Be The Match had the pleasure and honor of sharing their mission with over 100 attendees at the 2014 Charities@Work conference earlier this April. As the featured activity in the Experience Lab, attendees participated in assembling Swab Kits used to identify the DNA type of potential marrow donors for the Be The Match Registry.

The event was sponsored by Aetna who exemplifies a truly remarkable partner in adding more potential donors to the registry. To date, Aetna has sponsored more than 142 marrow donor registry drives nationwide. Over 1900 Aetna employees have joined Be The Match Registry as potential bone marrow donors. Some of those registry members have been matched to a patient and gone on to donate marrow for a life saving transplant. Every four minutes someone in the US is diagnosed with blood cancer. For those needing a transplant, 70% will need to look outside their family and to Be The Match to find a marrow donor. Without partners like Aetna, the work that Be The Match does would not be possible.

The cause, kits and mission of Be The Match were brought to life when Joe, a recent transplant recipient, talked about his journey and the impact of the transplant on his family. As a result of the transplant, Joe’s wife has a husband, his children a father and the community a valued civic leader.

The Kit Making project was a great example of a hands on activity that companies can participate in to both educate and engage employees. Using those kits to facilitate company and community wide drives offers organizations the unique and special opportunity to help build communities of cures through their support of Be The Match.

A company can have a great impact on saving lives. One out of every 500 people who join the marrow registry is called to be a potential donor. By involving your employees you can host marrow donor drives, assemble swab kits or hold a fund raising event to give patients in need of a transplant a second chance at life. The outcome of these activities has the potential to have huge impact. It literally puts the power to save lives in the hands or shall we say ‘cheeks’ of ordinary people. Be The Match provides companies with the ultimate employee engagement opportunity – the ability to potentially save a life.

On behalf of be The Match, we want to once again thank Aetna and all the attendees of the 2014 Charities@Work Experience Lab for supporting the patients we serve. To bring Be The Match to your workplace please contact Angie Dahl at 612-884-8670 or adahl[at]

The Charities@Work Technology Series explores technology and employee engagement from a variety of vantage points for the two weeks leading up to our event. Join us for our live events that will enable a deeper dive in topics covered by these blogs.

I tripped over a little quote the other day that got me thinking (sadly I never stop!) about the landscape of workplace giving programs:

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions” – Ellen Glasgow

Despite an increasingly changing landscape, a lot of WPG programs are in a bit of a rut. Most of the people that run the programs know it (and if they don’t, their employees likely do). Even some of the higher performing programs (in terms of participation rates) that we run across, aren’t necessarily fully delivering on the engagement goals that could get better notice in the C-suite. We’re talking the talk about all the right things – engagement as the goal rather than just fundraising, for instance– but many are not yet walking the walk.

Companies (and their targeted users) need and deserve best-in-class technology and passionate, responsive service. That goes without saying. If you’re trying to enlist the willing participation of an increasingly distracted, time-constrained and webby demographic and you don’t have a compelling, easy-to-use, user-centric solution, you need to get one. Throughout history, people with better tools prospered and those who failed to upgrade and to meet market needs are mostly no longer with us (think about that as your company phases out your Blackberry, if they haven’t already ☺). Today, technology is our tool of choice and it is changing so rapidly that the ability to adopt and adapt new technologies is becoming not only a critical differentiator, but a survival mechanism.

But a compelling user experience and great client service are just necessary, not sufficient. We also need to freshly examine the way we think about corporate Goodness Programs, how/when/why they are executed, the distribution models and eligibility policies behind them, and the fact many of them
haven’t changed in many years…

How Did We Get Here?

I’m going to mention the elephant in the room and acknowledge that there is an unprecedented level of dissatisfaction with legacy software vendors in the employee giving space. There have likely been more RFP’s issued by companies around corporate giving and matching programs in the past 24 months than may have occurred in the preceding 10 years. That this is happening speaks volumes about the passion and energy that community investment professionals have to improve and increase the impact of their programs, but it also points to a landscape that has been allowed to tread water for a long time.

As a provider of some of the required innovation, it’s nice to be a beneficiary of that change, but the reality is most of us are working in this area to put a dent in the philanthropic universe, not just reshuffle market share or to help people do the same thing as before with a shinier partner. We need to create more and better programs, grow the number of companies that have them, increase the grassroots nature of the participation and impact through user-generated content, crowdsourcing, creativity, and doing more and better Good. (How’s that for stating the obvious?).

Let’s give credit where credit is due: the United Way was a huge influencer upon the existence and nature of workplace giving programs. The original once-a-year, limited choice UW model has persisted for decades, and even the more open programs and much of the software that has prevailed for many years were variations on the UW pledge form theme.

The thing is, everything has changed, and continues to. Think about the content we read about around this space these days (lots of it right on the charities@work blog): the growing business case connection between employee engagement and corporate giving programs; the increasing relevance and needs of Millennials and the uber-empowered multi-generational workforce; the importance of giving and volunteering in creating meaning in one’s work; the power of seeking and creating shared value, etc. It is all great stuff.

