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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Is there data to demonstrate financial ROI for Employee Volunteer Programs?

When a business volunteers with a non-profit organization, does it have any effect on the business’ overall productivity? What are the direct benefits for the business?

If there’s a link between volunteering and productivity, where do we find the data and how do we measure it to prove the link?

I don’t mean the usual lists that are out there about positive brand image, recruitment and retainment of talent, enhanced career experience and what not. Its not that this isn’t a good list, just that its not good enough. There is usually no hard data that ties volunteering to the bottom line.

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Hello Chris
It is very difficult to find hard data that volunteering will add to the bottom line. I attached a PDFs which I used in my studies, it includes some statistic. Personally, I have no doubt that volunteering is improving financial performance of companies. Though, it needs to be well organized by companies otherwise it can hurt companies. The World Volunteer Web is a great resource. I believe there is also a group on the site which you can contact, maybe they have some studies done.
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Thanks Michelle, great articles.

I began looking into connections between business and NPO's a number of years back, but now am pretty obsessed by it. Like you, I 'know' that the benefits to a businesses bottom line are there, but as the articles you sent me clearly state - there are NO metrics out there to demonstrate that belief in concrete terms. Even the data cited is very careful to say 'CEO's believe' that EVP's are beneficial in one way or another.

Maybe I should call up Gallup and see if they would spring for a huge study?
Nice discussion, and yes Michelle, a tough question (thanks for the resources by the way). My two cents: I haven't come across any study that demonstrates that directly looks at it, but it would certainly be a good study to undertake. Perhaps track the performance of companies that consistently do it and compare results to those that don't?

However, what I did come across was this article on MSNBC that shows several examples of companies (Glaxo, American Express, Liz Claiborne, etc.), that not only have a positive impact but also real results on the bottom line. You can access that article here. I think the link is most definitely there, as long as corporate volunteering/philanthropic initiatives are directly aligned with corporate strategy...otherwise you'll do good, but you might upset others (i.e. shareholders) and that's obviously not sustainable over the long run.
Thanks for the article Brad, a good overview of the shifting sensibilities around this issue.

And I couldn't agree more with your observation of aligning volunteering/philanthropic efforts with corporate strategy being key to sustainability.

It is interesting how many larger companies are looking to align their CSR efforts with their brand, or at the very least, their industry. And just as interesting to see leaders within the Third Sector, and advocates for NPO's lament the shift from general philanthropy to strategic giving.

And yet there remains an preposterous lack of hard data to support the effectiveness of either approach for the business. No doubt more good gets done, and that the NPO's are strengthened in their efforts. That kind of data is readily available. But beyond 'I think stakeholders expect this' and 'I believe it makes our employees more productive' there is really an abyss of information.

In 2004 the combined contributions of all Americans in some sort of volunteer role came to roughly 58 trillion dollars - and no one is measuring the impact on the businesses bottom line in terms of increased profit, market share, awareness, whatever.

The example of American Express donating a penny for every charge (a campaign started in 1983) is the closest I have seen to credible evidence of tangible outcomes of profit for a company (so I appreciated finding that in the article Brad).

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