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.”

Pencils of Promise’s Virtual Reality experience
Pencils of Promise’s Virtual Reality experience

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.

Michael Norton
Michael Norton

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.

Maggie Carter, UNICEF; Susan Grotbo, Google; Joe Mettimano, Global Impact
Maggie Carter, UNICEF; Susan Grotbo, Google; Joe Mettimano, Global Impact

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.

Charities@Work attendees discussing best practices and next great ideas
Charities@Work attendees discussing best practices and next great ideas

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.”

Tiffany Calderon, Community Relations, Best Buy
Tiffany Calderon, Community Relations, Best Buy

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_final_v2_1.21.2016 Milinda Martin Headshot Holick1  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.  





The pressure is on to get your employee engagement numbers up.  You know you need to expand your current program beyond company-wide volunteer days and that your dollars for doers program really only engages a small subset of already-committed volunteers.  To really move the needle, it is vital that you find ways to inspire the legions of unengaged – particularly the Millennials – to WANT to get more involved on an ongoing basis. So, where do you start?  Simple. You start with using the valuable assets and investments you already have!  You bring your company’s established cause marketing and strategic philanthropy partnerships to life for your employees – at the local level.  Here’s how…

1) Capitalize on existing corporate partnerships to supercharge your employee engagement growth

Often times cause marketing partnerships, strategic philanthropy partnerships and employee volunteerism programs are handled by different corporate teams.  Working together to create integrated volunteerism programs is a smart investment that drives ROI in all departments.

Your company has already gone through a vetting process to select its strategic cause partners and has invested significantly in the partnerships.  These cause partnerships are valuable assets that you can use to supercharge your employee volunteerism growth.  They are long term corporate investments that build equity over time.

2TAKE ACTION: Look for ways to bring these partnerships to life in a meaningful way for your employees all year round. Make the cause palpable to your employees.  Get these causes into the DNA of all employees by creating a movement around them within your corporate culture by way of your volunteerism program. Make engagement easy, relevant, and fun.  Work with your cause partners to build in professional development or other strategic elements. Make it hyper local and personal for your staff so they can really feel the “halo-effect” of the partnership firsthand.

If you need some help with a strategic action plan, get some help.  Just be sure you create an effective way to invite your employees to be part of something larger – your company’s movement!  Empower them to build the momentum in neighborhoods around the country and around the globe. Measure the engagement and enjoy the results!

2) Share visual, emotional stories about your cause work, to inspire more people to take part in your chosen causes

Are your employees truly aware and feeling the great work your company is already doing with your cause partners? If you’re like some of our clients, then answer is a definitive no.  This case study shows you the challenges faced by a Fortune 100 healthcare company and how they solved them.

2TAKE ACTION: Use your valuable volunteerism “content” to create a series of ongoing communications that share compelling stories about volunteering with the company’s chosen causes.  Use powerful emotional images to show employees the impact their peers are already making – and the fun they are having!

Instead of leaving this valuable volunteerism content buried in a file, make it work for you!  Inspire more action by showing people the experience and positive benefits they could have if they chose to get involved.  You can even light the fire of “friendly competition” by setting regional goals and providing awards as incentives for increased participation with your company’s chosen causes.

3) Make it super easy for people to get involved with your company causes in their own neighborhood

This might sound obvious, but it is surprising how often it is not happening. You need to go ahead and connect the dots for people.  Make it simple for them to take action in their own neighborhood, otherwise they will just be content with admiring what other people do.  Make it about them and how they can be a part of a positive movement.

2TAKE ACTION:  Alongside your compelling volunteerism stories and powerful visuals, provide a specific, local call to action.  Make it easy for people to act on the emotion they are experiencing from the compelling stories and visuals.  Offer them specific opportunities in their local neighborhood and get them registered!

Make it as simple as one click for them to learn more and register for local events.  Be sure you are providing a user-friendly experience or you will certainly pay the opportunity cost by way of low engagement numbers.  Of course, in order to deliver this positive experience, you need a good strategy and system in place that is optimized for your particular corporate culture and takes into account the unique needs and opportunities of your cause partners. You must commit to setting up a system that will really work for you, your partners, and your employees.