Yet despite the compelling logic, very little of it is capable of being leveraged in the conventional annual giving campaign model, at least as they have been historically executed.

Rainbow legs climbing in the sky

Where Do We Go Next?

Companies, administrators and even many charities (and the federations that work for them) are enthusiastically seeking change in the workplace giving program paradigm. And that’s encouraging on all fronts. But it’s not just about changing partners, we need to think about ‘digestible disruption’ while we’re at it.

We all seek stability. We want to hold things constant, thinking that if we do, we can control them. But the one thing we know is that everything is changing, so that’s a disconnect. Innovation is all around us, and we can see it 100 times a day as we do a stunning variety of things on our mobile devices.

So what makes us think that we can continue with fundraising and workplace giving practices that haven’t really changed much in more than a decade?

Where we go next involves embracing (if not running screaming toward) change. Not just a new product or provider, but the cultivation of an ethos and culture that seeks it out and gains energy from it. Even if they may not tell you (or even know it themselves), we can’t hope to engage today’s employees and consumers around community investment with more of the same – even if the metrics you’re fetching seem ‘okay’.

Most people seem to accept that we have a different ‘why’ for workplace giving programs than we used to – it’s all about engagement. But on one analysis, one should consider engagement as an exercise in constant attraction. It’s hard to fit that concept into the AGC! It involves examining the
‘how’ and ‘when’ as well…

Matthew Nelson’s post on managing the transitional aspects of a new vendor selection was insightful, practical advice. We all know how challenging it is to navigate through today’s large enterprise culture, and having great project management and cross-stakeholder communication are

But don’t forget something else: if your company is of any size, you will have gone to a fair bit of process to change your vendor; don’t forget to take the opportunity to examine everything about your program while you’re at it. Buying a sophisticated, compelling and versatile (notice I didn’t say expensive?) new outfit doesn’t make much sense if you wear your old coat over it.

Focus on constructively disruptive questions, not fear of change. Many of the answers are historical or legacy technology-based limitations, rather than best practice logic.

Ask why your program is restricted the way that it is, or has minimum donations or minimum volunteering thresholds when the empirical data is clear that it is not the amount of giving or volunteering that matters in creating meaning for people, it is the fact of it.

Question your boss if he or she says: ‘we only want our people to think about giving back once a year’ or are preoccupied with what senior leaders think about making changes to the giving program. Neither perspective is sensible in the context of modern engagement theory. Unless they’re in HR or community investment, the chances are they don’t take much time to understand the real motives, opportunities or success factors involved in taking your Goodness Programs from okay to Great. It’s
your core competency, not theirs. If you have to sell them, do it (or let others help you do it). If you can’t sell them, show them. The results will speak for themselves.

And most of all, dig deeply into any issue or component where the answer to the question is: “That’s the way we’ve always done it”…your people, your program, your partners and the social impact you hope to make will all be the better for it!

Join Benevity and other innovative companies April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.

HP program3

After a beloved teacher at a local school district passed away, nearly 100 Hewlett Packard employees pooled their money together and donated nearly $40,000 worth of computer equipment to the school in the teacher’s name.

They were able to do this through an innovative program that their company implemented to drive social change and allow employees to give back to their schools/charities of choice. The HP Employee Product Giving Program, developed and managed by Good360, is one of the prime examples of custom programs that help all of our constituents—individuals, corporations and nonprofits.

It is well-known employees who have options to donate or volunteer are more engaged and more invested in their workplace. The Corporate Leadership Council has shown that 87 percent of highly engaged employees were less likely to leave their companies than their disengaged counterparts. And yet, some companies don’t have the resources or know-how to engage those employees effectively.

HP programHere at Good360—a national nonprofit expert in product giving—we work with companies to make the business of giving simpler, more effective and more efficient. We not only want to encourage companies to do more social good, but we want them to benefit from doing so.

HP’s giving program is a major success story on all levels—and a great model for other corporations who may wish to implement such a program. Each quarter, the company devotes a portion of HP equipment from their small and medium business line for donation to nonprofits. Employees are then able to log on to the web site, choose a charity of choice, and select the items they wish to donate. Donations are facilitated through the HP Giving website, which is designed, hosted and managed by Good360.

How popular is the program? In the past several years, donations (averaging more than $5 million in value each year) have “sold out” in less than 48 hours after the giving program goes live. The program has distributed almost $40 million in donations since 2006.

“We have seen a tremendous interest and passion for this program by employees all over the country,” says Marlon Evans of HP. “It is great to know that our products are being distributed locally to organizations that our employees regularly work and interact with, and to reinforce HP’s commitment to our communities.”

Let’s look at why it works.

