Category: Groundswell News

How To Improve Morale at Work: Groundswell Feature in Lifehack

When workplace morale is high, it affects employee engagement and productivity in positive ways. Yet as companies pursue increasingly remote and decentralized operating models, the happiness quotient can be difficult to maintain. That may leave many leaders wondering how to improve morale at work. 

According to the article “11 Ways To Boost Workplace Morale,” published on Lifehack, there are many ways to boost morale and help employees feel more connected to the organization and its core principles and values. For many employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z, it’s not just a matter of phoning it in and collecting a paycheck. They want to feel that what they do matters and that the companies they work for care about making the world a better place.

That’s why corporate giving programs are so important. In fact, Groundswell was mentioned in the Lifehack article as a platform that allows companies to turn donor-advised funds (DAFs) into an employee benefit.

Following, we’ve provided a brief rundown of some of the highlights from the article:

Measure

It’s important to gather feedback so that you understand what’s working and what’s not. Provide open-ended questions and allow anonymous responses to invite candid responses. Exit interviews are a good way to get constructive criticism.

Communication

With more people working from remote locations, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is on the same page or that they feel connected. Take extra steps to ensure that employees are not isolated and lonely. 

Empower

Trust employees to do things on their own to meet the deadlines and objectives established. Empowerment goes a step further, as well. Lift employee morale by inviting them to the table. Asking for input in brainstorming sessions helps employees feel included. 

Recognition

Use praise generously and ensure that it is, at least most of the time, unconditional. This means that it comes without counterpoints or corrections. Everyone has something you can praise. Praise does not always have to be verbal; it can come through other forms of recognition like a promotion.

Transparency

Although leaders must be prudent about sensitive information, it never hurts to give employees the information they need to know. In fact, this will help them feel like valuable members of the team. 

Team Building

Bond through team building activities that allow employees to get to know each other beyond water cooler chitchat. These activities needn’t be elaborate or expensive. Meeting icebreakers and trivia questions can work as well as an escape room outing. There are also virtual team building activities for teams that are not co-located.

Community Projects

Bring teams together outside of work to help the community. Platforms such as Groundswell, which can turn corporate giving into an employee benefit, can be used to facilitate employees working together toward charitable goals.

No Micromanaging

Trust teams to get the work done. Leaders who can do this without excessive input or monitoring will find that morale increases.

Incentives

Motivate employees using small incentives. Praise works well, as does a premium parking space or small spot bonus.

Breaks

Oftentimes, workers feel that they can never stop working. As a leader, encourage employees to take sufficient breaks. Even short periods of time, like 30 seconds, can boost productivity by 13%

Development

The competitive environment, particularly technology, is changing rapidly. Offer ongoing training to let employees know that you are willing to invest in them for the long haul.

Clearly, there are many ways to bolster morale. Start by measuring, then determine the steps needed to keep your employees engaged and productive. To read the full article, visit Lifehack. Need help with boosting morale and increasing employee engagement? Groundswell can help you reimagine your approach to employee benefits. It’s easy to add Groundswell to your existing benefits package and create a program that employees can be passionate about. Contact us for more information. 

Hiring, Strategy, and Leadership Tips from Groundswell Chief Product Officer Tammy Hahn

Across the world and across industries, the pandemic has disrupted everything. This includes hiring, managing, and strategizing. The so-called “Great Resignation” is underway, and companies are having to adapt on the fly.

How is Groundswell dealing with this new reality? Through people-centric solutions that benefit both management and employees. If you want to dive into the details of what that means and get some leadership tips, recently, our CPO Tammy Hahn appeared as a guest on The Product Management Leaders podcast. Here are some highlights, where Tammy discussed how evidence, conviction, and tenacity can help organizations thrive.

The Power of Generalists

Legacy hiring and recruiting strategies are not working. Even as employers increase salaries at the quickest rate in nearly 40 years, positions remain vacant. What does this tell us? Monetary compensation is not everything. Recruiters must understand what motivates modern employees to create appealing job postings and offers. The best move of all is to hire people who share your company’s values. This is the approach we take at Groundswell:

I’m looking for people that can flex: people that are generalists who aren’t afraid to go high-level as well as get into the nitty gritty. At Groundswell, there is no product yet, so you don’t have any metrics to fall back on to have a hypothesis in terms of what will optimize a certain flow— the flow doesn’t even exist. You need to navigate the unproven and ambiguous to earn the right to optimize.”

