WeHero Learning Series | Thoughts and predictions for the CSR space

October 30, 2023

Ben Sampson: Thanks everybody for joining. In a minute here I'll introduce myself and Andy and get us all acquainted. But you know, the background I would say really fast is that Andy and I have been every year getting together like this, having a conversation about what the future of our space looks like after talking with, you know, hundreds of companies every single year around social impact. At first it would be like a casual conversation over coffee or beer, and then eventually we started recording those conversations and putting it out on the internet. Okay, cool. I thought we couldn't hear anything for a second. And you know, Jeremy invited us to come on and instead of recording the conversation, just get to have that discussion about our thoughts, feelings, predictions for the space live with you all today. So you'll probably quickly observe that not a lot of prep and planning went into this.

Ben Sampson: Andy and I are very much going to be talking off the cuff and we really want to open it up for questions and have a discussion with you all as we kind of go through some points. But to get into intro real quick, my name is Ben Sampson. I'll introduce myself and I'll let Andy introduce himself. I'm one of the co-founders at WeHero and now work for WizeHive. I lead all the CSR efforts at WizeHive doing everything I can to make sure that we're positioning ourselves in the right way and supporting companies with their CSR and social impact efforts. That usually results in me spending a lot of time working with companies on their social impact strategies and helping them with their employee engagement programs, so on and, and so forth. And so super excited to get to do this with you all.

Ben Sampson: And Andy, I'll, I'll pass it over to you real quick for a quick intro.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, thanks Ben. And thanks for everyone for, for joining. As Ben mentioned, it's, it's been fun to see the evolution of this from, from talking about, I think it was probably 2018 was the first year. Like I wonder what's going to happen in CSR next year and overall corporate impact. And we're here and excited to be talking live and get to see some of the questions and thoughts from, from those in the audience. I was with them when we started. WeHero together largely focused on employee volunteering. And now that we've, we've teamed up with WizeHive, doing a lot on the connection between volunteering and giving and how you can, you know, combine the two to have an overall better engagement across your, your employees. And so that's, that's a quick overview on myself. Awesome.

Ben Sampson: And maybe I'm going to share my screen really quick to give people a sense of who we are and what we do. And do you mind just giving me a green light when you can like, see my screen here? Go for it, Ben. Sweet. So, you know, like we touched on, we work for WizeHive. Our job is to bring purpose and impact into the workplace. We're really focused on empowering companies and employees to have the ability to give back and do that at scale really successfully. And so WizeHive as an organization has been around for over a decade they've done a lot in regards to just facilitating donations and volunteering and grant programs. And we have been working with a lot of organizations, you know, well over a thousand organizations across the globe.

Ben Sampson: And so, you know, Andy and I, you know, we always talk about there's not a lot of consulting or, or data points in our industry but we get to work with a lot of companies. And our job, you know, with you all today, it's like share what we're noticing in a lot of these companies in regards to just kind of predicting what's going to happen in our space next year. You know, we do stuff across the globe. We work with millions of nonprofits in a lot of different countries. And, you know, we really believe companies should be focusing on this. So, you know, we, we talk all the time about how companies should be playing an active role in driving impact and delivering social good. That's what gets Andy and I out of bed every single day. We think engagement's one of the most powerful things and one of the things that companies think a lot of right now, you know, we spend a lot of our time meeting with social impact professionals.

Ben Sampson: We also spend a lot of our time meeting with HR leaders about how they can engage their people through social impact. And of course we spend a lot of our time in technology. And one of the things we're going to be talking about today is trends in technology and what we think will be really powerful and effective regards to tech in the new year. Right now, you know, we focus on trying to do everything we can to help companies make a difference. So we have a CSR platform called BrightFunds that handles, you know, giving and volunteering, tracking and engagements and facilitation. We have WeHero, which is the company Andy and I founded, which is very much focused on printing high impact, social impact and volunteer programs for companies and really engaging experiences. And then we have Zengine, which is grant and scholarship management and facilitation.