Tangible Giving

Since 2006, the HP Employee Product Giving Program has provided students and staff at Philomath School District in Oregon with significant technology tools that have positively impacted education. “Recently, our antiquated student computer lab was replaced with new HP computers and monitors, which allowed for software upgrades and enhanced instructional capacity,” said Superintendent Dan Forbess. “Over the years, the HP Employee Product Giving Program has provided technology tools for special education students, our broadcast media program, and vital student computer workstations throughout our district. We are very grateful and truly blessed by the employees who support this program.”

With a product giving program, employees can connect with their nonprofits and schools to ask them what products would be most helpful, and use their employer’s program to access those very items—making their gift both tangible and meaningful.

Engaging New Employees

Not only is the HP Employee Product Giving Program very popular with those who participate, but the number of new employees who contribute also continues to rise. Last year, more than 1,700 employees provided donations through the program. Each quarter, more than 40 percent of employee participants are first-time donors, demonstrating that the program continues to reach new employees that are being encouraged to get more involved in their communities and with their schools.

The Power of Choice

In a recent report by America’s Charities, one of the important aspects of a giving program that employees wanted was diversity. The HP program not only allows for giving across a wide range of causes and interests, but also gives employees the control to give to specific organizations and schools, making their impact even that much more personal.

Employees not only want a broader choice in how and where they give, but also when. They want to think charitably all year round, not just when the year-end hustle and bustle begins. By offering giving incentives each quarter, HP’s program allows employees to give when it’s most needed.

Corporate Matching

More than 65 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have employee matching gift programs—because they work. Not only do they provide an incentive for employees to give, but they also can enhance a corporation’s brand and sustainability programs. A win-win for everyone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the HP Employee Product Giving Program, employees contribute 25 percent of the cost of the donated technology and HP picks up the remaining 75 percent—allowing employees to really leverage their giving to see maximum impact. One key point of Good360’s mission is to leverage every dollar donated—we love to see the power of leveraged giving, and this program certainly showcases that.

Employee engagement programs should be custom to the company and meet the needs of the workforce and the communities they serve. With a little planning and listening, a company can really begin to understand what motivates its employees and how best to serve their desire to give back.

For more information about how Good360 helps companies engage employees and customers and give back to the community and environment through product giving, visit

Join America’s Charities April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.

The Charities@Work Technology Series explores technology and employee engagement from a variety of vantage points for the two weeks leading up to our event. Join us for our live events that will enable a deeper dive in topics covered by these blogs.

Employee volunteer programs can create immense benefits for your organization. But once you put one in place, how do you ensure that you’re managing it as efficiently as possible to yield the best results and maximize engagement and interest among your employees? Here are a few best practices to help you achieve that goal:

1) Plan thoroughly before you start

In order to kick off a powerful employee volunteer program, you need to know which direction you’re headed in. Get the input from those who will be involved, namely your company’s leaders and staff. And make sure to do as many of the following when developing your initial plan: develop mission and vision statements for the program; create a needs assessment; set and communicate your overall goals and objectives; & set and finalize your program budget.

2) Establish firm policies and procedures  

Your staff needs to know the parameters of the program—they need to know what to do and how to do it, both in terms of on-site participation and administrative responsibilities, tracking, etc. Setting clear policies and procedures provide the structure for sound program management. They ensure consistency on how all events are managed, reported, etc. They set expectations. They minimize risk of misinterpretation. And they standardize your program across all your various regional offices.

3) Organize orientation and training events

Once your program is in place, you need to ensure your employees understand the big picture and where they fit into it. This is essentially an extenuation of your policies and procedures—you’ve set the foundation, now you have to make sure that everyone understands the expectations you’ve placed upon them. Doing so will pay dividends over time.

4) Set clear roles and time slots

Once your program is up and running, it’s time to focus on increasing the efficiency of your event logistics. Map out the roles needed for each event and, as much as possible, align those roles with the individuals with the skills or interests most closely related to them. If people are not volunteering all day, but rather for a shorter period during the event, create time slots for each role and fill them as far ahead of time as possible to make sure your team shows up ready to hit the ground running.   

5) Designate team leaders

If a particular event requires you to break down your volunteers into groups or teams, be sure to designate a team leader for each. This person is responsible for making sure everyone is on point and understands their responsibility and is able to complete it. They also act as a mediator should anything go awry. Plus, it helps them build leadership skills that will help them in the future.

6) Make sure to track your hours properly

Your employees can volunteer all day, and that really brings them together. But they also deserve credit for a job well done, and your company deserves credit for the collective good it’s doing in the community. Set up reliable and streamlined mechanisms for tracking hours so that you can have an accurate picture of what you’ve done. This can be cumbersome if you rely on your employees to self-report. However, if you have the right employee volunteering software you can automate this so that everyone always gets credit for what they do, and you can tell a more powerful story to the communities you support.