4) Provide downloadable tools and resources to make it a great experience

Once you have someone interested in getting involved, shepherd them to success—and registration!  Make it obvious to them that this is going to be a great experience.  Be proactive. Help foster a positive experience. Do this and more of your employees will begin enjoying the benefits of long term employee engagement -and so will your company’s bottom line- as you meet your engagement goals.

2TAKE ACTION: Think ahead, like any great event planner would do.  Provide downloadable resources like checklists, FAQ’s, suggestions, maybe even some basic talking points to help your people feel at ease committing to volunteering as a company representative.  Showcase those supportive tools during the registration decision-making process to dispel any doubts and help close the deal!

At INPEx, we take it to the next level by helping our corporate clients create custom employee volunteerism programs with their cause partners that are specifically designed to engage key internal audiences, such as managers or Millennials.  By going the extra mile to offer volunteer opportunities that are tailored to the unique needs and opportunities of a specific group, you will enjoy much greater benefits – both in terms of employee engagement and strategic cause marketing.

In today’s market place, it is more vital than ever to increase visibility of and engagement with your cause partnerships.  Millennials demand it and consumers demand it.  There is real business value and opportunity cost at stake.  Integrating your corporate cause partnerships into your employee volunteerism program can pay many dividends if you do it right.  If you make the effort to put together a solid strategic plan that includes a system for measuring against ROI, you will set yourself up for success.  That’s how we have been able to deliver triple-digit results for our discerning clients —and so can you!

Learn more about INPEx and sign up for our eNewsletter: Power of Local

2016 Charities@Work Advisory Council
2016 Charities@Work Advisory Council

The 15th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship has concluded — and what an amazing event it was! On behalf of everyone behind the scenes of the Charities@Work Alliance at America’s Charities, Community Health Charities, EarthShare and Global Impact, we thank you.

Here is where you can find the content that resulted from the Summit:


To read the presentations from the experts and industry leaders who spoke at the Summit our click here.


To view the list of attendees, click here.


View photos from the Summit by clicking on the links below:

2016 Corporate Impact Awards: https://www.flickr.com/photos/americas-charities/albums/72157664634949433

Day 2, March 29, 2016: https://www.flickr.com/photos/americas-charities/albums/72157666926031705

Day 3, March 30, 2016: https://www.flickr.com/photos/americas-charities/albums/72157664621584154

Twitter Dialogue

Throughout the Summit, participants engaged in a robust dialogue via Twitter, sharing photos, opinions, and even a drawing or two! To view the Twitter conversation on days 2 and 3, check out our Storify here.

Keep the conversation going! Just use the hashtag #CWSummit16 to continue the dialogue around employee engagement and workplace giving trends and best practices.

2016 Corporate Impact Awards

On March 30, 2016, Charities@Work announced Ashland Inc., Dell and Peter Dudley, Senior Vice President, Community Support Programs of Wells Fargo, winners of the 2016 Corporate Impact Awards for giving back to society in extraordinary ways. The awards were presented by the four partners that comprise Charities@Work—America’s Charities, Community Health Charities, EarthShare and Global Impact—during the 15th Annual Charities@Work Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement luncheon held at the New York Marriott Marquis. Read our press release here. View the photos of the Awards ceremony here. Learn more about the awards here.

Charities@Work Twitter Chat: #DriveChange

Let’s face it: to live in a better world, we have to act better. While a vision is often the starting point, it’s rarely enough to change behaviors or encourage good deeds. And what if you’re the only one who believes in doing well by doing good?