Here at Groundswell, we are still in the early stages of determining our core flow and the value we bring to our users and clients. This requires a very specialized approach to hiring, where we bring in people who are comfortable being creative and adaptive, and working from a blank slate. 

Leading Products Vs. Leading People

Every business owner and executive has a unique set of experiences and ideas on the approach and characteristics of effective leadership. In the podcast, Tammy shared one of her leadership tips: not every situation demands the same type of leadership approach. Excellent leaders adapt to their environments and empower their teams. During the course of the podcast, she had some great insights into the differences between leading products and leading people:

“Not everyone is meant to be a great people-leader. As you move up the career path of a people leader, especially in a larger organization, the further away you move from actual product management… In fact, if you want to go up that people leader path, it’s more about coaching, communication, and project management than it is about designing and building the product. Leading people is different from leading product definition and execution.”

Being an excellent leader demands constant commitment, management, and the development of a team that is competent and results-oriented. There can be no true leadership without team management. On the people management side, Tammy explored how important it is for managers to approach failure in the right way:

“I don’t like to call failure “failure.” I like to call it a misstep. What matters is what you learn from that misstep, not so much the failure itself. It’s a learning process. I only consider it a failure if you fail to learn, and you repeat that mistake over and over again. Great product leaders build a culture of curiosity and calculated risk-taking without the fear of repercussions if hypotheses prove false.”

This jives perfectly with the Groundswell approach, where we frequently hold pre-mortem sessions to grasp all the things that can go wrong ahead of time. Becoming a successful leader necessitates ongoing personal and professional growth, regular and open team feedback, and response on feedback received.

Product Strategy: Knowing When To Keep, Pivot, or Kill

A product strategy is a company’s strategic goal for its product lines, outlining where the products are heading, how they will get there, and why they will thrive. Instead of striving to include everyone and every feature, a product marketing strategy concentrates on a specified customer base and functionalities. As a CPO, Tammy discussed, one of the challenges here is prioritization:

“Prioritization is always hard. Every stakeholder is always demanding something from a product manager. It’s really, really hard. It’s all about starting out with the right objectives upfront. The way that I operate as a leader is to align on your objective, collaborate on the strategy and then execute the tactics. Beautiful things happen when everyone on the team is aligned on the objectives and has a voice on the strategy.”

Goals are essential for focusing on and working towards. To make them viable and get the most out of the goal-setting process, we believe it’s a good idea to track your progress and evaluate your progress on a daily basis. Another important leadership tip is to have clear company goals:

  • Is it to expand or to keep our current customers?
  • Is it simply to boost our brands? If so, what is the plan of action?
  • If we want to expand, will we enter a new market, enter a new vertical, or broaden our product offering?

Once you know the goals, you can move into strategy. And in the early stages, Tammy said, that it is a good idea to start with metrics:

“The product growth graph peaks at a certain point then declines. That’s when you know you need to deprecate said product. I would really try to understand the metrics, what does growth look like from a usage adoption perspective, as well as from a business sales perspective.”

CPOs can use product data and analytics to forecast consumer behavior, improve decision-making, discover market trends, and calculate the ROI of marketing campaigns. The clearer your vision of your clients, the easier it will be to approach them:

“Product is a leading indicator; sales and revenue are lagging indicators. What are some predictions that you’re heading towards your peak? It’s not growth, from a business metric standpoint; it’s growth or adoption and usage of your product. As a leader, you may need to make the hard choice of investing less in plateau-ed products that are still generating revenue.”

Advice for CPOs

Tammy offered many leadership tips on the podcast; one of the most important takeaways was that leaders and managers have the most influence over the people they lead and supervise. They are in charge of ensuring the success of their department, and they are crucial in shaping company culture. Tammy is a big part of our leadership-management team. She ended the podcast with some leadership tips and advice for aspiring CPOs:

“Know your objectives, stand your ground and have the data to back you up on why you’re choosing to make your decisions. I think the worst thing that you can do is to be too agreeable for the sake of being agreeable and getting people to like your decisions.”