7) Evaluate your work and improve your process

Create open channels for employees to evaluate their own work. Use surveys to get their feedback. Have your program managers on site take notes and look for ways to improve efficiency. A volunteer program is not static, it is always evolving, but you must proactively look for weaknesses in order to enable a continuous process of growth. Plus, by soliciting employee feedback you send the message that you value their input, which will help increase participation in your volunteer events.


About MicroEdge
MicroEdge helps corporations to effectively engage employees with AngelPoints—integrated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) solutions that enable companies to maximize employee engagement, streamline employee engagement programs, measure the impact those programs are having in the communities they serve, and share that story with company stakeholders and the community.  AngelPoints solutions have helped some of the world’s largest and most respected companies increase their employee engagement; today, AngelPoints solutions for employee volunteering, payroll giving, matching gifts, disaster response, dollars for doers, and sustainability serve more than 80 corporations and millions of employees around the globe.


Join MicroEdge and other innovative companies April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.

The Charities@Work Technology Series explores technology and employee engagement from a variety of vantage points for the two weeks leading up to our event. Join us for our live events that will enable a deeper dive in topics covered by these blogs.

A robust corporate giving program has become essential for any business. With an effective program in place, the company can make a positive impact on the world, whether by supporting its local community or contributing to larger, global initiatives. Additionally, having a social impact is a key differentiator for today’s organizations, many of which are still struggling to retain workers and customers in an uncertain economic environment. Yet, the companies that implement successful giving strategies typically benefit from the opportunity to better engage employees, attract new talent, retain customers and enhance their company brand, all while helping the greater community.

With research from Aon Hewitt showing that 40 percent of employees worldwide are actively or passively disengaged, the ability to engage the employee base is a top concern. Moreover, a recent PwC study shows that employees who are committed to their organizations put in 57 percent more effort on the job and are 87 percent less likely to resign than employees who are disengaged. Companies with active corporate giving programs that make it easy for employees to donate their time and resources, benefit from a key advantage in improving employee engagement.


The impact of a pronounced corporate giving platform isn’t limited to employees and job seekers; it can also enhance the company’s impression among customers and local communities and thereby increase revenue and corporate growth. According to Cone Communications’ 2013 Social Impact Study, consumers in the U.S. increasingly deem social impact a differentiating factor in their purchasing decisions. The study showed that 90 percent of Americans are more likely to trust and be more loyal to companies that back causes, and 82 percent suggested that their purchasing decisions are influenced by companies that support social issues.

Given the importance of giving programs in attracting and retaining employees and customers alike, companies must be able to identify the best practices that will truly engage their teams and turn their loyal customers into brand ambassadors. Consider the following tips for spurring employee engagement and the resulting business growth:

  • Encourage more than just donations: With multiple-channel programs, the company can enable employees to contribute through volunteerism and pro bono professional services, providing the opportunity to take a more hands-on approach to giving.
  • Provide numerous options: offering a large selection of non-profit organizations in a range of causes (e.g., health and welfare, education, civic, community, arts and culture, etc.) will help to engage employees by enabling them to donate to the causes most important to them.
  • Don’t set a time limit: Rather than implementing finite campaigns, the company can establish year-long giving programs. Not only does this allow employees to donate when the time is best for them, but it can also result in repeated gifts.
  • Match employee contributions: When the company matches gift donations, it shows its employees that it is just as committed as they are, while helping them to multiply the impact of their contributions.
  • Make their time worth it: By offering paid time off when employees are out of the office to partake in community activities, the company can encourage volunteerism.
  • Let employees choose: Giving employees the choice in how they would like to donate can help spur giving. The company should offer a variety of payment methods for donation, including payroll deductions and payments by credit card, check and cash.
  • Put the spotlight on employees: One of the best ways to drive employee giving is to motivate them with incentive programs, celebration events, internal publicity and public recognition.


At a time when employees are more empowered than ever and won’t think twice about leaving a company that doesn’t meet their expectations, giving campaigns provide a significant differentiator. Not only does corporate giving help to keep current employees engaged, but it also helps improve the corporate brand and make the company an employer of choice. Moreover, through its philanthropic efforts and commitment to its communities, the company can instill greater trust among the public, which results in more loyal customers. Given the impact that giving campaigns can have on business growth, it is clear that corporate giving is no longer a ‘nice to have’ feature, but a key instrument in driving business success.

Join JK Group and other innovative companies April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.

How is Transformative Value essential to achieving the ambitions of Shared Value?

Not everyone sees value

The aspirations of new frameworks such as Blended Value, Shared Value, Mutual Benefit, Triple Bottom Line, Conscious Capitalism and others represent significant and important paradigm shifts in current business models. Many forward thinking companies are adjusting current business practices and redefining success by adopting these progressive understandings in an effort to remain competitive.

Yet despite the noble and forward thinking aspirations of these frameworks each of them are limited in achieving results.


Your employees don’t agree with you (see why this happens here).

What about employees?

