The Case for Corporations to Leverage Donor-Advised Funds

Year over year, companies are increasing their focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the impact they have on communities. Corporate charitable giving is perhaps the most visible effort that companies undertake, and the amount being donated has increased steadily, topping $21 billion in 2020. 

Alongside this rise in corporate giving has been an increase in the number of companies offering to match employee donations to charity – up from 53% in 2014 to 71% in 2020.

These employee donation programs are often archaic and burdensome, and it’s estimated that $5 to $7 billion in eligible donations go unmatched by employers each year. 

Donor-advised funds (DAFs), tax-advantaged giving vehicles that have been around for decades, offer a compelling solution for both companies and their employees. As will be outlined below, DAFs have historically only been available to high-net-worth individuals, but Groundswell has built a platform that turns donor-advised funds into an affordable and easy-to-administer solution for corporate and employee giving. 

Groundswell believes that in the near future, companies providing donor-advised funds as a component of their total compensation approach will be as commonplace as 401(k)s, which were introduced in the United States in 1978.

Initially only utilized by the highest earners within companies who understood the intricacies of the tax benefits, 401(k)s have now become the ubiquitous tax-savings vehicle in the United States, with over 100 million accounts. 

In much the same way, Groundswell drives the adoption and utilization of donor-advised funds as America’s preferred charitable giving vehicle.

What is a donor-advised fund?

Donor-advised funds are charitable giving vehicles that allow individuals, families, and businesses to make a tax-deductible contribution to a fund, which can then be distributed to qualified charities over time. DAFs were first introduced in the United States in the 1930s, but their popularity has grown significantly in recent years.

Historically, DAFs have been primarily used by wealthy individuals and families. This is because DAFs often require a significant minimum donation to establish and maintain the fund, which can be a barrier to entry for many individuals with less disposable income.

For example, according to a report by the National Philanthropic Trust, the average size of a donor-advised fund in 2019 was $413,000, and the average initial contribution was $166,000.

Overall, the growth of donor-advised funds over the past decade reflects a shift in how affluent individuals and families approach charitable giving. DAFs offer a flexible, efficient, and tax-effective way to support a variety of causes over time, and their popularity is likely to continue to grow in the coming years.

Groundswell was created to ensure that average-income Americans are not left behind in this trend.

What is the difference between a DAF and a private foundation?

There are several key differences between a donor-advised fund (DAF) and a foundation:

  • Legal structure: A foundation is a separate legal entity, typically established as a nonprofit organization under state law, while a DAF is a fund held and managed by a sponsoring organization, such as a community foundation or financial institution.
  • Establishment: Establishing a foundation requires significant time, effort, and expense, including legal and accounting fees, filing paperwork with the IRS, and ongoing compliance and reporting requirements. In contrast, establishing a DAF is typically quicker and easier, with lower establishment costs.
  • Tax benefits: Both foundations and DAFs offer tax benefits for donors, including income tax deductions for contributions to the fund or foundation, as well as tax-free growth of assets held within the fund or foundation. 
  • Costs: Foundations generally have higher establishment and ongoing administrative costs, including legal and accounting fees, staff salaries, and overhead expenses, compared to DAFs, which are typically less expensive to establish and manage.

Overall, both DAFs and foundations offer donors the ability to support charitable causes and receive tax benefits for their contributions.

Historically, establishing a foundation has only made sense for the most wealthy individuals, families, and corporations due to the increased cost and compliance associated with their operation. Comparatively, donor-advised funds have offered high-income individuals and families, as well as profitable corporations, with a moderately cost-effective solution with nearly all of the same advantages as a foundation.

Groundswell ensures DAFs are no longer the enclave of the wealthy

According to a survey by U.S. Trust, 72% of high-net-worth individuals use DAFs as a key component of their overall charitable giving strategy. (Source: U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth 2018)

Over the past decade, DAFs have exploded in popularity. According to the National Philanthropic Trust’s 2020 Donor-Advised Fund Report, the total number of donor-advised funds in the United States grew by 55% between 2010 and 2019, from 204,704 to 318,000. The total amount in donor-advised funds increased by 237% over the same period, from $38.8 billion to $131.1 billion.

But here’s the rub: DAFs are primarily used by wealthy individuals and families. According to the National Philanthropic Trust’s 2020 Donor-Advised Fund Report, 60% of DAF assets are held in funds with balances of $1 million or more. Historically, the average donor in the United States is as likely to have a DAF as they are a member of their town’s exclusive country club.

Donor-advised funds have been reserved for the ultra-rich primarily because they’ve only been offered by the gated community of wealth advisors and financial institutions – average people need not apply.

Groundswell’s mission to democratize philanthropy has led it to create the world’s most modern and accessible donor-advised fund.  Whereas a donor today needs $20,000 to open a DAF at Morgan Stanley, the minimum contribution on Groundswell is $1.

Groundswell makes DAFs an employee benefit

To further Groundswell’s mission to democratize philanthropy, the company has built a Software-as-a-Service platform that enables companies to provide their employees with individual donor-advised funds. 

Groundswell’s easy-to-administer platform invites eligible employees to download the Groundswell app from the iOS or Android store.  Subsequent account creation takes less than sixty seconds.  At that point, the employee is the owner of their own tax-advantaged donor-advised fund. 

Additionally, the Groundswell administrator platform allows companies to effortlessly create custom corporate gifting and matching programs.  These programs deposit charitable dollars into employee accounts according to the program rules established by administrators.  The funds are not taxable income to the employee, and once put into the employee’s account, the employee can send the funds to charity however they wish.

Advantages of providing employees with donor-advised funds

Financial wellbeing

As inflation and wage stagnation have eaten away at household incomes, many companies and HR teams have focused on the concept of financial well-being. 

Financial well-being is a trend in HR that focuses on promoting the financial health and security of employees. This trend recognizes that financial stress can have a negative impact on employees’ job performance, physical health, and mental well-being and that employers have a role to play in helping employees manage their finances and reduce financial stress.

Financial wellbeing programs typically include a range of resources and tools to help employees improve their financial literacy, such as educational seminars, online resources, and one-on-one financial counseling. Some employers may also offer financial incentives, such as matching contributions to retirement accounts or bonuses for achieving certain financial goals.

The trend toward financial well-being in HR has been driven in part by the growing recognition that financial stress is a major source of employee anxiety and distraction. Studies have shown that financial stress can lead to absenteeism, lower productivity, and higher healthcare costs for employers. By investing in financial well-being programs, employers can help reduce financial stress among their employees, improve job satisfaction and retention, and enhance overall business performance.

Considering that in 2020 70% of American households gave to charity, it’s safe to assume that charitable giving is an important part of the financial wellness of employees’ lives. This holds true across the wage spectrum. Low-income households give a higher percentage of their income to charity than high-income households. According to a 2018 study by the Urban Institute, households with incomes below $25,000 gave an average of 7.6% of their income to charity, while households with incomes of $200,000 or more gave an average of 4.2% of their income to charity.  Perhaps obviously, despite giving a higher percentage of their income, low-income households donate smaller dollar amounts to charity. In 2020, households with incomes below $50,000 gave an average of $1,336 to charity, compared to an average of $6,082 for households with incomes of $200,000 or more (Source: Giving USA 2021).

Knowing that your employees are giving to charity creates a compelling argument to provide for them a donor-advised fund along with charitable gifts and matches that effectively subsidize their annual giving. 

Tax advantages

There are three primary tax advantages that donor-advised funds can provide to your employees: minimizing taxable income in the current year while maintaining the ability to distribute funds in future years, the ability to donate appreciated stock assets, and the simplicity of a single year-end charitable giving receipt for tax reporting. 

First, because the DAF is a qualifying tax-exempt vehicle, contributions to them are immediately tax deductible.  This means that an employee – for instance, a high-earning sales executive receiving a large commission check – can work with a tax planner to make a large contribution to her donor-advised fund, minimize her current year tax liability, and then work strategically to distribute those funds over a longer time horizon. 

Second, donor-advised funds like Groundswell unlocks the ability for employees to donate appreciated stock assets – a significant philanthropy hack utilized by wealth donors for decades. 