Ben Sampson: And so I'll stop that ramble. Really quick after this, if you have questions for Andy and I, please reach out. I always love to share that every single company has different goals, different problems, different programs. We love diving into that and answering questions that you might have and seeing if there's something that we can do to support. And so I'm done sharing screen there. You can't see my screen right, Andy? Nope. Sweet. well, I'd say let's dive into it. I don't know, where do you want to start? What do you want to talk about?

Andy VandenBerg: Can we start with a big caveat? Yeah. You know, in advance of this conversation, Ben and I went back, Ben and I went back to our previous conversations that we had recorded and some of the notes from the earlier on ones. And, you know, we want to flag, you know, we spend a lot of our time thinking about, you know, more consistent change throughout the industry.

Andy VandenBerg: Like what, what trends are we seeing over the long term? We have been historically very bad at predicting, you know, exogenous factors in the industry. And so, you know, if you had asked us last year, would we have predicted, you know, how layoffs would impact a lot in the tech space? No, we can't predict that. You know, we, we like to think we're pretty smart in the CSR space, but apart from that, we unfortunately couldn't predict wars and, and the impact that that would have on employees. And so like to always start with that caveat around what, what type of things that we're trying to spend our time on, what trends we're looking out for.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, good call out. Alright, well we have like 20 plus areas we can dive into. Just so you guys know, Andy and I like brain jam and put together like some notes in a doc of like, what are all the things that we would like to cover?

Ben Sampson: And then on top of that we can keep adding to that. But I don't know, Andy, you want me to grab one of these and talk?

Andy VandenBerg: Well, why don't start with probably, I think it'd be cool to start at the high level. I mean, I think overall in the last year there's been, you know, business impacts that have hit everyone in, in this space. I don't know if you have any thoughts on, you know, lowering budgets, changing structures within companies and how a lot of people in these calls are, you know, dealing with new challenges to and higher goals for next year. I don't if you have any thoughts on that and what we're seeing companies do.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, I think to that point, if we just look at the past year, it's been a tough year for CSR honestly, if we just think about that, you know, we have a lot of clients and a lot of friends in the industry that have been laid off.

Ben Sampson: We've seen the teams get trimmed down, the budgets get cut. And I think one thing that's been really cool, seeing how companies and teams have responded in a really agile fashion to, to keep the impact levels where they want them to be, despite having like all these slowdowns and budget cuts and, and you know, the unfortunate circumstances again of just having layoffs. I, I think, you know, one of the questions that you, and I get Andy all the time is like, what is the beginning of next year going to look like? You know, the beginning of this past year, it was a bit of a bloodbath in regards to just a lot of budgets getting trimmed down. What do we think is going to happen in the upcoming year? You know, and, and you and I put some thought on this, you know, again, rough estimates here based on historicals and what Andy and I are seeing with the companies that we're talking with right now and the budgets that they're putting together, we think 30 to 40% of companies will probably continue to have budget cuts or keep their budget stagnant in the first half of 24.

Andy VandenBerg: Obviously this, the economy plays a huge role into this and whether this actually happens for the companies that are seeing budget cuts, we saw this in this past year and, and we'll think we, we will continue to see this in the upcoming year. Those companies, they lean really heavily on volunteering. And we saw this, even if we look back in 2008 during the recession we saw huge multiples in volunteering over giving during that time these massive spikes. We saw the same thing happen in 2023 where we saw this huge spikes in the beginning of the year and volunteering less around giving dollars. And that's normal to see something that we expect as we come into the beginning of the year. We know a lot of companies, they're going to be leaning heavily on their volunteer efforts. And I think, you know, we'll talk a little bit about this, but there's two key areas that we see growing in regards to that volunteer momentum or, or leaning into that I guess we should say.

Ben Sampson: One is skills-based volunteering is huge. It continues to grow. It's one of the best ways to make an impact and keep those impact metrics really high. Also can be done in a lot of cases at low cost. So that's really something that CSR teams are being conscious of and that employees are asking for. The other thing I'll add onto that is we've seen this massive growth in micro actions or everyday actions. And the best way to describe that is that there's these small actions that people can do. Maybe it's, you know, I bought coffee for someone, you know, behind me, or I held the door open for someone who brought, you know, my neighbor who was sick groceries. Those little micro actions, people are tracking those and they're stacking up and it's been a huge way of engaging employees over the past few years.

