The Science of Change: A Formula to Build the Case for Workplace Giving

September 12, 2016 Nicole Campbell

The Science of Change: A Formula to Build the Case for Workplace Giving

How elephants can help evolve your program

By Nicole Campbell, Principal of Goodness Consulting at Benevity

When your company has bold plans to evolve its workplace giving program, it’s easy to get excited about making a bigger and more authentic impact on your people, your business and your community. You might have a clear vision for how to take your program to the next level – big ideas for embedding an authentic culture of Goodness into your people’s day-to-day work experience, and a desire to fundamentally refocus giving and volunteering as key drivers of employee recruitment, retention and engagement. Who wouldn’t want to get behind an evolution like that? 

As with any decision that impacts the company, even when it’s a positive impact, the vision needs to be communicated effectively. This will make it easy for the stakeholders who influence the process to get excited, too. A strong business case gives them a compelling reason go beyond the status quo; to change “the way we’ve always done it” to make meaningful progress.

It’s about connecting the senior people in the organization to something that is meaningful to them.

— Penny Zuckerwise, Founding Head of CSR, Guggenheim Partners

Behavioral science tells us that presenting any decision maker with a logical plan for what you want to accomplish is crucial, but it’s not enough. It creates understanding, but doesn’t necessarily offer motivation. Likewise, giving an emotional reason for why your program should evolve is crucial, but again, not enough. It instills passion but doesn’t provide direction.

You want to appeal to both logic and emotion when presenting your business case. [Tweet this] This balance is best described by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, where he introduces the metaphor of the elephant and the rider.
The elephant and the rider need to move together
In this analogy, the emotional side of a decision maker’s brain is an elephant and the rational side is its rider. The rider hold the reins, but is no doubt outmatched in strength. The elephant is powerful, driven by instinct and can go any direction it chooses. To make progress, you need the passion and energy of the elephant, but also the planning and direction of the rider to help keep the elephant on the right path. So the key is getting the rider and elephant moving together harmoniously, because both are important to the end goal.

When we translate this to the world of corporate responsibility, we’re talking about creating a logical plan that appeals emotionally to the people who will ultimately decide if a new direction is the right one. Then the next step is to create a clear and easy path for that change to be successful.  

The science of change: logic + emotion + ease = change
There’s a simple formula that can be very powerful when it comes to communicating the benefits of change. Here’s how you can use logic, appeal to emotion and convey ease to bring your stakeholders on board with the vision and goals. [Tweet this]

1) Logic. Give the facts. What benefits will be generated by evolving your corporate responsibility efforts (e.g., increased productivity and wide-scale employee engagement, especially in the context of an international giving program)? This will resonate with the logical minds of your stakeholders, who want some proof that changing behaviors will actually result in a greater impact. For instance, as we face an “engagement crisis” in the workplace, it’s helpful to note that well designed corporate responsibility programs can reduce turnover by 50 percent and increase employee engagement by 7.5 percent, according to the Project ROI report.

2) Emotion. Stakeholders are human, and the emotional side of the human brain gives us an intrinsic desire to “do good,” so tap into that. But remember that the logical side of our brains still says doing good needs to be done right. So share a great story about how one of your peers saw a marked increase in employee productivity after making similar changes to offer proof that the plan can work, while reaching the stakeholders on a personal level. At Benevity, our large and growing client community is a wealth of little wins and human interest stories that help everyone learn from each other

At our annual Goodness Matters User Conference, Penny Zuckerwise, Founding Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Guggenheim Partners, lets us in on a tip. She says that connecting decision makers with issues that matter to them can be a key factor in making the case for corporate responsibility.


3) Ease. Approach projects in small, digestible steps that can demonstrate impact as you go. For example, “let’s try it for a month and see what happens” is a great way to ease into change and gather data before making a bigger commitment. Equipped with that new data — and a vision for how to adopt it more widely within your specific environment — it will be easier to create a plan for how to achieve longer term goals. For example, one of Benevity’s clients pitched an open-choice program for one campaign only, and they were successful in influencing key stakeholders to open up the program broadly on a permanent basis. 

…it all adds up to change
If you’ve employed logic, emotion and ease successfully in conversations with your stakeholders, there’s a good chance of getting buy-in. Your stakeholders now have both the direction and motivation they need to influence real change — to move beyond what’s “good enough” in a giving program to create greater impact.  

Okay, there’s buy-in. Now what?
Once you’ve used the science of change to get stakeholder support, you can take it even further. This is where things start to get really exciting. You get to roll out new programs, incentives and technology that will bring your people together. And using that same behavioral science of logic + emotion + ease = change could be the key to rallying your people not only to participate, but to really own the Goodness experience you’ve created together. Now that’s an evolution to get behind.

Ready to take the next step with your
Goodness program?


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