In a recent article posted on MIT Sloan Management Review, Gregory Unruh notes that today’s sustainability managers are leading what he call’s a ‘sustainability insurgency’ inside their organization. Traditional approaches to strategic implementation and ‘on-boarding’ have reached the limit of efficacy. Now, Unruh says, the goal is “to alter the way business is done in every function and unit of the company.”

Unruh notes that the traditional role of sustainability and CSR managers has to evolve. He’s right. It’s not enough to have a great program design and implementation strategy. If the decision makers at every level do not see a personal and compelling reason to adapt to these new frameworks the effect will be business as usual – mostly.

It is remarkable that current models of strategic theory do not include employees in the role of primary actor for successful implementation.  In a review of 60 articles of strategic management practices, employees are not mentioned: “Surprisingly, not a single definition mentions the (non-managerial) employees and their crucial role in turning strategic plans into results.” (Making Strategy Work: A Literature Review, pg 6)

At Realized Worth, we are convinced of the importance of the Shared Value initiative:

  • Reconceive products and markets to provide appropriate services and meet unmet needs.
  • Redefine productivity in the value chain to mitigate risks and boost productivity.
  • Enable local cluster development by improving the external framework that supports the company’s operations.

The role of the employee, however, is relegated to:

  1. Beneficiaries of Shared Value because now employees are able to better connect with purpose in the workplace (which is true)
  2. A source of Shared Value because employees are an element of the company’s value chain and represent a significant opportunity for cost reduction, i.e. reducing health care costs for the workforce (which is true)
  3. Drivers of Shared Value because employees, as with other stakeholders such as governments, customers, and communities, are demanding that ‘business step up’ to address social and economic issues (which is true)

Adapted from ‘Creating Shared Value’ , HBR, 2011

Employees are Primary Actors

Talk to almost any CSR manager and it becomes quickly apparent that despite the best-laid plans and resources, without middle manager and front line employee support – failure is inevitable. Almost every strategic theory advocates for the following tactics to address this potential barrier:

  • Senior support that is both visible and reoccurring
  • Proper training and support materials
  • Effective communication with numerous feedback loops
  • A clear implementation plan with SMART goals
  • A collaborative approach to design and execution
  • Etc.

What’s missing from this list?

Nothing really. This is a good list. In our work with clients we always advocate for these well known and proven tactics of change management. Yet on their own they are not enough.

The issue isn’t what needs to be done but rather for whom it should be done.

Transformative Value is about empowering the right people

We’ve had to fire clients in the past. This is never an easy decision and we take careful steps to ensure that everyone’s dignity and business objectives are respectfully guarded. But there is only ever one reason why we let clients go – they are unable or unwilling to believe in people over process.

A good strategy demands the right process (which can be broad and very complicated). More importantly, a good strategy demands the right people. What makes someone the right choice? The right person already believes that the new framework is right for the company because it connects with their personal beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

Here is a simple comparison of the two approaches:


Typical Implementation Strategy Transformative Value Strategy
Goal: Buy-in of everyone Goal: Find small number of people with the right experience, energy and enthusiasm
Training through manuals or workshop Experience first learning
Extrinsic motivation through carrots and sticks Intrinsic motivation based on personal experiences and beliefs
Appoint the appropriate functional or departmental roles to lead Collaborate with any employee already possessing the right beliefs and experiences


Still not convinced?

Be sure to watch this compelling video “The Business Case for Sustainability” by the late Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairmen of InterfaceFLOR.

The Transformative Value Series

In this series we will explore how external constructs expressed as policies, strategies, manuals, performance reviews and mission statements must be internalized by individuals in order to achieve the promise of both blended and shared value.

Here are some questions we’ll be answering:

  1. How is Transformative Value essential to achieving the ambitions of Blended Value and Shared Value?
  2. How is employee volunteering and workplace giving connected to Transformative Value?
  3. What are the Five Phases of creating Transformative Value through corporate volunteering and workplace giving programs – and where is your company on the continuum?

Explore this with me in NYC, April 3, 4

I will be moderating a panel discussion Transformative Value: Evolving Beyond Shared Value.

This plenary explores the potential of mobilizing global workforces supported by the enormous resources of the private sector to address acute social and environmental issues. The expert panel will explore a vision for a radically different future that can be achieved through engaging our employees in volunteer opportunities in the communities in which they live and work.

The Charities@Work Technology Series explores technology and employee engagement from a variety of vantage points for the two weeks leading up to our event. Join us for our live events that will enable a deeper dive in topics covered by these blogs.

How do you give comma separated variable extracts, FTP transmissions, and business intelligence dashboards a little sexy sizzle?  You could call it “big data”, but sometimes it’s the “little data” that makes all the difference.