Ben Sampson: I think in the beginning half of the year for those, again, those companies that have seen those budget cuts, we'll see a lot of that take place. I don't know, Andy, if there's anything you want to add there around the budget cuts and, and stuff like that?

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, I think you covered a lot of it. The, the only other point I would add is that this is partly due to budget cuts and obviously, you know, if you have lower budget and you still want to engage a broader set of employees, you maybe you don't do as much matching. That's a great way to cut back and, and refocus on volunteering. I think the other thing is in times like this, when the average employee is feeling really not engaged in their company you know, giving may, may have a different impact than volunteering. And I think volunteering has proven to be a great way to bring people together over doing something common for the common good.

Andy VandenBerg: And it's a great way to make you feel better about your company. And so all data is showing that. And so if people are really leaning into to trying to drive higher employee satisfaction and retention, I think they're seeing, hey, this could be a really good time to do volunteering. And partly that budget cut, but I also think that's overall employee sentiment that also drives it. I think the other thing a lot of companies are doing are focusing their efforts. And so, you know, I think if you asked, Ben and I, we both deeply believe that combining giving and volunteering into one as well as a variety of other parts of, you know, the overall employee experience is really helpful. But some companies are saying, okay, we want to keep doing that, but God, I can't have a hundred different initiatives next year.

Andy VandenBerg: And so they're looking at their planning saying, okay, why don't we try to focus on two to three cause areas that maybe align with their company's mission. And I think that's another way that people have, are trying to, you know, make more with less in, in a lot of ways. And so I think companies should look internally and say, Hey wait, what's my mission for the next year? What do we really want to achieve? And should we be focusing on that? And there's obvious downsides. All employees may not care about that. They may want to support different causes or volunteer in a different way, but I think you, you, you know, people have to make those challenging decisions. Would you say you, you agree with that across the companies you're talking to? Or is it not quite as clear as that then?

Ben Sampson: Yeah, it's happening a lot. They're just folks saying the efforts, right? And what, you know, one, it creates a really clear and concise reporting in a lot of cases. So we see that happen. But to, you're right, it's like instead of having budgets going in a bunch of different directions, if they go, okay, we want to keep betting on social impact, but we're going to focus it on these key initiatives. And sometimes they're pulling from passive, they go like, these are the initiatives that have, you know, done the best for our business. And they're really aligning that to the goals of the overall business as well, we find. And so sometimes we've seen companies that have had like different social impact cause areas spread out throughout the organizations. Maybe they're supporting 10 different cause categories, for example, and now they've, they've really honed in and focused on too.

Ben Sampson: Sometimes that could be highly beneficial. We do see some employees that, that feel disruptive in the sense of, hey, we are not getting the backing and the empowerment to support the causes that we really care about. We do see that kickback sometimes. But to your point, I think, you know, companies have really used that as a mechanism for honing in that budget. It riffing on like something you said, just like the I think you said something along the lines of like embedding like social impact into different areas of the business. One of the things that we noticed is that CSR teams, they got their budgets cut, right? So then they go like, how do we get more budget to do the things that we want to do? So for example, like with volunteer programs, they'll make volunteer experience as part of like a sales conference for example.

Ben Sampson: And so they'll have like a 500 person sales conference that's already taking place, that already has budget. Then they'll go like, Hey, you have all these people together, let's do a water filter build during that conference. And we've seen a ton of different CSR leaders start doing that because they're getting budget from those event providers. And they're engaging a lot of employees that sometimes traditionally actually wouldn't even engage or participate in volunteering in the first place. So I think that's something that's been really cool and I think that's going to really continue in the next year too.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, I think this is a much longer trend. I remember talking about this in 2021. It's, it's, you know, I think if, you know, if you've been in this industry for five years, volunteering used to be, you know, a part that people would come plug and play with when, when appropriate.

