It's About Giving, Not Selling: Lessons from NCVS

by Kate_NFG on ‎06-08-2011 8:50 AM, EDT - last edited on ‎01-14-2013 9:20 AM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

The National Conference on Volunteering & Service has been inspirational and motivating on many levels, but especially because many corporations attended to share how they engage customers and employees through volunteerism.  Everyone from Target, to Starbucks to Capital One to Toyota to ebay to IBM, has a powerful story to tell about how their commitment to service transforms the business.  Companies are doing amazing things through partnerships with nonprofits, but you shouldn’t have to attend a national conference on volunteering to learn about them.  The NCVS audience is already sold on the importance of a corporate commitment to community investment.  We need to tell these stories and demonstrate this impact in the mainstream.



Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth lead an engaging session on how social media can advance employee volunteer and CSR programs that included live case studies from Starbucks and Toyota.  He asserts that corporate citizenship updates don’t belong in the world of press releases.  They belong in the world of everyday conversation.  It’s up to companies to tell their CSR story in a way that is tangible, memorable and shareable.  And social media helps us do just that.


[Want to know how to make the story tangible, memorable and shareable? Check out Made To Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Health.]


Chris recommends you keep the following things in mind to encourage and support your employees in sharing your company’s CSR story:

  • Motivation: answer the question “what’s in it for me?”
  • Adoption: find your influencers (the employees who already volunteer outside of work and organize others to participate) and let them evangelize your program internally
  • Expectations: set simple social media policies
  • Resources: start small and allow people the time and tools to engage



Starbucks: Global Month of Service

In celebration of the company’s 40th anniversary, Starbucks declared April 2011 a global month of service.  The company selected 6 corporate-sponsored volunteer programs across 6 different global locations.  In addition, employees submitted and coordinated 14 additional projects.  The key to the program’s success was a coordinated effort across employees, store signage, PR and advertising, special messaging to rewards program members and an internal social network to coordinate volunteer projects and employee participation.  Two interesting outcomes resulted.  One, of the customers who participated alongside employees in the volunteer projects, one-third had never volunteered before.  Two, Starbucks received as many or more ‘likes’ and comments on the company’s Facebook page about the volunteerism content as for product-related announcements. 


The takeaways: 

1) Volunteerism not only boosts employee morale and engagement, it’s a powerful way to connect new and existing customers with the brand.

2) There needs to be an easy, seamless way for customers to connect with employee-generated volunteer projects.  When ideas and interest bubble up from within, it’s important to help people connect and take action.


Toyota: 100 Cars for Good

Toyota is currently running a social media campaign that allows people to vote for a deserving nonprofit to win a Toyota vehicle.  The company will give away 100 cars to 100 nonprofits between May and August this year.  What is truly powerful about this campaign is that it connects Toyota’s core business (making safe and reliable cars) to measurable social impact (more nonprofits can delivering more meals, transporting more adopted pets to new homes and helping more handicapped people get from A to B).  And the campaign was created in a smart and thoughtful way.  Toyota consulted with other companies, such as Chase Community Giving, to better understand what works and what doesn’t.  The company also helped nonprofits prepare for the contest through a tool kit distributed to all finalists.  The toolkit included a flipcam so they could tell their story, a USB drive with lots of information and resources and $250 in Facebook ads to help them spread the word.  Similar to the Starbucks campaign, Toyota is finding that the program is connecting new consumers to the brand.  In the first 30 days of the campaign, 83% of the traffic to Toyota’s Facebook page included new members, not core fans of the brand.


The Takeaways:

1) The program needed to be ‘owned’ by the corporate philanthropy team, not the marketing team.  It’s about giving cars, not selling cars.

2) If the campaign is compelling and shareable, employees will organically adopt and promote it (most of the nonprofit finalists were recruited to participate by employees with passion for the cause).

3) Social media campaigns are about dialog, so be ready for the good and the bad feedback.  And stand back and let your brand ambassadors answer the negative comments on your company’s behalf – its more authentic and believable when the fans and the haters talk directly to each other.

by Wendy Mitchell
on ‎07-15-2011 10:12 AM, EDT

I absolutely agree with Chris' insight.  So may companies are still stuck in the world of group photos  and press releases as a means of showcases their community investment and involvement.  


The challenge we are constantly up against is that many companies still fear social media as they feel they lose control of the message once it hits the internet.  As well, once they actually stick their toe in to try it out, they are not necessarily informed enough to truly understand how to measure or recognize success.


Our approach has been to leverage our own social media as a nonprofit  to demonstrate how it can be used then work with the company to help them start to think about a strategy of their own.  This has been very helpful for building the business case for using social media within the company.  An interesting book that can also help a business learn about social media as they begin to explore is "What Would Google do?".



The tips provided are great but for companies still stuck in traditional thinking, what else can be done to change their headspace on using social media?



by Kate_NFG
on ‎07-15-2011 10:20 AM, EDT

Thanks for the comment!  You are so right.  Social media can be a scary world for many companies (and nonprofits), but it is THE place to have conversations about doing good.  Social media tools provide a way for companies to engage directly with consumers in a way that traditional marketing channels don't allow.  Your suggestions about modeling the potential of social media for your corporate partners is a good one.  Thanks for keeping the conversation going!


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Companies for Good shares insights on cause marketing and corporate social responsibility topics to inform your charitable engagement with consumers and employees. Network for Good empowers corporate partners to unleash generosity and advance good causes. The blog celebrates that work and provides expertise and resources to help you do well and do good. Learn more

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