When you donate appreciated stock to a charity, you can claim a deduction for the full market value of the stock at the time of the donation. Moreover, by donating the stock instead of selling it and then donating the proceeds, you can avoid paying capital gains taxes on the appreciation.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you purchased 100 shares of XYZ stock for $5,000 several years ago, and the stock is now worth $10,000. If you were to sell the stock, you would realize a capital gain of $5,000, and you would owe taxes on that gain. Assuming a capital gains tax rate of 20%, you would owe $1,000 in taxes.  At the conclusion of this sale, you would only have $9,000 to donate to charity.

Instead of selling the stock, you could donate the shares to a donor-advised fund. If you do that, you can claim a charitable deduction for the full market value of the stock, which is $10,000. You can then use the funds in the donor-advised fund to make grants to charities over time. Because you donated the stock instead of selling it, you can avoid paying the $1,000 in capital gains taxes that you would have owed if you had sold the shares.

Lastly, because an employee’s donor-advised fund is a tax-exempt vehicle that centralizes all of its users’ philanthropy, the employee receives only a single tax receipt for reporting purposes at the end of the year, regardless of how many contributions were made or charities were supported.

Lower fees

Online and recurring monthly giving to charity have been growing trends in recent years. Here are some statistics to illustrate the trend:

  • Online giving continues to grow year over year, with a 10.6% increase in online donations in 2020 compared to the previous year. (Source: Giving USA 2021)
  • Recurring giving has become increasingly popular, with a 20.4% increase in the number of recurring donors in 2020. (Source: Blackbaud Institute)
  • Donors who give online tend to give more than those who give through other channels. According to a 2019 report by Classy, the average online donation amount was $93, compared to $65 for offline donations.

Younger donors are more likely to give online and to prefer recurring giving. A 2019 report by the Nonprofit Tech for Good found that 60% of Millennials prefer to give online, and 54% prefer to give monthly.

These are all positive trends.  However, with the ease of online giving comes a cost: credit card transaction fees.  Typical online donation fees are 3% plus $0.30. Oftentimes, online giving platforms ask the donor to cover these fees in order to provide the full donation amount to the charity.  That means that an employee donating $100 online is paying $3.30 to do so.  If that employee has his gift set up to occur monthly, he is going to pay nearly $40 in fees. 

Groundswell’s revolutionary platform has reduced the cost of these transactions and has passed those cost savings to users.  Groundswell’s distribution fees are 1% – offering significant annual savings to employees.

Privacy leads to inclusion

Employee donor-advised funds also offer something essential to an inclusive and equitable employee giving program: privacy

In traditional corporate donation matching programs, employees must submit evidence of their donation to an administrator, often in human resources. For decades this arrangement was never questioned. How else would a company know where to send the match? However, in an increasingly polarized world and workplace, employees are increasingly hesitant to disclose what charitable organizations they support for fear of ridicule, or worse, retribution. 

For the first time ever, donor-advised funds offer an alternative. Because the DAF is a charitable account, with the funds contributed to it only eligible to be sent to charity, employees can contribute to their DAF and request that their match be made directly into their account. Since the employee has received their match prior to sending the money to the causes they care about, they can distribute the funds how, where, and when they like with complete privacy.

In this manner, Groundswell’s platform has completely reimagined what corporate matching looks like. The result is a more private, inclusive, and equitable program – all made possible by donor-advised funds. 

A true benefit that stays with the employee

Because the DAF is an individual account registered in the employee’s name – like a 401k plan or health savings account (HSA) – the employee is able to take their account with them if they were to leave the company. 

This makes leveraging a DAF for employee giving the first step toward truly making philanthropy an employee benefit. Previous models of employee matching were nothing more than process automation tools. But providing a portable DAF is giving an employee something of lifetime financial value. 

What do companies gain by leveraging donor-advised funds

Reduced risk

Within traditional matching programs, a company receives a request from an employee to send a donation match to a charity they’ve supported. The company, upon confirming the details of the charity, sends payment directly to the charity from the company’s account.  This action thereby directly associates the company with the charity – a potentially risky association in a hyper-polarized world. 

However, leveraging employee DAFs provides companies with an alternative. By structuring a corporate matching program through employee DAFs, companies can eliminate their association with recipient charities.  Because the company’s funds are only ever going to the DAF’s fiscal sponsor – in Groundswell’s case this would be the Groundswell Charitable Foundation – there is no financial link between the company and the charity. The charity receives disbursements from the Groundswell Charitable Foundation, at the recommendation of the employee (whose employment status or employer is not disclosed).  

The result is a matching program that is optimized for inclusion, not exclusion.

Reduced risk leads to increased inclusion

Not surprisingly, many companies have been fearful of directly associating with specific charities and have thus resorted to various forms of restricting the range of nonprofits eligible for corporate matches. This restriction has basically taken two forms.  

The first form happens when a company creates a list of charities it has proactively screened and approved.  These lists tend to have between five and 25 charities listed, with most of them national in scope. The problem with this list is that for most people, philanthropy is deeply personal and often local, and it’s unlikely that a large, national organization fulfills its philanthropic aims. 

The second form happens when companies attempt to place specific charities or issue areas on a “deny list” that excludes them from eligibility. Not surprisingly, this approach is a slippery slope. Each nonprofit or issue area that is restricted effectively amounts to a statement by the company that the issue at hand is not worthy of support – a statement that can be marginalizing for employees who want to support that nonprofit. 

One segment of eligible charities that are often excluded is religion. This is unfortunate for employees because giving to houses of worship accounted for $131 billion of the $324 billion in individual giving in 2020. According to a 2016 study by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, 70% of low-income households gave to religious organizations, compared to 48% of high-income households.  While choosing not to directly support a religion may seem like a logical thing for a corporation to do, it fails to acknowledge that for many employees their house of worship is also their source of other social support, such as counseling, food security, or education. 

Groundswell believes that inclusion begins with inclusion – specifically, companies should strive to match contributions to any eligible 501c3 that is not a documented hate group. Our matching solution – which uses donor-advised funds as an intermediary – provides companies with the opportunity to do so. 

Reduced administrative burden

Like individuals, companies can also utilize donor-advised funds for their philanthropic giving. Due to their minimal legal, compliance, and administrative requirements, DAFs are often the most logical and cost-effective solution for companies looking to create a charitable vehicle for their corporate social responsibility. 

As part of its platform, Groundswell offers companies a corporate DAF at no extra cost. This corporate giving account is fully tax-advantaged and has the ability to create corporate grants that are sent directly to charity.

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.

Is Your Company Ready To Handle the Next Hot-Button Issue? How To Stay Two Steps Ahead

Crickets. That’s the sound coming from many companies over today’s most pressing hot-button issues. Yet there is an increasingly blurred line between business and politics, leaving business leaders wondering how they should weigh in. These issues are both plentiful and polarizing. It would be easy, if not forgivable, to remain silent from a business standpoint. However, it’s not so simple. The public supports and even expects companies to speak out. 

In recent years as the political landscape becomes even more divisive that expectation continues to grow. In a Forbes poll, 75% think that companies should be leaders and change makers. And why not? Thanks to employees, stakeholders and the communities they are privileged to serve, companies have the bully pulpit and the resources needed to make a difference. Moreover, recent polls indicate that people trust businesses more than the government

Leaders must ask themselves what role their companies should play in the evolving political environment. But before they decide how to engage, they must consider both the risks and the challenges. 

Current Landscape of Hot-Button Issues

It’s not just about the things that any good corporate citizen ought to do, like be a responsible steward  of the earth’s precious resources. It’s about values that cut to the core of every American. Issues like voting rights, vaccine mandates, Roe v. Wade and gun control. There are new issues arising monthly.

Impact on Business

Make no mistake: Taking a stand can have both good consequences and bad. For some companies, it may mean an increase in sales or a boost to their reputation. When Uber and Lyft offered to pay the legal fees for drivers sued under Texas law for driving pregnant people to abortion clinics, they saw an uptick in their stock. However, there was also a negative backlash. Purportedly, the company doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to supporting its drivers in other regards.  

Yes, taking a stand opens the company up to scrutiny. But it also helps keep leadership accountable and make them even more determined to ensure that their actions match their words, a good all-around strategy for every sustainable business. 

New Issue, New Strategy

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for hot-button issues. Most require case-by-case analysis. You may not want to issue a public statement at all, but that’s not the only option. 

