Passion projects: aligning company initiatives and personal values
This time, it’s personal
For most of the modern era, corporate giving and individual passions have been mostly siloed, as employee programs focused more on encouraging people to give to charities chosen by the company. Now, companies are beginning to embrace “The Power of And,” which encompasses both vertical AND horizontal engagement. That’s the scenario where the vertical pillars or specific charities in a company’s social responsibility strategy are complemented by a more horizontal or grassroots focus powered by the passions and interests of its people. Once you combine the two, it’s easy to see the powerful potential to engage your people more broadly AND boost awareness of your company’s positive role in society.
It’s all in how the concept of collective impact is redefining conventional approaches to CSR and corporate Goodness. Instead of limiting thinking of impact to the dollars that can be raised for a specific cause or charity by funneling people into a limited selection of charities that often mean little or nothing to them, technology is helping both democratize giving and catalyze “the crowd” in ways that drive behavioral change and create sustainable engagement and impact. And the key to doing that is making way for personal “passion projects.”
One of the interesting attributes of Millennials and Gen Z in the workforce is that they seek work/life integration – rather than work/life balance like their Boomer predecessors – which has implications for both tools and programs. This huge employee cohort is giving and volunteering widely as part of who they are, so you should create a context where they can do so as part of your programs and employer brand, and ensure the company is seen as actively supporting them.
Imagine if everyone in your company could choose any charity that interested them. That’s like saying to them “I value you so much as an individual, I want to make the workplace right for YOU.” The birdwatcher in accounting who wants to donate to a local owl protection foundation? Done. The soccer-loving sales rep who wants to give to a kids-in-sport charity? No problem. It’s all about forging a personal connection between the employee and the company. And when you offer an open giving program to your employees, they are 5 times more likely to participate!
Give the power to the people
The desire to give and pursue a higher sense of purpose is almost always driven by people’s passions, so encouraging your people to create and promote their own passion projects can be hugely impactful. Supporting the causes your people are excited about sends a clear message that their interests matter. There’s also the very practical element: if they know that they can’t give time, money or talent to their favorite charity through your program, they likely won’t access your giving solution, so you have zero chance of helping evolve their interests and involvement to things that might more directly align with your brand and CSR strategy. Open choice and broad matching programs are a proven way to elevate employee engagement, and very likely a key driver in the record $17.8 billion given by corporations to charities in 2014. And to be clear, this doesn’t mean you have to ignore the projects and causes your company considers strategic. Your passions will often overlap, and featuring company grants or offering matches for specific causes (perhaps at higher rates than you match non-strategic causes) can help promote your program and projects to people who are looking for a new cause to support. Just recognizing your people’s personal interests could be the key to hitting your impact goals and targets.
The Millennial factor
As mentioned above, Millennials are a purpose-driven generation who consider it their duty to make a positive difference in the world, and they want to both see the same from the companies they work for and do it while they’re working. A whopping 82% actively consider a company’s CSR program before deciding where to work (Cone) and, compared to Boomers, they are far more likely to align their careers with their social values (32% vs. 17%), according to UBS’ Doing Well at Doing Good. Their personal interests are as varied as they are, and an easy-to-use, always on open choice program is the most effective way to engage them in doing good through your workplace, rather than just on their own. It may also introduce an element of purpose and meaning to their work that keeps them with you (and has them referring their friends!).
The bottom line is engagement
Corporate Goodness programs have huge potential to engage a wide spectrum of your people. By encouraging and rewarding personal interests, you can move the needle on engagement in the workplace, which – great news! – is on the upward trend. As corporate programs become more sophisticated and tuned to individuals, the future is nothing but Good!