Kathryn Minshew: On Redefining Workplace Culture
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:
Provide a charitable giving stipend to each employee that they can direct to a charity of their choice on an annual basis.
Have employees vote on a slate of charities chosen by leaders to determine which cause gets the company’s contribution.
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!
Thomas Gaissmaier: Keeping A Pulse On Employee Sentiment
Here at Groundswell, we’re lucky to know many people who understand and support our mission to reimagine corporate giving. And whenever we get the chance, we love to sit down and talk with these people. Here, we chatted with Thomas Gaissmaier – former Chief People Officer of Match Group and 21st Century Fox. Thomas has worked in human resources for a long time and is a strong believer in providing real benefits to employees. He truly understands the significance of keeping a finger on the pulse of employee sentiment, and understanding what employees care about.
Thanks for chatting with us, Thomas. Please tell us about your history and how you got into the area of human resources.
You’re welcome. So, the Boston Consulting Group is where I began my professional consulting career. In 2009, one of my consumer clients – PepsiCo – acquired two of its distributors and I was asked to lead the integration for BCG.
Of course, with any merging of companies, there were significant ramifications for business models – but really, it all came down to people, organization, and culture.
In this specific example, the question was about bringing together a marketing-centric and a heavy operations culture. How to integrate three organizations and its teams. How to realize efficiencies and built a better company. We spent a lot of time on thinking through the required change management and organization structure.
That is what piqued my interest in people and organization. Over the next years, I focused my client work in this area and led BCG’s HR practice in North America – before leaving in early 2017 to become Chief HR Officer at 21st Century Fox and in 2019 at Match Group.
That’s quite the journey! Let’s talk about the HR landscape right now. We’re living through a so-called “Great Resignation.” What is going on, from your point of view? What are the major implications for businesses? Is there any possibility of a positive outcome?
The pandemic has fundamentally shifted the power balance between employees and employers. We had to rethink how, where and when we work. All of which required companies to be a lot more flexible and nimble. There will be no going back.
Personally, I don’t believe that anybody really knows what the new way of working will be like, exactly. We will have to experiment with different models and reinvent many practices, processes and policies.
One of the biggest changes in my view is that employees are looking a lot more for purpose and meaning in their work.
If you look back five or ten years, it was sufficient for companies to donate some of their profits to charity. Now, many employees are demanding that social and environmental impact are more integrated in the day-to-day work and business – as we have seen in many recent employee surveys.
For example, when companies talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, it is no longer enough to donate money to some organization if the internal practices don’t provide an inclusive and equitable environment.
The battle for retention is critical for an HR professional. What benefits do you see from your purview that are truly important to employees? What exactly do they expect from businesses these days?
Though I don’t think anyone decides which company to join based just on the benefits., I believe that benefits can be an important differentiator and signal for the purpose and value a company stands for. You have the fundamental benefits, such as time off or healthcare. But beyond that? Donations are an area where we have seen a lot of employee interest, both dedicating time and donating money.
I’m enthusiastic about Groundswell because I believe it is a great opportunity for businesses and employees. It’s not that the corporation says: “These are the causes that we as a company have selected to promote.” Rather it’s up to the employees to make the decision.
In the wake of the pandemic, we’ve adopted new ways of thinking about ourselves, the world around us, and our relationships with others. What are some of the things that businesses may do to help employees adjust to the new normal?
Two thoughts occur to me. First is what I would call the fundamentals, things that are necessary to show up for work. For example, providing work necessities like monitors or helping with child care costs. Most companies have put in place some form of stipend or reimbursement program.
Then, there are bigger questions. How to retain the social connections amongst employees? How to avoid zoom-fatigue? How to maintain a boundary between work and life? How to deal with mental health issues like loneliness?
For an organization, what specific types of insights are extremely useful to have at the tips of your fingers in order to keep a pulse on employee sentiment? What does this have to do with the causes that people care about?
