Guide to engaging employees in corporate volunteerism

Guide to engaging employees in corporate volunteerism

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

A majority of employees (69%) report that “having societal impact is a high expectation or deal breaker when considering a job” (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2023). By facilitating volunteerism, companies can help to meet growing employee interest in purpose-driven work environments while harnessing the power of individual and collective contributions to drive impact.

Generally, employees are eager to have access to volunteer opportunities through work. Seventy-one percent of employees say it’s imperative or very important to work at a company that is supportive of giving and volunteering (America’s Charities, 2022), and they attribute volunteerism to well-being (77%), boosted morale (70%), and strengthened camaraderie (64%) (Bright Funds, 2021). Additionally, 92% of corporate human resources executives feel that leadership and professional skills are strengthened by contributing expertise to nonprofits (Deloitte, 2017). 

However, volunteer participation is decreasing. In 2022, 86% of companies offered domestic virtual volunteerism programs but only 19.8% of employees volunteered one hour or more of their time – lower than the pre-pandemic average of 29% (CECP, 2023). Nonprofit organizations are noticing this downward trend. In a recent survey, 47% of nonprofit CEOs said that recruiting sufficient volunteers is a notable problem for their organization (Do Good Institute, 2023). 

Given the increased value that employees place on working within purpose-driven environments, what explains the decline in volunteerism? Workers cite the following major detractors from volunteering: pressure from employers and colleagues, no availability during work hours, undefined projects, limited information about NGOs, and lack of a platform to register, participate, and track hours (America’s Charities, 2022). Moreover, few feel that volunteering can enhance their career opportunities (18%) or help to develop new skills (36%) (Deloitte).

Gathered from NationSwell members and independent research, this resource provides strategic guidance, case examples, and implementation checklists for companies to strengthen and advance their volunteerism efforts, with a specific focus on mitigating barriers and increasing incentives for employees. 

In this report you will find: 

  • Four critical areas of strategic guidance surfaced by NationSwell members
  • Case examples of strategies in action, featuring Mastercard, PwC, LinkedIn, Nike, Dow, Salesforce, Coupa, Starbucks, MetLife Foundation, KPMG, Liberty Mutual, Medtronic, Bank of America, and Verizon.
  • Implementation checklists to support action

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Pivotal moments: Responding to social, cultural, and political events

Pivotal moments: Responding to social, cultural, and political events

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

Frequent media headlines, debate on our national stage, and marked instances of backlash toward companies have mainstreamed the politicization of ESG. Although the underlying work of corporate social impact and sustainability remains in-tact and durable, newly mounting political pressures have created real headwinds for business leaders — headwinds that can fundamentally change how social impact and sustainability are practiced. To get more clarity on what impacts political backlash is having on corporate practices, NationSwell surveyed 74 corporate ESG leaders (VPs and above), and conducted in-depth interviews with 12 more (whose ranks include senior leaders from Fortune 100 and 500 companies). 

Our research surfaced one significant way that political pressure is impacting company behavior: it has sown a growing reluctance to speak out publicly on culturally sensitive and politically divisive topics. 

Whereas the social justice movements of 2020 normalized the activist CEO, the current moment is introducing new doubt in the boardroom and among management teams about the relative risks and rewards of taking public and participatory action when an issue is polarizing. If harnessed intentionally, this trepidation can provide a useful moment for companies to reflect, reevaluate, and reset the purpose and impact behind public responses. Companies need to consider their own credibility and opportunity for meaningful impact before making bold public statements or commitments. But too much restraint can be overcompensatory and damaging, both to society and to corporate interests. 

As we look ahead to continued global instability and social turbulence, the acuity of questions around if, when, and how to respond to social and political issues will only grow. In conversation with leaders and practitioners, we’ve surfaced four recommendations for companies to help them navigate ESG headwinds while considering the interests of their employees, customers, communities, and other stakeholders. These recommendations will be most effective if implemented together. We have also created four tools to support their direct implementation.

