What happens when CSR is tied to your business goals?

October 18, 2018

A Q&A with Sandy Pierantoni, Sr Program Manager, Community Relations at CDW

CDW has worked for more than 30 years to support and improve the communities in which they live and work, contributing millions of dollars and thousands of service hours. The organization has identified three key areas of focus for their community and giving work: education and job readiness, health and human services, and military and veterans.

Sandy Pierantoni, Senior Program Manager of Community Relations, has been hard at work supporting CDW’s program for 22 years. Today we’re highlighting her team’s efforts and sharing some of the CSR best practices they’ve learned over the years. The biggest takeaway? CSR is constantly growing, and there are multiple items that you can do as an organization to ensure your program remains impactful for your employees, community and the bottom line.


  1. How did the CSR program begin at CDW, and what role does it play today?

CDW has from our very inception been a business that tied “corporate social responsibility” to our business goals and objectives – before there was even a coined term for what it is.  Our business was founded on the principle that you “treat your coworkers the way you want your customers to be treated” and “everything we do revolves around the customer”.  Because of our business model, CSR (as it is now called) is part of our culture, part of what makes CDW so special.  CDW encourages all coworkers to give back to our communities whether it is through hard work and paid time off to volunteer or whether that is through gifts of money and CDW matching them through our generous matching gifts programs. 

  1. How has your program changed/evolved over the last 5 years?

We used to be everything to everyone, focusing on so many activities and breadth of focus areas but that just was not sustainable.  We were all over the map.  So a few years ago we made some hard choices to not support certain organizations that ultimately did not support our bottom line of what our business is about.  We are still making strides – baby steps really – toward where we ultimately want to be, but we persevere.  We are taking a much more focused approach to our philanthropy that is synonymous with our business goals and objectives as a top global employer and information technology solutions provider. 

  1. How do you keep up with the changes in the CSR industry (conferences, blogs, industry leaders, etc.?)

I keep up with the constant changes in the CSR industry through various means.  First, I am involved with my professional association, ACCP, or the Association for Corporate Contributions Professionals.  In addition to that membership in general I attend their conference and network with my peers and industry leaders annually.  Plus, I am co-chair of the ACCP North Suburban Grant Makers Council and we meet once a quarter with businesses in our northern Chicagoland cities to discuss challenges and triumphs that are unique to companies that are in the Chicago market but aren’t in Chicago itself.  ACCP also does many webinars and other opportunities to expand your reach and understanding and I participate in those whenever possible.  I also read many publications such as the Corporate Citizen from Boston College and many others. 

  1. How do you keep your employees engaged in your volunteer program?

For one, we continually offer volunteer opportunities to our coworkers.  We don’t just do a grand campaign once a year like many companies do.  So there is always a need or request for volunteers, and our coworkers never disappoint.  Two, we offer all coworkers paid time off to do volunteer work.  And three, we survey our coworkers after they participate in volunteer opportunities to understand what went well, what could have gone better, etc. and we use that data to fine tune our offering and programs whenever possible.

  1. How does Blackbaud Employee Giving and Blackbaud Employee Volunteering support you and your program?

I am a “team of one”.  It’s me, myself and I supporting over 8,600 coworkers globally in many different initiatives.  Without programs and featured offered within Blackbaud Employee Giving and Volunteering, we would not be able to do what we do.  Blackbaud’s technology allows me to offer volunteer opportunities and share the information with coworkers directly.  It allows me to have a one stop focus on who is signing up for various programs, who is contributing to various campaigns offered, and allows me to do reporting and surveying all in one convenient place. 

  1. How do you connect with your peers at your CDW?

I use our intranet and coworker social network to do a lot of that, posing a question and getting responses. Many times, it is just face to face conversations. 

  1. What challenges have you experienced?  How do you address/overcome them?

We have many challenges.  Budget, for one.  I think every company no matter what your size of budget, it is never enough.  CDW still struggles with being everything to everyone which isn’t sustainable and that does not support or build your brand.  The biggest challenge I am currently facing is figuring out how to better streamline our programs to support the business goals and objectives without upsetting the flow and passion of our coworkers who want to give back and volunteer.  And finding the budget to support initiatives that provide shared value.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to a company either starting a volunteer program or trying to improve theirs, what would it be?

Do your research!  Consult with other companies, become a member of ACCP.  They have a wealth of information for grant and volunteer managers.  And most are not shy about sharing their programmatic goals and even how they do what they do.  But you have to ask! 


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