Before you do anything, you’ll need to assess the potential impact on your business. It always pays to know your customers — not just the products and services they will buy but what they believe and value. What are they saying on social media? The same is true for stakeholders and employees, including the company’s affinity groups. What do they want you to do? 

Acknowledge and respect differing viewpoints while ensuring that the decision-making process is transparent. Of course, everyone will not agree but it’s important that the process is fair and that once the decision has been made, you are clear and unapologetic about how the decision aligns with company values. Follow through on your promises and be consistent.

L’oreal Paris learned the hard way how important it is to practice what you preach. After posting in support of Black Lives Matter, the fashion company was lambasted for dismissing one of their models  who had previously taken a public stance against racism and white supremacy. 

How To Be Proactive Against Hot-Button Issues: 3 Preparation Steps

In addition to making deliberate decisions, here are three concrete steps your company can take to ensure that they are prepared for the next hot-button issue.

1. Establish Safety Nets

Safety nets are resources that are set aside to protect employees and other stakeholders of the company against inequities and provide fair treatment across the board. They provide tangible benefits to all employees and to the community. A safety net allows the company to help without necessarily taking a public political stand. 

Despite their own business woes, consider the many companies that stepped up to the plate during the pandemic to provide, for example, support to first responders and vulnerable populations, or that adapted their supply chains to provide personal protective equipment. When companies establish a track record of pitching in during times of greatest need, they build the type of social currency that generates public trust.

A safety net could be considered the company’s own economic relief fund. There are no hard and fast rules about how it should operate. However, safety net funds could support:

  • Travel for health care that is not offered locally
  • Consistent levels of accessibility in all of the company’s offices, whether or not it is mandated by law
  • Volunteer activities in the community
  • Extended employee benefits like remote work, flex time, etc
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Trauma treatment across all of the various communities and identities
  • Temporary shelters for weather-related and other emergencies
  • Nonpartisan resources that support elections

2. Operationalize Your DEI Strategy

Hot-button issues present an opportunity to lean into the company’s core values and support them through your DEI strategy. To do so, however, the strategy must be operationalized. Until you formulate and actualize a plan, it’s just a mental exercise. Operationalization means making DEI part of your business and operating model. You will be most successful in your support of the underserved communities you’ve identified if your strategy establishes the following:

  • In-House DEI Team: Even if you solicit outside help to facilitate your DEI strategy, you still need an in-house team. Your in-house team plays a critical role in analyzing hot-button issues and making recommendations for a thoughtful and inclusive response.
  • Diversity Training: Training is key, and not just a once-and-done workshop. Rather, you’ll need an ongoing approach to ensure that your guidelines are put into practice and everyone understands what’s expected of them. Through regular training, you signal to the organization that diversity, equity and inclusion are important values that you take seriously and that these values extend beyond the doors of your organization. 
  • Affinity Groups: Your affinity groups provide the staffing and energy to take on issues. They play a key role in two-way communication that helps to bolster curiosity and empathy among the larger community. They will want to have a voice in the company’s response to these issues.

3. Fortify Your Corporate Giving Program

When hot-button issues arise, companies that have established corporate giving programs can respond internally, even without making a grand public gesture. The best programs are those that are flexible, easy to set up and require minimal administrative time. Corporate giving programs not only empower employees, they build engagement and morale, and encourage individuals to express themselves in meaningful ways. 

The Groundswell platform allows employees to pre-load charitable donations in a giving account for when and where they want to use them. There are a number of ways for employees to participate, including selecting from various volunteer opportunities or supporting a cause that the company champions. Employees are able to express their values to support something they believe in and they may be eligible, as well, to receive matching donations or use paid time off that the company provides. 

Groundswell makes it easy, allowing companies to offer giving as an employee benefit. Further, the Groundswell platform removes the hassle. There’s little administration, paperwork or reporting so that your company can easily shift gears for the next hot-button issue. Employees appreciate the opportunity to help the causes they care about year-round, as well as to be part of larger-scale, more impactful giving efforts.

Stay Ahead and Be Proactive

Hot-button issues can be tricky to navigate. But they don’t have to create internal headaches. They can, in fact, be opportunities to lean into the values that make your company unique, attract and retain diverse talent and drive innovation. You just need a good plan.   

The Science of Giving: Why Do People Donate to Charity?

It’s easy enough to give away that old sofa stashed in the corner of your garage. But why do people donate to charity? What causes you, or anyone else, to send a $100 check to a foundation or spend an evening tutoring underserved youth? 

We have dozens of sayings about giving. Do good and good things will happen to you. To whom much is given, much is expected. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. There’s more, but the point is that giving is a part of the human experience. Without a doubt, for many people, it seems the right thing to do. People give because it feels good to do so. 

Americans are a particularly generous lot. In fact, 60% of us give money, 72% help strangers and 42% volunteer, often just because we are asked. And during the pandemic? Americans became even more generous. In 2020 and 2021, donations were higher than they were in 2019. The average donation per person was $574 in 2021.

What’s more, there are undeniable psychological and scientific benefits that make donating important to the human spirit and will keep people giving generously into the foreseeable future. 

The Science of Giving: What Happens in the Brain

For Americans, there are plenty of opportunities to spend money which, researchers admit, provide a dopamine hit. So it can be tempting to think that we’re just a purchase away from nirvana. But the accumulation of things is not the type of spending that makes a difference in our lives or the lives of others. We get more bang for the buck, so to speak, when we give to others. That’s because giving has a positive impact on the brain. It makes sense that our brains would reward us for helping to preserve society, releasing the same types of feel-good chemicals as during exercise. It is one of the evolutionary traits that has helped us build prosperous civilizations. 

In fact, in 2006, Jorge Moll and Jordan Grafman, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health, were able to measure the neural activity of giving, thus proving what we intuitively knew already. Subjects were allocated money that they could either keep for themselves or donate to selected charities. By tracking the impact on the pleasure centers of the brain, researchers discovered that the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the subgenual area lit up when subjects donated the money. These are the same parts of the brain that light up when presented with a delicious meal or when talking about a romantic partner.

Why Do People Donate to Charity?

For years, there has been a philosophical discussion about whether or not charitable giving is altruistic. Do people give their money and donate their time just for the purpose of doing good, expecting nothing in return? Psychologists and philosophers argue that because charitable acts lead to feelings of happiness and satisfaction, true altruism does not exist.

But many people consider this argument flawed. When it comes to human behavior, there are many shades of gray. If a benefactor feels happier following an act of kindness, that doesn’t mean that the motivation is self-serving. 


Altruism is a hallmark of cooperation. Cooperation underpins our society and is, in part, what separates humans from animals. Why do people donate? Because it feels good. Our society is built on the values of empathy, compassion and solidarity, among others. People give because doing so fosters a sense of belonging and generates meaning and purpose in their lives. 

There are other good outcomes, as well.

Giving May Help Depression

It’s pretty obvious that giving makes people happier. Michael Norton, professor of psychology at Harvard and co-author of the book, “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending,” agrees. “When we tell people ‘Hey, did you know that giving to other people can make you happy?’ Most people are not blown away. They’ve had experiences that make them happy. They understand the concept, but it doesn’t occur to us that often to give instead of getting stuff for ourselves.”

If you’re assuming that depression is not a major factor in your company, don’t be so sure. According to a July 2021 survey by SilverCloud Health, approximately two-thirds of U.S. workers suffer from clinical levels of depression or anxiety. Depression may mean that employees exhibit a high rate of absenteeism and fall short in key areas of performance, including decision-making, focus and communications. When an employee is depressed, it can have a devastating effect on the workplace. 

Depression is generally accompanied by a decline in how an individual views themselves. It may seem intuitive for those suffering from depression to attempt to bolster their self-image by focusing on, for example, getting others to notice their positive qualities. But researchers found that goals centered around self-image will likely make matters worse. 

Alternatively, they found that the pursuit of compassionate goals, that is, helping others, seems to alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve personal relationships. Perhaps that’s because helping others puts one’s own life into perspective and generates a more optimistic outlook. 

Giving Increases Longevity

Charitable volunteering could even increase your lifespan. A classic study published in the Journal of Health Psychology concluded that elderly volunteers had a 44% lower mortality rate within the next five years after controlling for health habits, social support and other factors. 

