This post was originally published on Diplomatic Courier.
It wasn’t long ago that “CSR” was a CEO’s insider reference to a company’s charitable gifts, often to bolster its image and the bottom line. Today, Corporate Social Responsibility—sometimes dubbed philanthropy, corporate giving, and more recently “social entrepreneurship”—is as central to employee engagement as it is to public relations.
At a growing number of organizations, CSR is firmly rooted in their core values, with companies engaging in good work because they mean it.
And no longer are only the CEOs “in the know.” At last month’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting, corporate CEOs and CSR pros came together with world leaders, foundations, nonprofits, and other change makers making commitments for action. CGI, and the growing number of high-profile gatherings like it, have taken CSR from the privacy of corporate boardrooms right to our nightly news coverage.
When it comes to the future of CSR, I think about my colleagues around the world central to both how and why we give back. CSR’s future is our people.
At Blackbaud, we combine technology and expertise to help organizations achieve their missions. Over the last 23 years, I’ve seen our evolution from startup to a now global company with 3,000 employees and more than 30,000 customers. Our business is to help these organizations get the resources they need, so it’s no surprise that CSR is in our DNA.
For years, there was a debate about the value of CSR initiatives. Funding relied more on qualitative and anecdotal data than metrics. Today, an important new, highly measureable focus has emerged, and that gift is called employee engagement.
Along the way, I’ve seen a change in how the larger business world thinks about how to engage with their people. What 20 years ago we simply called “hiring” became recruiting and now talent management—or even talent acquisition. The word choice alone says something about our more people-driven environments where companies invest heavily and compete fiercely to find and retain top talent.
Sure, brand still matters. But the people who embody the brand, who put a face on the company and do the work have become central to not only why CSR matters but in pushing their employers to expand, grow, and engage in new ways. When candidates check out a company, they’re not only looking to see what jobs are open and if they are qualified. They’re also looking at what the culture is, how the company gives back and, with Millennials in particular, how they will be able to directly engage with the company’s CSR initiatives.
The 2014 Millennial Impact Report from Achieve and The Case Foundation, which focused on Millennial engagement with causes at and through work, makes the point, revealing how engagement in cause work plays a big role in where a Millennial accepts a job. In the study, 63 percent of women and nearly half of men said just that. Further, the report—which Blackbaud was a part of as a research partner—told us that work culture and the company’s involvement in causes are two of the top factors influencing Millennials to apply for jobs.
At Blackbaud, we know our customers and products are important to our people. In our recent employee survey, 84 percent said the fact that we work with nonprofit organizations played an important role in their personal decisions to join the team. Once onboard, that interest in nonprofits, giving and service is amplified, and ensure opportunities for our employee engagement are essential to both our business and our commitment to a better world.
That’s where the work comes in, work we are happy to do. We want to drive positive change in the world, be good stewards of the environment, provide meaningful products, and help connect employees with opportunities to give back both through what they do as professionals and as individual people. This means not only offering company events around key causes, but also embracing ways individual employees can choose what they want to support. Giving is personal, and we need to respect that.
We also have to remember to stop periodically to make sure that all the CSR programs we’re running are making a difference. Employee retention rates are certainly a helpful measure, as are engagement surveys. In the end, I know that my company’s CSR is on point with our people when they rate us well. The fact that our role as a good corporate citizen is in the top three reasons why employees value the company, well, that’s important.
And it’s also a call to action to keep going, keep innovating, keep listening to the people around us about how to evolve what we do to drive good in the world while providing a meaningful experience for those who come through our doors each day.