If you’re tasked with choosing the right platform to manage your company’s CSR program you’ve probably got a list of things you’re looking for.
Asking these questions will help you select the solution that best suits the future of your organisation (and makes you look like a superstar).
There a change afoot in the business community - a growing awareness that merely stating your organisation has a purpose beyond meeting revenue targets no longer cuts it. That annual bake sale or daffodil day fundraiser isn’t enough to tick the CSR box any more, and an ‘evening off’ to cook meals for the disadvantaged doesn’t equate to a motivated workforce.
Of course, some companies have been aware of this for years, and they should be proud of their investment in successful workplace giving programs (even though they’re already benefiting by attracting the staff and customers their competitors are fighting for). Now that the secret’s out, even these guys are having to work harder to retain their reputation as an ethical company.
As a result of this awakening, businesses large and small are realising that the operational costs of setting up and managing activities like these can be much higher than anticipated:
Selecting the right charity partners
Managing volunteering activities
Matching staff donations
Ticketed charity events
Reporting on every act of good
Few organisations have the in-house systems or knowledge to successfully tackle these varied and specific tasks so it’s no surprise that they look for external help. But whoever’s tasked with researching the available options needs to know what they’re looking for in order to make the right choice - and that’s a challenge for managers without direct experience in the field!
It’s encouraging to see more choice and diversity of CSR tools than ever before. In theory this moves the advantage to the customer, but the increased choice makes it essential to ask the right questions - not just of the potential provider, but first of all, of the business itself.
Nobody wants to risk getting locked into a long contract with a platform your users have just got familiar with, only to realise it can’t grow to suit your needs. That can derail the goodwill of your people and your charity partners, plus end up being a costly mistake.
But let’s slow down a minute, before you launch into your market research you’re going to need to look inwards first.
Questions to ask your own business
We could write a whole post around self-assessment (and maybe we will) but for now, here’s a sample of what you ought to know about your own operation before shopping around:
What do we really want from this project? What’s the perfect future state look like?
Why are we investing in doing good? List the answers by priority
What are we doing in this space already? Include past activities and charities you already support
Who’s the sponsor of this project? Who makes the final decision?
What activities do we do now that would be managed more efficiently with a dedicated tool? What else could/should we be doing?
What’s the cost of NOT investing in an excellent program? Include brand sentiment, employee engagement, perception of the local community, and most of all your role as a group of humans
Once you’ve got a handle on the company’s motivation and goals you’ll be better prepared to assess your options. After all, any credible provider will ask these same questions about your business so it’s wise to approach them armed with some answers.
Questions to ask your workplace giving provider
Once you’ve understood the needs of the organisation, it’s time to reach out to your shortlist of providers and see how confidently they can respond to these queries.
1. What fees do you charge charities?
If the company, its employees - and even those outside the business such as customers, suppliers and families of employees - have worked hard and been generous with their donations it’s unfair to take excessive fees from their generosity before the funds are even received by the charity. It’s common for transaction fees to be taken from credit card donations, but these shouldn’t exceed 2%. Aside from lost donations, are your charity partners likely to face other costs by being on the same platform? Do they pay onboarding or recurring license fees? If additional costs are applied, ask why, and where they go.
Often overlooked is the non-monetary cost to your charity partners - e.g. there will be a learning curve for them to adopt a new system and setup takes away time they could be spending elsewhere. Ideally the nonprofit will benefit from being on your shared platform, better still, they’ll get help with onboarding from the provider.
2. What if we need guidance?
Investing in technology alone isn’t going to magically project a magical aura of goodness around the company unless it’s used to deliver against a well considered strategy. You may already have the in-house experience to set this up, but if not you could bring in an external consultant. Better still, you could ask if the provider can integrate the rollout of their platform with a customised plan designed around the specific needs of your business. Coupling technology and services in this way is usually more cost effective, reduces the number of contact points, and ensures all parties are clear on the deliverables. Oh, and be sure to incorporate your charity partners in this conversation too - aim for a holistic collaboration and this groundwork will deliver the most impact and goodwill.
3. Can you manage all the activities we need?
Sure, you only might want a way to run a fundraising event for a charity. There are providers which can easily accommodate just that, taking care of the ticketing, RSVPs and communications to attendees.
But what if the event is such a huge success that your staff are keen to volunteer their time and skills as well? In a month there could be a desire for employees to make pre-tax donations to the charity via payroll. Or the board decides to award a grant to nonprofits. Or the CEO wants to match every dollar given towards a disaster relief fund. Or Emma from the sales team would absolutely love it if the company could put together a sponsored cycle ride fundraiser. And with all this activity going on, how can it all be measured and reported?