On Thursday, March 17, 2016, from 3:00 – 3:45 pm ET, we hosted a Twitter chat to discuss how to #DriveChange in companies through employee engagement, volunteerism and corporate social responsibility. Milinda Martin, Vice President of Community Investment at Time Warner Cable, and Peter Dudley, SVP of Community Support Programs at Wells Fargo—two iconic organizations in the CSR space—joined moderator Aman Singh, VP of Business + Social Purpose at Edelman. Participating Twitter handles included @CharitiesAtWork, @MilindaMartin, @TWC, @dudleypj, @Wells Fargo, @amansinghcsr and @EdelmanPurpose.

To view a recap of the conversation on Storify, click here.

Charities@Work Webinar: Pro Bono Volunteerism

On Tuesday, April 12, at 1:00 PM ET, we hosted a webinar featuring Dr. Linda Gornitsky of LBG Associates on Pro Bono Volunteerism: Challenges and Solutions. Pro bono volunteerism is hot with companies of all sizes trying to offer skills-based and pro bono volunteer opportunities to their employees. Although the popularity of this type of volunteerism has risen, the number of available opportunities has not. What is causing this imbalance and how can companies address this growing discrepancy? Dr. Gornitsky shared the results of her latest research study, which examines the challenges of pro bono volunteerism and suggests solutions to help fix this imbalance.

Listen to the recording and view the presentation here.


Thank you again. If you are interested in speaking with any of the Charities@Work partners about how we can support meet your employee engagement or workplace giving programs, please contact any of the alliance partners.


Thanks to those who joined our St. Patrick’s Day ‪#‎DriveChange‬ Twitter chat led by Milinda Martin of Time Warner Cable and Peter Dudley of Wells Fargo, and moderated by Aman Singh of Edelman. Aman created a recap of the robust conversation on Storify, so refresh yourself on the lively conversation–and see your own Tweets if you participated–or check out the conversation anew: http://bit.ly/1ZtV6sw

See you at our Summit next week to continue the convo! ‪#‎CWSummit16‬

It’s been said so often over the past several years, that it’s starting to feel cliché. But I’ll say it again.

“The world of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is changing.”

We often look at how this is happening, but today let’s start by looking at why.

We’ve known for a long time that the days of “throwing a check” at a nonprofit to enhance corporate image are over. One reason? Skepticism from customers. But another, perhaps more powerful reason?

Employees themselves are asking for real impact.

“Employees are demanding more transparency, accountability and proof of life that their donations are resulting in measurable outcomes and social impact,” says  America’s Charities Snapshot 2015 Report.

Employees want to be sure their corporate-sanctioned giving (both time and money) has real impact. But what does real impact look like?

Blog Image_VolunteerMatch

Tracking metrics such as the number of hours your company volunteers, the increase in employee volunteer rates, etc. is important. In fact, it’s very important. It’s a way to uncover the levels of engagement inside company. However, what these metrics don’t clearly show is the impact of your volunteer program outside of your company. To draw from another cliché, if a team of volunteers paints the same fence year after year, are they really having a real impact? Of course not. The time spent re-painting that fence could be spent on critical community needs.

Because of this, companies are now encouraged, if not pushed, to tell the story behind their hours. “Who are the people that our volunteer hours helped? By packing those boxes at the food bank, how many less people in our city went hungry this winter? By setting up a technical infrastructure for my local nonprofit, how much did it increase their capacity, allowing how many more clients to be assisted?” These are the stats that matter the most. This is real impact.

And when real impact occurs, everyone wins. Both your company and your employees can be assured that your time and resources are being spent in the most efficient way possible. Employee satisfaction soars. (For example, JetBlue recently found that volunteer program participants were more engaged and had higher performance ratings than their non-volunteering peers.) And to top it off, the stories you’re equipped with to share with your customers will be much more engaging and impressive than the number of hours you volunteered this year.

Now that we’ve looked at the what and the why of real impact, there’s another pressing question: How do we achieve it? The answer is deceptively simple.

That answer? Listen.

No company has the knowledge and/or intuition to automatically know where the needs of a community lie. Committed volunteers and staff at community-focused nonprofit organizations – these are the people most familiar with local issues. These are the people whose full-time jobs, or at least full-time passions, it is to know how to fill community needs.

