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.

When it comes to seeking understanding about developing effective employee engagement strategies and programs, the average online search produces a plethora of tips, ideas, research, opinions, and sometimes even conflicting information. What does seem clear is that one of the most critical elements of successful engagement is enabling employees to make progress in meaningful work. But what does that mean, how does a workplace go about it, and… then what?

There are workplaces that have managed to ‘crack the code,’ meaning, they have built and have ownership over a process that successfully moves their employees through an ongoing and dynamic cycle that has at its core: strategy and goals alignment; stakeholder input; the establishment of mutual purpose that can be connected to desired impact; and, of course, measurement and assessment and adjustment. Called the Engagement Continuum, this concept certainly isn’t new. But its applications are changing the way employers are approaching how they inspire the critical ingredients of employee motivation and action.

The engagement continuum defines a path that’s meant to be walked side-by-side by leadership and the workforce; it is a journey, an exploration, and a living, interactive process where everyone plays a role. It’s about identifying the intersection where corporate goals meet with employee purpose in a way that also addresses the issues impacting society and our future.

Building a flexible, adaptable roadmap that allows for employee input and ideas.

At The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), they’re building engagement around sustainability with the perspective that acting in a sustainable way is not only good for the planet, but is also beneficial to their business and the communities where their people live and work. To-date Guardian’s accomplishments include reducing the company’s energy consumption by 25% in its IT areas, resulting in both lower costs and less environmental impact; the opening of a new LEED certified building on their Bethlehem campus that will support a 30-40% savings in water usage and investment in 100% renewable energy; and establishing a Sustainability Council whose job it is to identify initiatives and inform employees around the company’s sustainability process.

In 2016, the company is seeking to launch regional employee Green Teams and establish a new printer fleet that will reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 84% and paper consumption by 10%, for a projected savings of more than $25,000. Guardian is just getting started, and they turned to EarthShare as their partner for support on the path to deepening their employees’ investment in these shared goals.

“We chose to partner with EarthShare because of their strong ability to deliver meaningful information and best practices coupled with thoughtful advising on environmental practices,” says Michael Carren, Guardian’s Head of Strategic Philanthropy. “It’s important to Guardian that we not only educate and engage our employees in our support for sustainability, which EarthShare has a rich history of doing, but also that we learn from the best practices of others, engage in dialogue across sectors, and build our strategy in a way that will create the greatest social, environmental and business value possible.”

To start, EarthShare is supporting the establishment of the critical employee-driven teams that will work in each of the company’s locations to create an annual plan of activities to involve their colleagues in environmental stewardship.

Guardian’s first Green Team Manual is in development. EarthShare is also supporting ongoing communication on environmental issues and activities, including driving participation in the company’s recent Environmental Stewardship Fairs with messaging and program branding delivered strategically via their internal platforms.

This strategy includes encouraging employee participation in green behaviors and activities at work and at home through communication that promotes understanding of their role. The partnership will also provide ongoing content to help achieve clarity about how business sustainability goals benefit the environment and communities where Guardian operates. Whether driving participation in Guardian’s printer return program, or delivering modern green lifestyle tips that meet employees where they live, Guardian is communicating a shared sustainability vision in ways meant to capture the hearts and minds of employees, while offering ways to plug directly into that vision.

Helping employees recognize a purpose within the workplace that translates to their job and connects with broader organizational and community goals.

Further along the engagement continuum is the result of this awareness- and connection-building investment: employee commitment, action, and outcomes. According to Gallup, factors that are crucial to achieving this stage of engagement include giving employees an opportunity to do what they do best, giving them a voice in the workplace, and ensuring they have the support they need to encourage their development. AT&T hits the mark on each point with their longstanding Do One Thing (DOT) program.

“…Do One Thing (DOT) is an invitation to employees to think about their daily actions and pick one change they can make that will have a positive impact on themselves, their community and/or the company… But the real beauty of DOT is its ability to create culture change. After all, once you start engaging your employees to change behaviors, they will push the company to do the same.”*

Cultivating employee brand ambassadors who mentor and build goodwill, internally and externally.

AT&T recognizes that empowering employees to choose the things they care about and giving them ways to talk about it prevents DOT from becoming a chore or an unwanted responsibility. Allowing employees to share what they’ve learned and accomplished in both internal and public forums is the added element that truly elevates the success of the DOT program, by establishing authentic employee champions. The company’s engagement program gives them creative avenues to talk about what matters to them and what they’ve achieved, in their own voice.

The success of AT&T’s DOT engagement program can be heard in the testimonials of the most authentic brand ambassadors – their own employees.