Most of us prefer to avoid data-based topics in our leisure (or work) chit-chat time; much less, voluntarily engage in unraveling the mysterious world of data mining.  But when you work at Sabre, you embrace the culture of an innovative tech company.  So when you’re in charge of the company’s annual global volunteering campaign, and you ask a group of employee volunteers how to increase participation in volunteer events, they don’t say, “offer free beer and nachos”, “add more pictures of me to your website”, or “give me a sweeter t-shirt”, they say… okay, wait, they do ask for those things, BUT THEN, they say… “Don’t we have a bunch of data about volunteers and upcoming events?”  And you say, “Of course. Every volunteer management vendor offers a bevy of interesting and mostly meaningful data… that we use for post-campaign congratulatory emails”.  Then, they say, “Well, chief, why don’t we create a BI tool out of that data and put it into an interactive, easy-to-use, online tool?”  And you say, while fighting that funky feeling most people get when casually chatting about structured data feeds, “Sounds amazing!”

And, thus, was born an idea which resulted in a 45% year over year increase in employee participation in Sabre’s week-long global volunteer campaign.

Drawing inspiration from the QlikView applications that Sabre creates for customers and a data feed from our volunteer management website, a small team in our tech organization partnered with the analytics vendor to develop an intuitive app that allowed executives and campaign leaders to access:

  • Percentage of employees in differing organizations and regions signed up for events
  • Drill down capabilities to view participation by business unit, leader, location, volunteer event and more – excluding  individual employee information to maintain privacy
  • And most importantly, a competitive rank showing each organization and regions performance against the others – complete with old-school gold stars for the best performers

Sabre Dashboard

Campaign managers could see which events needed more volunteers and which employee groups still needed to sign-up for an event, giving them the opportunity to play event “matchmaker”. The result was more employee engagement and higher participation levels than ever before.  And by targeting the groups that needed attention, it actually reduced the effort of making it all happen.

Sabre increased participation by 45% across 450 events in 31 countries which should be reward enough.  But somehow, I still had to buy the team beer and nachos, and currently, I’m making them sweeter t-shirts.

Join Sabre and other innovative companies April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.

Are you and your team working harder than ever to implement the latest workplace giving and employee engagement tactics, but not seeing the results you expected? It might be time to consider a fresh set of eyes and experience to help you realize the new opportunities and potential of a more strategic, progressive employee workplace giving and employee engagement program.

Getting Started: Plan Goal Strategy Words on Three Red Dice

While workplace giving has evolved well beyond the days of an annual fall campaign for the local United Way, many of the strategies and tactics used by employers remain disconnected from broader corporate social responsibility and people strategy.

There’s been much talk about the need to strategically connect these activities (see America’s Charities 2013 Snapshot Report), and some companies are in fact moving to a more integrated, strategic approach.  But others are finding it difficult to break out of old traditions and ways of looking at employee giving.

The key is to look at your employee workplace giving program as part of a larger whole and not an isolated, once-a-year activity disconnected from the broad range of strategic possibilities. And the way to do that is to approach workplace giving like you would any business challenge – with a strategy complete with metrics, accountability and a value proposition that ties to whatever broader social responsibility and people strategy goals your company or organization has deemed a priority.

When providing strategic consulting services for employers interested in developing a more focused, strategic approach to their workplace giving, philanthropy and employee engagement efforts, America’s Charities utilizes the following six step process.

6 Steps For A More Progressive & Successful Employee Giving Program:

  1. 1.     Define your challenges and opportunities.
  2. 2.     Identify what success looks like for you.
  3. 3.     Understand your company’s broader business environment including, but not limited to your broader social responsibility, employee engagement and related goals.
  4. 4.     Generate a range of solutions appropriate for your culture and resources.
  5. 5.     Analyze the risks and benefits of each proposed solution by conducting beta tests, key stakeholder interviews and related “proof of life” measures.
  6. 6.     Choose the solution(s) best suited for your company.  


What the Data Says About Workplace Giving & Employee Engagement Programs

Employer Intentions: The vast majority of employers recently surveyed by America’s Charities say they intend to continue emphasizing employee workplace giving and many indicated plans to create increasingly sophisticated programs that:

Ÿ  Are branded and strategically aligned with the company’s overall social responsibility, employee engagement and related goals.

Ÿ  Employ new giving models and technology designed to involve and engage increasingly digitally sophisticated employees, particularly Millennials.

Ÿ  Recognize the relative budget constraints that most corporate giving and social responsibility offices operate under.

Ÿ  Empower employees to participate in the giving experience both inside and outside the walls of the workplace.

Employee Expectations: From that same survey, we found that employees expect the following from their company’s giving program:

  • Match of their donations to charity with a company contribution.
  • A more progressive workplace giving program that offers choice and uses technology to connect employees with the charitable marketplace.
  • Tangible evidence of the employers’ support of and commitment to philanthropy as part of its social responsibility footprint.
  • Expanded opportunities to give both money and time throughout the year including paid time off to volunteer including employer-sponsored volunteer projects.
  • More internal opportunities to share experiences with fellow employees through social networks, the company intranet/newsletter and social events.