Andy VandenBerg: And now people are realizing, gosh, volunteering and giving back should be really a part of almost the entire company. And part of that is where you can find budget in a lot of ways. But I also think it's proven to just be a better team building exercise than a lot of things. You know, all data shows that, you know, it's better than doing a happy hour. It's better than going to a baseball game if structured appropriately. I think the employee likes that. And so I, I expect that to continue over the next three to five years. And I think what's cool is when you have larger groups together to do this, the company can do some really interesting things to, to make it more impactful. You know, one of my favorite things is when whenever we have a large volunteer event and the company surprises all the employees at the end with a big grant to that nonprofit or a big gift I think that's a, a great way to, to kind of combine the giving and volunteering or when they combine it with a skills-based project, if you really liked the nonprofit, so hey, you love building a water filter, Hey, this nonprofit needs help here five projects that you can, that you can help.

Andy VandenBerg: And it kind of brings people to that next level of volunteer engagement. So I, I'm hopeful that that trend continues over the next, you know, five to six years.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. I wonder, shoot this down if you don't like this, Andy, I'm totally fine with being shot down mid webinar. But I feel like you and I, when we started, WeHero, there's this big trend of purpose driven band brands, social impact brands, right? There's this huge push. Employees are raising their hands going like, we really want to do this. Right? we want our companies to stand for something bigger than just like the products and the services that they're selling. I think that has worked really well over the past five years. I'm noticing from leadership now this big trend, which I think will be a big trend for the next five to 10 years.

Ben Sampson: And that big trend’s engagement, like I think so many of the conversations we have is like, how does this drive engagement? How will this improve engagement? What does the, what does this do in regards to engagement? It's like the big keyword that we keep hearing all the time. And that's because turnover rates are super high right now. It's really tough to attract talent in these companies. So I think there's this, there's always like, there's the social impact motive and then there's the business motive. I think the huge business motive and I think will be a motive for the next few years is engagement. Again, push back on that if you disagree, but I don't know, do you have any thoughts on that? 'because that's just something that we're noticing a lot right now.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. I've noticed two trends. Some positive for industry, some not positive for industry this year.

Andy VandenBerg: I think one of them is for so long companies have, you know, at least for the last five to 10 years, you know, being socially curious and focused on social impact for your employees has typically helped your brand. You know, that's why you see things like 1% for the planet or B Corp. They have exploded over the last five years. And I think a lot of companies have led with this, you know, for two reasons. One, it gave employees purpose, but it also gave you know, marketing benefit. It gave sales benefit, right? When your CEO's out there talking about how we're going to go carbon neutral, you know, in five years, like that's a huge benefit and other people may want to work with them because of that. And so I think what I've seen over the last year is you see companies now that all budgets are more challenged, refocus a little bit on, on their core mission.

Andy VandenBerg: Like, Hey, we are here to make soda. We're here to make YY you know, any product X, y, z. We hope to do that in the best way possible, but we're not going to go out of our way to do that. You saw that with Coinbase this year when they made a statement around, you know, limiting their outside activities. And I'm not making a claim if that's good or bad for the companies that every company's very different. But I think that refocus may happen more and more depending on if we see the turn in the economy that everyone expects. Once again, we don't have a glass ball. We are not economists. But that's what I would say. And so I've seen that, which I think may limit the, the social impact activities at certain companies, but I've also seen that employees care about this.

Andy VandenBerg: Employees want it. And so maybe companies don't end up doing it for the brand benefit, the revenue generation, the marketing potential. They're doing it to keep employees there because this is now part of the embedded employee experience. And if you don't offer this, I want to go work for a company who does like that. That's more defining my experience there. And so I think that trend is only increasing. I mean, at every company. Now, I would say when we started, it was typically the, you know, certain companies made it a priority, but it was typically the, the technology, the healthcare, once you really were asking for this, now it's everyone, you know, you're seeing it across manufacturing, you're seeing it across every industry that you could imagine. So I think the trend is really taking over at that point.

