With a corporate job, many of us are fortunate in that our companies support our consistent learning by allowing us to attend vital industry conferences, such as the Charities@Work summit. We are able to hear from inspirational speakers and to learn best practices from top-notch companies. The Charities@Work summit consistently delivers and provides tremendous opportunities to learn and be inspired. Attendees at the conference can be seen taking copious notes, talking with presenters afterwards and tweeting nuggets they want to be sure to share and remember.
But what happens when you return to the office? If you are like us at Time Warner Cable, and presumably many other conference-goers, you left the conference with great ideas. But when we return to the office, it’s so easy to find that inspiration lost in a sea of competing priorities awaiting our return. We’ve heard time and time again about the benefits of learning followed up by application and how the greatest successes come when ideas are followed by implementation. Last year, the TWC team decided to stop the pattern pushing learning aside because of email overload; instead, we focused on how we could apply our key takeaways from Charities@Work. We are so pleased we did because we translated our conference takeaways into measurable successes.
We want to help foster a community that consistently learns-and-applies, learns-and-applies, so we all get better results over time. So, at the 2016 conference, we delivered one of the Next Great Idea presentations and challenged our peers to carry the learning beyond the conference. At the Tuesday night reception, we posed the question “What is your biggest Charities@Work conference takeaway that you plan to put into action?” to conference attendees. The responses were fascinating to us; we saw executives latch onto ideas and speak about how they could put them into action in their own organizations. The ideas we heard were as varied as the attendees themselves, and we wanted to share the responses here, in case they inspire others.
We all had great fun trying the virtual reality experience from Pencils of Promise. Hearing about how VR can impact our world is one thing; seeing it is another! The team from Cone Communications want to explore VR more to see how they might be able to use it for clients. In fact, one leader from Cone said that the conference reinforced the importance of integrating CSR throughout the entire business, almost to the point of there being no specific CSR program, per se. But instead, it becomes business-as-usual, tied into everything a company does and the way it thinks. They said: “The virtual reality element is just one more way we can try to reframe CSR and consistently think outside of the box.”
Michael Norton’s keynote on the “Science of Smarter Spending” seemed to universally force attendees to rethink their giving programs as it relates to employee engagement/reaction. Wells Fargo wants to explore the idea of providing an incentive or challenge grant if 75% of employees participate.
Global Impact wants to try out the pie chart/check-box idea on a women’s AIDS website to see if it raises engagement. The agency INPex, which specializes in scaling up local cause activation programs, plans to leverage the ideas they heard as well – for them, the pie chart and transformative experiences are relevant to the cause marketing and employee engagement toolkits and strategies they create for their clients.
Attendees were also inspired by best practices presented in the “Next Great Idea” series and in the breakout sessions. Several participants mentioned wanting to investigate the badge swipe program used by Google to support UNICEF. From the workshops, we heard participants wanting to follow others in asking more detailed questions on matching grant forms as a way to learn what inspires employee nonprofit selection. More than one executive asked us, at Time Warner Cable, how we managed to convince our operating units to pick up volunteer costs.
As is the case with this conference every year, ideas were overflowing. Jenn Whelan from Ashland summarized it nicely, “The Charities@Work conference reaffirmed our commitment to the community and helped provide the resources, ideas and tools to make those relationships stronger. It also reminded everyone at the conference that when we get together, we make the world a better place.”
From unlocking the concept of purpose and thinking about engagement year-round, to new ways to think about the power of storytelling, the 2016 Charities@Work summit provided the foundation we all need to go back to work and drive new successes. It would be interesting to follow these ideas through to implementation and circle back with companies in 2017. Good luck to each and every one of you. We hope you are able to truly turn theory into practice, and deliver greater results than ever before.
Jim Gordon leads the Corporate Brand and Reputation team at Time Warner Cable, overseeing all CSR, sustainability, volunteerism, and strategic philanthropy. Included on his team are Milinda Martin, VP, Corporate Citizenship, and Jennifer Holick, Director, Volunteerism. The company launched their volunteer program in 2014, and joined Charities@Work at the same time.