Based on the emerging trends and expectations we’ve studied from surveys of employers, there are some dramatic shifts taking place in terms of workplace giving right now. I’ll be sharing more insights from those surveys at this year’s Charities@Work 13th Annual Corporate Citizenship Summit, April 3-4, 2014 in NYC.  So if you haven’t yet, register for this year’s event now. My team and I will be there to share how your company can develop a world class workplace giving and employee engagement program.  Of course, you can always reach out to me at as well.

The Charities@Work Technology Series explores technology and employee engagement from a variety of vantage points for the two weeks leading up to our event. Join us for our live events that will enable a deeper dive in topics covered by these blogs.

Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you

Is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.

–Bob Dylan

 Once upon a time, employee volunteer programs were quaint diversions in Corporate America.  Throw together a “done in a day,” order tee-shirts for everyone, and presto!  Your work here is done, Ms. HR Exec. Instant halo effect generated, mission accomplished.

Those simple days are long past.  The new world order around corporate volunteering is vastly more sophisticated, and your community and employees expect loftier things from your program than cause marketing stunt work.  But without the right tools, it’s impossible for administrators to keep up with the evolving standards of successful volunteer programs.

volunteer-group And who wants to just be keeping up, anyway?  The businesses that excel at employee volunteering view it through a different lens; not as a chore that needs to be checked off the list, but as an important gateway to increased employee engagement, customer awareness, community relationships, branding, top talent recruitment, skills training, leadership training and succession management.  These organizations understand that the positive outcomes of volunteer programs can be significant, and certainly worthy of the investment in current technologies to facilitate optimal results.

When it comes to your core business, would you expect much if you used antiquated systems that rely on manual processes, or shoddy technology that frustrates everyone?  Why, then, is your volunteer program any different?  Short-term band-aids won’t solve your engagement issue.  If you want to extract the full value from your programmatic efforts, you must look beyond your immediate pain and invest in modern technology that enables an experience which is social, mobile, transparent, automated and interactive.

Why are these qualities important?  Amidst these changin’ times, the employee volunteering bar keeps getting raised higher, so that only those using the best technology will be able to keep pace and assume leadership roles in the sphere of corporate citizenship.

So if you’re in charge of your corporate volunteer program, bear in mind the following challenges that only modern technology can overcome:

 1.         One size doesn’t fit all.  People volunteer for a variety of reasons.  One analysis highlighted by Realized Worth identified six volunteering motivators, to be precise: prosocial (purely for the benefit of others); belonging (a way to develop personal relationships); self enhancement (a way to feel better about yourself), self-protective (a way to distract yourself from something that troubles you in your own life), developmental (a way to gain knowledge and skills), and career (a way to increase your job prospects).  A successful corporate volunteer program will acknowledge this reality and offer a multitude of on ramps to engage potential volunteers in different ways.  The right technology is essential to making these on ramps easy to see, enter and enjoy.

2.         You can’t be too social.  No matter how much work you put into your program, getting employees engaged in volunteering is tough, which is why the average participation rate is so abysmal.  Lowering the barrier to entry with a volunteering experience that’s highly social is essential to getting your employees hooked.  The right technology fosters online interactivity that makes participant enthusiasm contagious before, during and after the event.

When you consider that employee happiness (according to a Dale Carnegie Training study) is 23.3% more dependent on co-workers than direct managers, and that team play and collaboration are the top trait that employees appreciate about their co-workers, it’s evident that creating more opportunities for peer connection is an important objective that supercharges your program and helps it build on its own success.  This interactivity is only achievable through modern volunteer management software that provides social tools which speak directly to the ways that Millennials in particular (an important constituency for any company) share and communicate.  That’s why, according to a report by America’s Charities, more than half of surveyed companies intend to incorporate more social media tools into their giving activities.

3.         Community involvement shouldn’t be a sideshow.  The 2013 Civic 50 report that unveiled a list of the 50 most community-minded corporations, as well as the common characteristics of their engagement activities, revealed a pattern; companies harness their power most effectively when they contribute the expertise and resources of their businesses and employees.  Consider that 88% of these companies evaluated their employees’ performance in part based on their participation in community engagement, 92% reported specific policies to institutionalize community engagement, 96% evaluated their business performance in part based on the impact of their community engagement programs, and nearly 1 in 3 employees at these companies volunteered or donated expertise.  Generating and managing this level of engagement is unfeasible without the right technology to back it up.

4.         Consolidation is key.  The same survey by America’s Charities concluded that in order to be effective with their employee-directed corporate philanthropy, companies must consolidate their efforts.  Forget about the old way of doing things, where volunteering, giving, pro bono work and engagement were all separate buckets spread out over the company.  Businesses now recognize that all of these practices fall within the same camp and need to function as a coordinated effort, an outcome that’s only possible with dedicated technology.