Ben Sampson: Related, again, riffing off what you're saying. We were talking with like a leader and, and they're like, I cannot make a social impact if I don't have a successful, profitable business. Like, tell me about how investing in this is going to get me there. And, and I, I riff off that what you're saying and I didn't share that because when it comes to making the case for budget and comes to making the case for like these programs, the CSR leaders that are getting the budget and getting the buy-in, they're sharing the business outcomes. And so that, that's a huge piece. And when CSR leaders are asking us like, how do we get budget? How do we advocate for this stuff? It used to be social impact and purpose driven brands and all the things we were just talking about. Now it's like, what are the business outcomes that will come? And thankfully we have some really good data around that, but it's leading with those business outcomes. That's what's going to be really important.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, I mean we're, we're, we're right on the cusp of diving into data. Do we want to go there? It's such an exciting topic. Maybe we'll stay at kind of the surface level. I know everyone on this call probably loves thinking about social impact data and the fun of tracking it, but it is important to touch on. Because I think the companies who are successful in, in capturing more budget and proving it out are the ones who have really good data because they can say, Hey, you know, look at our turnover and how it's been, been impacted over the last few years. Look at our activities, look at our survey results. Maybe you can just share some thoughts, you know, speaking to customers who, who have invested a lot of time and effort into it.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, I think, you know, one is, you know, what are the important metrics to, to be tracking? Engagement metrics are a huge one. And then showing that correlation to how that's impacting turnover over a 12 month, 24 month basis. Super important. Also, I think just like, you know, we have, we were working with a company that's been tracking data in regards to like how many in interview candidates are asking about social impact programs in the company. We were working with a law firm that said one in three interview candidates or asking about social impact programs in the company. What does that mean in regards to our ability to attract good talent and retain good talent? And so I think there's, we've seen this shift in regards to just like the importance of the kinds of metrics that employees are tracking. Or excuse me. CSR leaders are tracking also HR leaders, right? We, we see this this year more than ever. I've never seen so many HR leaders get tasked with social impact tasks and it's because of that engagement theme, right? So, or I think it's twofold. The HR leader is going, Hey, this is lever I can pull for engagement. And so they're jumping into it or they're getting slightly tapped on the shoulder like, Hey, we had a budget cut and CSR, like, we need you to like step up and do some of these social impact programs. Hopefully it's the former where they're seeing it as a lever and they're jumping in that way. But I think those metrics are the ones that are becoming really, really important.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, and I think I, I've always been a big fan of, you know, closeness between CSR and HR because of this employee experience, right? The employee experience starts when you interview, right? That's really what sets the stage for the company. And so this should be part of the, the, the company's brand to all internal stakeholders. And so HR leaders have done a great job of being able to track data on retention and all of that. And I think this is just a new data input for HR leaders to, to help, you know, do a variety of different things to help their employees. One data question, Ben, you know, we, I think, you know, micro actions as you touched on are everyday actions. These not necessarily volunteer events, events, but these daily acts of good have been all the trend lately. And I think there's a lot of good to that. How are you advising companies to treat those actions in terms of data collection? You know, what is it really driving towards? Is it volunteering? Is it hours of volunteering? How should they think about that as their, you know, overall recipe for social impact?

Ben Sampson: Yeah, great question. We, we talk about it as like a point of activation, right? So like, how do we get an employee that's maybe never done anything related to social impact at our company before to just get started to just dip their toe in the water a little bit and just see how it feels. Everyday actions is great for that, right? Like, hey, just do something small. You know, you probably, if you're a good person or hopefully doing some small things at least a couple times a month, right? And just log that on the platform and just see what that looks like it. And I think it's a great starting point. It's super low lift for employees, especially the employees that don't have a lot of time. I think, you know, we consistently notice that like employees are very conscious of their time. Sometimes this can be really tough to get them out for like a four-hour volunteer experience, for example. But what they will do is like log, you know, spend a few minutes to log a micro action or do a micro action. And so again, for that point of activation to get them to, to try on social impact at their company, I think it's ultra successful at doing that and getting that employee that maybe never would've logged onto the platform to actually log onto that social impact platform and participate with the hope that, oh, that was really cool. Let me do four and few more of those. Oh, I see there's a volunteer opportunity for giving Tuesday. Let me jump into that. And you, your hope is that you can create that snowball effect. And so that's how we advocate it to be used. I don't know if that answered your question, Andy, but it just how we talk about it.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, yeah. No, it's, we've always thought of it, you know, as we've talked, it's, you know, we're always fighting for employee attention to, to do this, you know, whether it's giving, volunteering, and this is just an easier way to be the first bite of the cookie for, for that group. Yeah. We, we've obviously touched on volunteering, but what are your predictions around giving, you know, if someone were to say, Hey, think 2024, but also think about three to four years, how do you think giving corporate giving is going to change?