According to researchers, prosocial spending or spending money on other people (which includes charitable donations) can even lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, both risk factors for a number of health conditions. 

The Charitable Brain and Your Corporate Giving Programs

According to Michael Norton, automatic withdrawals may not be enough to engage your employees. “(Automatic withdrawals are) not going to have as big an impact on my life as if I’m thinking about who I’m giving to and why I’m giving to them and the impact that I’m having.” 

When you understand how and why charitable giving makes people happy, you can leverage this information to make your corporate giving program one that will not only engage and delight your employees but accrue benefits to the company and to the broader society as well. The best programs align with corporate values and help employees establish habits that facilitate giving in a memorable and meaningful way. 

Certainly, it makes sense for companies to implement programs that are easy to administer. But they must also ensure that employees are involved in selecting charities, auditing themselves, managing their giving targeting, tracking the good deeds of the non-profits and maybe even volunteering. 

With a properly executed corporate giving program, companies can realize the many benefits that such a plan has to offer to its employees and to the communities it serves. At Groundswell, we can help you give your corporate giving program a whole new look and feel and make it a pillar of your compensation system. Contact us for more information.

The Future of HR Leadership — Transforming Companies From the Inside

HR professionals are central to all employee-centered needs of a business. They are responsible for employee recruitment, training, engagement and management. They help ensure that all employees understand and follow company policies, potentially saving the business from landing in legal hot water. HR is the one department that touches every employee in multiple ways across their entire relationship with their employer — from the first face they meet in hiring interviews through conflict resolution, professional development and accessing their benefits, up to planning their exit and retirement from the company. 

When you consider all the responsibilities of the HR department, it’s hard to believe it could become even more central, but that’s the likely future of HR. In a world where the entire corporate structure — indeed, the very concept of what a corporation is and does — is rapidly evolving, the human resources department is taking on an increasingly central role in business management, and that’s likely to continue.

Before looking at the future of HR and what it holds for HR professionals, employers, employees and the corporate world as a whole, it’s important to take a look back at the origins of the modern human resources department.

The Evolution of the HR Department

Not that long ago, the idea of a department devoted solely to addressing the needs of employees was a foreign one. Until the late 19th to early 20th centuries, employees were seen as largely expendable. Employee management consisted mostly of payroll management. With few laws protecting workers, there was little reason to employ anyone other than bookkeepers to ensure that workers were paid as promised.

That all began to change with the Industrial Revolution, as leaders of the industry began to realize the importance of a healthy, happy workforce to business success. Robert Owen, a Scottish textile manufacturer, and Charles Babbage, a mechanical engineer, are generally credited with being the fathers of human resources by connecting worker treatment with worker productivity. 

Early Days: Employee Relations and Safety

Babbage and Owen’s theories coincided with a growing labor movement that demanded better, safer working conditions, often through costly — and sometimes violent — labor stoppages. The first personnel department — a precursor to the HR department — was created in reaction to a series of strikes and quality control issues at the National Cash Register Company. In 1901, owner John Henry Patterson concluded that “Enthusiasm is the biggest asset in business… Therefore, we have solved the labor problem…if we can infuse enthusiasm into all the various kinds of people who go to make up a working force. It is a give-and-take proposition of mutual benefit and mutual responsibility.” 

Following his conclusion, he set up a department to deal exclusively with employee relations. In addition to handling payroll, the new personnel department also handled employee complaints and disputes, maintained employee records and managed an impressive list of benefits designed to keep its employees content. 

While Patterson was a pioneer, other industry leaders were also learning the benefits of providing incentives for their workers: employee loyalty, reduced retention and training costs, higher morale and increased productivity. 

Mid-Century: Rules Compliance

In the 1930s, labor unions achieved a series of legislative victories that culminated in the creation of the National Labor Relations Board, which forced a shift in the focus of the personnel department to ensure that companies complied with new laws and regulations.

Where the early incarnations of HR management had focused on managing employee relations and benefits, the focus on rules compliance fundamentally changed the structure and role of the HR department. While the department was still responsible for the functions of personnel management, they now also had to contend with a growing raft of regulations encompassing worker safety, equal pay and discrimination in hiring, firing and disciplining workers. By the 1970s, the personnel department had evolved into the typical HR department, concerned with hiring, firing, training, disciplinary measures and benefits management. 

Late Century Evolution: HR as the Bad Guy

In the 1980s, the growing use of the office computer and the arrival of the HR information system (HRIS) revolutionized the HR department yet again. The new technology freed up hours of HR time by making personnel records easily and quickly accessible. By freeing HR professionals from the time-consuming task of keeping paper records, HRIS had the potential to empower the department to renew its focus on recruitment, training, retention and planning. Unfortunately, the 1980s also ushered in the era of downsizing, with many companies gutting their HR departments, and others pushing them into being the “bad guy,” delivering the news of layoffs and cost-cutting measures. Between their roles in compliance enforcement and discipline, HR acquired a reputation as the department with no sense of humor. 

HR Today: A Transformative Evolution

As companies outsourced many of the traditional HR functions to payroll and benefits management companies, business pundits began predicting the death of HR as a profession — but they were premature. Instead, the combination of better technology and changing attitudes toward workforce management have again turned HR toward its original principles — improving relations between management and the workforce. The adoption of HR platforms that allow employees to access and manage their own benefits has freed the HR department from its most tedious traditional tasks and returned the focus to attracting, training and retaining talent. 

The Future of HR: An Active Partner in Corporate Leadership

In the process, the corporate C-suite has begun to recognize the creativity and people skills of HR professionals. Over the past decade, the HR department has been moving out of its role as a buffer between management and labor and coming into its own as an active partner in planning and implementing future plans and policies. The upheaval of the pandemic accelerated the transformation by highlighting the vital role of HR in helping ease the sudden transition from office work to remote work. As companies continue to evolve and adjust to changes on the ground, executives will increasingly turn to HR professionals for their expertise and knowledge in the field of personnel management, recruitment and retention.

Today’s corporate culture is recognizing that employees are at the center of their company’s success. In order to remain competitive, they need to evolve to meet the needs and expectations of their employees. No one knows how to do this better than the HR department, which puts HR professionals in the perfect position to actively collaborate and lead corporate teams in redefining company purposes, goals and future strategies. After all, HR management is about empowering people to be the best they can be. It’s not a stretch to apply the same principles to inspiring entire companies to rise to the same level.

How Groundswell Supports Your HR Team

Groundswell recognizes the work, talent and creativity that goes into HR in the modern workplace. Our platform gives your HR department tools that take the time-consuming work out of administering your corporate giving program while providing a seamless way for each of your employees to support the causes that mean the most to them. 

Contact us to learn more about how Groundswell can support your company in attracting, incentivizing and retaining top talent by providing them with the means to do more good.

How To Become a Philanthropist: 7 Steps To Change the World

If you’re wondering how to become a philanthropist, it’s easier than you think. Anyone can do it and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for the wealthy. Make no mistake about it: Humans are social creatures. We love to help one another. That’s why philanthropy is so popular. It’s a feel-good activity that improves our world. And the benefits far outweigh the costs. 

Before you start contributing to worthy causes, however, it helps to understand the options available to you. You’ll want to make good decisions so that you maximize the impact you want to make in the world. No worries, either, about how much — or how little — money you have. All you need is a vision and a plan.

What Is Philanthropy?

A philanthropist is an entity, either a person or a corporation, that provides time, money, or resources — and perhaps all three — to people or nonprofits in need of assistance. The overarching goal is to make lives better for others (or the world we inhabit). Philanthropy is often associated with large sums of money and wealthy people. But, as mentioned, philanthropists can be any person or entity. Even a tiny business can be philanthropic.

Some philanthropists rise to rockstar status and are known for their generosity. For example, Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates and Oprah Winfrey are just a few among the mega-rich who have given large sums and had an impact on important social and environmental issues. But you don’t have to be a millionaire, and indeed – many nonprofits are supported by hundreds of thousands of people who give modestly. Even a relatively small donation – alongside hundreds of others who also are giving a small amount – can add up to hugely impactful levels of support for nonprofits working to support communities in need.

