Agile Social Impact:  How to Change the World --Faster and Better

Corporate giving is in high demand, but we don't need to tell you that. The needs and emergencies of our world are overwhelming. Need is everywhere. Urgent causes pop up seemingly overnight.

The good news is that organizations like yours and people like you step up and offer substantial assistance. The challenges are the same, whether through employee donations, grantmaking, or volunteer programs. Can you mobilize your resources efficiently, generate the most impact, and deliver that impact as quickly as possible to the point of need? 

This issue is about mobilizing your people and dollars in significant ways because it’s true: Things happen so quickly today. Tragedies strike, and we need to respond — fast.

Agile Social Impact approach can help solve the issues we face today. To put it simply, we'll examine how applying Agile principles can help your people and dollars go further. First, here are some trends that are root causes of the 6 Macro and 1 Micro Trend impacting CSR and Social Impact today:

(1) Cause-related marketing is taking off. Today's consumers expect more from the brands they buy. Today, there are many people who support social causes. When people purchase something, they want to know that the money they spend will benefit someone or something else. Consumers are more aware, and they are more vocal about what they expect from brands in the digital age.

(2) Traditional CSR has expanded its scope. Over the last few years, corporate social responsibility has evolved from being a tool to manage risk and earn good PR to something that can help businesses boost their bottom lines. It is in the marketplace's best interest, and it is the right thing to do.

(3) A new generation of CSR is upon us. The rise of consumer-driven CSR is a reflection of these trends and demands. People are taking action directly on behalf of those in need through this form of giving, and it is becoming more prevalent. And through this form of giving, they’re able to exert more control over the causes and organizations they support.

(4) Competitors are outpacing you on CSR. While many companies have traditionally devoted a few hours per employee for volunteer activities — right around Labor Day — others with a mission-driven culture go above and beyond that kind of traditional outreach.

Now more than ever, you need to rally your troops and tune up your CSR efforts — but in an agile way. As the world changes around you, your corporate giving programs should too. There are some tried-and-true principles for organizations that truly want to make a difference. These principles are based on the agile practices of observation, adaptation, and experimentation. Agile ways of doing business can help you involve your people to best effect, deliver real change to those in need, and have fun during the process.

Consider the “Why and How” of Agile Social Impact for your company and employees. When you are being agile as an organization you can quickly achieve impact in your programs. And by providing agility for your employees, they can deliver impact to the causes that matter to them most.   

Since our inception, CyberGrants has been deeply involved with charitable giving. Through our clients, we live and breathe it every day. Furthermore, we are acutely aware of what our clients are seeing and dealing with. The Agile Social Impact approach is characterized by six distinct macro trends.


Agile Social Impact is essential to aligning your philanthropy efforts with your company's overall objectives. Here's how you use agile social impact to your benefit: Click to Tweet

Macro trend #1: Recurring giving is supplanting annual campaigns

THEN: Seasonal, often annual, charitable campaigns used to power up for a burst of time and activity, marketed heavily, all with the objective that employees would get on board and sign up. Campaigns were relegated to a certain time of year, typically in the Fall. They would run perhaps four to eight weeks and tremendous amounts of resources were expended into promoting the campaigns internally.

NOW: There is the opportunity today to build recurring giving into your program, which allows you to engage all year long. For example, every month during the fiscal/calendar year you set up an automatic recurring donation on behalf of each employee. This eliminates the need for annual campaigns, further saving time and resources. This also gives employees multiple opportunities each year for their giving.

Most of us have come to the realization that CSR is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing, evergreen series of activities. Today, however, significantly more companies are actually running open, year-round campaigns, or trying to figure out how to do them effectively. So that, at any one point in time, for example, we can sign up for a payroll deduction program, submit matching gifts, etc. There’s often a calendar of volunteerism events where there are opportunities every quarter, if not every month.

Getting people in the habit of giving dollars or hours on an ongoing, recurring basis has been a huge emphasis for Fortune 1000 businesses. Obviously, that can pose significant burdens on you from an infrastructure standpoint. 

Do you have the systems that enable that to happen? 

Do you have visibility into where the dollars or hours are coming from? 

Where they’re going? 

What impact they’re having?

All of this requires a much more robust and agile system in place to support those recurring programs. Remember, when you are being agile as an organization you can quickly achieve impact in your programs. Our platform provides that visibility and agility.

Macro trend #2: The increasing influence of Millennials (and GEN- Z!) in the workforce

THEN: When we talk about “seasonal campaigns” it is important to note that the amount raised fluctuated throughout the years, with peaks and valleys depending on the overall economy and whether a major crisis was happening at the time. The older workforce would give most heavily during those peaks.

NOW: Millennials are far more likely to give, and to give more often—not just in a peak campaign period...but throughout the year. They also tend to be looking for more authentic brands with which they can engage online or offline. It’s no surprise that companies like Toms, Warby Parker, and others have seen success with Millennials.

Add the proliferation of two new generations in the workforce and remote work and you have a clear need for updated, innovative approaches to CSR. 

Macro trend #3: Nonprofits are changing the game of cause engagement

THEN: The Nonprofit world was not set up to encourage long-term engagement campaigns. It’s always been about getting employees to donate funds during a campaign. The message to employees has been about getting them to help a worthy cause, rather than focusing on the benefits of giving, and how it makes them feel

NOW: Nonprofits are starting to experiment with new ways for corporate citizens to engage. They have realized that they need to measure their social impact not just by the funds raised, but also by the level of engagement. For example, instead of donating $50 at an employee event, ask if they would like to help rebuild houses after a natural disaster or give clothing to families in need.