Ben Sampson: Yeah, it's, it's a great question. I think you're going to see volunteering and giving tied super closely together. What I mean by that is like the data just becomes increasingly more solid on the benefits of tying volunteer experiences to like the giving side because of the trust that's built with the nonprofit.

Ben Sampson: So like our data today shows that like if someone volunteers for a nonprofit, they're 2.2 times more likely to donate to that organization. But this is like the crazy thing that if they have volunteered for the nonprofit organization, they're 10 times more, no, sorry, they're 2.2 times more likely to donate, but on average they're donating 10 times as much money. And the biggest reason for, that's that trust factor. And so if we look at just like step outside the business market, we go to the consumer market about one to one half percent of consumers lose trust in nonprofits every single year. It's in decline. And so, and the biggest reason for that is trust. And so if we could build trust through the volunteering, educate people about a cause in a nonprofit's super powerful, I think the big trend we'll see is that very strong correlation in bringing those two things as closely together as possible.

Ben Sampson: I think there's a number of other like small trends around that, but those are like the really big ones that I'm seeing. The other one I'll touch on is that like, again, there's this whole theme of engaging people, engaging people, gamification is like huge, right? I think you're seeing a lot of technology providers come out with gamification in regards to how can raise money for causes how you can donate funds and get rewards from companies, from the company to like match your gift or, or just give you, Hey, you did this task, like here's 50 bucks ago, donate to your favorite nonprofit. I think we'll see a lot of that. I don't know if anything else that you're noticing or you, you can, no, I'm glad you touched on that.

Andy VandenBerg: Like dollars for doers is what we would call it, which is like, Hey, you volunteered, we're going to, you know, donate $10 to your, you know, the nonprofit that you supported. I think that's great. I continue to believe the connection point will be really important between volunteering and giving. I think that's the best impact for the nonprofit, the best impact for the company as well as the employee. So when you kind of have that win-win win, my hope is that, you know, it'll be impossible to prevent us from going in that direction. I think the only other thing I'd add is the benefit, another benefit of that integrated approach is just the clearness of data tracking and you know, how much better data you can get when it's all combined. And obviously, you know, technology can be a great conduit to that, but I also think when it comes to trust, it's about you know, understanding what your time and what your money has done for the world and done for the nonprofit that you care about.

Andy VandenBerg: And so I continue to hope other technology providers and all technology providers will continue to build in that end feedback for the employee to say, Hey, oh my gosh. Like, here's a picture of, you know, let's say I put together a blanket for someone in a hospital. Here's a picture with someone in the hospital. Oh, and by the way, I just got a letter from that hospital or an email saying the money I donated during that event. You know, donate a hundred extra blankets or whatever it may be. I think that connection point, you know, technology's in a great spot to, to do that. And I think that type of data will be helpful for the employees as well as the employers and all of the CSR professionals.

Ben Sampson: Since you're on this, this tech topic, should we dive deeper onto the tech topic? I know there's like a few other things I want to cover, but I'm down to go deep on tech if you want to do that. And some like thoughts and predictions.

Andy VandenBerg: Can we, before we dive deep into tech, can we, I feel like for the last three years we've had a constant discussion topic in this ESG/CSR. Can we have our thoughts changed there? Are they still the same? Should we refresh that? You know, for all the people who didn't watch our, you know, four years of, of predictions?

Ben Sampson: Yeah. I'm guessing most people didn't watch our four year back prediction on this, so yeah, can't believe you all missed out. I mean, I'm happy to start on the ESG, God, I, not even predictions. Maybe like a status update for folks somewhere. This is at maybe a quick disclaimer too, or, or background for folks that are going, what the heck is ESG?