What Philanthropy Looks Like

Philanthropy can take a number of forms. These include, for example:

Money: Donations may be one time only or on a regular basis. Philanthropists may also bequest money after death or establish a trust.

Time: Those who don’t have money to donate or prefer to contribute in other ways can donate time and labor. Examples include volunteering at a homeless shelter or tutoring students after school. As with monetary donations, these can be one-time, yearly or more frequent contributions. Many small, community-based nonprofits are dependent upon the generosity of their volunteers’ time to extend the impact of their mission.

Resources: These donations, known often as “in-kind,” include furniture, vehicles, food, clothing, toys, computers, etc. 

Benefits of Changing the World With Philanthropy

It may seem to be a cliche, but the benefits of philanthropy are immeasurable for those donating time, money or other resources:

  • Lends perspective: Philanthropy heightens your sense of connectivity to the world and the things that really matter.
  • Better health: Your mental health and physical wellbeing both improve when you give back.
  • Lower stress levels: Volunteering has been proven to lower stress and enhance feelings of well-being by releasing dopamine.
  • Tax reductions: Donations may be written off on personal taxes.
  • Social interaction: Volunteering can offer opportunities to network and meet others who are committed to similar causes, and connections can be formed among a group of donors providing financial support.
  • Improved skill set: As a volunteer or a donor who has researched the causes that nonprofits are working on, you will learn new skills, both hard and soft, and improve your leadership acumen.

How To Become a Philanthropist

As with any good strategy, you’ll need a road map to get to your final destination. Follow these seven steps to become a philanthropist:

1. Clarify Your Goals

Before you decide where to put your time and effort, you’ll need to understand what’s most important to you. What do you value? Where can you make a difference? What would feel good to do? Include your personal or professional goals such as expanding your network. Whether it’s working for climate change or helping your community’s underserved population get the resources they lack, make sure that you feel passionate about the issue.

2. Determine Your Commitment

Before you decide what to do, you need to determine how to do it. Do you want to give money or time? If it’s money, what can you afford? If you plan to volunteer, how much time do you have? When can you volunteer? 

3. Choose Your Organization

Once you know the type of commitment you can make, research and vet organizations. Do they align with your mission and values? Where do they work? If you know you want to focus on homelessness in your community, determine if the organization is serving the homeless population in your city. Most organizations share information about their programs, their leadership and how they use their charitable donations. If you have questions, ask. The organization should be transparent and credible. 

4. Check With Your Company 

Before you completely nail down a target nonprofit, check out the support your company may offer – whether that be a match or volunteer opportunities. 

5. Establish a Plan

Based on the causes you care about, the resources you want to commit to and the organizations you want to support, determine your giving cadence. For many, setting up recurring, monthly donations means you can ‘set it and forget it.’ But you might also want to consider setting aside some funds for donating during an emergency – whether it’s a hurricane on the Gulf Coast, the war in Ukraine, or a social justice issue. 

6. Stay Engaged and Curious

Find your community, and learn about other organizations that are doing important work in support of the causes you care about. You might find that in order to tackle an issue that you’re passionate about, multiple organizations are needed to make change. You can create social connections in-person or online to discover more organizations. 

7. Trumpet the Cause

Now that you’re a practicing philanthropist, tell others about the organizations you support and why. They may be inspired to help or to find a cause of their own.

Have Fun With It!

Philanthropy is something anyone can do. Whether you donate time or money, it offers great benefits and improves the lives of others. Find the organization or cause you want to support and go for it. It’s a fun and easy way to give back to the community and expand your horizons.

If you would like to know more about a corporate giving program, contact Groundswell. We can help turn philanthropic giving into an essential employee benefit.

Determining Your Corporate Donation Budget: How Much Should You Donate To Charity?

When a company donates to charitable causes, they benefit in several different ways beyond doing good for the community. Charitable donations pay off in goodwill and reputation, deeper community connections, better customer relations and increased employee engagement and retention. That’s in addition to any tax benefits your business might accrue through charitable donations. But how do you determine how much you should donate to charity? Let’s walk through the benefits and calculations that can help you make that decision for your company.

5 Benefits of Corporate Philanthropy

When you understand the varied ways that giving back to the community can benefit your business, it gets a whole lot easier to assign a value to it. This isn’t an exhaustive list of the pros, but it can be helpful framing when you’re deciding how much to budget for charitable donations.

1. Giving Back to the Community Improves Your Company’s Reputation

Today more than ever, customers want to do business with companies that put giving back at the core of their business operation. In fact, 85% of consumers say they have a more positive view of businesses that support causes they care about.

2. A Strong Employee Giving Program Increases Employee Engagement and Cohesiveness

Donation matching and other corporate giving programs are valuable benefits. In a recent survey, nearly half the companies who responded said that their corporate giving program helped increase employee engagement.

3. Offering a Corporate Giving Program Helps Attract and Retain Top Talent

In the same survey, nearly 60% said that their giving program is important in attracting and retaining top talent. In addition, corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs help develop strong leadership skills in your employees. 

4. Giving Back to the Community Deepens and Broadens Community Connections

When your company and employees support local charities and causes, you increase your opportunities for networking in the community. Companies that follow the lead of their employees in choosing causes are more likely to engage with important organizations within the community.

5. Companies With an Authentic CSR Policy and Giving Program Build a Loyal Customer Base

Your company’s commitment to making a difference matters to your customers, especially millennials, Gen X and Gen Z. Today’s consumers expect businesses to be good corporate citizens — and they vote with their wallets. They also vote with their social media accounts — 82% of millennials interact with their favorite brands online, and will publicly support companies they admire.

How Much Should I Donate to Charity as a Corporation?

The key factor in deciding how much your company should donate to charity is your balance sheet — in other words, the amount you budget for philanthropy should be what you can afford to give without affecting the cash flow you need to do business. That said, there are some industry standards and best practices.  

Many large corporations — and smaller businesses — earmark 1% of their pre-tax profit for charitable giving. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Some companies give considerably more. Whole Foods, for example, donates 5% of its after-tax profit to charity each year, and small businesses — those with fewer than 100 employees — contribute an average of 6% of their pre-tax profits to charity. 

Some small retail or service businesses choose to donate a percentage of each sale rather than calculate an annualized figure. A local brewery, for example, might funnel all profits from the sale of a particular brew into its corporate giving account. A realtor might designate a percentage of each completed sale as a donation to their corporate giving fund. 

Using a percentage of your profit as a giving guideline makes it easier to scale your donations as your business grows, but it can make it difficult to budget for the year ahead. Author Curt Weeden, one of the most influential voices in the area of social philanthropy, proposed a simple formula to help businesses set their corporate philanthropy budget, which he calls the Sabsevitz Ante-Up Formula: Multiply last year’s pre-tax net income by 1.2%.

Once you’ve established a target amount for your giving, you should do three things to increase the impact of your donation:

  1. Make it part of your operating budget.
  2. Keep your employees informed and engaged with frequent updates.
  3. Make your corporate giving philosophy part of your marketing and outreach strategy.

Choosing a Charity for Your Donations

There are two main ways to choose which causes and charities your company will support. 

  • Top-down decision where your board or leadership team identifies one or more causes the company will support with donations, matching donations and other forms of corporate giving.
  • Inclusive decision making where employees choose and/or recommend the causes and charities that matter the most to them.

More and more businesses are opting for more inclusive ways of determining the causes their company will support. There are a number of benefits to this approach.

  • Employees who participate in decision-making are more engaged and more likely to feel like they’re valued and making a difference. Engaged employees are good for your business.
  • Your employees live in the community, which gives them unique insights into the organizations and people who do good work in the areas that matter to them. Employee decision-making is good for the community.
  • The more involved people are in choosing where to direct donations, the more invested they are in the program. This results in more donations to charities, which is good for the nonprofits involved.

Ways Your Company Can Donate to Charity

There are many ways your company can give back to the community, including several different models for making monetary donations. Some of the most common include:

Volunteering for a Cause

Serving dinner at a soup kitchen, building playgrounds for schools or helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity all help build team spirit and cooperation. While many companies volunteer as a team, some businesses choose a different way to encourage volunteerism — they use volunteer hours as a metric to determine the amount of money to add to their corporate giving account. 