“Simple actions can change an entire community; our employees demonstrate this every day with DOT,” says Jason Leiker, Associate VP of Community Engagement at AT&T. “Through DOT, employees are choosing to make small changes in their lives that are having a significant positive impact on them, their community and our company. DOT makes it fun and ultimately drives greater commitment.”

Where is your company on the engagement continuum? 

Whether you’re firmly en route to commitment and action or just getting started, you can join EarthShare, Michael Carren, Jason Leiker and other thought leaders at our interactive breakout session on March 29 to explore the stages of the engagement continuum and get best practice ideas for making your own program all it can be.

 Join EarthShare at the 15th Annual Charities@Work summit from March 28th-30th to hear more on the engagement continuum. Register here today.


About EarthShare:

For almost 30 years, EarthShare has supported nearly 600 of America’s most respected environmental and conservation organizations through the original crowdfunding – workplace giving. Today EarthShare is a strategic advisor and programmatic partner to the business sector, executing dynamic engagement and philanthropy programs focused on creating the tangible impact needed to ensure a flourishing future.

*Source: http://about.att.com/content/csr/home/blog/2014/01/five_ways_at_t_engag.html#sthash.cBEzVkjh.dpuf

The following article by Peter Dudley was originally published on CSRwire Talkback: http://www.csrwire.com/blog/posts/1705-five-truths-about-running-an-online-auction

Not only did I fail to kill our workplace giving campaign’s online auction last year, this year my team is working harder than ever to improve it. I’m still not sure where I went wrong.

I have hated our online auction since we expanded it to the enterprise several years ago. It’s fraught with risks, it’s a customer service nightmare, it’s used by only a small portion of our 260,000 employees, and it accounts for just 0.29% of our $70 million campaign. Also, I’m personally not an auction shopper. I’ve sold my books and I’ve offered my time on our auction site (there’s nothing sadder than seeing your “shadow me for a day” item going for less than a plush pony), but auctions hold no appeal for me.

Apparently, I’m in the minority on that. But, as with chemistry class back in high school, if I’m required to do it I might as well learn from it. If you’re thinking of running an online auction in your workplace giving campaign, maybe you can learn from my experience.

1. Auctions are a terrible way to raise money

Last year, our auction raised $200,000, which might seem like a lot until you look at our entire campaign.

Payroll contributions accounted for about 70% of our campaign, and credit card donations made up another 7%. Considering the cost of building, maintaining, and supporting the site, you’re better off investing in almost any other scheme, no matter how hair-brained, to increase your campaign totals. Auctions are great for the whole “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” thing, but for raising money? Not so much.

2. People don’t always make good choices

One morning a few years back, I opened an email that started, “Someone is auctioning their cat.” I should have quit right there, but inexplicably I read the next sentence: “I think this is okay as long as they don’t send it through interoffice mail.”

That was the day we wrote down the rule that if it eats, breathes, or swims, you cannot auction it. We’ve since had to broaden those terms, establish a process to review all items when they’re posted, and build administrator tools so my team can delete items as necessary. We’ve also had to put in parameters to stop people from bidding a billion dollars and to make people agree to our “workplace appropriateness” language before posting photos with their items. It turns out not everyone inherently shares a common view of what is safe for work.

3. Milliseconds can ruin lives

Some people seem to think that my auction site can sense the precise instant their brain tells their finger to click the “bid” button. I wish I had their IT department because apparently they live in a magical world where computers never fail and the network is never slow. In the real world, however, network lag exists. If you click a millisecond before the auction ends, your click might not be the winning bid. It might not get registered at all, or it might even be beaten by someone across the country who has a more precise clock. Seriously, people, your life is not ruined just because someone else won Tessie’s homemade granola for eight dollars. Back away from the keyboard and take a deep breath.

Peter Dudley
Peter Dudley

4. Commitment is on a sliding scale

I think a prankster must show fake terms and conditions to some of our auction bidders. Our real terms state clearly that a bid is a commitment to pay, but the fake ones must say something different. Either that, or some people think that “commitment” means “I’ll think about it, if I still want to later.”

I have to point out that the vast majority of our auctions close out as completed transactions, resulting in a happy seller, a happy buyer, and a happy nonprofit. Still, every year we get a handful of people who claim they didn’t mean to bid, or they never expected to win the auction. This is why I only provide the auction site, not the auction. The actual transaction is by agreement between the buyer and the seller, with the money going directly to the nonprofit.

If you’re planning on setting up your own online auction, take this advice: your role is to facilitate that agreement, not to facilitate the payment or fulfilment. Believe me, you’ll be much happier if you keep yourself and your company out of the middle. (This is where I encourage you to talk to your legal department.)

