Agile Social Impact:  Revolutionizing Corporate Philanthropy


As a company actively involved with Corporate Social Responsibility for more than 20 years, we’re often asked about significant changes, relative to our clients, that we’ve observed over that span.  Interestingly, from our unique and intimate industry lens, the biggest developments have occurred most recently, within the last 18 months or so.  Two changes in particular. First, the concept that corporations should be “responsible” to society is now a given. And its addendum, our client companies are no longer content with simply putting programs in place and contributing X number of dollars or volunteer hours. They have established their own mandates to accomplish real, positive impact and measurable end-results from their investment in philanthropy.

Second, our clients are urgently pursuing social causes and responding to events much more assertively than ever before. When there’s a need, they want to be there, on the front lines, now. Urgency is more than being purely reactive, however. It’s about aggressively going after the right causes. Clients have an imperative to direct their dollars strategically to emerging needs where they do the most good —while simultaneously aligning with their organization’s missions and values.

Put another way, corporate social responsibility is a given. The bigger directive now is actualizing what we call Agile Social Impact.

Organizations that implement an Agile Social Impact methodology strongly set themselves up to do the following.

Respond immediately to emerging events. The demand for quicker corporate giving is ubiquitous.  Worthy, urgent causes roar up literally overnight. The need is everywhere. Whether driven by geo-political or economic factors, human error, or the global impact of climate change. If you look at natural disasters that resulted in damages in excess of $1 billion over the last decade, we’ve seen a 700% increase in these large-magnitude events. 700% In just a six-week period during 2017, our clients deployed more than 60 disaster relief programs, hitting $12 million in donations to the Red Cross, with most launched in under 24 hours.

Innovate faster with new programs and initiatives. Since every organization is different, each has the opportunity to uniquely leverage their employee and their products and services for donations and volunteering. The opportunities and options are myriad. Employee assistance programs allow employees to assist their fellow employees in time of need. In-kind giving programs, either corporate- or employee-directed, can take an infinite number of forms. Charitable spending accounts allow employees to donate a set-aside amount to the causes of their choice. Service corps programs “loan” corporate talent to non-profit organizations to help solve business or technology or operational problems. The ability to automate these programs via software is the key to delivering faster innovation. 

Optimize continuously to increase impact. Our clients must know exactly where their dollars are going, so they can constantly fine-tune. Especially so in our new environment of constant speed and innovation discussed above. Chief Giving Officers face increasing pressure to demonstrate the impact they are producing for the community and the company. And the secret sauce to validating impact? Extensive analytic capabilities that deliver a very clear, and very real-time, picture of where money is going. This, in turn, allows our clients to continuously adjust and refine, and deliver even greater and more focused impact.

The summary take-away with Agile Social Impact is that organizations are not just making contributions but addressing urgent needs. They are not just waiting for events to happen but poised to pounce instantly when they do. And to do so with a variety of connected programs and resources. Quickly. And impactfully. Ultimately not just doing good things but doing right kind of good things. Both for our shared world and their organization.

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