16 May 2017

How to build an effective Employee Volunteering Programme

Well-designed employee volunteering programmes can boost staff loyalty, skills development and brand alignment. In other words, they foster employee engagement – that elusive enthusiasm and interest from staff towards furthering their employers’ reputation and goals. It seems that work for no pay, pays - the catch is that it needs to be for a good cause.

“In an average firm, over 70% of employees are either not committed to or engaged with their company’s goals,” says Andy Hadfield, CEO of forgood – the largest volunteer and donation matching portal in the country, “that’s like saying only five players in a rugby team know where the try line is.”

Forgood builds and manages customisable, branded portals through which CSI teams can select verified causes for their staff to get involved with, while tracking the number of hours committed and donations made. The portal includes a rating tool that enables star employees to stand out and receive recognition.

While eight out of 10 corporates (internationally) offer allocated paid-release time for volunteering, the challenge is to align this with engagement programmes and business strategy; “To do so successfully, CSI and HR teams should leverage off staff’s existing interests, monitor all social sector activities and incentivise greater commitment going forward by recognising work well done,” says Hadfield.

Hadfield’s tips on how to build an effective volunteering programme:

#1 Gauge staff social sector interests: Giving staff the opportunity to work for a cause, organisation or community that they care about is key. When able to choose their activities, employees are more likely to get involved with CSI initiatives.

#2 Match size with size: In a small business, a single cause or two might satisfy employees’ desires to do good but as numbers grow, you need to find multiple causes, organisations and opportunities.

#3 Get tech: Most CSI teams are under-resourced and do not have the capacity to manage relationships with the hundreds of organisations required for a volunteering programme at scale, especially if they are working towards strategic goals.

#4 Work within your staff’s skills – but also look to expand them: A financial firm can help prepare a charity for an upcoming audit, an engineering company can offer expert advice - but companies should also look to build their employees’ soft skills, latch on to their diverse talents and grow teams’ capabilities through volunteer work.

#5 Promote it internally: Internal marketing is key if you want to reap benefits from your employee programme - staff will only get involved when they know their options to give back and feel that these are both exciting and impactful.

#6 Get executive buy-in: Executives should lead the charge – without this, you cannot expect the team to follow. The first volunteer in any programme should be the CEO.

*Statistics from the Giving Around the Globe report 2016 and Enterprise IG Report on Employee Engagement. 

24 January 2017

Employee Engagement, Employee Volunteering & CSI Trends for 2017

It's been a feature of my life - throwing myself into completely different industries and then learning enough to start commenting. Hopefully it all makes sense. 

The social sector (social enterprises, charities, social impact, shared value) has been utterly fascinating and I firmly believe that the world is unlikely to succeed in it's current format. Pure capitalism has failed. Pure charity has failed. Which means the place to play is in the middle

Here are some thoughts around charity, volunteering, CSI, employee engagement, HR and other important bits and bobs. 

We live in a business world where PURPOSE is becoming as important as PROFIT - and these are the trends shaping that space. 

shorter version of this was published on BizCommunity CSI

Thank you to Katherine Robertson (Head of Clients and Programs @ forgood) for her help with this article. 





Employee engagement is back!
CSI is no longer just focused on communities external to their business. This is not only because of a move away from traditional donor funding models, but also due to the documented benefits of directly engaging staff with social investment projects. Employees are deep diving into an area that was traditionally left to small teams and Trusts.

Employees, especially Millennials, want to know and experience the purpose of the brands they work for - and reports indicate that there is real value in providing staff with the means to be involved in things that happen outside their cubicle.

Involving employees in volunteering programmes for instance, has direct HR benefits, including increased employee productivity, retention and morale. To date, this has not been leveraged on any grand scale in South Africa.

However, I expect “employee engagement” will soon re-enter the fray as a business buzzword (it was big back in 2006). As this happens, we will see a greater consolidation of the teams managing social investment, stakeholder engagement and employee satisfaction projects.