5. What really sells?

Although our auction site has its share of collectible hand knitted portraits of Elvis, two things sell better than anything else. First, parking. As a train commuter, I didn’t really understand why parking spots close to the front door were such a big deal until I visited one of our Minneapolis campuses in the winter. Now, I totally get it.

The other big seller is face time. Executives and even middle managers put themselves up for auction—work a day with Peter, have lunch with Pam, golf with Steve. In a company our size, a lot of executives don’t have time to do all the informational interviews they wish they could, and this gives them a way to raise money for charity while setting aside time. The great thing about this is there’s no possible way that these could sell for less than their original purchase price. Though my “shadow Peter for a day” auctions sometimes come close.

In the end, the online auction is not really about the money it raises or the redistribution of things. Among the workgroups that use it every year, it creates excitement and buzz about the campaign and gets people excited. In fact, auction participants were twice as likely in 2015 to make a personal pledge in the campaign, and those personal pledges were on average 42% higher than people who didn’t participate in the auction. So there may be some good in it after all. Maybe I’ll let it stick around a little longer.

I hope you’ll join me and other CSR professionals for the Charities@Work conference in March in New York for more peer-to-peer sharing and networking. Click here to register today.

Read more from Peter Dudley: http://www.csrwire.com/blog/bloggers/227-peter-dudley/posts



I’ll spare you the rehash of the entire story that led to the creation of YourCause and, instead, give you the Cliff Notes version. In 2007, I came home slightly early from work (so I could sneak in a bike ride before dark) and on the television was a Dateline MSNBC segment focusing on Joseph Koney, child soldiers, and how torn apart Uganda had become. In the 20-minute segment, a little boy named Patrick, with his broken English and fatigued expression, broke my heart.   I remember like it was yesterday, the emotion that came into me while watching. I looked down at Sophia (now 11 years old) and Annabella (who was just born) and I thought to myself, “How are these events happening within the same world where I am actually leaving my job early to come home and RIDE MY BIKE?” That day, my life changed. And just this past week, after more than 9 years, I was connected with the producer of the program I had watched, with Patrick himself, and consequently, a flood of emotions I hadn’t realized I had been storing for all these years. Let me explain.

I have never minced words with my investors, my employees, my friends, and my children – I love what I do. I’m utilizing technology to make a genuine impact on the rest of the world. I have surrounded myself with smart, caring, and wonderful people who also share the same desire to make our world a better place–one pixel at a time.

And I arrived at this place as a result of being inspired by a random segment on MSNBC whereby “little Patrick” shared the horrors and realities of his life. Being forced to kill his own mother in order to save his own life. Watching his sister become a sex slave to the militia leaders. And his determination and desire for the war/fighting to come to an end, as his young exhaustion had simply gotten the best of him.

For more than 9 years, and until recently when I got my hands on the actual video clip, I had replayed that video segment in my head to motivate me to pursue my own cause. His story has been posted on our website, built into my presentations, and re-told hundreds of times as a part of our new hire orientation.   In so many ways, Patrick was the single greatest source of inspiration in recognizing that so many people had a cause, yet lacked a method by which they could take action. It was Patrick who allowed my own cause to become YourCause… yet I never even told him a simple “thank you.”

A few weeks back, one of my team members here at YourCause sent me a note asking if I would consider a trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe to speak with local entrepreneurs about my experience as an entrepreneur at YourCause–for a program sponsored by the US Embassy and some local nonprofits.   As soon as she asked, I could not help but think about how close I would actually be to Uganda, to Patrick, and to where this all (YourCause) began. A wave of emotions came over me as I explored the idea of extending my trip to Uganda, whereby I could at least make an attempt to find him.   I brainstormed about what I could do to determine his whereabouts and what could best be done to actually give me a chance to meet little Patrick.

The exploration of this scenario in my mind made me realize that I truly had some unfinished business in my personal life. I had built a company of more than 100 employees. I had figured out how to use technology to make a positive difference in our world. I had built my way into MY dream job whereby I could confidently say EVERY DAY that I “love what I do.” Yet, I never actually achieved MY cause.   I never truly did help Patrick. I had never practiced the very concepts that I’ve been preaching for years. And it took my upcoming trip with the US Embassy to bring about this realization.

It wasn’t too late to complete my story and walk the walk, and it hit me shortly after dropping my children off at school and during my short commute to the office. I would, at our weekly all-hands meeting, challenge anybody in the company to set up a meeting for me and Patrick – and as a reward, I would commit to purchasing a plane ticket to anywhere in the world, upon success. Even while posing the challenge, I could feel this crazy sense of relief set in, as if I were finally “following through” with my original mission and I too was taking a definitive step towards achieving MY cause.