That being said, there’s not always a clear path to listening to your community. How do you connect with them? Where do you start?

One way is the VolunteerMatch network, where real nonprofits (100,000+) from all over the United States and beyond post their volunteer needs. This is now accessible through corporate social responsibility technology solutions for companies, such as Causecast and Good Done Great, as well as through YourMatch.

Another way is to ask your employees. Your employee base is, without a doubt, full of people passionate about a variety of causes. Many of them are already spending their free time working hard to improve their local communities, and this is a great way to get them invested in your corporate volunteer program, as well.

City National Bank, a 2015 finalist for VolunteerMatch’s volunteer program of the year award, listens to their communities by using YourMatch to connect with local needs. And they also listen to their employees.

In a recent interview, they said, “While many of our programs are promoted “top-down,” driven by executive involvement, many more of them are “bottom-up,” created and implemented by employees who had a great idea and are empowered to bring it to life.” And it works. One employee-led initiative impacted 1,000 students to prepare them for the coming school year.

Furthermore, many companies are now making deliberate efforts to strengthen relationships with nonprofit partners. A popular session at the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit allowed nonprofits and companies to come together speed-dating style to get real feedback on how they communicate with the “other side.”

At the end of the session, one participant commented to the group, “When I started my pitch, I started with sharing what we could give to our nonprofit partners. My colleague held out her hand and said ‘Stop right there. Don’t tell me what you can give me. Ask me what I need. And let’s take it from there.’ I learned more with that one interaction than I have in years of my own internal program evaluation.” This was someone who runs a CSR program at a Fortune 500 company.

To be candid, a CSR program that doesn’t listen to the needs of its communities is nothing more than PR. Luckily, there is a shift away from this mentality, and for good reason.

Now, whenever you hear someone say, “The world of CSR is changing,” know this:

The world of CSR is changing for the better.

And it’s doing so because we are starting to listen.

Most giving professionals will agree that ​the evolution of workplace giving has not kept pace with the advancement in technology and the changing social habits of the workforce donor base.

By 2020 Millennial’s will make up 50% of the total work force. It is the recognition of their habits and expectations that are driving the change in workplace giving today. By  2025 another shift will occur as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce. There is no doubt workplace giving programs must evolve to remain relevant and effective.

Today’s progressive companies are now planning to move from the traditional campaign trust model to a donor directed giving model that provides and empowers their employees with Personal Giving Accounts. PGAs like HSAs (Health Saving Accounts) offers benefits during and beyond their employment.

With employee micro foundations on the horizon, companies are catalyzing positive programmatic changes in giving by restructuring corporate matching and expanding on Dollars for Doers programs.

This type of forward thinking equates to forward momentum. Making continuous small changes in giving today will result in major improvements in next generation workplace programs that will increase the effectiveness of the workforce and the companies they work for. At the same time benefiting the communities that they live in and the planet that we all share.

DoTopia will be an exhibitor at the upcoming Charities@Work Summit this month on March 28 – 30 in New York City.  We look forward to seeing you there!



Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%!

The Case for Engagement

You’ve probably read all the stats about employee engagement and how it can skyrocket productivity, efficiency and retention… but has anyone taught you how to do it? Have you really honed in on what your employees want and need so you can create a level of engagement in your workplace you’ve never had before?

I thought so. Many are so enamored with the results of employee engagement or the best practices of the world’s most well-known companies, they barely stop to think if those same tactics will work for companies in different locations, with different budgets or with less mind share.

If you want engaged employees, it doesn’t start with fancy new titles or an annual retreat, or even replacing troublesome managers (although you might want to see to those as well). Employee engagement starts with understanding the values of your employees, and working to line those up with the values of the company. While the benefits are obvious, employee engagement isn’t working for most companies, with over 71% of employees reporting that they are not fully engaged.

Understand Corporate Values

Understanding the corporate values may seem like an easy one. After all, many companies have them stamped on a plaque somewhere or at least spelled them out in the employee manual. While these values extend to clients and executives, it’s less likely your employees have internalized them in any meaningful way.