Macro Trend #4: Focusing on the highest priority causes maximizes the impact of your investment

THEN: In the past, companies created many, many varieties of programs for employees to participate in. If we provided a big menu, the thinking went, we would be perceived much more positively by our employee base, and they would be much more likely to give if they saw one of their own causes being supported. While that might have been more egalitarian, it diluted outcomes.

NOW: An increasing number of companies are taking a proactive approach to identifying their employees' top causes. Not only is that more effective in terms of dollars raised, but it allows for deeper engagement on the individual’s part.

Now with a much greater focus on impact, clients are declaring a set of causes that align best with their corporate DNA and mission. They’re optimizing their investments into a much smaller set. The imperative here is that this kind of optimization requires accurate and detailed visibility from a reporting and analytics standpoint, in real-time, so that we know exactly where our money is going, and most importantly, the impact it’s actually having. 

You want to create a real impact with your corporate giving efforts. Agile social impact allows you to build lasting relationships based on your company's values. Here's how:Click To Tweet

Macro trend #5: Viral Engagement techniques accelerate employee giving

As a category, Employee Giving programs are maturing. They have been in place for several years. The big challenge now is how to activate more involvement, more participation, and ultimately — more giving.

THEN: The former standard, de facto method for driving employee participation was top-down. Decrees from the C-Suite. “Hey everyone, I’m the boss, and here’s our company’s CSR mission and we want you to get on board.”

Not anymore.

NOW: A new way of thinking is being employed—tapping into the power that CSR has in bringing people together. Silos are what all employees have in common, and it's a powerful platform from which to engage with one another, launch campaigns, and affect change at the company.

All-company campaigns are now possible

A typical engagement campaign might involve a company's branding/charity committee, an employee giving team, and employees who wanted to fundraise for their cause of choice, with the common goal of generating funds for that cause.

Now, companies are creating an "all-company" program where employees can engage with one another, launch campaigns, and affect change at the company.

More than just giving is now possible

A common challenge for companies engaging in Employee Giving programs was that they had trouble hitting their targets. Many companies end up in the same place, with employees who are inspired to give but don't know how to.

Employee Relations teams are leveraging this in creative ways. What used to be just giving is now evolving into more than just giving. Companies are identifying causes that resonate within each of their locations, teams, and/or departments and building campaign programs around them—sharing ideas, concepts, best practice messaging, and tips for engaging others.

Aligning corporate culture with corporate giving is now possible

Many companies want to show they care about the communities in which they operate. So employee engagement programs often revolved around volunteerism or donations of time or money…but that's not enough for many stakeholders today.

Now, employees are brought into the fold alongside CSR & Sustainability teams to align corporate culture with corporate giving. After all, being "a good corporate citizen" is now expected. By understanding what excites your employees and tying their philanthropy directly to their professional needs, you can create a significant shift in the way your company engages with charitable causes.

Everyone is now able to give back

THEN: Historically, companies have framed giving as something that's done by "good employees" or "employees who are passionate about coming together with their colleagues to change the world."

NOW: Silos allow companies to recognize and reward giving at all levels. Everyone is able to give back in a meaningful way, no matter how much time or money they have available. Moreover, the opportunities for engagement are practically endless. Employees can design their own charitable activities—and it’s not just about giving money anymore.

What we know now is that charitable engagement is best driven in a different way, where you create a grassroots movement and excitement around your causes. In fact, it’s probably a misnomer to say you create. Rather, it’s really about fostering and encouraging your employees to create grassroots movements. By harnessing powerful, peer-driven, social techniques that drive immediate increases in buy-in, participation, and contribution. You are, in effect, providing agility for your employees so that they can deliver impact to the causes — your causes — that matter most to them.

Macro trend #6: Global program alignment maximizes global impact

THEN: Historically, if your headquarters were in the U.S., your CSR programs were very U.S.-centric. And if you were an international organization you had CSR activities going on all over the world, and typically highly decentralized. i.e., the European divisions made their own decisions about the causes they were going to support, and the programs they were going to roll out. Typically, the same held true for Asia, the Middle East, South America, and so on.

NOW: Companies are prioritizing a set of causes and trying to align globally around those causes. The trend is to have a global CSR strategy to drive some level of consistency across all geographic locations.

Micro trend! Cause localization maximizes local impact

There is also a microtrend here: cause localization. Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in companies trying to support causes specific to regions or countries that they operate in, and by demonstrating more of a hyperlocal focus on their CSR efforts.

If you look at this from a portfolio perspective, if you have a set of global programs and strategies to prioritize your leading causes, what we are seeing is that the decision-making process around which country or region should become more aligned is becoming much more complex.

We’re not just working on how we allocate dollars and resources across countries/regions, but also how we prioritize different countries/regions. For example, the Brazil office may be much more interested in a local literacy program as opposed to a global literacy program.

Moving back to our broader globalization macrotrend, it’s crucial to note that “prioritization” doesn’t translate to “dictation.” The goal of global optimization is to try and drive 70-80% consistency across each geography, while allowing for 20-30% variability to support cultural differences, region-specific causes/crises, etc. In order to support that type of “globally consistent, regionally relevant” strategy, you need a technology platform architected to enable it.

As a result, it is time for companies to reevaluate their CSR practices and find new ways to create real impact. As the conversation around CSR matures, companies can actually take action instead of just talking about giving back. Combined with the shifts in purpose-driven marketing, the trends above represent major opportunities for brands to build lasting relationships with consumers based on shared values.

Agile Social Impact allows you to tightly align your philanthropy efforts with your overall objectives, respond faster when the need is greatest, and maximize the impact of your donations.


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