No more than an hour later, a member of our sales team came hustling into my office – a bit winded – and requested that I come downstairs (to where the sales team is), saying that our head of lead generation had gotten in touch with the producers of the MSNBC segment and they wanted to talk to me! I dropped what I was doing and began my own hustle to the sales department; I couldn’t help but think how fitting it was that the very person in our company who is responsible for finding the right people for us to speak with was able to connect (in very short order) with one of the persons I wanted to chat with. (Apparently we DO hire well!).

The cell phone was handed to me, and I appropriately delivered my “This is Matthew,” not fully knowing who I was about to speak with; and that was to be the last audible sentence I would be able to get out for the next few minutes. Tim Sandler, the original journalist and producer from MSNBC, felt the same emotion – at the same time; he too was unable to get his initial sentence out without his emotions getting the best of him.

So what was it?   For 9 years, Patrick was for me a symbol of motivation and inspiration – and I all of a sudden found myself crying with another man whom I had never met or spoken with before. Even a week later, I’m still not exactly certain what caused that outpouring of emotion – and it’s still very much present with me. When I think about what Patrick has meant in my life, and the change that Tim’s reporting of him has had on millions of others, I realize how profound the last 9 years have really been for me. All the smiles, sense of worth, pride, and tears that have come over the years, although they apparently were subdued, have been very real within me – and as it turns out, have been waiting until I connected with someone else who was equally moved by this very young boy out of Uganda. Tim was that guy, and I am forever grateful to him.

A few years back at one of our client conferences, I remember speaking about how much we all truly have to learn from today’s youth. How, so often, their innocence and unfractured outlook on our world can be inspiring and can remind us how short life really is. So it’s not surprising (to me) that Patrick – despite having already lived more tragedy within his first 9 years than all those who read this blog will most likely endure in their lifetime – was able to overcome, and as a result, inspire so many others we may never even know about to do the same.

I feel an emotional outpouring even as I recount this story, and I feel lucky to have had a chance to see that influential program on MSNBC many years ago. I feel proud that I took that inspiration and actually did something with it. I feel inspired knowing that a meeting with Patrick is very likely in my future. I feel understood, even if by just one man (Tim), who gladly allowed my life to be dramatically influenced by this one little boy. I feel a sense of relief that I am actually getting out there and pursuing MY cause. And although I remain deeply saddened by the ongoing events of the Lords Resistance Army and what they have done to more than 66,000 children, I am hopeful that what I am doing today may influence just one other person out there to pursue their dream, their passion, and their cause.



As a tech-enabled CSR company that prioritizes strategy first, many of our clients approach us expressing their desire to go global with their corporate philanthropy programs. And who wouldn’t? With a global CSR program, you can expand your company’s impact beyond your home state or national boundaries to include countries in which you do business and your employees live.

Naturally, expanding your programs internationally unfolds a plethora of challenges including: vetting international NGOs, disbursing funds, and complying with national laws. You aren’t alone if you haven’t determined how to plow through the murky waters of global CSR. According to the 2013 Giving Beyond Borders study, 50% of corporations indicated a need for vetting services. Furthermore, 46% indicated a need for a global employee engagement strategy. In order for your programs to prove successful, you must demonstrate the business value of your philanthropic donations. Furthermore, protecting your brand is crucial when donating to nonprofit organizations in the deepest, darkest corners of the world.

If you are contemplating initiating a global CSR program, you may find yourself asking these questions:

  1. How do we know our corporate and employee dollars will be used effectively?
  2. How can we effectively communicate the impact of our donated dollars abroad to domestic employees?; and most importantly,
  3.  When does CSR actually work and when does it negatively impact the native population?


It becomes a little less murky to navigate the global CSR field if you have the right partners in place. Think Global Giving, Tech Soup Global, and CAF America. However once those dollars leave your employee’s wallets, what does impact look like?

We at Good Done Great were ready to venture through the cloudy waters of global CSR to determine the real impact of employee volunteerism and giving. As I write this piece, I am gearing up for a trip to Kathmandu, Mandalay, and Ho Chi Minh City with the Detroit-based nonprofit, Global Health Charities (GHC.) GHC’s mission is to enhance equitable access to healthcare education in developing countries.