The boundaries between CSI, Sustainability and HR will blur
The link between CSI and sustainability is perhaps most obvious in the current South African landscape: CSI practices need to be sustainable and good CSI can lead to sustainable business practice. Under broader business strategy, these two will become increasingly linked and eventually converge.

Perhaps less established is the link between CSI and HR. Although these teams seldom sit in on the same meetings, employee wellness, engagement and talent retention can all be linked to a business’ social commitment and performance.

CSI will see pressure from Enterprise and Skills Development requirements
CSI projects and their budgets are coming under serious pressure from enterprise and skills development (ED and SD) based strategies. In South Africa, investing in the sustainability and support of black-owned businesses in your supply chain promises far higher BBBEE points than CSI initiatives do. To be fair, it's probably a better short term idea anyway!

Initially, this might result in shrinking budgets for CSI teams – but as we move more towards a “shared value” business approach, ED and SD will need to be supplemented by some form of reinvented CSI.

The volunteer bus will cease to be the only strategy
Events in which thousands of employees gather at once to take part in a generic actvitiy are great for team building, easy to organise and have immediately visible output for reporting. Think 67 minutes of anything.

However, these events are not great for long term impact, or even intermediate outcomes. The thinking behind the forgood business product was the potential in this space for unstructured volunteering. By providing employees with a broad set of volunteer opportunities, staff can engage their individual skills and passions while still contributing to required CSI measures and reports. Unstructured, personalized programmes create greater value, relevance and scale – therefore, greater impact.


CSI Teams will become more pro-active
Effective CSI requires structure, strategy and deeper involvement in projects – and teams are starting to wake up to that. They are no longer able to just react to incoming funding requests, but are increasingly required to actively seek out and create brand and staff relevant opportunities.

While the old-school approach of giving R1m to an NGO involved in technology empowerment is still around, more and more corporates are preferring to build and brand infrastructure (think 50 new ICT centres with free wifi) instead.

Enabling this is the growth of digital platforms that allow NGOs, communities and corporates to connect and communicate around actual needs on-the-ground. Facebook and democratized publishing is one. We're another.

Impending legislative issues
If you visit the Department of Social Development website and trawl through some of their reports, you'll find completely different data conclusions on the NPO sector. Seemingly, South Africa has anywhere between 100 000 and 250 000 registered non-profit organisations - in various states of compliance.

We tested the downloadable database of NPO email addresses with an unfortunate 99.8% bounce rate across 3 provinces.

That's just the data.

At forgood, we're also seeing quite a lot of evidence that not all social projects fit under the “traditional” definition of charity, meaning that they are a NPC (not for profit company) and have at least Section 30 (tax exempt) or Section 18A (tax exempt and can issue tax deduction certificates) status.

Firstly, any organization without an 18A is usually disqualified from most corporate CSI funding. Secondly, and more worryingly - how many grassroots NPO's that haven't taken on this admin burden (getting and maintaining an 18A status is not easy) are actually tax paying entities?

This all feeds the detrimental cycle that only the big professional organizations – those with the money to do the audit and compliance work required by many corporates - are getting supported.

Great work (as usual) is happening at grassroots, but it's struggling and needs structural support.

Expect to see more attempts to understand company structures, tax efficiency and increase transparency of what's required (and necessary) for corporate compliance.

Things are getting interesting... What are your thoughts?

02 December 2016

JOBS @ forgood | Junior QA. Tester & Tech Support (with big dreams).

More tech team resources at our social impact "startup"...

--- snip ---

READ THIS ENTIRE JOB SPEC. WE HAVE ASKED THREE QUESTIONS AT THE END OF THE SPEC. PRETTY SILLY THAT WE HAVE TO DO THIS TO ENSURE THAT PEOPLE READ THE JOB - BUT HEY, WHEN YOU LIVE IN THE WORLD OF SPRAY AND PRAY JOB APPLICATIONS, YOU HAVE TO GET RADICAL. SORRY FOR THE CAPS!

ANSWER THE THREE QUESTIONS. DO NOT SEND YOUR CV. WE WILL REQUEST CVs FROM THE BEST ANSWERS. 