Tammy also said that it is okay to have a different opinion: 

“You have to be okay with the fact that not everybody’s going to like your decision. You need to have the conviction and data to back up why you’re making those hard choices so that your team is able to focus. Get your evidence, have conviction on what you want to focus on, and stick to your guns. A great product leader provides focus on what the teams are working on, and more importantly, making it clear across the organization what the teams will not be working on.” 

Thanks to the The Product Management Leaders podcast for hosting our CPO! We love spreading the word. 

To see the Groundswell product first-hand at our beta launch, sign up for our email list here.

Our Founder in Forbes on Rethinking Corporate Donation Matching

We always love to share the Groundswell philosophy with the wider world whenever we can. 

Just recently, our CEO Jake Wood shared his insights over at Forbes, talking about why organizations should rethink their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies and programs – and how, with this corporate philanthropy overhaul, they can establish a more cohesive relationship with their employees and nonprofit organizations.

Here are some of the highlights from the article:

Corporate Charity Should Represent the Passions of the Employees

Traditionally, corporate giving efforts are driven by a handful of executives or corporate foundations. The efforts are often disconnected from the company and the employees that are supposed to be represented by the program. This, Jake explained at Forbes, results in an ivory tower situation.

“In its best form, corporate philanthropy is loosely aligned to a company’s values, but often not to those of the company’s employees. In its worst form, it simply serves as a CEO vanity project.” 

What corporate entities need to realize is that their employees have diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Some, if not all, of them want to find a higher purpose for the work that they do. Unfortunately, traditional CSR programs don’t often reflect that.

Most Nonprofits Don’t Get the Support They Should Be Getting

Jake also pointed out how the current system for corporate donations excludes some nonprofits.

“If employees who want to give feel left out by their corporation’s donation strategy, it’s even worse for the nonprofits meant to benefit from those matching programs. While the top 1% of nonprofits might have cracked the code, most have trouble getting in the door.

There are a couple of challenges that nonprofits face, even for those who’ve already gotten their foot through the door.

  • Nonprofits led by historically marginalized individuals or communities often find it difficult to even get the attention of executives or foundation staff.
  • Even when they’ve been qualified and chosen, most nonprofits still need to go through a lot of processes before they can receive funds, which can either take a long time, or end up with the funds being undispersed.

Jake shares his experience as the CEO of the disaster-relief nonprofit Team Rubicon:

“I once received an email from a major Fortune 500 company eight months after a donation by an employee (in the prior year no less!). The email asked me to confirm receipt of the $75 donation and then to log into an obscure portal to upload proof of receipt so the company’s matching donation could be processed. What a hassle.”

Nonprofits end up chasing donations that are owed to them because of this inefficient processing, instead of focusing on delivering impact to the communities they serve.

Traditional Philanthropy = Low Employee Engagement

Employees are not as engaged in traditional, centralized philanthropy because this CSR can’t please everyone. Your ivory-tower philanthropy may please one or two people, but it will probably not resonate with everyone.

Plus, the systemic approach to giving that companies do doesn’t often result in massive impact and changes. This can lead to employees seeing these efforts as lacking or unapproachable.

Jake points to homelessness as an example:

“Solving homelessness at a macro level requires systemic solutions and massive policy changes, both of which could take years, if not decades. But employees riding to work on the subway care less about systemic solutions and more about ensuring that the human being sleeping on a piece of cardboard near the turnstile they step over each morning has a bed that evening.

Decentralizing philanthropy would go a long way to achieving that. Sure, systemic changes are necessary, but making employees the “agents of change” in this regard can make them feel that their company’s philanthropy efforts are indeed going somewhere beneficial.

How Companies Can Decentralize Corporate Giving

Jake shared with Forbes the key steps to how companies can decentralize their philanthropy efforts:

  1. Provide a charitable giving stipend to each employee that they can direct to a charity of their choice on an annual basis.
  2. Have employees vote on a slate of charities chosen by leaders to determine which cause gets the company’s contribution.
  3. Empower business resource groups, which are typically aligned around specific diversity elements, to make recommendations on charitable giving related to their interests.