The main purpose of our trip is to deliver Clean Birth Kits (CBKs) to pregnant women in these under-served populations. The components of a CBK are simple: gauze, wipes, gloves but the health crisis we are tempting to combat is complicated and far-reaching. According to the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), approximately 4.5 million infant deaths occur each year, the majority occurring in developing nations. Furthermore, every year, around 292,000 women die from preventable causes associated with pregnancy and birth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing nations. One of the primary causes of death is infection, and utilizing a clean birth kit will help protect mother and child no matter if birthing occurs alone or with a birth attendant.

The story of our clean birth kits began with the volunteer efforts of a Detroit-based auto manufacturer where over 30 individuals assembled 863 kits! Not only did these volunteers dedicate their time and energy to assembling these kits they also contributed their thoughts on how to improve the assembly process. Now it’s up to us, the Global Health Charities team, to successfully deliver the clean birth kits to the pregnant mothers. It’s up to us to successfully report back to the employees on the impact of their volunteer hours. It’s up to us to ensure that the CBKs are used effectively and appropriately for maximum impact.

We challenge corporations to start the conversation on international giving. We will gladly speak with you about how to donate legally to NGOs, but how do we move the needle effectively on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations? What is our obligation, if any, to developing nations when individuals in our own backyard suffer from hunger, poverty, and oppression? Stop by the Good Done Great booth at the Charities@Work conference from March 28-30 to hear about the findings of my journey and join the conversation on international CSR. I am confident that through bold community action and cross-sector collaboration, we can dramatically and positively impact communities around the world.


An oft-quoted statement from acclaimed management consultant Peter Drucker asserts that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Yet even today, many companies pay more attention to their strategies than their underlying culture, often at the expense of success. That’s because many business leaders think that changing corporate culture is near impossible, while shifting a strategy is only a productive whiteboarding session and a new scorecard away.

Yet both data and our experience with Fortune 1000 clients show that an extremely effective way companies can shape their culture to better support strategic initiatives is by strengthening and leveraging their Goodness Programs — or, rather, their giving, volunteering and other philanthropic efforts. Here’s why.

Start with Grassroots Engagement 
Best-in-class programs that positively transform culture have engagement at their core. These initiatives focus on companies’ most sustainable differentiator — their people — and connecting with them around interactions with causes and issues they are personally passionate about. When companies embed easy ways to feel, interact and experience these passions as part of their day-to-day work, their people feel more connected and purpose-driven. This same ethos can work to drive customer engagement and brand loyalty, as well.

Above all, grassroots engagement is crucial to shaping culture. Progressive corporate giving and volunteer programs provide a great way to foster broad-based participation across teams, geographies and languages. Rather than mandating a few causes to contribute to, the most compelling programs provide open choice for participants, and reduce friction around where and how employees’ hard-earned money and valuable time and talents are donated. They also aim to localize efforts in a way that will unify groups of people and put employees at the center of decision making. In fact, companies that empower employee choice in workplace giving see five times more participation than those that limit contributions to a few causes or annual campaigns.

Where the Heart Meets the Head 
By making it compelling and easy to participate in giving and volunteering in a local or global context, companies have a straightforward path to cultivate widespread engagement around collective impacts in a personally resonant way.

In simple terms: If you speak to the heart, the head will follow. Well-designed and well-executed corporate giving and volunteer programs meet people at a place where their heart and head intersect — where culture and strategy come together. So by influencing culture, more effective corporate giving and volunteer programs can also have a positive impact on strategy and execution. These programs also provide authentic and action-oriented ways for businesses to live their values, and “do well by doing good.” And that feeling of authenticity and alignment pays tangible dividends over time. According to studies, companies that adopt well-designed corporate responsibility programs see an increase in employee engagement and productivity, and a reduction in employee turnover.

More than ever, people are looking for meaning in their work — but they are less likely to find that meaning in a corporate strategy or vision document. They want to see commitments to positive change in action, and have opportunities to be co-creators of that change.

A Meaningful Cultural Shift for the Future Workforce 
Millennials in particular are swiftly changing the rules of the road for business, as they will grow to be 50% of the workforce by 2020. Stereotypes and misperceptions aside, millennials are in fact the most community-driven and connected generation to date. Rather than just work/life balance, they are seeking work/life integration, which requires different approaches on most things, including corporate giving initiatives.

Never has the need for a more engaged corporate culture been greater, nor a more opportune time to galvanize people around Goodness Programs. Millennial employees demand it–with more than half of recent college graduates saying they want to work for a company that has corporate social responsibility values that align with their own, and 56 percent saying they would consider leaving a company that didn’t live up to values they expected.

