If you think corporate social responsibility (CSR) is all about sticking your employees on a bus and getting them to paint a classroom at an underprivileged school, you need a serious wake up call. Not only are there better ways to help people in need, you’re also missing a chance to meaningfully engage with your staff.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s becoming increasingly easy to find a better way of doing CSR.
One organisation helping companies transform its CSR efforts is South African employee volunteering and CSR management tool forgood.
Created by and, incubated within, NGO Heartlines, forgood allows companies to take advantage of its technology to foster a more unstructured and creative approach to volunteering.
While forgood has been connecting corporates and NGOs for years now, the launch of its online management tool in 2015 has been a real game-changer.
That change was accelerated in late 2014 when Heartlines founder Garth Japhet brought on technology entrepreneur Andy Hadfield to head up the forgood team.
Corporates sign up for a branded employee volunteering platform populated with real-time requests from non-profits in their focus areas. Employees browse for activities and make arrangements directly – but all actions can be tracked for use in CSR reporting.
A startup approach
Hadfield, a veteran of the South African startup space used his experience in both tech and the corporate space to help pivot forgood into the platform it is today.
Since launch, it has enabled more than 5 440 actions for good, with 508 registered causes and 3165 volunteers.
What it’s effectively done is take the plumbing of the NGO industry and turned it into a cloud platform linking businesses with NGOs.
It also rejects the idea that just because you’re enabling people to do good, you shouldn’t make money.
While the platform has been useful for corporates, Hadfield says another major impact has been on non-profits realising that they aren’t limited to asking for money or unskilled labour.
“Non-profits are only starting to realise the kind of help they can request from corporate employee volunteers – who are well-suited to skilled volunteer work and mentorship,” says Hadfield.
Rather than coordinating a team of amateur wall painters, NPOs can request help preparing for audits, restructuring staff contracts and analysing legal liabilities within the communities they reach.
The ability to call on those skills also means corporate employees can engage in CSR initiatives more meaningfully.
“Volunteer programmes should work in tandem with staff satisfaction and development programmes – they have been shown to improve collaboration, innovation and soft skill development,” says Hadfield, who helped develop Deloitte’s groundbreaking staff engagement system back in 2008 before taking his skills to the social sector with forgood.
“For employees, it is deeply empowering to volunteer around a skill they already have or are looking to develop. Forgood allows that, while enabling employers to leverage off and recognise the good that their staff are doing on the ground. This forms the basis for a best practice employee engagement model,” says Hadfield.
“South Africans and millennials in general are eager to get involved in social projects, but they want a more personalised experience. With a tool like fogood, businesses are able to offer volunteer opportunities to suit all tastes and types, highlight existing corporate CSI initiatives – and track it all,” he adds.
One reason that corporates haven’t been able to provide these kinds of personalised experiences is because of the limited capacity of CSR teams.
“Forgood takes away the slog of sourcing and arranging opportunities for staff involvement, allowing management to focus on more meaningful and strategic work,” says Hadfield.