As you can see, a one size fits all solution allows the organisation to grow its social responsibility program in whichever direction it needs to go, allowing a variety of options for everyone with no restrictions, no need for separate platforms and no fragmented reporting. On the flip side, you’d rather not pay for tools you might not use, but that needs weighing up against the cost of restricting future growth and ending up in a dead end situation.
4. What happens when I need help?
Any online platform worth considering will have a logical user interface that allows most functions to be completed intuitively. However, and particularly for larger companies, user support should be high on the list of considerations. Look for a blend of self-serve help documentation and one-on-one support for those specific “can you help me do this…” queries. At enterprise level, there should be a direct line to your own account manager, someone who understands the goals and challenges unique to your business.
Again, don’t neglect the key beneficiaries here; you’re looking for a two-way collaboration with your nonprofit friends with the technology streamlining how you both plan, manage, report on and celebrate your achievements.
5. Can you integrate with our existing systems?
This is a question that should be asked by large organisations and/or those with a focus on security and seamless employee experience. Managing separate usernames and passwords for every employee can quickly get out of control, so a solution that offers SSO (Single Sign On) means everyone can log in to their giving platform in the same way they access the rest of their in-house systems (intranet, email, etc). It also makes it easier to automatically onboard new staff members, and close access to those leaving.
On the theme of employees, your HR team should see this as an opportunity to tap into the heartbeat of the workforce. The right solution will give them qualitative insights into what best motivates teams and individuals while providing the quantitative data required to plan initiatives such as paid volunteer hours.
To maximise alignment between the company and its philanthropic activities, it helps to make the the third party platform look like it’s part of the company’s own system by matching the design elements to those the users are familiar with. If internal brand consistency is valuable, it’s worth checking whether this is available.
6. Can employees choose the charities they want to support?
At Benojo, we see the most engaging giving programs allow what we call “voice and choice” - where employees can nominate the charities they wish to support. Not all companies allow free reign of course, and some platforms let them restrict giving to a preselected list, but having the flexibility to change policy over time can be valuable.
Couple this with another function that’s proven to boost employee engagement - the ability to introduce friendly competition via internal leaderboards - and your people can outdo each other’s fundraising efforts and be recognised for their generosity.
7. How do you organise to suit my hierarchy?
Franchises? Different departments? Overseas offices? There are a multitude of reasons why a business would want to create separate units which can be managed and reported on individually, whilst allowing a global view for head office. The same applies to a corporate giving solution. It’s also worth asking if there are fees for dividing the account up in this way.
8. How many users/administrators can I have?
Different platforms have different costing models. The number of users is a common pricing variable, but be sure to check how many administrator logins you have with the license. Spreading the responsibility across several admins really helps in large companies, you won’t want to be restricted when people leave the company or the one admin happens to be away when they’re needed.
9. What’s the future of the solution?
Benojo releases new functionality every two weeks to meet user needs and our own vision of what the future should be. We’re too busy focusing on our own users to look over our shoulders at what others are doing, but we’d advise asking how each vendor plans to adapt to new technology, social change and market forces. What’s on their roadmap? Can they build features to meet your needs, or those of your charities? Are they embracing emerging standards such as the United Nations SDGs? You’re looking for a partner here, not just a service provider.
How they answer this question should give you an idea of how well you’ll play together.
10. What’s it cost?
We’ve deliberately left this question last, even though it’s probably at the top of your list, but much like parachutes, contraceptives and cosmetic surgery - selecting by price alone can end up being the most costly decision you’ll make. Therefore there are some important secondary questions you should consider, such as:
Is the upfront cost low because it’s subsidised by ongoing fees (to your company or charities)? If so, what might the total costs be as your program and business grows?
Will my program suffer if it’s limited by a solution that can’t evolve? Think of the switching costs of moving your employees and charities across to another platform...
Is there a discount for longer license periods?
Does the cost include access to all staff? Your program won’t grow much if it’s limited just to active givers, or just one department.
Can the families of your employees, suppliers, or even customers contribute to the company’s giving campaigns at no extra cost?
What will it cost my organisation (financially and operationally) to bring in other platforms if we outgrow this one’s features?
Researching the right service provider requires a clear understanding of the needs of your business now, and into the future. Arming yourself with a clear shopping list will insure you against the regret and expense of making the wrong decision.
Making the right choice not only sets you and your organisation up for success, but maximises the positive impact you collectively make on the world around us, and in that respect, it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make.
To add Benojo to your shortlist, simply send us a message via the form below.
We look forward to answering your questions!