Recommendations:

  • Create mechanisms for understanding what employees and customers expect of your organization
  • Assess the impacts of sociopolitical issues on your company, and your company’s opportunity to influence those issues
  • Use a decision framework to weigh and resolve the best available information before acting
  • Consult an external advisory council to expand your perspective

Implementation tools:

  • Employee sentiment survey questions
  • How to create a social response scorecard
  • Template corporate social response scorecard 
  • Template Community Advisory Council charter

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How Johnson & Johnson is Accelerating a Health Equity Mindset: the Business Match Fund

How Johnson & Johnson is Accelerating a Health Equity Mindset: the Business Match Fund

In the U.S., health disparities for people of color relative to White individuals include higher rates of illness and death and less access to quality care. In response to longstanding and systemic healthcare inequities, Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) launched its “Our Race to Health Equity” initiative (“ORTHE”) in November 2020. The bold under-taking “aspires to help eradicate racial and social injustice as a public health threat by eliminating health inequities for people of color” with a $100 million commitment over five years.

The company will invest half of ORTHE’s $100 million through external grants, programs, and initiatives by 2025. To embed a health equity mindset into J&J’s everyday business practice and strategy, J&J has also committed to driving change from within their large enterprise, allocating $50 million over five years to a Business Match Fund (“BMF”). The BMF is an incubator and catalyst for alignment at all levels of J&J by providing dollar-for-dollar co-investment alongside business units seeking to advance a health equity-oriented initiative in the United States. 

This case study details how Johnson & Johnson designed and executed the Business Match Fund to accelerate the adoption of a health equity focus across its divisions and, consequently, to seed large-scale organizational change. Their approach includes five core elements, explored further in the report:

  1. Design a funding approach that promotes innovation, long-term thinking, and engagement
  2. Use a varied toolkit to invite applications from across the enterprise
  3. Administer a layered and inclusive review process to select fund recipients
  4. Track impact centrally and regularly, leaving room for flexibility
  5. Tell the story of catalyzed impact internally and externally

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Skilling the future workforce: 8 recs for corporate leaders

Skilling the future workforce: 8 recs for corporate leaders

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

Private sector engagement with skills-based hiring is increasing in response to employment gaps and escalating economic precarity. Between 2017 and 2019, 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill occupations experienced material degree resets. And in 2022, 79% of HR professionals reported that scores on skills assessments are just as or more important than traditional criteria in hiring decisions.

These are positive trends from an economic and a social perspective. Skills-based hiring is critical to increasing equity and diversity in the workplace, as traditional credential-based hiring tends to screen out, disqualify, or exclude applicants without a four year degree.

While increased commitment to skills-based hiring is an important step toward a more prepared and more inclusive workforce, many companies are learning that in-demand skills do not exist in adequate supply. Some of those businesses are taking it upon themselves to develop the skill-based talent pipeline that will be necessary to power their organizations, industries, and broader market into the future.

To better understand how companies are investing in the skills-based training ecosystem, before hiring even comes into frame, we dug deep with nine organizations on the cutting edge of workforce development.

Through our conversations with leaders and practitioners, we uncovered a depth of contributions to changing and scaling the learning systems that are preparing workers for quality jobs. Our report compiles eight recommendations to provide guidance for private sector employers who are committed to skilling the future workforce and ultimately contributing meaningfully to a more just and equitable workplace. 

The eight recommendations:

 

  • Decide if you aim to be influential at a systems, sector, or company level
  • Position your strategy correctly within your company’s infrastructure
  • Lean into (and use) your company’s strengths
  • Build a well-balanced partner portfolio
  • Design for replicability and scalability
  • Mind the non-skills gap between learner and earner
  • Engage in pre-competitive transparency and collaboration
  • Bring rigor and patience to impact measurement

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Eight actions for creating catalytic cross-sector partnerships

Eight actions for creating catalytic cross-sector partnerships

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

Many of the limitations and challenges associated with cross-sector social impact partnerships are rooted in their points of origin. More intentionality, responsibility, and creativity are necessary to unlock a greater number of truly catalytic opportunities. 

As the field of corporate social impact matures, organizations are embracing cross-sector partnerships as a means to advancing social and environmental goals. With ample institutional resources and access to wide-ranging capabilities, corporations are able to envision and invest in big ideas. Increasing attention from the private sector is altering the architecture of cross-sector collaboration, creating new opportunities for ambitious projects and deepening value alignment. 

