The following article is an excerpt from the “CSR 2020: Experts Look Ahead“ eBook published by Blackbaud Corporate Solutions. Download it for free now to read more about trends that will affect how companies give back in the near future.
The digital transformation has changed our world: we have unlimited on-demand choices for almost every service, product and experience and we can access endless possibilities our mobile devices 24/7. We’re the most connected we’ve ever been – with our friends, social networks and even strangers near and far having constant influence and involvement in our daily lives through messaging, social media, in app social tools, online communities and more.
This transformation has shifted the expectations of individuals around how they operate in the world – how they give to causes they care about, connect with colleagues, choose brands and make purchases, and participate in CSR initiatives. Corporations need to align their CSR offering with this new set of expectations. Social fundraising offers a powerful way for companies to engage with current and prospective employees and consumers in the ever-evolving digital landscape – empowering individual choice when it comes to charitable giving, enabling brands to connect with larger audiences through everyday influencers, and increasing the impact of CSR initiatives.
Social fundraising has grown to include individual driven peer-to-peer fundraising, crowdfunding and more. Individuals create campaigns to raise funds and awareness for the causes they care about – usually centered around a project, activity, milestone, event, or other inspiration. Then, they go out to their friends, family, and personal networks to request support in the form of monetary donations and social equity. These individual change agents are amongst the most passionate, motivated, loyal and influential individuals you will find. When done thoughtfully, brands can foster powerful positive relationships with individual fundraisers becoming an important part of their journey and the story they share with their social networks.
In my conversations with CSR leaders, I’m increasingly seeing brands that want to create true engagement with their employees and consumers. Supporting individual and the causes they care about presents unique opportunity for to do so. But, it isn’t as simple as putting a blue or pink ribbon alongside a brand logo. Consumers and employees see past that. The next evolution in CSR is about authenticity and connection, and people saying to themselves, “Wow, I want to be a part of that.”
To do this, CSR leaders must involve key stakeholders across all parts of the business to maximize their CSR initiatives.
HR teams and recruiters need to know that employees are looking to be a part of CSR initiatives in a transformative and not transactional way. The modern workforce is mobile and constantly searching for engaging experiences. As companies look to evolve their CSR strategies to speak to the modern workforce, social fundraising can offer an element of transformational engagement. Moving beyond a simple transactional donation, Social fundraising allows employees to give their voice, networks, time and efforts to make a difference, increasing the impact they make and the connection they feel to something bigger than themselves.
Looking forward it will become even more important to give employees at all levels the power of choice and the opportunity to lead charitable activities – rather than limiting charitable initiatives and decisions to senior leadership. It’s about being less prescriptive. It’s about creating a conversation and inviting employees and consumers to join.
With 500+ retail locations and a mostly millennial workforce, TCC Verizon found that in addition to top down company-wide initiatives, social fundraising helps them engage employees by giving them option to fundraise in their own terms for the charity of their choice. This strategy empowers employees to become individual change agents in their communities sharing the stories of their impact, and increases engagement through creating a “Culture of Good”.
By 2020, millennials will make up over half of the workforce. There has been no shortage of research to help us understand this cohort’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. We know that meaningful engagement around CSR is imperative for companies to appeal to, retain and inspire millennial talent. We know they want to not only work for companies that have robust CSR initiatives, they want to be co-creators and facilitators of solutions.
We must also begin to understand the younger, and even more digitally savvy Generation Z. These are teenagers and young adults (born between 1996 and the present day) who will soon enter the workforce, drive consumerism and become the next generation of social change agents.
These youngsters are digital and cloud natives, and most of Gen Z doesn’t remember a time before social media. While there is still much to learn as this generation comes of age, we do know they consume and process content much faster than other generations (think Snapchat and Twitter, vs. infomercials and newspaper articles), have shorter attention spans, and multitask on multiple devices at one time. They also expect highly personalized communication and experiences including access to real-time content, feedback acknowledgement and service.
Beyond employee engagement, brand, social, content and influencer marketers need to consider how their CSR programs touch individual stakeholders – employees, fans, and customers, to stay ahead of the game. Reaching target demographics is getting increasingly difficult for brands as consumers get thousands of brand messages a day. Individual-driven programming allows marketers to tap a source of powerful everyday influencers paving a path to connect with audiences who tend to ignore traditional strategies. Innovative brands can use these initiatives as a way to acquire new user data and build brand affinity.
Finally, empowering the individual enables brands to increase impact. Out of $380 billion in charitable giving in 2016, $270 million came from individuals. It’s imperative that brands begin to foster deeper collaboration with individuals. Because ultimately, we all have a part to play in the broader social good community and in shaping our world for future generations. Individuals are a critical component to the equation, and they need the support, tools, encouragement and resources that corporations can offer at scale.