Charity might just be broken. Make no mistake, without it we would have been lost - but at best it's providing symptomatic relief to our countries problems. Charities (what we call Causes) are being hammered. They're completely reliant on donor funding. They're fragmented - often doing amazing work independent of each other. They're under the wrong kind of pressure.

We need to improve on this concept of charity. We need to make the social sector work better than it is currently.

We think the gap lies in the social entrepreneurship space. The intersection between pure capitalism and pure charity. Where incentives can drive performance. Where we have access to risk capital to solve problems.

We have built a platform that is already South Africa's largest volunteering platform (connecting more than 90 people a week to causes). This platform is also in use by 9 large South African corporates (eight JSE listed) who use us as a tool to run their employee volunteering programmes. This is how we're going to make a dent in the universe, by building an ecosystem to capacity charity and improve the developing world. 

JOB DESCRIPTION

We're a tech company at heart. We've recently begun the process of building a full-service internal team and have our Team Lead Senior .Net Dev in place. He needs someone to do QA and tech support (for when he breaks stuff)!



TO START IN JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2017 (latest). So we have some time to get to know you and for you to work out any notice periods you may have.

YOUR DREAM (we hope)? To work in a fast, free, creative 'startup' environment. Solve big problems. We have a great culture — obsessed with delivery and getting shit done, empowering our staff, failing fast, experimenting and generally just being rad…

You’ll be testing our platform for each new feature that we add for our consumers and business clients and also handle technical support requests, so you get to dive into the nitty gritty and learn a whole bunch about the tech industry.

We're trying to do social involvement, employee volunteering and other good things at SERIOUS SCALE. We've got a white label product that allows huge corporates to plug into our ecosystem and tailor-make their employee volunteering experiences. All these operate off real-time central databases, allowing to keep our fingers on the pulse of social activity in the country.

You know what's cool about this? Every time we get a conversion, it's something awesome happening out there in the world. A connection between a person and a cause and some meaning being generated, some lives being changed. That's a lot more fulfilling than selling razors or clothes or random daily deals!

We are looking for a junior person who is yearning for knowledge and experience in the tech industry and could potentially grow into a development role. Your responsibilities will include testing and tech support. You will work together with the development team to make sure the application is running as it should.

You are the oil in the machine baby!

Responsibilities

  • Test new features, both pre and post deployment
  • Assist with technical queries from internal client team and consumer/business clients
  • Learn and grow - find a skill in tech and move into that job eventually
  • Skills and requirements
  • Technical background
  • Graduate in computer science, software engineering or information technology


Advantageous

  • Some nice to haves…
  • You’ve played with or written some code
  • You have some formal QA training
  • Experience with JIRA or ticket management systems 


Personal Skills/Attributes

Be awesome.


HERE ARE THE QUESTIONS THAT YOU NEED TO SUBMIT. BE CREATIVE. STAND OUT. 

1. What attracts you to forgood? (Stalk us, go deep)

2. What technology would you like to master in the next year?

3. What are your favourite Internet products and why?

Send your answers to careers at forgood dot co dot za

30 November 2016

JOBS @ forgood | Front End Developer (Mid/Senior). Coder with a flair for design!

We're beefing up our Tech Team at forgood. Here's the job spec...

--- snip ---

READ THIS ENTIRE JOB SPEC. 

We have asked three questions at the end of the spec. 

PRETTY SILLY THAT WE HAVE TO DO THIS TO ENSURE THAT PEOPLE READ THE JOB - BUT HEY, WHEN YOU LIVE IN THE WORLD OF SPRAY AND PRAY JOB APPLICATIONS, YOU HAVE TO GET RADICAL. Sorry for the caps!

ANSWER THE THREE QUESTIONS AT THE END. DO NOT SEND YOUR CV. WE WILL REQUEST CVS FROM THE BEST ANSWERS. STILL SHOUTING... Dammit!

Charity might just be broken. Make no mistake, without it we would have been lost - but at best it's providing symptomatic relief to our countries problems. Charities (what we call causes) are being hammered. They're completely reliant on donor funding. They're fragmented - often doing amazing work independent of each other. They're under the wrong kind of pressure.