At the same time, exciting examples of partnership activity are often flanked by examples in which opportunities go unmet. Given asymmetries in resourcing and capabilities, partnerships are too often rooted in matching dependencies between organizations. When that’s the case, partners satiate certain needs while overlooking more powerful approaches to collaboration, leaving behind big, creative, and sustainable ideas. Partners also lower their ceiling for impact when they proceed with too narrow an understanding of their own assets within an ecosystem, stunting potential unlocks that bloom from outside – and occasionally unlikely – perspectives. And, when organizations neglect to systematically embed trust and accountability, underlying relationships risk failure – in turn jeopardizing catalytic opportunities. 

These barriers to a catalytic result are best addressed at or before the point of partnership inception. Anchored in interviews with social impact leaders representing large corporations, NGOs, and philanthropies, this report presents eight actions that organizations and their leaders can take to raise their ceiling for impact. 

The eight actions:

  • Bring on cross-sector expertise and perspective 
  • Place a premium on emotional intelligence (EQ) 
  • Mine ideas from business units and individuals beyond your social impact team 
  • Embrace third-party views of your capabilities and liabilities 
  • Open dialogue with partners-to-be about your asymmetrical advantages 
  • Interlock organizational incentives 
  • Engage outside facilitators during (and after) ideation 
  • Hardwire feedback loops

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Insights for impact: 2022 edition

Insights for impact: 2022 edition

This year-end report synthesizes the key learnings from each of NationSwell’s 2022 research publications and highlights several Studio projects with widely-relevant research deliverables. They cover a range of evergreen and emergent topic areas, including ESG, DEIB, community-centered philanthropy, corporate civic engagement, the future of work, catalytic cross-sector partnerships, and more. By focusing on solutions over exposition, and elevating the most urgent ideas, NationSwell’s insights reports showcase our deep commitment to valuing your time and delivering what you need to lead at your best.


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The state of play: U.S. philanthropy

The state of play: U.S. philanthropy

Philanthropy provides risk-tolerant capital in a way that government and business cannot. It is a necessary ingredient to solving the world’s social and environmental problems. A new wave of giving that can propel projects forward with equity and justice at the fore is increasingly contingent on funders not only donating their financial resources but also embedding the values of trust-based approaches into their overall strategy. This trend report describes five key trends for U.S. philanthropy in 2022:

The trends: 

  • Funders have increased their giving over the last two years, sometimes significantly, but growth in nominal giving hides the fact that funders are donating less of what they earn
  • Trust-based philanthropy found its foothold in the midst of crisis; today, funders are sustaining and evolving those principles
  • Funders are doing more to prioritize racial and social justice in their giving, yet BIPOC voices remain too marginalized in decision-making 
  • Funders are realizing philanthropy’s potential to support climate interventions, but their actual investments are incommensurate to the challenge
  • Collaborative approaches are gaining momentum and proving their impact, even among institutional funders; collective investing models adopt a power sharing approach, taking learnings from individual giving as well as trust- and place-based initiatives

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How Verizon engaged 89,000 employee volunteers in the middle of a global pandemic

How Verizon engaged 89,000 employee volunteers in the middle of a global pandemic

Between 2020 and 2021, Verizon mobilized 89,000 of its employees to volunteer over 1,000,000 hours, at an average of over 7 hours per employee. Far exceeding the industry average of 1.4 hours per employee per year and the average annual volunteer participation rate of 17%, Verizon’s success demonstrates how taking a human-centered and empathetic approach can tap into employees’ diverse motivations for Volunteering. This case study describes six elements of Citizen Verizon Volunteers that are critical to its success: 

  • Cascade volunteerism strategy from the organization’s broader societal purpose.

Verizon linked goals to the time and talents of its employees.

  • Develop a volunteerism-oriented RFP that’s empathetic and transparent toward applicants.

Verizon designed a partner selection process that mitigates legacy deficiencies.

  • Over-index to existing employee skills and organizational capabilities.

Verizon harnessed features intrinsic to the organization and its people.

  • Use metrics to elevate the strategic importance of volunteerism.

Verizon actively promoted the strategic value of volunteerism to the business, its employees, and the communities they serve.

  • Plan to tap diverse motivations among employees.

Verizon used a varied toolkit as opposed to relying on a single engagement lever to bring employees forward.

  • Make participation as easy as possible for employees and partners.

Verizon lifted barriers to entry for participants and created opportunities for engagement that were highly responsive to the current environment.


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