Sponsor Local Events

From softball teams to parades and awards dinners, there are always opportunities for your business to sponsor local events and activities. The payoff is goodwill and name recognition for your business.

Set Up a Donation Match Program

Donation match programs allow your employees to double their donation to causes that matter to them. 

Donate With Groundswell

Groundswell makes it easy for your employees to support the causes they care about by removing friction from the donation matching model. Learn more about our philanthropy-as-a-service model and find out how your company can provide your employees with a cutting-edge benefit that will add value to your business, their lives and the community. Get in touch with us to get started. 

Why Are Employee Benefits So Important? Here’s What You Should Know

No one disputes the importance of employee benefits. Employee benefits matter because they demonstrate how much the company cares about and appreciates its employees. Benefits support an employee’s health and well-being, their loved ones and even their financial literacy. 

Although health care benefits top the list of the most desired, there are other perks that companies can offer that employees really want. Why are employee benefits important? They increasingly reflect changing employee priorities and the things that are most important in their lives. 

According to Deloitte, salary is less important to Gen Z than to other generations. However, researchers found that just 20% of Gen Z would work for a company that did not share their values. That may be a tall order for many companies. But it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Benefits That Actually Matter

Gen Z and millennials are looking for companies that go beyond the absolute minimum. That doesn’t mean beer-and-pizza Fridays, however. So what does it mean? For companies that want to attract the best and brightest, it means you may need to look at benefits through an entirely different lens.

Companies aren’t limited to a small selection of benefits. In addition to the ubiquitous health insurance, there are several categories of perks that will enhance your benefits package. Most of all, it’s about making responsible choices that keep in mind the communities you serve. 

5 Advantages of a Great Employee Benefits Package

But first, what are the advantages of a great employee benefits package? We know that benefits matter to employees. Benefits flow to the company as well. For example, you will be better positioned to:

1. Attract and Retain Top Talent

When you value your employees, it shows in how you treat them. It’s not simply about the number of benefits, but the values that these benefits reflect. 

2. Support Holistic Wellness

Employees that are mentally, physically and financially sound are better able to perform at top levels. They bring their whole selves to work each day.

3. Increase Productivity

When employees are treated well, they want to be more productive in their roles. They find ways to do more with less and they put in more time during the day.

4. Boost Engagement and Morale

Of course, employees want to be paid a fair wage. But they also want recognition and appreciation. A good benefits package signals that they are respected and that what matters to them matters to the company.

5. Improve Your Image

Good corporate citizenry along with happy employees is a combination that is unbeatable when it comes to building brand equity. Further, research says that when you treat people well, it’s reflected in how they treat customers.

Different Types of Employee Benefits

When you want to enhance your benefits package, there are many options. The benefits described below are not mandatory. Some, however, are considered standard and without them it would be difficult to attract the best employees. 

Here are some of the most popular categories of benefits:

Health Care

In addition to routine medical care, health care benefits may also include dental, vision and hospitalization. Many companies offer accounts that allow employees to put aside money for health care expenses that are not covered elsewhere. These include flexible spending accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA) and health reimbursement accounts (HSA). The main differences between them are who contributes — employees, employers or both — and whether or not the funds roll over from year to year. 


A subset of health care, wellness benefits include everything from on-site workout facilities and yoga classes to gym memberships and smoking cessation clinics. In addition, there are paid fitness apps and other wellness tools available online. 


Work-life is a broad category that may overlap with some of the other groupings listed here. This benefit includes the types of perks that make it easier for working people to take paid time off to enjoy sufficient rest or tend to personal responsibilities. They include such things as vacation days, maternity and paternity leave, time off for caregiver responsibilities and, in more recent years, flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities. 

Paid Sick Leave

While there isn’t a sick leave policy for short-term illnesses on a federal level, some states — California and New York are two — mandate paid leave for employees. Employees who lack sick leave are more likely to go to work, a major factor in the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, according to public health officials. 

Another benefit that has become increasingly popular are “mental health days.” This may be included as part of sick days or may be separate. 

Financial Wellness

According to a recent study, employees spend 25% of their workweek dealing with financial issues. These types of benefits have also experienced a surge in popularity. Bank of America reported that in 2021, 46% of employers included some form of financial wellness benefit in their employee offerings. The types of programs are wide and varied and may include retirement planning, insurance, investing, financial literacy, budgeting and tax planning. 

Retirement Plans

For most Gen Zers and millennials, the defined benefit retirement plan does not exist. Of course, employers don’t have to be involved. But when employees don’t plan properly it contributes significantly to stress levels. Employers can help with 401K plans even if they don’t offer matching contributions. In addition to the aforementioned, there are planning tools, workshops and education. They can also support retirement transitions, for example, with flexible scheduling or reduced hours. 

Professional Development

Well-trained employees are able to contribute to the company in significant ways. In addition to learning new skills, they are versed in recent trends and emerging opportunities in the industry. 

Training is easier than ever before with the latest publications and options for online learning and podcasts right at your fingertips. Employers can offer tuition reimbursement, company-sponsored workshops and classes, and time off to pursue continuing education classes at a university or trade school.

Commuter Stipends

Companies who care about the environment may offer an incentive to employees to take public transportation, carpool, ride bikes or walk to work. This incentive can reduce the cost of a bus ticket or provide a little extra padding in the budget each month. 

Charitable Giving and Volunteerism

This is a benefit that appeals directly to employees who are looking for companies that are good corporate citizens. The benefits include, for example, matching all or a portion of charitable donations and providing time off for volunteering. Some companies sponsor a school, a local nonprofit or other charitable organization and may offer employees the opportunity to volunteer — or even manage a project — with pay.

Offer Benefits That Engage and Retain

Companies are becoming increasingly creative in the benefits they offer. The above list is not all-inclusive. However, these benefits are among the top contenders when it comes to engaging and retaining your workforce

Why consider a charitable giving program? It allows you to be a good corporate citizen while at the same time giving employees something that’s important to them. Not everyone is interested in yoga classes or budgeting apps. But most employees have a favorite charity and the desire to do their part. 

If you’re interested in a charitable giving program as part of your benefits package, contact Groundswell today. Benefits don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Employees appreciate companies that value the things that are most important to them.

The Great Resignation Vs. The Great Reshuffle

Groundswell CEO Jake Wood hosted a LinkedIn Audio conversation with The Muse founder Kathryn Minshew talking about the latest in The Great Resignation. The Muse is a market-leading online job portal that compiles detailed profiles of companies looking for top talent. With over 68 million people who use the site every single month, it has long been the go-to location for talent seeking a meaningful relationship with their employers. Below you’ll find a transcript of their conversation.

Hi Kathryn, it is so nice to have you here. Can you tell us more about The Muse?

 Thank you Jake, very excited with our discussion. Well, I have been kind of at the intersection of values based work, changing generational trends. And I just ask these questions, do you find work you love as a business? How do you attract people who are actually going to be happy in the jobs and the culture that you have? I’ve been in this space for a little over 10 years, which is just wild. I feel like it’s been a fascinating last couple of years.

At The Muse we are aiming to help individuals find a career that matches their unique preferences, values and priorities.

We have 68 million people who use the site every single month, a lot of Gen Z and Millennial candidates in particular, but we’re not limited by age. So people are searching for jobs based on certain benefits, like paid parental leave or tuition reimbursement. They can also look for jobs and companies that have a female founder, veteran founded, black founded— a lot of different leadership attributes. We’re constantly asking individuals, what are they looking for? We have hundreds of companies we work with, from Apple, to Goldman Sachs to Enterprise rent-a-car, and a bunch of small businesses as well. We are also asking these companies what are they offering? What do they think that they need to do to attract employees? It’s a marketplace, and I just love this space. I love seeing it evolve, particularly in the last six to eight months, as we’ve been dealing with The Great Resignation.

Everyone is talking about The Great Resignation, and some people have no idea what that means. On the most fundamental level, people are expressing their dissatisfaction with their jobs. Many people are quitting their employment and not returning to the labor force. I believe there is a lot lurking beneath the surface. And you’re starting to see some of this come to light, as well as how certain leaders are beginning to reframe it. Some refer to it as The Great Migration, while others refer to it as The Great Reshuffle. What is going on, in your opinion?