Ben Sampson: ESG is environment, social and governance is what it stands for. It's basically bringing together a lot of the different social impact pillars, I would say from, you know, you have your sustainability space, you have your you know, your social space, which is a lot of stuff that we're talking about. You know, the volunteerism, the giving and your governance. A lot of your, you know, DE&I, your ERG groups, all that stuff, like, it's all kind of getting lumped into one. A lot of that's being driven by public markets and the reporting that they need to do on ESG. And you know, you can go way back, forget when it was Andy, when Larry gave that super great presentation at Davos and wrote that amazing letter that really kicked off this you know, ESG was around, but it really kind of like put some fuel on the fire regards to ESG.

Ben Sampson: So quick bit of history nerd out there where it's today like, or where it has been over the past few years, it's been the Wild West when, when it comes to this transition of like CSR to ESG, do we have an CSR team? Do we have an ESG team? Where does CSR team fit into this? And it, it has been the wild west. I think one of the biggest reasons it's been a wild West is the reporting structure. I don't think there's been, there's been a number of reporting bodies that have come out on how to best report on the ESG framework, and I think that's still, the dust hasn't settled yet in regards to like, what is the go-to framework and how do you do this? I think one of the, Andy and I are part of like this consulting group where there's all these consulting jobs that go out for social impact and they'll reach out like, Hey, does anybody you know, have expertise in this area and can come in for a consulting project?

Ben Sampson: I think the number one job post that Andy and I saw almost every week was like, we need someone that's good at ESG reporting. Hey, we have another job where like someone can help with ESG reporting and like, got it. We would get like two or three of those job requests like every single week. I feel like Andy. And so I would say it's still very much the Wild West. I, I think we are seeing some forced or accelerated shifting to the ESG model. Part of that is, you know, they're doing it at a time when there are layoffs occurring. There's, you know, cutting of the CSR budget and they're making that shift during that time. And then another cases it's that we're just getting closer to having that ESG model. My, you know, my take on this and talking with other folks in the space, I think in the next two years bulk of programs are going to be under an ESG umbrella.

Ben Sampson: That's just my, my personal prediction, just seeing how this is moving and where it's going. I think, you know, Annie and I are going to come on here in a few years and we'll be using ESG as a huge keyword instead of CSR. Just seeing the momentum that this has, and again, I could be totally wrong on that and if you have a, a different opinion on that, but I mean.

Andy VandenBerg: My thought on that always has been it's a, you know, it's just another way of a more holistic way of describing CSR. And so I think, you know, everyone who's on this works at a company that's probably had this exact same discussion. What are our team structures wrapped under ESG? And so I would, I would say five to seven years, but I think ultimately it's better. I think it's better for everyone there.

Andy VandenBerg: It's more forced reporting and more standardized reporting, which will only serve all of our interests, I think, because we feel confident in the data. I would say the one cool thing I have seen, when people think about ESG more than CSR, there tends to be like an education lens of employees. And I, I think, you know, maybe that's because the environmental side of it but to me, you know, you have seen some really cool tools and education modules come out about educating employees about how to be more sustainable in their day-to-day jobs, as well as how to be more sustainable at home, educating them on how to be a good listener in, in the office, how to be respectful of people with different backgrounds. And so I, I think there's this cool, you know, what I would say has historically been reserved for HR education tools.

Andy VandenBerg: You're starting to see that pivot more towards what we might even view as CSR or broader ESG. I think that is, is a cool trend and I think it's great for employees as long as you can do it in an interactive and thoughtful and, you know, somewhat fun way. But I think that's going to be a great trend that, that I hope to see, you know, continue. Yeah, I, I totally agree. I think, you know, we, do you remember that newsletter we put together about like how old ESG is, like if it was like the first ESG index was like launched in like 1999 by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. And so it's like one of these things that's been around for a long time. But the, like we looked at like what is the prediction of like the ESG investment market?

Ben Sampson: What is expected to reach by like 2025 and the current expectations it's going to reach $53 trillion. That's a lot of zeros.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. we don't do public math then, but that's a lot of zeros. It's a lot of zeroes. And like more than 90% of SP 500 companies like now disclose like some form of ESG data. We're sharing that because like I think a lot of people, there's a lot of frustration in this space with the change and everything overall. I think it's a really positive thing. I think yes, there's definitely some whitewashing right now and there's a, there's a lot of, there's a lot of negatives, but I think overall this is going to be a really positive step for error industry. So I think it's really exciting. Well, big picture.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. totally different topic. Some places where I think we may have been been, you know, more optimistic in the previous two years was around the blockchain, what it could do for data transfer and, and money transfer for volunteering.