We need to improve on this concept of charity. We need to make the social sector work better than it is currently.

We think the gap lies in the social entrepreneurship space. The intersection between pure capitalism and pure charity. Where incentives can drive performance. Where we have access to risk capital to solve problems.

We have built a platform that is already South Africa's largest volunteering platform (connecting more than 90 people a week to Causes). This platform is also in use by 9 large South African corporates (8 JSE listed) who use us as a tool to run their employee volunteering programmes. This is how we're going to make a dent in the universe, by building an ecosystem to capacity charity and improve the developing world. 

Job description

We're a tech company at heart. We've recently begun the process of building a full-service internal team and have our team lead senior .Net dev in place. He needs a front end developer friend!

To start in January / February 2017 (latest). So we have some time to get to know you and for you to work out any notice periods you may have.

Your dream (we hope)? To work in a fast, free, creative "startup" environment. Solve big problems. We have a great culture — obsessed with delivery and getting shit done, empowering our staff, failing fast, experimenting and generally just being rad…


You'll be building and iterating the biggest tech platform the South African social sector has seen. We're trying to do social involvement, employee volunteering and other good things at SERIOUS SCALE. We've got a white label product that allows huge corporates to plug into our ecosystem and tailor-make their employee volunteering experiences. All these operate off real-time central databases, allowing to keep our fingers on the pulse of social activity in the country.

You know what's cool about this? Every time we get a conversion, it's something awesome happening out there in the world. A connection between a person and a Cause and some meaning being generated, some lives being changed. That's a lot more fulfilling than selling razors or clothes or random daily deals!

We are looking for a front-end web developer who is motivated to combine the art of design with the art of programming. Bit of an all-rounder, an experimenter, likes getting stuck in. Responsibilities will include translation of the UI/UX design wireframes to actual code that will produce visual elements of the application.

You will work with the UI/UX designer and bridge the gap between graphical design and technical implementation, taking an active role on both sides and defining how the application looks as well as how it works.

Responsibilities

  • Develop new user and client-facing features build reusable code and libraries for future use
  • Ensure the technical feasibility of UI/UX designs optimise application for maximum speed and scalability
  • Assure that all user input is validated before submitting to back-end
  • Collaborate with other team members and stakeholders


Requirements

  • Proficient understanding of web markup, including HTML5, CSS3
  • Basic understanding of CSS pre-processing platforms, such as LESS and SASS
  • Proficient understanding of client-side scripting (JavaScript 5 and ECMAScript 6 / TypeScript).
  • Good understanding of a JS framework such as Angular, Ember, Backbone, React, Durandal / Aurelia etc. (Bonus points for a MV* framework!)
  • Good understanding of asynchronous request handling, partial page updates, AJAX / Promises and interacting with REST / Web API services.
  • Good understanding of a package manager such as npm, jspm or bower and a build / bundling tool such as Gulp, Grunt or Webpack.
  • Basic knowledge of image authoring tools, to be able to crop, resize, or perform small adjustments on an image. Familiarity with tools such as Gimp or Photoshop is important. You gotta have a flair for design yo!
  • Proficient understanding of cross-browser compatibility issues, responsive design, mobility design and ways to work around all of that.
  • Proficient understanding of code versioning tool such as Git, Mercurial, SVN, etc. We promise to only subject you to Git.
  • Good understanding of SEO principles and ensuring that application will adhere to them.
  • Understanding or some skills in ASP.NET would also be greatly beneficial — just so you and our Team Lead can speak in languages that no-one else can understand.


Some nice to haves…

  • SVG and CSS
  • You can generate SVG programmatically.
  • You can build a grid framework from scratch.
  • You can position content anywhere you want it regardless of page size and other content.
  • You can animate anything and everything.
  • VisualStudio / VSCode (you're able to use these platforms)
  • Continuous Integration, C#, NoSQL DB


Personal Skills/Attributes

  • Be awesome.