Starting today, create a marketing campaign around YOUR corporate values, whether it’s attaching them to the end of every email or diving into what each value means to a specific employee (giving you a chance to spotlight employees!). In time, you’ll start to see these words and values creeping into the corporate lexicon and the daily conversations of your employees. A study by HR Consultants Towers Watson concluded that over a five-year period, the returns to shareholders by companies with “highly effective internal communication” exceeded returns by the “least effective companies” by 47%.

Some tips to get your company values even more entrenched in your organization:

  • – Enlist executives to share values-based content and encouragement with employees. 70% of employees who lack confidence in the abilities of senior leadership are not fully engaged.
  • – Work with managers to use teaching examples during performance conversations to discuss specifically which value a specific learning opportunity exemplifies. 80% of employees who were dissatisfied with their direct manager were disengaged.
  • – Input values into your rewards and recognition program. Why base rewards and recognition solely on performance? Instead start recognizing projects and people who align with your values. After all, 54% of employees who are proud of their company’s contributions to society are engaged.

This speaks to one of the most important parts of employee engagement, clear communication throughout the employee ranks is crucial. Values are a touchstone around which a clear communication plan can be created.

But what about your employees’ values?

In his collaboration with Harvard Business Review, Energy Project Founder Tony Schwartz surveyed more than 20,000 employees across 25 industries. The survey found that those who felt they were appreciated and recognized regularly by their bosses reported that they were more focused, engaged, and likely to stay with their companies.


That’s pretty compelling. Compelling enough to force you to start asking your employees for feedback or surveying them to determine what sorts of causes or programs you should implement form an executive viewpoint.

If you’re serious about engagement, you should. It’s not enough to simply shout the organizational values through a bullhorn at every company picnic (although that sounds like fun). Employees should be encouraged to openly communicate and influence the company’s vision with their input.

Again, how? Try these tips in your organization to learn more about the values of your employees:

  • – Ask them about causes they’re interested in via the corporate philanthropy program.
  • – Create monthly mini-surveys using free tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.
  • – Administer polls on the intranet to find out which programs and benefits are most attractive to your workforce (this is best done anonymously).
  • – Send out requests asking which of the company values matter most to them to find alignment.
  • – Run a contest around What I Value and give the winner a few PTO hours to volunteer for that cause.

The above may seem simplistic or unproductive, but each one touches on an important piece of making employees feel valued, and in turn, engaged. Employees feel like contributors, they see how their company has an impact, you’re encouraging social interaction and offering and more! Each small action rolls up into a larger picture of holistic employee engagement.

The final piece of the larger picture is doing something about it.

You’ve articulated your values. You’ve listened and polled and surveyed to learn what your employees value. What do you do with this information? Align those values and start building programs around them!

  • – Stand alongside your employees and give when they do. Over 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer a matching gift program to their employees. Instant engagement and support!
  • – Lend a helping hand. Create a volunteering program in your company and encourage your employees to start a fundraising drive. Working together to make the world a better place never drove a company’s engagement rate down! A CECP report shows roughly 1-in-3 employees participate in workplace volunteering programs and rates have steadily increased over the past three years.
  • – Give PTO to employees so they can use their skills to help those in need. Volunteer grants show your company’s commitment to impacting the community and the world. See how these top 10 companies utilize volunteer grants!

Employee engagement is a crucial piece of talent management, but it only helps those organizations who get it right. Make yours one of the companies who understands the importance of engaging its employees and builds on it!

Join JK Group at the Charities@Work Summit from March 28-30, 2016 in New York. Click here to register.

Want to know more about creating programs to engage employees? See our related content to learn more:

This blog post is part one of a two part series where I asked myself key questions going into the Charities@Work Annual Summit, and following the event I will post about the key takeaways that might help me answer these questions.