Well, I prefer the term, The Great Reshuffle or The Great Rethink, because it’s not just that people are quitting, but people are re-evaluating their priorities. They are using this opportunity to make career moves, some for better salary, some for a career that treats them better, or a job that is more aligned with their values, purpose, and mission. To put it in context, you mentioned the scope of the changes, and I think that it’s just helpful to note the number of people quitting is higher than we have ever seen since this data has been recorded.

There were millions of people in November who quit, and there were more job openings than at any point in history.

So it’s really interesting that we’re seeing workers have more power. I have to say that this trend has been going on for a long time, even from the early days of The Muse back in 2019 and early 2020. Right before the pandemic, I saw that. The internet just makes it a lot easier to understand what else is out there. It does that in opinions in the media, in every field, but it definitely does that in careers where people have unprecedented access to all the other jobs that they might be able to get, all the other companies that they could be working for. Candidates are getting more choosy in where they work.

Do you mean that this has been going on for a long time, even before COVID? Is it a slow-boiling trend exacerbated by COVID, but it will still be the eventual outcome?

Yes, 100%. For example, the products that we use like Netflix, it personalizes its recommendations which is a big advancement in technology over the last several years. I showed people that you should be able to get something curated for you, personalized for your preference.

The workplace on the other hand has in a lot of cases remained one size fits all— and that is changing.

I totally agree that COVID is a huge accelerant, and we’re moving faster in the direction of workers voting with their feet, and expressing preferences. But I don’t think the trend is anything new and none of the data I’m seeing indicates that it’s going anywhere.

What, in your perspective, was the main driving force?  Is it the move to remote work, or the decision point people are facing as some companies demand a return to the office? Is it more of an inward introspection, driven by, to put it frankly, this brush with mortality that came with COVID? What was the trigger of this unexpected surge?

I think it’s a fool’s errand to try and pinpoint the one thing because we have seen so many of these trends, but I love that you brought up. I don’t think people are looking at this enough, the fact that we had this collective brush with death. It’s very common in a lot of movies, you’ll see a main character who is almost in a car accident, or they narrowly escaped death in some way, it reminds me of them of their mortality. And they wake up and they say, “Oh, my gosh, I’m not living life in accordance with my values, I need to make a change.”

This is so common, and yet, I think we’ve not experienced, at least in the last, several decades, as sort of society-wide reckoning with how fragile life is, what matters beyond the day to day rat race.

 I really think that the shift to remote has been huge. There have been a lot of structural and societal changes that were brought all at once. But I do think that one of the biggest themes is this fact, this reckoning with people’s individual values with how they find meaning in life, and that often comes out of tragedy. But I think it’s created a sense where they want to live a life that is more aligned with what matters to them, and so they’re looking to work and workplace as a big piece of that.

Here at Groundswell, we have firsthand knowledge. We’re venture-backed, we’ve got funding, we can contribute equity, we have an amazing product with big commercial prospects, but it’s difficult to attract talent right now because it’s a war. Do you believe people are changing their priorities because they can afford to do so right now?

Yes you’re completely right. We are seeing cases where candidates are getting multiple competing offers. Salaries are obviously on the rise, a lot of companies are rethinking their benefits package. You can’t underestimate the importance of a great mission— a strong company culture. For anyone who is hiring right now, there are a lot of messages in the market right now about what candidates want.

I have a lot of data about what candidates say that they’re looking for. But what’s really interesting is, there’s not one single path, or one single rubric that every candidate is measuring a company. The opportunity and challenge of the era we’re in is the candidates have very specific individual priority lists, and they are measuring up your company or your opportunity against those lists. The reason I think that this is an opportunity is that, let’s say that you can’t provide the perks of Google, but you can really invest in learning and growth and professional development opportunities.

Whatever it is, if you can get clear about what you can offer, and you can make those promises to the market and back them up. You’ll find candidates who want what you’re offering, and you just have to be really clear about what you’re offering. 

It has to be genuine, authentic, because there is a lot of punishment right now in the marketplace for companies that miss promise.

In an excerpt from Entrepreneur Magazine, a reporter was discussing a conversation he was having with a consultant. And then he says, “Companies will no longer be able to impose a one-size-fits-all approach if they wish to compete. Instead, they’ll need to tailor their interactions with their employees, just as they did with their consumers.” He’s arguing that the future of employee management will be similar to what’s happened in customer service over the last two decades. Many of these customer care activities take a one-to-one approach to customer support rather than the one-to-many strategy that was previously the only scalable way to do it. How do you feel about that? Do you agree or disagree? Is it going to have to be one-on-one? And is that scalable for companies wishing to do this at the enterprise level?

Yeah, I love that quote. I think that it’s undeniable that this is the direction we’re moving in. The path that we’re on, is it going to be fully one to one, everyone chooses their own adventure? Probably not— or at least not for a long time. But, when you look at the experience right now, it’s very uncustomary sized. I think it’s very clear that people are seeking more personal solutions, they want to be heard on their deepest needs. It doesn’t mean every single whim, but on the most core priorities of an individual, they are looking for those to be met by their workplace, and if not met, they might leave.

I like the customer service example, but I actually think B2B marketing is really interesting. No company right now, just blast every potential customer with the exact same message, the exact same. I’m not a B2B marketer, but B2B marketing folks have a lot of software, there’s data, there’s strategy. There’s an entire system for saying, different people are at different points in the process, they have different needs, so they create customized flows. The thing is, it probably feels really hard. This idea that businesses are going to create a bit more of a customized flow. But you need to do it, because it’s important to your businesses, so people will figure it out. We figured it out in B2B marketing, we figured it out in customer service, and I think unfortunately HR often gets the short end of the stick.

Everyone talks about the importance of people, but a lot of companies aren’t really set up with the employee experience as a key priority. I think that The Great Resignation is forcing that to change.

Businesses will have to figure out how to do so. Is that a viable strategy for scaling a business? On the other hand, can you afford not to?

It’s really easy for this conversation, to hang out in the extremes. Companies that treat their people like garbage are completely blind to their wants and needs. Then on the other end, companies that are just bending over backwards, contorting themselves into shapes, trying to deal with the every request of a very demanding workforce. I think that obviously, I don’t want to live in either of those extremes, I’m guessing nobody wants to.

We live in America, don’t we live in the world of extreme dialogue?

Yes that is true. Some of it starts with some basic principles. I’ve been familiar enough with you as a CEO and as a leader to know that some of these are very organic to the style that you lead. In running The Muse, every single employee who works at the Muse chose to come here, and they could have gone somewhere else. That doesn’t mean that I have to give them everything they want, obviously I can’t. But it does mean that when leadership teams approach employee relations and talent with this idea, that your people are good, and they have other options, it’s basically mutual respect.

A lot of the tools that we give companies are sort of under the hood, and the advice we give them as well, is how to listen to your people and understand. What is making your happy people happiest? What is making disgruntled or frustrated or less engaged people less happy or making them leave? It’s not about the feeling that you have to fix everything immediately. We live in an imperfect world, and that’s not a very realistic task. But it is about saying, “How do I identify the biggest things that are standing in the way of employee satisfaction and genuinely commit with real resources to working on those?” I think it’s becoming more important for employers to say, “How do I make sure that before people come here, they have a rough sense of what they’re getting?”

People will opt into all sorts of work environments willingly, but they want to do it with their eyes wide open. They want to say, “Yes, this problem matters to me so much.” The thing about the Marine Corps, people know what they’re getting there. Of course, there’s always surprises, I don’t mean it like that. But broadly speaking, there is a sense, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there’s a pretty clear sense that this is what you’re signing up for. I think that most leaders, if they were pretty transparent about what you’re signing up for by joining our company, would find that their people are actually happier than you know.

The worst thing is when people feel like they have been misled in the hiring process.

That is a brilliant point. You’re completely correct; one of my favorite recruiting ads was run by the Marine Corps before I joined, I believe in the 1980s. It’s an old poster featuring a drill instructor glowering at a recruit with an evil look, and the poster’s title is “We didn’t promise you a rose garden.” They were quite clear about what you should expect, but I believe you’re correct. I believe that all too frequently, CEOs recruit for resumes or pedigree rather than for the type of individual they want to join the team. It’s a marketplace for how companies treat their employees rather than the types of jobs they’re promoting. Is that accurate?

