The CSR Scoop - 4/24/2015

Apr 24, 2015 6:05 PM ET
Campaign: The CSR Scoop

Volunteer Week may have officially ended on April 18, but chatter from the corporate and nonprofit sectors this week demonstrated that volunteering is at the forefront of the CSR discussion year-round.

The scoop this week touches upon various indexes of CSR success, the imperative for businesses of all sizes to engage in corporate giving, the wraparound business benefits of corporate volunteering, and nonprofit tricks to engage “the modern volunteer.” Read on!

The Scoop:

Corporate Responsibility Magazine released their 100 Best Corporate Citizens list for 2015. Congratulations to Microsoft Corporation, Hasbro, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson for topping the charts!

Bill Hatton, editor in chief of the magazine, explained the rankings: “Companies that make our list make a tremendous effort to learn and disclose how their businesses impact employees, communities and the environment. They engage in a wide range of responsible business practice, and they do so while succeeding financially as businesses. They exemplify good corporate citizenship.”

Gallup honored 40 organizations with their Gallop Great Workplace Award, for setting a global standard for an engaged workplace. A big shout-out to our partner Charles Schwab for its people-centered culture and exemplary employee engagement programs!

There are myriad ways to rate and rank corporations for their social responsibility, Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s index and Gallup’s awards exemplifying just a couple. Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II is throwing his hat into the ring, with his new nonprofit venture JUSTCapital. The organization will conduct a national survey to find out how America defines “just corporate behavior” and will track the top 1000 companies in the country, to see how they rank against this definition.

A longtime proponent of conscious capitalism, Jones has argued that “when [corporations] put justness on par with profits, we’ll get the most wonderful thing in all the world. We’ll take back our humanity” and has advocated for corporate social responsibility to become an integral component of corporate profitability in the future (something we can certainly get behind!). However, according to the Nonprofit Quarterly’s somewhat critical report, the initiative may not be quite as unbiased as it appears.

The companies we see topping lists like the 100 Best Corporate Citizens or the Great Workplace Awards and receiving public recognition for their CSR efforts are generally larger, well-resourced corporations with correspondingly large impact footprints. However, H.O. Maycotte, CEO of Umbel, argued last week that small and mid-sized businesses must also promote volunteerism and corporate giving – both to support their communities and to propel their own business growth. Check out his suggestions for how the little guys can make a big impact by establishing active cultures of giving.

Mark Horoszowki, co-founder of, authored a fantastic article outlining how volunteering makes him better, makes his team better, makes his business better, and makes the world better. We loved the way he reframed volunteering as a self-serving act by outlining its wraparound benefits.

“When you engage in skills-based volunteering projects, you get to see how other leaders lead. You get to problem solve in new environments. You get to work with different teams in different ways. All of these make you better at doing your own job.

Whereas years ago a corporation could fulfill its social duty by donating to various local nonprofits or moving the needle on a particular community problem, the corporate mandate has shifted; today’s corporate community investment strategies must be far more involved and integrated. As Milinda Martin, Vice President of Community Investment for Time Warner Cable, explains, “to invest in our communities means leveraging our business purpose to deliver benefit outside the corporate walls.”

In a recent Justmeans post, Martin chronicles how corporate community investment has evolved over the past decades and explains how Time Warner is meeting today’s CSR standards by using skills-based volunteering to ensure their nonprofit partners’ sustainability and resiliency.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, LinkedIn published this post about the business benefits of workplace volunteering. Happier and healthier employees, stronger coworking teams, fulfilled personnel and enhanced corporate image are just a few of the positive outcomes that Common Impact and our corporate partners regularly see from our volunteer initiatives.

Microsoft used the occasion of Volunteer Week to reflect on the success of its new Tech Talent for Good program, which leverages employees’ skills to fill the IT expertise gap in the nonprofit sector. Check out this post about some of the core lessons they’ve learned in the first few weeks of the program.

Alison Cundiff, Corporate Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for the United Way of Salt Lake advocated for volunteer programs as a powerful driver of employee engagement. We love that Cundiff highlighted the nuanced difference between two common interpretations of “engaged employees:” employees that are satisfied by their jobs and perform well at work versus employees that utilize their skills, strengths and innate creativity to contribute to something meaningful. Volunteer programs are uniquely poised to effectively achieve both dimensions of employee engagement.

Another great piece from Realized Worth introduced the concept of “affective commitment:” when positive workplace experiences are reciprocated with pro-social and loyal employee behavior. Affective commitment generated by employee volunteering opportunities has been shown to generate extremely strong employee and organizational performance.