Corporate volunteer programs can atrophy over time if not infused with new life through updated technology.  Outdated systems don’t drive participation or impact because they get in the way and become just one more tedious thing to do.  Conversely, sophisticated platforms lead the way to the future with engaging experiences that are powerful lures to employees.  In this day and age, modern volunteer management software should not be considered optional; it’s an essential tool that can make your program easy to manage, attractive to engage in, and successful at generating impact within your company and community.

Join Causecast and other innovative companies April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.

The Charities@Work Technology Series explores technology and employee engagement from a variety of vantage points for the two weeks leading up to our event. Join us for our live events that will enable a deeper dive in topics covered by these blogs.

Literacy skills have been critical to achieving success and position since the Industrial Revolution.  In today’s world — so dependent upon a grasp of the Internet and global communications —  these skills are more important than ever.

It’s no coincidence that there’s a strong correlation between the long standing “literacy divide” and the more recent “digital divide.”

Corporations and employees can play a great role in closing both those gaps.

edPresident Obama has recently called for strong corporate involvement and a private/public partnership to address the digital divide.  Just this past month, he invited corporate leaders to The White House to enlist them in specific tactics in support of the ConnectED program.   It wasn’t the first such meeting.

The ConnectED program, led by the US Dept. of Education and the FCC, is designed to provide 99% of US Schools students with broadband access to the Internet within the next five years.  Many technology focused US corporations, some of whom will be represented at this year’s 2014 Charities At Work Conference, are being enlisted to support these goals as well.

Is there a tie-in for this important initiative with the arena of employee engagement?

By all means, yes.  I’d like to explore some avenues by posing two areas for consideration, one broad and one narrow.

1)    Broad:  In general, how can we bring the resources of our employee engagement programs to join the effort in closing the digital divide?

2)    Narrow:  What is the nature of the intersection between the emerging strategic public/private partnership embodied in the ConnectED program, which specifically targets the nation’s K-12 schools, and our own employee engagement goals and programs?

There are many good answers to the first question.  I’ll suggest three.

  1. Perhaps one the best known initiatives is the micro volunteering program offered through the Skills for Change program of Sparked, founded by Ben Rigby and Jacob Colker in 2010.    Employees, using a crowdsourcing model, can donate both time (even just 15 minutes in some cases), but also specific tied to their individual abilities and interests.  . Rigby says that corporate partners see engagement rates achieve the 50 percent to 80 percent range.   Many of the supported nonprofits are specifically engaged in work around addressing the digital divide.
  2. Another great program is the VolunteerMatch Solutions program, which, like Sparked, allows employees to sift through a wide variety of creative volunteer opportunities.  Unlike Sparked these opportunities tend to offer longer term commitments.  Look for folks from VolunteerMatch at this year’s Charities @ Work Conference in NYC in early April, in fact.
  3. Many communities offer great volunteer opportunities for corporate employees to address the digital and literacy divides at the local level.  The Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford, for example, runs reading programs and computer labs targeted at building both general literacy and computer literacy skills, specifically for adults in the Hartford area.  Similar programs abound in cities across the US.

Let’s turn to the narrower question we raised above.   Are there effective ways that our employee engagement programs can support schools by leveraging the ConnectED program’s planned improvements in school-based broadband technology?

You bet.  I’ll offer two compelling options here – one a bit selfishly.

The first is focused on high school students.  This is the great eMentoring program icouldbe.   icouldbe’s provides “an online community where adults from hundreds of career paths support students from low-income communities as they make positive decisions about their future”.   Volunteers provide online mentoring support for one hour per week with their paired student.  Mentors report high satisfaction from their work with icouldbe.

Another option is the TutorMate program, in which, in full disclosure, I occupy a management role.  TutorMate focuses on much younger students – specifically on first and second graders, when their fundamental reading skills are ideally taking shape.

The program operates in a dozen major US cities.  Corporate partners recruit “teams” of employees who are paired with the same number of at-risk young readers early grade classrooms.  These students are typically lagging, and stand to benefit from a caring adult supporting their reading efforts for 30 minutes a week, during the school day, and entirely online.  The program was developed by 21-year-old nonprofit Innovations For Learning.

Both of these programs work directly with public school districts in typically underserved communities.  Hence they offer a terrific avenue for aligning “virtual volunteer” employee engagement programs, directly with the strategic vision expressed by President Obama’s high-stakes ConnectED public/private initiative.

In summary, the ubiquity of the internet within today’s office environments offers us a chance to meaningfully work to eliminate both older and newer “divides” within disadvantaged communities.

It does this by leveraging what we already know about mentoring and “communities of practice”, a term coined by well-known cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, in their 1991 book “Situated Learning”.  It means “groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

Now we can extend this CoP model into the virtual realm as well, by engaging students in need through online channels.  And in the process we’ll gain a better understanding of ourselves and our community.

The programs noted above are but a few examples of the different approaches which eagerly await your organization’s further exploration and engagement.

Join Dan and other innovative companies April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.