In essence, the job of HR is help the business grow by attracting, retaining and developing the right people. A big part is to establish an environment where employees can bring their full self to work. At Match Group, we conduct people surveys at least every quarter to understand where we are doing well and what areas we can further improve.
When I was at BCG, we conducted a global study and found that especially millennials don’t focus on compensation alone, but look for a company that provides professional growth and whose purpose is aligned to what matters to them.
What are some pain points you’ve noticed from a corporate giving standpoint? And how can we use that to help us learn and grow as an industry?
I probably could name three pain points I’ve seen at companies over the years. First, the capacity to register charities that matter to employees and hence the ability to make donations on time.
We have had issues where employees want to donate but it’s taken up to six months to match their donation because of administrative issues with the registration. Not because their wasn’t budget or willingness, but we didn’t have a registered and verified account.
A second issue is the list of charities that qualify for donations and company match. In my view, it’s important to engage employees in the decision making, apply clear criteria for inclusion and exclusion, and communicate those decisions openly and frequently to avoid surprises and dissatisfaction.
The third obstacle is about speed. To illustrate:
After the murder of George Floyd, we – like many companies – wanted to take a stance by matching employee donations two to one. Of course, time was of the essence. But it always takes longer than you think to identify the list of relevant and qualified charities, register those organizations in the system and communicate the program. A way to shorten that process would be extremely valuable for both companies and employees.
Thanks for your time today, Thomas. Before we go, is there anything more you’d like to share?
I want to emphasize this: I think the idea to simplify giving, to truly put it in employee’s hands, and to potentially make it a company benefit, is very compelling. I’m excited about what Groundswell is doing and really hope it takes off and inspires many companies!
Layla Kajer: Bringing Humanity Back To Giving
At Groundswell, we’re grateful to know many people who support our mission to reimagine corporate giving. Whenever possible, we love to sit down and talk with these people. Here, we chatted with Layla Kajer, the Director of Internal Communications & Community at Greenhouse Software. We discussed the current state of the workplace, and how humanizing giving may restore employee engagement and enthusiasm.
*Disclaimer: Groundswell is a customer of Greenhouse
Hi Layla! Tell me a little bit about your background and your journey to the world of HR?
Happy to be here! I’ve always been in the business of behavior change. I’ve worked with companies like Roche, Marriott, Citibank and W.L. Gore to activate employees to drive change in an organization. I’m passionate about understanding what drives employee motivation, empowerment and habit building.
The key question is always: how can we reach our employees? How can we capture their hearts and minds? Are we providing the appropriate incentives? Are we rewarding appropriate behavior?
In my role at Greenhouse, I get the pleasure to work with many diverse leaders to drive emotional connection to our purpose and to each other. My main focus is to make sure we’re delivering a consistent, values-aligned experience from the moment a candidate learns about Greenhouse, through their entire tenure.
Let’s talk about the current moment. In recent months, millions of Americans have been quitting their jobs. What is going on, from your point of view? What are the major implications for businesses? Is there any possibility of a positive outcome?
I believe what we’re seeing is a shift in attitudes regarding employment. When you go back through history, there have been periods of time where there is an obvious (in hindsight) shift in the way people relate to their work. Though some prominent people started talking about The Great Resignation before COVID, the pandemic forced all of us to embrace a new era of work. It prompted us to reevaluate our relationship with work.
People are in a state of flux and asking new questions about their purpose and the value a job creates for them. Change shakes the cobwebs out of our habits and you can see that happening all over. People are looking at what was routine and expected in an entirely new way.
Working 80 hours a week or enduring long commutes used to be largely acceptable in many sectors.
I was one of these people. I was in the thick of it and it put a strain on my personal well-being. My partner and I lived in the Bay Area and had opposite commutes. It meant that I spent at least 90 minutes commuting – each way. My child was in daycare for 10-11 hours a day and most days I was just rushing from place to place – running to catch a ferry or hustling to grab a quick (overpriced) lunch in between meetings.