As you examine conventional ways to create and impact your corporate culture, don’t forget that you have a powerful tool available that goes beyond offering perks like free yoga and unlimited vacation time. Modern giving and volunteer programs are no longer a nice-to-have but rather an essential way to shape culture in a manner that helps attract, retain and develop talent, while building employee loyalty and support for strategic initiatives. In addition to creating greater social impacts, your business will be all the better for doing it right.

For more on topics like this, as well as other employee engagement sharing, join me at the 15th Annual Charities@Work Summit in New York on March 28th – 30th, 2016. Click here to register.

CSR leaders at Fortune 500 and elsewhere connecting March 28-30 to share trends and improvements across employee engagement, workplace giving and CSR practice

[PRESS RELEASE/3BL Media] Washington, D.C. – February 29, 2016 – Charities@Work—a network of organizations that bridges the corporate and nonprofit sectors in order to achieve greater social impacttoday announced details of its full program for the 15th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship, “Bridging Worlds to Scale Impact.” Held on March 28-30, 2016, at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City, the Annual Summit brings CSR practitioners across the country together to share the latest advances and thinking on employee engagement, workplace giving and corporate social responsibility (CSR) practice. A new feature of this year’s agenda is the “Next Great Ideas” segment, a snapshot of innovative ideas being developed and repurposed for use in employee engagement and CSR.

The detailed agenda can be found here. Highlights include:

Next Great Ideas:

  • The World Community Grid (MARCH 28, 4:30PM-4:45PM) – Harnessing unused computing power to better the world.
    • Sheila U. Appel, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs U.S. Regional Manager, IBM
  • Leveraging #Techforgood (MARCH 29, 10:00AM-10:15AM) – Googlers Give supports UNICEF through innovative Badge-to-Donate program.
    • Susan Grotbo, Global Ops Lead, Social Responsibility, Google; Maggie Carter, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships, The U.S. Fund for UNICEF
  • Transformative Engagement (MARCH 29, 2:30 PM-2:45PM) – Find out how Time Warner Cable engages all employees, from front line workers to the C-Suite, through transformative volunteerism.
    • Jim Gordon, Group Vice President of Corporate Brand and Reputation, Time Warner Cable; Milinda Martin, Vice President, Community Investment, Time Warner Cable; Jen Holick, Community Investment team, Time Warner Cable
  • Engaging Donors Through the Virtual World (MARCH 29, 4:15PM-4:30PM) – Learn how virtual reality technology is being used to connect donors on an emotional level directly to a Charity’s mission.

 Plenaries, Workshops and Panels:

  • IMPACT 2030: Global Goals Scoping Session (MARCH 28, 3:00PM-4:30PM) – Explore specific actions that can be taken to mobilize corporate volunteers to directly and substantially contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
    • Chris Jarvis, Senior Partner, Business Development, RealizedWorth
  • The Neuroscience of Volunteering and Giving (MARCH 28, 5:00PM-6:00PM) – Chris Jarvis of RealizedWorth
  • Employee Engagement: More than Diversity (MARCH 29, 8:45AM-10:00AM) – Explore best practices and opportunities to address diversity and inclusion, as well as generational and multi-cultural efforts in CSR and engagement.
    • Kimberly Young, VP of Business Development, America’s Charities; Phyllis James, EVP, Chief Diversity Officer, MGM Resorts; Cid Wilson, President & CEO Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility
  • The Silo Mentality: Breaking Down Barriers (MARCH 29, 1:30PM-2:30PM) – A look at how companies are overcoming challenges with silo behaviors in their own organizations and how they can be overcome to achieve goals. Share experiences, challenges and successes in addressing this issue.
    • Sheila U. Appel, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs U.S. Regional Manager, IBM
  • Finding Purpose (MARCH 29, 4:30PM-5:45PM) – PwC will follow-up from last year’s presentation on their efforts to implement job purposing and will share eye-opening results from a recent employee survey. Join a workshop to challenge attendees to bring this to life in their own organizations and broaden the social purpose of any job.
  • 360 Degrees of Storytelling (MARCH 30, 8:45AM-10:00AM) – When it comes to unlocking people’s passion and inspiring action, storytelling is a tool that can change the world. Nowhere is this truer than at the “Sweet Spot” juncture of business, the public sector, and social good. Discover how effective storytelling is being leveraged across different technology platforms for engagement and impact, with insights and examples from thought leaders in the nonprofit, corporate, and online media sectors.
    • Robin Perkins, Director, Communications and Marketing, EarthShare; Dave Armon, Chief Marketing Officer, 3BL Media; Susan Heaney, Director of Marketing, Rainforest Alliance; Helen Sahi, Senior Director, Sustainability, Avery Dennison
  • CSR 365: Best Practices of Year-round Engagement (MARCH 30, 10:30AM-NOON) – Year-round engagement is a new reality, but comes with its challenges. This will be a highly engaging session with panelists sharing successes and challenges with their evergreen engagement programs. Attendees will then interact to develop ideas that can be used to enrich year-round activities in their companies.
  • Companies & Causes: Moving from Responsible to Exceptional (MARCH 30, 1:30PM-2:30PM) – This session will highlight the process and challenges of creating signature and cause-driven programs that align business strategy with a company’s CSR goals.

