Agile Social Impact: How to Change the World – Faster and Better

Mar 6, 2019 1:10 PM ET

CyberGrants | Blog

We certainly don’t need to inform you how great the demand is for corporate giving. Our shared world is rife with want and chaos and emergencies. The need is everywhere. Worthy, urgent causes roar up literally overnight. And thankfully, there’s people like you, and organizations like yours, who jump in and help in big ways. Whether through grantmaking, employee donations or volunteer programs, the challenges are the same. How can you best mobilize your resources, generate maximal impact, and deliver that impact as quickly to the point of need?

A powerful catalyst for giving.
We are going to explore some trends (below) that you may be facing. And you’ll see how the Agile Social Impact approach can help solve the issues posed by those trends. As we do so, consider the “Why and How” of Agile Social Impact for your company and employees. When you are being agile as an organization you can quickly achieve impact in your programs. And by providing agility for your employees, they can deliver impact to the causes that matter to them most.

Four macro trends that are front and center of CSR.

We at CyberGrants have been deep into charitable giving for decades. We live and breathe it through our clients. And we are intimately familiar with the trends that our clients are seeing and dealing with. Today, there are four distinct macro trends that specifically support the Agile Social Impact approach.

Macro trend #1) Recurring giving is supplanting annual campaigns.
Seasonal, often annual, charitable campaigns used to powered up for a burst of time and activity, marketed heavily, all with the objective that employees would get on board and sign up. Campaigns were relegated to a certain time of year, typically in the Fall. They would run perhaps four to eight weeks. Tremendous amounts of resources were expended into promoting the campaigns internally. Now, however, most of us have come to the realization that CSR is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing, evergreen series of activities. Today, however, significantly more companies are actually running open, year-round campaigns, or trying to figure out how to do them effectively. So that, at any one point in time, for example, we can sign up for a payroll deduction program, submit matching gifts, etc. There’s often a calendar of volunteerism events where there are opportunities every quarter, if not every month.

Getting people in the habit of giving dollars or hours on an ongoing, recurring basis has been a huge emphasis for Fortune 1000 businesses. Obviously, that can pose significant burdens on you from an infrastructure standpoint. Do you have the systems that enable that to happen? Do you have visibility into where the dollars or hours are coming from? Where they’re going? And not the least — the impact they’re having. All of this requires a much more robust and agile system in place to support those recurring programs. Remember, when you are being agile as an organization you can quickly achieve impact in your programs. Our platform provides that visibility and agility.

Macro trend #2) Focusing on highest priority causes maximizes the impact of your investment.
In the past, companies created many, many varieties of programs for employees to participate in. If we provided a big menu, the thinking went, we would be perceived much more positively by our employee base, and they would be much more likely to give if they saw one of their own causes being supported. While that might have been more egalitarian, it diluted outcomes.

Now with a much greater focus on impact, clients are declaring a set of causes that align best with their corporate DNA and mission. They’re optimizing their investments into a much smaller set. The imperative here is that this kind of optimization requires accurate and detailed visibility from a reporting and analytics standpoint, in real time, so that we know exactly where our money is going, and most importantly, the impact it’s actually having.

Macro trend #3) Viral Engagement techniques accelerate employee giving.
As a category, Employee Giving programs are maturing. They have been in place for several years. The big challenge now is how to activate more involvement, more participation, and ultimately — more giving.

The former standard, de facto method for driving employee participation was top-down. Decrees from the C-Suite. “Hey everyone, I’m the boss and here’s our company’s CSR mission and we want you to get on board.”

Not anymore.

What we know now is that charitable engagement is best driven in a different way, where you create a grassroots movement and excitement around your causes. In fact, it’s probably a misnomer to say you create. Rather, it’s really about fostering and encouraging your employees to create grassroots movements. By harnessing powerful, peer-driven, social techniques that drive immediate increases in buy-in, participation, and contribution.  You are, in effect, providing agility for your employees so that they can deliver impact to the causes — your causes — that matter most to them.

Macro trend #4) Global program alignment maximizes global impact.
Historically, if your headquarters were in the U.S., your CSR programs were very U.S.-centric. And if you were an international organization you had CSR activities going on all over the world, and typically highly decentralized. I.e., the European divisions made their own decisions about the causes they were going to support, and the programs they were going to roll out. Ditto for Asia, the Middle East, South America, et al.

If you think about macro trend #2, above, regarding optimized portfolios, we are now seeing a similar trend here: companies are prioritizing a set of causes and trying to align globally around those causes. The trend is to have a global CSR strategy to drive some level of consistency across all geographic locations.

But it’s crucial to note that “prioritization” doesn’t translate to “dictatation.” The goal of global optimization is to try and drive 70-80% consistency across each geography, while allowing for 20-30% variability to support cultural differences, region-specific causes/crises, etc. In order to support that type of “globally consistent, regionally relevant” strategy, you need a technology platform architected to enable it.

In sum, Agile Social Impact allows you to tightly align your philanthropy efforts with your overall objectives, respond faster when the need is greatest, and maximize the impact of your donations.