • Attract the 60% of customers who increasingly prefer products offered by environmentally friendly, sustainably sourced and ethically responsible companies.
  • Enhance the company’s reputation, its attractiveness to investors and access to capital markets.
  • Support sustainability by helping to promote a healthier marketplace.
  • Gain an early competitive advantage by addressing issues that may eventually come under regulatory control, for example, the overuse of nonrenewable resources.

All of these benefits, individually and jointly, serve to greatly enhance your company’s profitability and long-term sustainability. 

Maximize Your Impact

Clearly, the choices that we make today will impact future generations for years to come. It’s both a privilege and a responsibility to be part of the decision-making process. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, however. One of the easiest ways to get a jumpstart on your commitment to maximizing social impact is to implement a philanthropy program. It should be thoughtfully designed, but that doesn’t mean it must be difficult to put in place. 

Groundswell can help. We turn charitable giving into an employee benefit that will not only benefit the community, but it will also boost your bottom line. Contact us for more information.