Peer-to-Peer Breakout Sessions:

  • Strategic Volunteerism: Stop Painting the Same Wall Seven Times (MARCH 29, 10:30AM-Noon) – Address steps to bridge the gap between corporate goals, employee desires and nonprofit needs when it comes to structuring a valuable and successful company volunteering program. Identify solutions to a real-life volunteerism scenario and discuss the key strategies the most successful corporate volunteering leaders use to drive awareness and employee engagement.
  • Environmental Sustainability & the Engagement Continuum (MARCH 29, 10:30AM-Noon) – Environmental sustainability ranks consistently as a top issue for next generation employees, but engaging a workforce on such a broad topic can be challenging. This session will guide participants through the stages of the Engagement Continuum on how to build the awareness, connection and commitment that leads to action, to help you meet employees where they are, guide them toward their individual commitments and unleash their entrepreneurial spirits, and achieve action-oriented results at work and in their communities.
  • Engaging Health Nonprofits in Your Wellness Strategy (MARCH 29, 2:45PM-4:00PM) – Learn how companies have moved beyond traditional resources and incorporated health nonprofits to make a positive impact on their employees to help them understand how to manage their conditions and what resources are available to them.
  • Effective Disaster Relief (MARCH 29, 2:45PM-4:00PM) – There are many challenges to consider when integrating disaster relief into CSR programs – from aligning global and emerging markets, to representing employee interests and choosing the right funding recipients. Join this session for an in-depth overview on how to develop your disaster relief strategy and a look at common pitfalls to avoid.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Michael I. Norton, co-author of “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,” will provide the keynote address on Tuesday, March 29, at noon ET. Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School (HBS), and a member of Harvard’s Behavioral Insights Group. In 2012, Norton was selected for Wired Magazine’s Smart List as one of “50 People Who Will Change the World” and his TEDx talk, How to Buy Happiness, has been viewed more than 3 million times.
  • Jeffrey Vargas is the Chief Learning Officer for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), an independent federal agency that regulates the 600 trillion dollar swaps, futures and options financial marketplace. Vargas will provide the keynote on Wednesday, March 30, at noon ET. He is ranked as one of the nation’s top experts on understanding generational differences with an emphasis on building generational synergy in the federal workplace.

Tickets to the 2016 Charities@Work Annual Summit are $650 for the standard three day pass; $450 for the one day pass on Tuesday only; $350 for Monday half-day only; and $350 for half-day Wednesday only. Charities@Work has secured a group rate at the New York Marriott Marquis, nestled in the heart of Times Square. To book, modify or cancel your hotel reservations and receive updated information about the event, visit http://charitiesatwork.org/annual-summit/2016-2/.

Charities@Work Sponsors and Technology Partners

Charities@Work is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors and technology partners. Charities@Work extends its gratitude to Underwriter Sponsors – Time Warner Cable and Wells Fargo; Cornerstone Sponsor – Prudential; Benefactor Sponsors – Best Buy, New York Life, PricewaterhouseCoopers, UnitedHealth Group; Patron Sponsors – PIMCO Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation; In-Kind Sponsors – 3BL Media, COMMIT!Forum, and RealizedWorth; Showcase Technology Partner – MicroEdge; and Standard Technology Partners – Benevity, DoTopia, GIVINGtrax, Good Done Great, Innovations for Learning, INPEx, JK Group, VolunteerMatch, YouGiveGoods, and YourCause. The 2016 Charities@Work Annual Summit is an official conference of Impact 2030.

Opportunities to invest in Charities@Work are still available. For information about sponsorship and technology partner opportunities, please contact Lynne Filderman at lfilderman@charities.org.

To find out more information about this year’s Charities@Work Best Practices Summit, visit http://charitiesatwork.org/annual-summit/2016-2/.

About Charities@Work

Charities@Work bridges the corporate and nonprofit sectors in order to achieve greater social impact. Charities@Work is an alliance of four nonprofit organizations – America’s Charities, Community Health Charities, EarthShare and Global Impact – that collectively represent more than 2,500 of the most respected and effective international, national and local nonprofits. These four networks exist to facilitate interaction and partnerships between charities, companies and their employees for meaningful outcomes and impact for all parties.