HERE ARE THE THREE QUESTIONS THAT WE REQUIRE YOU TO SUBMIT.

1. What attracts you to forgood? (Stalk us, go deep)

2. What new front end tech are you using and why?

3. Pressure test baby. You've merged the wrong change and the home page looks like soup. What do you do?

Email careers at forgood dot co dot za

Use the code #FRONTEND.

10 November 2016

Different World. Different Business. Different Life.

I've been writing quite a bit recently about the status quo of how we solve development challenges - and the stigmas that surround this industry. The world is changing (quickly) and it's becoming increasingly apparent that we need a different approach to live in it...

Charities, Citizens and Corporates

On the one hand, charities are under immense pressure - the imposed and traditional model of donor reliance is not sustainable. Many charities are not efficiently managed, either because they've never had to do the managing (being focused on solving the social problem was the genesis of the non-profit) or because they simply can't afford the resources to do the managing. Charity founders still seem to spend all their time solving problems for beneficiaries (kinda why the charity was founded in the first place if you think about it).

There are always exceptions, but my gut feeling is that this applies to at least 80% of the rumored 150k charities we have registered in South Africa.

On the other hand, neoliberalism and pure market driven capitalism isn't helping either. First off, they're big scary terms that our attention-deficit economy is only starting to bring into mainstream conversation. People don't understand them and certainly don't understand the broader socio-economic consequences. Then, to top it off, capitalism is most likely creating many of the problems the poor charities are trying to solve in the first place.

Finally, you have corporate CSI, which is meant to play a catalyst role, but doesn't seem to be able to effect systems change (yet). CSI is changing though - and I have a lot of hope for this space as technology, focus, better measurement and other innovations build up. With 1% Net Profit After Tax (2% in other developing countries, like India) at play... We can and will do more.

Enter the Social Enterprise

With the rise of the "social enterprise" buzzword, it seems we're faced with two options. Build better charities or try and change the game completely.

I'm not sure iterating on the charity model is going to move the needle. There's a company I met recently that fits the approach I'm more interested in - changing the game.

Meet Different Life. They're a life insurance company, with an important difference. The first monthly payment of every year goes into a wallet. Using their social impact arm, Different.org - you can donate 100% of that payment to any of their 20 or so curated charities and development projects.



Now, in case you hadn't noticed, insurance at scale is a fairly good business. For a fairly new product in the South Africa market, Different Life are already making sizable monetary contributions towards development challenges. What's even more attractive about the model is that the customer gets to choose where that first payment goes - a sense of involvement and empowerment is critical in the "giver" space.



And every year, customers get another opportunity to allocate funds, as long as you remain a Different Life customer. Premium philanthropists, if you will :)

That changes the game, no?

What did they do? They sacrificed a little bit of potential profit to build a business that has social purpose. They built a business, like I keep saying - that can make money and change the world at the same time.

A little bit of insider knowledge now.

This social mission goes a bit deeper into their company structure. If you're going to build something with purpose, you might as well go whole hog. What I found particularly fascinating is how Different Life have written their social enterprise "code" into their shareholder agreement and board mandate at a holding company level.

Different Group owns Different Life and the mandate to collaborate with  Different.org (non-profits don't have shareholders). Here are some of the guidelines they have signed - between founders and shareholders.

  • Shareholders get a "reasonable return" allowing for the risk of the investment. 
  • All additional return is reinvested in growth business (insurance), impact businesses (which are self-sustaining but focused on maximising impact metrics) and direct philanthropy. 
  • Dividends will be paid once there are no more opportunities for impact.
  • Board of Directors is explicitly mandated to maximise impact (in line with the mission statement) rather than profit.
  • Next step: all group companies will donate 10% of profit towards impact (rather than just 1% to CSI).

You get to define "reasonable return" yourself - this will open the space up for different risk appetites.

But think about this for a second... a business that is designed to return social and capital dividends. Sounds like the future?


Have a look at the Different Life insurance product





* This post was sponsored by Different Life. The views and opinion expressed are my own.