CSR Departments Live by Data - or Die by It.

Pop quiz: which scenario has more impact?

1. Company ABC hosts a “done in a day” volunteer opportunity for a local food shelter. The event goes well, with employees seemingly having enjoyed themselves and the nonprofit thrilled with the progress on packing tons of crates of fruit to be delivered to public schools. Company ABC also makes a sizeable donation to the nonprofit and creates a giving campaign for employees that yields additional funds. Company ABC thanks everyone for their service by email.

2.  Company XYZ plans a volunteer opportunity for a local food shelter. From the beginning, Company XYZ sits down with leaders from the nonprofit to discuss their needs and together create goals that will yield maximum impact. Company XYZ learns that the food bank is in dire need of help with marketing, an area that Company XYZ focuses on as their business mission. The company creates a one day marketing-a-thon, where employees are divided up into teams, each with specific challenges and goals. By the end of the day, Company XYZ has created a full marketing plan for the food bank, with employees posting hashtags of their ideas and photos of their work throughout the day and inviting feedback. Company XYZ also makes a sizeable donation to the nonprofit and creates a crowdfunding campaign for employee departments that yields additional funds, with prizes for the team that raises the most. Employees are encouraged to tell their stories about the whole experience, which are then posted on Company XYZ’s website and distributed via social media. Because clear goals were established upfront, employees can incorporate data about giving and impact as part of their overall experience.    

Is there any question about which example has more resonance to everyone involved - employees, the nonprofit and every stakeholder and potential customer associated with Company XYZ?

The difference is data. According to Stanford Social Innovation Review, nonprofits lag behind other types of companies in collecting and analyzing the vast amounts of data that are being generated by digital technology. But companies, too, underutilize big data when it comes to their own social impact efforts.

Predictive analytics is what happens when you make use of data to inform the decision-making process. Data-driven intelligence is now being used to great, profitable effect in the core business mission of companies, from predicting how the weather will impact demand for certain products (as Merck did with Claritin) to analyzing customer behavior data to shape a new TV series (as Netflix did with House of Cards). But when it comes to social innovation and corporate social responsibility, data is vastly untapped.

We know that CSR programs are increasingly linked with a company’s bottom line, and that corporate volunteer programs have become a central tenet for employee recruitment, retention and engagement, especially when it comes to Millennial employees. So why are companies leaving data on the table, so to speak, and not using predictive analytics to shape programs and initiatives that are more targeted, meaningful and impactful?

Join us for a discussion of this topic at our upcoming webinar on leveraging data to shape your social impact. We’ll discuss the best ways to seek out information, and where to store it; how to assess your focus; and how to use data to shape your impact story to make decisions.

Ryan Scott