With these steps, companies can generate meaningful impact in their communities through their employees.

To read Jake’s full article, click here. Or if you want to learn how you can start changing your approach to corporate giving, talk to us here. Here at Groundswell, we help you give better.

Reviewing a Big 2021 at Groundswell

As we move into the heart of the holidays – and as 2022 looms on the horizon – it feels like a moment to take stock, and reflect on what has been a big, big year here at Groundswell. It’s only been just a few short months, but we’re fired up and extremely fortunate to have hit some incredible milestones already. 

Throughout 2021, we’ve been working as hard as we can to revolutionize philanthropy. This year, we assembled an incredible team; we were featured in major news outlets; we launched our web presence; and we received significant seed funding to help us achieve our goals.

Why? Because we think that sophisticated philanthropy should not be limited to the 1%. Because we want more people to have more impact, and back more great causes.

Thanks to everyone who has followed along on our journey this year. Here are a few highlights.

Assembling a World-Class Team

A company is only as good as its people. Especially when your goals are as bold as ours. And this year, we have assembled a fantastic core team.

Led by our founders Jake Wood, a former marine and founder of Team Rubicon; Adam Miller, founder of Cornerstone OnDemand; and Joe Marchese, executive chairman of Human Ventures Co., we have built a powerful leadership unit. In 2021, we’ve added: 

  • Tammy Hahn, Former VP of Product of Cornerstone, as Chief Product Officer (CPO). 
  • Karan Keswani, Former Chief Architect of Bluebeam, as Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
  • Candice Schmitt, Former Chief People Officer of Team Rubicon, as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).
  • M.G. Siegler, General Partner at GV (previously Google Ventures), on our board of directors.
  • Heather Hartnett, CEO of Human Ventures, on our board of directors. 

Our Series Seed Funding

We have a big mission: Take a model of philanthropy typically only accessible to the 1%, and make it available to everyone else. With such a large project ahead of us, the more backing we can get, the better. And in November we received a total of $15 million in startup capital

$10 million Series Seed investment was led by GV (previously Google Ventures) after our first $5 million received in September earlier this year. GV was joined by Human Ventures, Moonshots Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Core Innovation Capital.

This funding will provide us capital to develop the world’s most revolutionary philanthropy platform, propelling us closer to our ambition of building a world in which every solution is financed and every problem is solved.

Entering The Mainstream

In the past few months, Groundswell has attracted more and more attention from major media outlets. In September, Jake was featured in a Forbes article, where he discussed Groundswell’s objective to democratize philanthropy for the public, and inspire a new generation of philanthropists.

It was a fantastic chat, where Jake mapped out our bold goals: 

“Ten years from now, we hope to have helped unlock a trillion dollars of philanthropy globally. That won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it will be a good start.”

This Forbes appearance was followed by a great feature in LA TechWatch featuring an interview with our Chief Product Officer Tammy Hahn.  In the feature, Tammy shared a little about our journey to raising capital, how we’re providing a value-add to society, and what’s ahead for us at Groundswell.

Our team is made up of talented, high-performing individuals that were tired of building products that didn’t add value to society.  We saw an opportunity to create an entirely new category and bring philanthropy into the 21st Century, which is exactly what we intend to do.

Over the next six months, we’re going to execute against our product roadmap and get out into the market.  We have a long list of companies standing by to implement Groundswell’s beta product.

We’re eager to establish ourselves as the creator and leader of the Philanthropy-as-a-Service category, but, more importantly, are eager to make the world a better place by making charitable giving a new table-stakes component of total compensation.”

2022 – We’re Coming For You

Despite everything we’ve achieved this year, we’re just getting started.

In 2022, our product is launching, and Groundswell will be loose in the wild. If you haven’t signed up yet, request early access to be a beta tester. We will be growing the team (check out our open roles!) and having more conversations out in the world.

Thanks again to everyone who has followed along on our journey this year. See you in 2022!

15 Million Steps Closer to Disrupting Philanthropy

Fortune favors the bold. It’s a favored saying among the military circles I used to serve in.  I believe that when bold vision is combined with bold action, and encapsulated in a culture of relentless commitment to both, that extraordinary outcomes are possible.  Groundswell’s mission was born of this boldness: to democratize philanthropy for the masses.  We aim to make charity a standard component of employee compensation and ensure that everyone has access to the same giving tools as the ultra-wealthy. 

