Benevity hosts first ever CSR event in London
Benevity was proud to host its first ever UK-based Goodness Matters Local in London on November 13. It was exciting to have the chance to connect with companies in Europe and talk about the latest trends in CSR and about how Benevity is helping purpose-driven brands bring their social mission to life.
HMS Belfast was a fitting venue, just 2 days after Remembrance Sunday and the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 1918. The Royal Navy ship, now moored on the River Thames, and operated by the Imperial War Museum, provided a great stage to host our event, which explored key themes in the CSR space in the UK and globally. The event was a sell-out and attended by many UK household corporate names, and our guest key speaker was Eve Joseph, Microsoft UK Responsibility Manager.
An exciting agenda
The event began with Matthew Fawcett, VP International, sharing a little about Benevity, our B corp status and how our mission continues to help companies help their people be their best selves through prosocial action and behaviours.
The latest trends and data in CSR were explored by Sona Khosla, VP Marketing, flown in from Calgary to capture the hearts and minds of our audience of CSR professionals. Chris Venter shared his expertise on using software to achieve impressive results and shared client stories that inspired the audience to think differently about how they approach their corporate and employee giving programmes.
The highlight of our event was Matthew Fawcett interviewing Eve Joseph, who spoke passionately about how their employee engagement has scaled to new proportions using Benevity’s innovative corporate social responsibility software. Eve described how corporates need to focus on a CSR strategy that will strengthen their business and engage their people, and shared her insight into the many ins and outs of the day-to-day management of CSR programmes.
Finally, I had a lot of fun engaging our audience of professionals, allowing them the opportunity to share challenges and short-comings in current CSR practices, which surfaced 6 key themes that many of the companies were grappling with.
1. Traditional fundraising methods aren't quite working anymore
Corporates recognise that traditional methods of fundraising aren’t quite hitting the mark anymore. With a more savvy pool of stakeholders (customers, suppliers and employees) ever more discerning, corporates need to be even more vociferous in amplifying their social and environmental impact. So being smart about how those social investments are made is key, as is the vehicle through which they manage and report on programmes; both will strengthen their business and engage their people, as well as their community partners. Corporates felt that fundraising for specific initiatives or causes only engaged with the usual few which made it a challenge to drive impact, and also caused fundraising fatigue amongst those already involved. CSR professionals need a better way to scale these efforts by having a more personalised approach, where the employee can select and publish their own campaigns online and fundraise in a more digital way. Tech for social good benefits everyone, not least the charities and NGOs that benefit from more dynamic corporate CSR programmes that reach more people. Using the Benevity platform uses tech in a way that builds awareness, engages colleagues positively and differentiates the business, creating brand recognition which achieves a greater impact in society and an improved bottom line.
2. Combining programmes for impact
Organisations described how they manage a number of programmes in a disparate fashion, demonstrating the opportunity for bringing them all under one umbrella to enhance reporting and make a greater impact on their workforce. Employees have varying passions and needs, so being able to offer a complementary range of employee engagement options is a way to deliver a personal sense of purpose to each individual in the company. Being able to report on this effectively and glean insights into peoples’ engagement means CSR professionals can work and think more strategically about their programmes versus being mired in manual (and mundane) administrative work. With strong reporting, they can also share their CSR achievements internally and externally which can help to rally support both from company executives and the public at large.
3. Change and internal communications are challenging
Many of these companies have a set-it-and-forget it payroll programme that never really gets leveraged. Over 30 years, 2 billion pounds have been donated in the UK through payroll giving, but 1 billion pounds has been donated in just one year on the Benevity platform, showing the tremendous potential for taking a more personalized and tech-enabled approach. The pros at our event are going to be the change-makers of the future, the ones who usher in a new tide of corporate giving which is aimed at creating purpose-driven cultures while making a greater contribution to society. Being able to articulate the benefits around scale, automation, time-savings and personalisation are key for companies to realise their true potential. Microsoft couldn’t stress enough that partnering with HR and Finance around achieving better engagement and bringing them into the discussions early will help. Indeed, doing a business case for automation by analysing cost savings in the finance team can certainly enable CSR leads to be heard.
4. Few companies are finding the right balance between being strategic, personalised and relevant at both global and local levels
Many companies talked about the challenges around balancing their company’s strategic corporate pillars vs. engaging employees in a grassroots manner with their preferred causes. There was much discussion around volunteering and moving away from micro-volunteering which felt like a box-ticking exercise to achieve unrealistic volunteering targets.
Corporates recognised the need to balance what their employees wanted to do, in terms of volunteering, balancing skills-based vs. team/group volunteering opportunities, whilst at the same time achieving the strategic pillars. Also, companies were conscious of the need to ensure they are using their programmes to engage employees in a unified culture across offices, so that organisations being supported also echoed the company’s values. They recognised also that to engage fully, there must be the ability to choose more locally relevant content, and better yet, choice that allows employees to support personally resonant causes.
5. Companies are interested in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but no one has cracked the code on engaging employees in them
Corporates are confident in their ability to identify the Sustainable Development Goals that their CSR pillars achieve and are focusing their strategies on the SDGs, from supply chain to their products. But many of their employees and customers do not have a good understanding of the SDG framework or purpose and how that relates to the corporate brand— and few have a strategy to address that. It’s incumbent upon companies to drive awareness and from there, engagement and purpose. This requires a solution that allows companies to promote employee-focused campaigns that ladder up to a company’s SDGs and to be able to report on their impact across all of their efforts to tell a better story which is especially useful for their annual reports, but more importantly for greater awareness and impact. The ability to engage employees in positive actions related to the SDGs was also of interest.
6. Legacy working habits impact corporate giving programme scalability, demonstrating a need for automation
Companies are striving to have a smarter workforce, be more efficient, and be more productive. We heard from large UK-based organisations who still employ manual vetting charity processes and spend hours cobbling together annual reports using spreadsheets. These legacy working practices are holding them back from scalability and this lack of automation means they cannot tailor their programmes to engage effectively with an increasingly diverse workforce. In short, teams are spending more time being tactical instead of strategic.
Innovation in engaging the workforce is key, and technology is at the forefront of this. Technologies that support giving, volunteering, learning and other prosocial action are essential to helping make the workplace a place of purpose. And understanding that today’s workforce is incredibly diverse means that any solution needs to address the equally diverse passions and interests of employees. Moving away from monthly campaigns and using software to engage individuals on a daily basis achieves a more personal touchpoint with the employee, and at the same time reduces the administrative burden of manually tracking information, reporting, carrying out due diligence and processing disbursements.
Our first London event on HMS Belfast left our CSR change-makers feeling empowered by the collaborative environment. They were excited about the prospect of integrating CSR into the daily activities of their employees, making CSR front of mind. Communicating impact through mapping to the SDGs was of key interest. Through open conversations and proactively spreading the word about CSR activity, corporates agreed they are more likely to encourage ongoing internal conversations about engaging with technology to maximise impact.
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About the AuthorMore Content by Trudi Webber