The Power of Purpose in the For-Profit World

This is a guest post from Matthew Boyd, from member organisation Vollie.

If you’re the type of manager who treats CSR as a “just another box to tick”, then grab a mirror and take a hard look at yourself, because you are doing a disservice to your company. Corporate Social Responsibility is, like all corporate agendas, something that when done right results in a more sustainable and profitable outcome for a company. Good CSR results in a better outcome for the causes and communities that your business serves, creates higher employee satisfaction rates and lowers your staff turnover, increases the desirability of your brand by customers, and can increase customer loyalty and lifetime value.

The Benefit of Good CSR to Causes & Communities

If your organisation has ever paid a charity to run a “staff volunteering day”, then you could be wasting a whole lot of money and valuable volunteering resources. Organising an entire company or department to work in a soup kitchen for a day or visit a children’s ward may feel like you’re making a difference, but more often than not the cause you’re trying to help is significantly disrupted by the time you’re spending there. As a rule of thumb, if you’re paying for the opportunity to volunteer your staff’s services, then you’re doing it wrong.

Instead of spending your money and staff’s time on a paid volunteering opportunity, it might be better to donate your team’s time in the form of skilled volunteering. Skilled volunteering utilises the highly valuable services that individuals and teams within your organisation can offer (such as marketing, finance, legal, or administrative services) and donates them to nonprofits free of charge.

Tess Melville, Volunteer Services Coordinator for Make-A-Wish Australia, is a witness to the power of skilled volunteering, “The volunteer sector is in a state of change, this is exciting but also a challenge for non-profits to re-think the way we work.”

Tess not only supports skilled volunteering but sees it as something that, if ignored, will have dire consequences for non-profit organisations, “The traditional model of volunteering is not sustainable, in order for us to continue to grant wishes for years to come we need to think about how we can change with the sector and not be left behind.”

Make-A-Wish Australia already benefits from skilled volunteers, some of whom have helped with costume design for wishes.

For the same amount of money that you would donate to an organisation for a “volunteers’ day out”, you could also be providing non-profit organisations with a subscription to online skilled volunteering platform, Vollie. Not only would that amount provide your company and staff with access to skilled volunteering opportunities, but it would also provide a non-profit organisation with access to eight skilled volunteers every month for 12 months! Skilled volunteering projects through Vollie average over $1,000 in value each, which equates to approximately $20 in volunteer value for every $1 spent on Vollie.

The Benefit of Good CSR to the Bottom Line

There are multiple reports that link “goodness” to employee satisfaction and retention (a great summary is provided by BCorp here), and there was a significant study back in 2008 that positively linked CSR to “perceived quality of the products offered and consumer satisfaction”. Repeated studies since the early 2000’s have continued to show that businesses who align their commercial activity with community and causes will see a significant return on their bottom line through increased staff retention and productivity, increased brand desirability.

REA Group is one of an increasing number of progressive purpose-driven companies that no longer even view the phrase “Corporate Social Responsibility” as a relevant term, as it implies that a company only invests in its’ purpose-driven activities because it has to. Indeed, REA Group’s track record in giving back to the community shows that the company is viewing “CSR” as anything but a “box to tick”.

In 2014, REA Group and Launch Housing created the national Rapid Rehousing Fund, an initiative which so far has supported more than 1,100 women and children around Australia who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness. As a part of its wider Because We Care employee “give back” program, REA Group also prides itself on enabling its employees to support local communities through a number of different programs.

REA Group’s volunteer leave bank is just one of many ways in which it gives back to the community.

The group’s Head of Community Partnerships & Engagement, Jessica Christie, agrees that the commercial impact the business’ community partnerships & engagement program has on the company is incredibly positive, saying: “When businesses form authentic community partnerships and genuinely support their people to give back to the community, employee engagement goes up and people outside the business want to be a part of it – both the community and the company benefit.”

Australia Post’s Corporate Responsibility Manager, Miguel Oyarbide, affirms this, “CSR is more than just a nice thing to do on top of everything else. We know that the value we create goes beyond financial terms – and from that perspective, CSR is about being true to our purpose.”

As a 208-year-old organisation, Australia Post links its long-term sustainability with its focus on recognising and responding to social and environmental challenges, “CSR provides a powerful lens to help us identify and address risks, attract and retain talented employees, meet stakeholder expectations, innovate, gain competitive advantage and respond to changing market demands.”

Purpose: The New Disruptor

What digital started doing fifteen years ago, CSR and the concept of “purpose” are starting to do now. You may not be at risk of suddenly losing drastic market share to competitors who are implementing commercially aligned CSR programs, but the failure to act now will leave you stranded when the tide really starts to change. The risks of not acting include alienation from your customers, disengaged and disinterested employees (particularly millennials), and smaller margins. Investing in a commercially aligned CSR program is not expensive, and the immediate benefits to the causes and communities that you care about are incredibly high.

If you don’t have your CSR program aligned with your bottom line, then Vollie can provide you with the research, planning, and support required to make your CSR a commercial asset to your business.

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