That type of mission requires significant resources, and thus I have some exciting news to share – today we are announcing that GV (formerly Google Ventures) is leading a $10 million Series Seed investment in Groundswell!  GV will be joined by Human Ventures, Moonshots Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Core Innovation Capital

This financing will give Groundswell approximately $15 million to build the world’s most innovative giving platform and will catapult us toward our vision of creating a future in which every solution is funded and every problem is solved. 

We pitched partners at many of the most iconic venture capital firms in the world and received several offers, but GV was undoubtedly the right partner for Groundswell.  Not only did GV immediately understand the immense commercial prospects of Groundswell, they fully bought into our vision to build a company capable of driving significant positive social change.  Most importantly, they did not see those things as mutually exclusive objectives.  

We are also fortunate that GV partner MG Siegler will be joining the Groundswell board of directors.  From our first phone call, I knew that MG was someone that I wanted to work with.  His eyes lit up when I spoke about how we could solve the inherent challenges of current donor advised fund offerings while simultaneously building a new corporate benefit that reimagined compensation.  It also helped that MG’s dad is a Wisconsin grad and former Marine – it allowed me to get over the troubling fact that he’s a Michigan grad. 

Luckily, I’m equally thrilled by our other participating investors.  Human Ventures was writing a check to invest in Groundswell before we even had a pitch deck (or a name!) and I’m eager to continue working with them.  As a Marine Corps veteran, Moonshots’ commitment to backing military veteran entrepreneurs aligns with my worldview that our servicemen and women make incredible founders.  I have known Aydin and the folks at Felicis for a long time and Groundswell is perfect for their impressive portfolio of companies.  Silver Lake has limitless potential to help us scale and secure early adopters.  Last but not least, I knew Core was a team I wanted to partner with the first time I heard their investing thesis: backing missionary companies and mercenary returns. 

The team here at Groundswell has its work cut out for it. While this financing puts wind in our sails, we know that the journey we are on is not for the faint of heart. Our aim is to create an entire category (Philanthropy-as-a-Service) that reinvents corporate philanthropy, total compensation, and individual giving.  It’s a bold objective.  But fortune favors the bold. 

If you’re a passionate and talented human eager to join a world-class team, check out our careers page.  If you work at a company that wants to be on the leading edge of corporate social responsibility and talent acquisition, reach out to request early access and become a Groundswell launch partner. Everyone else – buckle up, because this is gonna be a helluva ride. 

Veterans Day Is A Good Time To be Thankful For What We Have

Jake Wood, former Marine and founder of Groundswell, joins the ‘Halftime Report’ on Veterans Day to discuss his company and philanthropic efforts through Team Rubicon.

Tammy Hahn | My Next Chapter

“Do you want to help figure out how to ship bags of cat food faster or do you want to help write the story of a team and product that caused world-wide impact on the most pressing issues of our time?” Seems like an easy choice.

I’m incredibly excited to announce that I’m teaming up with co-founders Jake Wood, Adam Miller, and Joe Marchese to revolutionize the way individuals and corporations approach social impact. Our new company, Groundswell, sits at the intersection of Fintech and Philanthropy, bringing much needed digital renovation to how we invest to create impact.

It has long been my dream to leverage the professional skills attained in the corporate world to apply in furthering impact at a tech-forward foundation or company addressing the world’s biggest problems.

The events of the last 18 months have shown the world that the issues we face affect everyone; there are no innocent bystanders. COVID-19, George Floyd’s murder, #StopAsianHate, the takeover of Afghanistan, the alarming effects of climate change. To be silent now is to be complacent. If we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything.

To dismiss an opportunity to build with this amazing team, to work on this visionary yet fragile idea, seemed downright irresponsible.

do someting great

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Groundswell is founded on the principle that everyone should be able to give like Gates, get taxed like Buffet, and get recognized like Rockefeller.  Our aim is to decentralize philanthropy for the masses, and we’ll do that by building a solution that gives everyone the power of a personal foundation in the palm of their hand.