But to be honest, it was just so normal. So many people I knew did the same thing so I never stopped to really evaluate whether it was working for me or my family. After moving out of the Bay Area and going fully remote, I could finally see how crazy my schedule was before. I’m just so glad that I got out and have now found a company that embraces a healthy work-life balance.
As an HR professional, the battle for retention is top of mind in the aftermath of the pandemic. What are the benefits you’re seeing that are truly important to employees? What are they truly looking for from companies these days?
It’s a great question. Ping pong is no longer a cultural driver! Greenhouse conducted research that showed that only 12% of candidates want in-office perks as a benefit while 63% want a flexible schedule.
This may sound cliché, but I believe humans have always cared about purpose and significance. The video games and free snack culture was nice but ephemeral. Deep down people want to be connected to a company’s mission – to make a real difference and leave a lasting legacy. Whether that’s having a positive impact on the company, a customer or whoever is a stakeholder. This is a cultural phenomena, not a benefit. It’s about showing up and aligning one’s ideals with the company’s.
To attract talent it’s vital that companies provide all employees with an opportunity to understand how, and why, business decisions are made. One of the ways that we do this at Greenhouse is by hosting bi-weekly company-wide leadership AMA (Ask Me Anything) meetings. Transparency, flexibility and responsibility are core to our management style at Greenhouse. No topic is off limits and all employees – at every level and in every department – are encouraged to ask our executive team questions. Connection to purpose and a clear path for growth will be what sets companies apart from others and help them retain employees. Investing in your employees is always the right answer and, we’ve seen, results in better morale, improved productivity and happier employees who stay at the company.
More than ever, employees want to know the company they work for aligns with their ideals. They are voting with their feet and their careers.
How crucial is it for leaders at companies to have precise insight into their employees’ sentiments for social causes?
Most, if not all, executives I’ve met are interested in knowing what their employees think. The difference comes down to their motivation for wanting to know. Maybe it’s more of risk management – “I want to know that I can squash something” or to manipulate – “I can take advantage of something.” Or it could be a genuine interest in understanding what motivates employees to thrive.
I’ll focus on Greenhouse. Our leaders are extremely concerned about employee sentiment and go to great lengths to get feedback and stay connected. A large portion of this is accomplished through formalized processes. We do this in a number of ways.
We do the traditional ways of collecting employee feedback with inclusion and engagement surveys. We’re looking at other survey mechanisms that could supplement those. Unique to Greenhouse, we host the AMA events, Intelligent Conversation sessions and we have a very active ERG (Employee Resource Group) community.
I actually had suggested to the CEO that we move to a monthly AMA cadence instead of twice a month but he declined because he values the feedback and input that comes out of the AMAs so much. He’s investing a significant amount of time each month staying connected to employees.
How many steps does the process of corporate matching or corporate donating in general take in your experience? Has it been a complete headache?
In my experience, it varies significantly by company. Even at large, well-organized companies who have been doing corporate giving for years, the process to donate or secure corporate matching isn’t well communicated to employees. Other times there isn’t a clear owner for the giving process – does it live in HR? Marketing? Corporate Strategy? It can become a bit of a hot potato.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is to be vocal about the programs and the interest in supporting organizations. At Greenhouse, our leaders have many times been vocal by posting on slack or creating donation campaigns on their teams. They also create a safe space for their employees to share what causes are important to them.
What are your thoughts about Groundswell?
For me, I need someone or something to help remove the roadblocks to giving and giving in a smart way. I’m not well versed on how to research which organizations are doing the right thing with the donations and, often, the seemingly small steps of following different processes to write a check can be a blocker for me to give. And I haven’t yet figured out a way to give on a regular basis and make it a part of my habits. I think Groundswell can make a big impact with this.
Groundswell, in my opinion, acts as a community leader. Making a habit of giving, taking small amounts from each paycheck adds up to something significant. I think Groundwell is going to be a game changer.