Yes it’s definitely one of the things that we’re focused on. We’ve seen this again, and again, some people want work environments that are one way, some people want them differently. My favorite metaphor is dating, right? Because there’s no such thing as the best people to marry in your city. I don’t think there’s such a thing as the best companies to work for. Best for who it really is, on what you want, what your values are, what sort of work environment you’re seeking out. Some people want a lot of stability, consistency, low velocity of change, and things are very predictable.

Discussions take place over long periods of time, with tons of input from all across the organization, and then a decision is made and rarely changed. Other people drive them insane, they want fast change experiments. I think when you have people who are frustrated, frankly, sometimes there is a real problem in the workplace and that is something that is very, very important to keep in the conversation. But sometimes there’s a real mismatch between the type of work environment someone is looking for, and the type of work environment that they’ve found.

That’s why companies are putting a lot more of their work environment, their values, their culture out there. It’s scary for companies to be more honest, because every HR leader I know is working with folks at their company but should only say the good things. I’m not necessarily saying that companies need to wave every bit of dirty laundry out there. Let’s say that you are a traditional company that hasn’t been trying to become more innovative, but is also dealing with a kind of slower moving legacy culture.

We found that it’s actually much more effective to tell a lot of people,”Hey, our leadership is committed to becoming more innovative, we are doing these things. We also are, you know, dealing with some of these legacy systems, but we’re all working together to move in this direction that is going to yield,” If that’s the truth, that’s going to yield a much more likely match with someone who knows that that’s what they’re signing up for, and is excited about it than trying to say like, “We’re just as innovative as all these, you know, startups, and you can come here to and kind of move really fast on the latest technology”.

If that’s not true people are going to be really disengaged, which is awful, for everyone. It’s bad for the candidate, and it’s really bad for the employer, too.

“I don’t believe in good cultures and terrible cultures,” I used to say. In terms of business culture, I believe in both strong and weak cultures. There’s a great difference between good and bad, and strong and weak; one is by design, the other is unintentional. It’s been carefully constructed to achieve specific results. I believe what I’m hearing from you is that the same is true for workplaces, correct? There aren’t always good and poor work settings, but there are those that are better than others for certain people. However, the best work environments were created with certain goals in mind. Is that what you’re saying?

I think it’s a complicated issue, because you do have certain elements of sort of toxicity in companies, especially when you get into cultures that are not equitable by design. There are companies that have a culture that’s hard charging. If it could be made more equitable, the hard charging, this wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that might be fine. For some people, it’s a kind of preference. “Yes, I want that ”, “No, I don’t”; is then layered in with a culture that is not inclusive or diverse, a culture that has issues with structural sexism or racism. Then you have both a preference, the hard charging-ness intersecting with something that is truly toxic.

I think that’s another challenge is there are some places that just have major issues. And often if I talk to an HR leader, who’s at a company, they say, “We don’t treat our employees well, and management doesn’t want to change”, “What can I do to help attract people?” There are companies that have historically not been good at equity that are making real strides now. I think it’s really hard for jobseekers to get a sense of what you’re like, but we’re in such a time of change that business leaders have relegated talent and work experience and company culture to their HR department, so that’s their job. They’re starting to wake up and say, “This has to be everyone on the executive team’s job otherwise, we are going to be in big trouble.”

Before, I was asked by a partner at a big VC firm, “Are you going to build a remote company or an in-person first company?” You are the expert on the future of work. What are your thoughts?

I will tell you what I’m seeing in the data, and then I’ll tell you how I think about it personally. So in the data, I’ll say that, when we pulled job seekers, at the very end of last year, about the most important criteria that they were considering, when looking for a new job, work life balance was number one above everything else. It is way far ahead of compensation, or anything else. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean remote. But I think it does mean flexibility and work life balance.

How much of that is driven by the fact that if they’re looking for work right now, it’s because they’re leaving a job that doesn’t allow for that kind of flexibility? Was that a foregone conclusion because they were job seekers at the time?

We’ve surveyed The Muse’s users over time, the number of people who want flexibility is going way up. But again, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a lot of people don’t want to go back into the office consistently. In fact, 24% of our users prefer to return full time to the office.

I think that flexibility marker means that people want to have the ability to have some flexibility when needed. Workers want to be treated with respect by their employers.

Companies that are going to prioritize offices first should work with their team to figure out a policy that lets people have a bit of flexibility. The biggest chunk of our users 41% said that they prefer to go back to work part time in the office, part time remote, while 34% prefer to remain totally remote, and 24% prefer to return full time to the office. The thing that’s so interesting is, when you really dig under the surface, no company is going to be able to make everyone happy. Because back to the office, they don’t want an empty office that they can use whenever they want to go back with their team and experience the full on office experience, which a lot of people miss when working remotely.

If everyone else is in the office, they want to be on a team that is distributed first. Going back to the very first question you asked me, this is why I think The Great Reshuffle or The Great Rethink is such a better term for what we’re experiencing than The Great Resignation. Because right now, a lot of people are staying put in their jobs because they like the work, they like the manager.

And at the end of the day, most companies at least, aren’t fully decided how they’re going to navigate, remote, in person, or hybrid work set-up. We’re still in this pandemic, and there’s still a lot up in the air. Some companies have come back, and some have said they’re going to be fully remote. There’s no answer that makes everyone happy. I think leaders are going to have to think about what they believe is the right answer for their business.

What does the future hold for a 23-year-old fresh out of college? Going into a remote-only company for their first job? How does that person advance in their career?

A lot of early career employees have been put at a big disadvantage. I used to spend a pretty good amount of time, every single week, just walking around The Muse’s office, I would purposefully hang out, in the kitchen, near the Bevi machine. I would put myself in situations almost every single day, and certainly for a good amount of time, every week, where I would just be available to chat with folks. My goal was to see that new SDR sales development rep who had just joined, or talk to the account manager who had just closed a big deal and congratulate them, or ask that engineer what problem they were working on.

I wanted to create a lot of these small, informal opportunities to build connections. “Leadership’s a contact sport,” it’s a contact sport that requires those collisions. I really love that phrase. I think that it has been really hard in a virtual world. We use a tool called doughnuts at The Muse, where two people every two weeks are matched for coffee. So I get matched for these coffees with folks all over the business. I love that, but it doesn’t quite replace the in-person interaction. For the people that I work with closely, like our leadership team, I get a lot of time with them, I know them, they know me, and I’m missing them in person. But at the end of the day, I feel like our relationship is pretty deep with mostly virtual contact, and then we see each other in person every now and then.

I think it’s much harder to do that when people have weak ties in the organization or multiple levels or departments apart. There’s the flexibility, which a lot of people are focusing on virtual work. I do think we’ll see some sort of backlash among a segment of folks, there are people who like their remote all the way and they know what works for them. We have not settled on what we’re going to do post pandemic, it will likely be a hybrid approach, but I do think that some of that human connection is needed.

When you really bring people together and let them develop personal relationships outside of direct reporting structures, I think that it’s really important.

Kathryn, what are the two or three things that a company should be doing right now, if you could summarize? How do leaders take advantage of this disruptive moment for others and turn it to their benefit?

Start the process of listening to your people now. Listening to your current employees, listening to folks who are leaving. Making sure you’re doing really thoughtful exit interviews. I recommend anonymous forums, which allow people sometimes to share things with less fear of blowback, but also small group conversations.

I think it’s really important to put your employee stories as genuine, authentic truths about your company work experience as part of the recruiting process.

At The Muse, I encourage all of our recruiting processes, where we send candidates a lot of information. Obviously, there’s the job profile, but we’ll also give them a lot of time to ask questions. We encourage the entire interview team to be very transparent. We equip people with the results of our latest poll survey. We also use a tool called Culture Amp to understand how people are experiencing different things at The Muse. I never want someone to show up at The Muse and feel really surprised about what they found. I want them to have their eyes wide open when making a decision.

Companies can get really clear on their work environment, their culture, what they offer if they do this. It also includes accepting that some people will move on, but if they were an employee with good standing, make sure they know that if the next opportunity is not what they thought it would be, you’d welcome them back. In the past I was against rehiring past employees or what I call boomerang back. But you know, if they were great employees, it can actually be really valuable to have people come back who realized that the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

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. 

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