Media Contact: Lindsay Nichols, America’s Charities, lnichols@charities.org


Businesses often create volunteer programs for employees in order to build relationships within the community and strengthen philanthropic hearts. One oversight exists for employers, however, in making this an organization’s only focus to breeding success within its wellness program.

Employee engagement can increase when a company lives in the sweet spot that integrates how to effectively manage chronic conditions in the workplace and encourage employee focus toward serving others. Educating employees about the value of disease management is an important first step—followed by providing them with the tools and information to enhance their self-care. Then, an employer can significantly leverage the value of the education by synthesizing the “doing” portion to those employees who are unaffected by diseases in honor for those colleagues who might currently suffer.

The solution to make this happen is to utilize non-traditional avenues through securing relationships with health non-profit organizations. An employer, in essence, will have a positive impact on employees that can be measured.

Many health non-profit organizations set out to find cures for chronic conditions—diabetes, ALS, cancer, stroke and other related heart conditions are several of them—and work with companies to develop programs that impact employee population health. For example, in 2012, American Express worked with Community Health Charities (CHC) and their member, American Diabetes Association, to create a communication plan as it rolled out its educational program Healthy Living with Diabetes. Six major work locations with onsite clinics received the program, followed by all U.S. American Express employees the next year. Diabetes laboratory testing, webinars, lunch and learn sessions, and one-on-one with on-site clinic experts were several of all resources provided to employees.

The impact on employees in three years’ time showed significant behavioral and blood sugar changes to the better—several hundred employees joined the Healthy Living with Diabetes program; fifty-eight percent of them saw a reduction in blood glucose levels to healthy levels. Another 53 percent started to exercise, followed by almost 48 percent of those employees who lost weight.

An employer can also further impact its entire employee population by encouraging all employees to participate in another valuable offering that partnering with a non-profit health organization would bring: corporate volunteering. Volunteer efforts strengthens relationships among co-workers. Fundraising for continued research to cure these chronic conditions is one avenue an employer can pursue with a health non-profit and learn what is available. Running races such as a company-sponsored local 5k with work colleagues who train together in honor of affected employees leverages not only what is available from a health non-profit but also co-worker relationships.

Leveraging is defined as using something to its maximum advantage. Because health non-profits act as intermediaries between charitable groups and employers, they are able to respond to employers’ concerns by providing the educational tools and networking strategies needed to bolster employee engagement and manage chronic conditions. Their influence in the workplace can also serve as a means to reduce healthcare costs, improve productivity and enhance a company’s mission to embark on serving the greater good of society.

I hope you’ll join me and other CSR professionals for the Charities@Work conference in March in New York for more peer-to-peer sharing and networking. Click here to register today.

Linda B. Gornitsky, Ph.D.
Linda B. Gornitsky, Ph.D.

Join us on Wednesday, March 2, 2016, from 1:00 – 1:55 pm ET!

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 have not risen. What is causing this imbalance between demand (companies) and supply (nonprofits) and how can companies address this growing discrepancy?

Join this free hour-long webinar to hear Dr. Linda Gornitsky of LBG Associates share the results of her latest research study, which examines the challenges of pro bono volunteerism and suggests solutions to help fix this imbalance. We will end with a 10-minute Q&A session.

Can’t wait for the webinar? Read the executive summary of LBG Associate’s publication, “Balancing Pro Bono Supply and Demand: Challenges and Solutions From the Nonprofit Point of View

REGISTER HERE: bit.ly/1VA9Xzr  


Dr. Linda Gornitsky is president and founder of LBG Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in the development of strategic corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. As part of the strategy development, she conducts benchmarking, community attitude and evaluation studies, image-building/communications campaigns and efficient management practices. Clients have included: Aramark, BMW, Capital One, Con Edison, CSX, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, FedEx, Moody’s, Neutrogena, Nielsen Research Media, Pitney Bowes, State Street Corp, Timberland, Toyota and Verizon. More about Linda.

(Moderator) Nicole McKinney is senior director, campaign engagement at Global Impact, one of the four organizing partners at the heart of Charities@Work. Nicole oversees a team that works with nearly 100 private sector and over 300 public sector entities to generate funding for an alliance of more than 100 international relief and development charities. Since 1956, Global Impact has generated more than $1.6 billion to help the world’s most vulnerable people.

We hope to “see” you on March 2 – and to see you in person on March 28-30 at our upcoming Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement. Learn more and register here.