Like so many people today, I have a lot on my mind. Personally, I’m thinking about what kind of planet will my children inherit, if they’ll be able to afford college and will they be prepared for the job market of the future?  When it comes to work and the topic of employee engagement, I’m constantly asking myself, “Am I pushing the envelope and stretching beyond, ‘how we’ve always done it,’ to whether we are maximizing our potential?”

With the Charities@Work Annual Summit only a few weeks away, I’m eagerly looking forward to connecting with some of the forward-thinking minds in the industry to debate priorities and industry practices as we each strive to own our purpose in the corporate sector in these rapidly changing times. There is an increasing urgency for us as corporate responsibility professionals to make it easy for our people – who are busy and pulled in multiple directions – to give back in meaningful ways, to be able to link their efforts to true impact addressing global needs, and to find shared value in that journey.

As fortune would have it, this urgency comes at a time when we can be opportunistic and positively leverage a number of factors in society. Nonprofits and businesses can finally find impact measurement alignment around common sustainable development goals. The forecast of a millennial dominated workforce – who look for employers with corporate social responsibility values that match their own – is no longer theoretical. And digital natives have joined the workforce, reshaping how we approach the use of technology in our efforts.

My stakeholders are the partners, principals and staff of PwC US who give generously of their time, money and skills each year. They increasingly ask me what else they can do to advance education, end hunger, cure cancer, address student loan debt or support veterans transitioning into the workforce. They also want to know how they can better support each others’ efforts and know if we are making a difference – as individuals and collectively.

But I have questions for them too – if I build it, will you come?

Are the current trends in giving back here to stay? Will you abandon me for solutions you find outside of the workplace? What will compel you to give time and time again?

As we head into the Charities@Work Annual Summit, I have four burning questions:

  1. How do we move intention to action?
  2. How do we measure the effect?
  3. How do we recognize – across generations – the contributions of individuals in not only moving the needle, but in each action of giving, helping create a snowball effect in addressing society’s greatest needs?
  4. And last but not least, I’m asking myself what did you learn regarding engaging the workforce – tomorrow’s and today’s – in leveraging the organizational power of the workplace in making sustainable impact?


I hope you’ll join me and others for the Charities@Work conference in March in New York as I seek answers to these questions, and revisit this page in April when I respond to them.

Flint Water Crisis
photo credit: CNN.com

By now we are all familiar with the disturbing and sad reality of the water crisis that is still unfolding in Flint, Michigan.  Flint, located 70 miles north of Detroit, is a city of approximately 100,000 people where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 41.6% of the residents live below the poverty line (Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts, CNN.com).  Due to cost cutting measures, Flint changed its water source in April 2014 which ultimately caused the drinking water to become contaminated with lead and other toxins.  The contaminated water has been linked to a spike in Legionnaire’s disease in the area which has killed 10 and sickened dozens more. The other major concern is for the long-term health crisis caused by the prolonged lead exposure, especially in children, which can affect children’s growth, behavior and intelligence.

It’s hard to believe that there are American citizens without access to clean drinking water.  While filters have been installed in many homes, most are justifiably wary of using the tap water at all. Today the residents of Flint rely mainly on bottled water that is shipped in from a variety of sources, some from the government, some from corporations and some from private citizens.  And, unfortunately, there is not a clear end in sight.

What can your company do when a disaster like this happens?

Employee giving and corporate involvement can offer immediate and lasting support in crisis situations. People want to help in response to a crisis and companies that make it easy for employees to be part of that response add value in many ways. According to Americas Charities snapshot 2015 (charities.org/snapshot2015) 70 percent strongly agree that employees expect employers to run a socially responsible company, which includes providing opportunities for employees to connect with cause they care about.  Often people who are not involved in other causes are moved to action when it comes to disaster relief.  And, under a corporate program employees can make a bigger impact than they can on their own.