Patti Shwayder, senior vice president of government relations and communications at AIMCO shared how AIMCO’s broad, integrated social responsibility strategy enables their charitable initiatives to go long way – both for the cause and for their business.

“We know from our Human Resources department that having the AIMCO Cares program is important criteria for people that want to come to AIMCO. People like a company that cares, they like being involved in a company that does good work while they also work hard. We’ve heard this over and over again and it really fulfills our values of building community, relationships, it’s a key part of our culture.”

Corporate-NGO partnerships look different within and outside the US, but mission alignment is one common feature that all strong cross-sector collaborations share, whether they are domestic or international.  As international NGOs consider potential corporate collaborations, they seek synergistic and strategic partnerships that complement both sides. Read more about other commonalities between domestic and international cross-sector initiatives on this Devex Impact blog.

The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Conference took place this past week, bringing together CSR professionals and experts from around the world to learn from, teach, and support one another. On Day One,  conference attendees shared tactics and tips for managing both nascent and longstanding corporate citizenship programs and explored the implications of the digitalization of corporate citizenship. The conference continued on Day Two with discussions around how to generate increased social investment and executive buy-in and how we can tackle pervasive issues by harnessing the profit motive to do good. Day Three closed out the conference with a forward-looking call-to-action, urging the conference’s corporate audience to continue to innovate, reach across sectors, and amplify their role as corporate practitioners in today’s complex social landscape.

“I want to underscore the importance of the private sector remaining engaged as a key stakeholder in our global community…I’m convinced there is a tremendous opportunity to work together, to learn from each other, and to tap into our capacity to confront the challenges of today for a better tomorrow. It’s 2015. The future has arrived. Let’s solve problems together.

-Ed Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation

In 2013, India became the first country to mandate CSR. The Indian Parliament passed the Companies Act, which instituted a “2 percent requirement,” compelling all companies to spend at least 2 percent of their average net profits on “CSR” activities.

A couple years into the Act, Business Today conducted an interview with Seema Bansal, Director of Social Impact & Development at BSG India about the provision’s complex implications for India’s CSR activity. According to Bansal, companies are finding the CSR mandate to be restrictive and damaging to volunteer programs, since the Act prohibits companies from monetizing employee volunteer hours to fulfill the requirement. Furthermore, the current act’s separation of profit and CSR dissuades companies from approaching CSR holistically as a way to innovate and generate a return from doing social good. “Only when companies see [CSR] as an opportunity [rather than an obligation], will we see a wide-scale change.”

Hayley Samuelson from Catchafire provided some excellent tips for nonprofits looking to engage and leverage the “modern volunteer.” Some of our favorite recommendations include:

  • Assign volunteers tasks to match their expertise
  • Foster an emotional connection with your cause
  • Set ambitious goals that stretch and challenge your volunteers
  • Communicate often and candidly
  • Consider volunteer management as an investment in talent – don’t underestimate the long-term potential of these individuals

While philanthropy today demands that nonprofits assess and demonstrate their impact, a new Center for Philanthropy Report  finds that around 55% of nonprofits spend 2% or less of their budgets on performance assessment. As funders increasingly require qualitative and quantitative evaluation, they must also provide the support for nonprofits to execute these demands. Funders can move the needle by not just demanding evaluative data, but by actually funding grantees’ efforts to collect, share, and respond to programmatic data.

We speak frequently about the social and business benefits of volunteering, but how about its powerful health benefits? Project Helping, a new self-help nonprofit is addressing depression through volunteering, aiming to leverage the feel-good effects of volunteering to cure chronic depression and improve sufferers’ emotional well-being. 


Next Monday, our CEO Danielle Holly will moderate a discussion with Marc Epstein, focused on the implementation and evaluation of corporate social impact strategies.
April 27, New York, NY

Dr. Mary C. Gentile is sharing a ground-breaking new approach to preparing business managers and leaders for values-driven leadership through her Giving Voice to Values curriculum on ethical business practice.
April 29, Cambridge, MA

Be Social Change brings you: The Future of Community – How Nonprofits and Businesses Are Engaging Audiences to Grow Their Impact. Attend the event to learn why more and more companies are prioritizing community-building as a key part of their growth and impact strategies and how you can effectively engage and active customers, volunteers, and supporters to create social change.
May 21, New York, NY

Get your ticket now for SSIR’s Data on Purpose Conference to learn how to use, guard, and share the growing proliferation of data in the nonprofit sector.
June 2, Stanford, CA

VolunteerMatch has just announced that, for the first time, their 2015 Volunteer Summit will be open to those outside of their client pool and will welcome attendees from non-client companies and national nonprofit organizations.
December 1-2, Oakland, CA