We also recognize that the current models for corporate philanthropy and social responsibility no longer serve us well. Corporate philanthropy has long been a centralized function discussed around senior executive and boardroom tables. This landscape has been increasingly difficult to navigate given the volume of issues, the urgency in nature, and the demands of employees and consumers despite often differing point-of-views. What if companies acknowledged that diverse problems require diverse solutions and enabled their employees to invest in solutions they believe are best for the problems they believe are most critical? Like the 401K did for retirement, Groundswell will usher in a new era of employee empowerment.

Americans give nearly $500B/year to charity*, the most out of any nation in the world. We believe there is a smarter, more intentional way to give and be more impactful.

Others believe it, too. With a seed round of $5M in funding, our investors include leading venture capital firms Human Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Core Capital, and Quiet Capital, and individual investors that span multiple Fortune 500 CEOs, former military generals, media executives, and entrepreneurs who align with our values and support this imperative journey.

Thank you, Jake Wood, for asking me this very important question. No, I don’t want to ship cat food faster; I want to create impact. I want to be a part of Groundswell’s vision to see every solution funded, and every problem solved.

What about you? Are you ready to change the world? Click here to get involved. I’m hiring Product Managers and Designers! Click here to get involved. I’m hiring Product Managers and Designers!

*The Giving USA Report 2020

Groundswell Launch Press Release

Contact: Alberto Lammers; alberto.lammers@groundswel3dev.wpengine.com.io
Groundswell Launches Platform Seeking to Revolutionize Corporate Philanthropy

Founded by a powerhouse trio, Groundswell’s goal is to democratize charitable giving and become a ubiquitous component of employee benefits packages.

LOS ANGELES — Groundswell today announced the upcoming launch of its platform aimed at disrupting charitable giving. Groundswell will revolutionize how companies approach employee compensation and corporate philanthropy by empowering employees with their own personal donor-advised funds. Like the 401k did for retirement, Groundswell puts employees in the driver’s seat of corporate philanthropy and empowers them to create worldwide impact. Groundswell will also provide all donors with the tools historically reserved for the ultra-rich, including personalized matching services, frictionless donation options, tax-free investment opportunities, and impact reporting. The company intends to make its platform a ubiquitous component of employee benefits packages and charitable giving.

Groundswell was founded by Jake Wood, the co-founder and former CEO of Team Rubicon, Joe Marchese, multiple-time founder and investor, and Adam Miller, founder and former CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand. Wood will serve as the CEO of Groundswell, and Marchese and Miller will serve as Executive Co-Chairs.

Groundswell in effect gives employees their own personal foundation, and a payroll integration will let them automatically divert their charitable giving into their account — with the option for the company to match those funds or gift money directly into it, eliminating the antiquated post-donation matching programs that companies operate today.

Groundswell eliminates the administrative burden of donation matching programs and provides companies with a unique opportunity to give better by reframing corporate philanthropy as a pillar of corporate talent strategy that helps to attract, engage, empower, and retain diverse, values-driven employees. Reports available from the Groundswell platform will offer executives a dynamic snapshot of what issues employees care about. While a company’s annual survey can provide a point-in-time view of the issues that matter, Groundswell will provide real-time analysis as societal events unfold. That means executives can be better prepared to navigate the increasing expectations of consumers and employees to speak or act on social issues.

Human Ventures CEO Heather Hartnett has joined the board of directors. The founding team includes Tammy Hahn as Chief Product Officer, Karan Keswani as Chief Technology Officer, and Candice Schmitt as Chief Administrative Officer.

About Groundswell

Groundswell provides a new type of financial service that leverages cutting-edge technology for better giving. Our platform allows companies to create personal foundations for its employees and gift or match employee contributions straight from payroll, like a 401K for giving. It puts employees in the driver’s seat of corporate philanthropy and empowers them to create worldwide impact. Groundswell also provides everyone access to tools historically reserved for ultra-rich philanthropists: personalized matching of the best non-profits for the causes you care about, frictionless donations, tax-free investments to grow your impact, a single tax receipt at the end of the year, and a unified picture of your impact over time.

How Groundswell Is Shifting Giving From The 1% To The 99%

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