Up until just a few years ago, most men and women who worked in some facet of corporate social responsibility or employee engagement were accustomed to finding themselves in awkward conversations at dinner parties. Conversations that went something like this:

So, what do you do?”
“Well, I’m in charge of employee volunteering and giving at my company.”
“Yeah, I set up programs to make it possible for employees to volunteer and make charitable donations through the company. There are a lot of benefits to it.”
“And they pay you for that?”

Thankfully, it’s 2015 and the conversation is taking a positive turn.

These days, students are graduating with degrees in corporate social responsibility, writing their Master’s Theses on the business benefits of employee volunteering and looking for jobs at companies that are investing in local communities. The number of Fortune 500 companies that offer employee volunteering and giving programs is nearing 100% and the resources available to them are increasing at an exponential rate. Times have changed and the role of the CSR practitioner is more valuable than it’s ever been. So … what now? What can we expect for the future of employee engagement and volunteering?

From Transactional Volunteering to Transformational Volunteering

In the past, typical volunteer activities were transactional; volunteers would show up, do the work, and leave. While transactional volunteering is not inherently a bad thing, it’s certainly not good enough. The purpose of empowering employees to volunteer is to enable them to become more connected to marginalized people and issues – so connected, in fact, that they become the kind of people who make better decisions because of their experiences. This is the kind of volunteering that leads to significant business benefits such as higher rates of productivity, healthier employees, increased recruitment and retention rates, and greater employee engagement overall.

At this year’s 14th Annual Charities@Work Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship, transformational volunteering will be a theme referenced throughout the day. As emcee, I promise to share some practical ideas for making volunteering transformational at your company. You can also join an energetic and engaging speaker, Derrick Feldman, as he shares research on engaging with Millennials.

From Metrics by Numbers to Metrics by Impact

Despite the progress in the field, effective measurement remains a hard nut to crack. Which metrics are valuable? When should we start tracking them? How do we motivate people to report the information we’re looking for? And how can we prove that these metrics lead to a real return on investment? While researchers and practitioners are tackling these questions, one thing has become clear: numbers, such as participation rates and dollars donated, do not necessarily equal impact.

CSR reports were originally modeled after financial reports, but when companies began reporting numbers like 1 million volunteer hours donated, the public began to ask, So what? What did the hours do? What are they doing now? How have lives been changed? How is the world a better place? And perhaps most importantly, was it worth your company’s time? Simply reporting numbers is no longer good enough. The future expects reports on impact.

This year’s Charities@Work Best Practices Summit welcomes Bea Boccolandro, a highly sought-after thought leader and community involvement consultant who leads the way in methods for measuring impact.

From Siloed Efforts to Collaboration

And finally, as the field asks better questions about metrics, we are led to more effective methods of making a difference. Past years have seen too many companies and organizations duplicating efforts and wasting resources. For example, multiple companies have sent groups of volunteers to work on water scarcity issues in Ghana. Why aren’t they working together to develop better, more efficient solutions? Another example is nonprofit vetting. A staggering fee is paid by each company to vet the same organizations. Why are we doing this? Well, the answer is clear: it’s our only option. Or at least it used to be.

This year’s Charities@Work Summit will present IMPACT 2030, a global collaboration between the United Nations and the private sector, created to mobilize corporate volunteers to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations’ Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Through IMPACT 2030, companies are empowered to collaborate. They become part of a global movement in which their influence, commitment to corporate volunteering and thought leadership are powerful tools to inspire the private sector to positive action.

Multiple partners of IMPACT 2030 as well as members of the executive committee will attend the Best Practices Summit this year. Join Sue Stephenson, from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Group and vice-chair of the IMPACT 2030 Executive Committee to learn more about the initiative and how your company can move from siloed efforts to collaboration.

Join us in empowering transformation at the Charities@Work Best Practices Summit! You can find more information at www.charitiesatwork.org or contact John Douglas at 571-451-2874 for further details.