Flint 2A great example of employee giving and corporate involvement in the face of disaster is the Meritain Health/Aetna water drive campaign for the people of Flint that recently ended.  In this case one person, Debbie B., an employee at the Okemos, Michigan Meritain office, wanted to start a water drive to help fellow Michiganders in Flint.  She quickly realized that the other four Michigan offices wanted to contribute as well.  As the idea for the drive grew, the thought of the logistics became cumbersome.  Debbie reached out to YouGiveGoods, an online platform to raise goods for charity, and was quickly able to set-up an online water drive for all five Michigan offices.  Once word of the drive spread, Meritain and Aetna offices outside of Michigan wanted to help as well and were easily added as part of the online drive and were able to contribute.  In just over three weeks, Meritain/Aetna was able to raise over 10,000 gallons of water for distribution through Catholic Charities Center for Hope in Flint.  Meritain/Aetna sent volunteers to help with the distribution of the water to residents on March 12, 2016.  Aetna also set up an informed health line for the people of Flint (all people, not just Aetna members) with registered nurses available to discuss health related questions.  In addition, they are sponsoring the Genesee Public Health Department Forum in May, and the Aetna Foundation is making a $10,000 donation to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint/Flint Child Health Development Fund.

Companies that can spring to action in the face of a disaster are not only a source of valuable aid but create good will among consumers and loyalty among employees.

According to the 2013 Cone Communications Disaster Relief Trend Tracker, consumers stand ready to work alongside companies toward relief efforts and will reward those caring

Flint 3 companies with a strong brand halo.  More than half (54%) of global citizens say they have already joined corporate disaster relief efforts, while 9 in 10 global citizens have a more favorable impression of a company after learning that it supports disaster recovery.

A small to mid-size company may feel that this is a job for large companies only, but that is not the case. Thankfully, emerging technologies and innovations in volunteering, giving programs, and online drives are making it easier for companies of any size to react quickly to respond to disaster situations.  As in the Meritain/Aetna example, a large, multi-layered corporate response was brought about by the actions of one employee.

Flint, Michigan continues to need support.  And, we don’t know what disaster could be lurking around the corner.  Why not put your company in a position to help?  You could be the one employee that brings about a meaningful response to the next crisis.  Whether in your local community or around the globe, your company can make a difference and bring aid when disaster hits.

For more discussion on disaster relief and support,  join me at the 15th Annual Charities@Work Summit this March 28 – 30, 2016. Click here to register.


We know that the human body is capable of releasing endorphins that result in highs without addictive drugs.  Volunteering can induce such a high by creating a euphoric feeling of satisfaction.   But not all volunteer efforts create the same highs.

Some corporate responsibility activities have a large social benefit even though the volunteers do not interact with the actual recipients of the social good. A school fence can be painted, a park cleaned, funds can be raised, and organizational structures can be optimized.  The volunteers of these types of activities can obtain the satisfaction of a job well done, while intuitively knowing that their work is impacting people in need.

But, for many volunteers, the satisfaction of giving time and energy is substantially heightened if the effort involves interaction with the people in need.  The emotional power of human interaction is heightened even further if the volunteer activity forges an ongoing human relationship that results from service performed over an extended period of time.

Of course, these are also the most difficult volunteer opportunities to operate and manage as they often involve long term coordination to bring together people who are otherwise removed by geography and culture.  Consequently, most corporate responsibility activities don’t forge ongoing human relationships.

At Innovations for Learning, we are proud to offer corporations a manageable way to enable volunteers to forge human relationships through our TutorMate program. Six-year-old children bestow enormous love and gratitude on the adults who help them, and the TutorMate program forges relationships between volunteers and young children who are longing for human interaction. When TutorMate volunteers give of themselves, they receive so much in return.

I doubt that any drug has ever produced the kind of high that volunteers experience as they help their students learn to read.  I have been tutoring for a quarter of a century, and the high never diminishes when a student I’m helping breaks through to become a reader.

Whatever volunteer activity you pursue, I hope it gives you the kind of high that keeps you coming back for more. I hope you become hooked on giving back, throughout your lifetime! For more information on Innovations for Learning, click here.

Join Innovations for Learning at the 15th Annual Charities@Work summit from March 28th-30th. Register here today.