Andy VandenBerg: We don't need to go back and review how wrong we were, but I think we had some, some bigger hopes there. You know, obviously the trend from the last year and where companies are investing a lot is AI. What are your thoughts on AI and how it will impact this industry?

Ben Sampson: Yeah, just quick level setting, Andy's point, we had some blockchain predictions they were wrong. So we will have some AI predictions today. They too could be wrong. So we're, we're really good about going, like we are right here. We were definitely wrong here, so yes. But I hope we're right most of the time. Andy do you want me to start with like this like, dream I have for AI and where I think it it will be very soon? Yeah, that's, that's share the dream, share the vision, like a user story.

Ben Sampson: I think we're going to be here really soon. We talked about this big trend of engagement, right? I think it's really tough for employees to go and like find volunteer opportunities in their local community. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort. Like they're syncing up calendars, they're registering for events, these CSR platforms that they're already starting to pull in some ai and I think they're going to do some really cool things. To give you an example, I'm an employee in Seattle. I log into my CSR platform, I set up the cause areas that I'm really passionate about, you know, very passionate about, food insecurity, sustainability, so on and so forth. And I also integrate my Google calendar, my work calendar with the CSR platform. Now the AI and the platform knows that I am very passionate about these cause areas and it sees on my calendar that I have availability from two to four o'clock on Friday, November 23rd.

Ben Sampson: It reaches out to me via email or push notification. Says, Hey Ben, I found a volunteer opportunity at the food bank. It's about a half mile distance from your office and you have avail it in your calendar. Would you like me to schedule you at that time? Sure. Amazing. And then I can go and like volunteer just one user story about how I think we're going to have examples like that. And I think that's super exciting for regards to just engaging people and helping them find volunteer opportunities that align with their skillset and align with the cause areas. You know, that's an example of just like a hands-on opportunity. But I think with skills-based volunteering, oh my gosh, it's going to be super exciting. And so I'm a, I'm super bullish on AI. I think a lot of people are scared of that. I think it's an awesome enabling technology and I think it'll be very exciting for our space and help us engage more people in social impact.

Ben Sampson: So just my, my dream of what I want it to be so badly. Andy.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, no, it's a great it's a great dream. And I think that that vision of AI, I don't think it's that far off, but I think one of the challenges, you know, that, that exists in this industry for hands-on or giving or just standard, you know, more virtual engineers, there's too many options. You know, there's too many options. And so if you can have a, a smart form of intelligence that helps define what is relevant for me from time, from cause area, from type of nonprofit that's going to help all employees. And so I think that's, that's obviously the first step. I think then I think you're going to see skills-based probably in benefit the most from it given the speed to change that that can happen at a lot of these nonprofits by employees, which I think will be really exciting.

Andy VandenBerg: And then once again, we talked about data. We're, we're skirting around the data question. Because you know, we could spend hours talking about data, but this call is at you know, 11:00 AM Pacific time, not five o'clock on a Friday where we could all be discussing data with a cocktail. But what I will say is that AI can be used for, for so much data analysis to help the practitioners in CSR and ESG to consolidate and get takeaways from data. And you're starting to really see these models be able to take data in and then be able to, you can ask questions about the data. Hey, what was the change in volunteering and how did that impact, what was the correlation with other causes? What types of causes did my employees like the most? And so I think this data conversation module, and a lot of big companies have different tools they're using for this, but I think that will just help the CSR practitioners a lot and make their programs more effective in general and better every year.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I call like the big three. There's like the big three problems that like CSR leaders always have. One of the biggest ones is like the reporting and the data. I think it's going to be huge. Just, you know, you see what we can do in like HubSpot right now with like sales data and like producing customized reports. Like our ability to do that, like with our social impact data and engagement data is so powerful. And just regards to the decision making we'll have, as well as just getting more buy-in from leadership, I think it's going to be super effective. I think a lot of reasons CSR leaders have struggled in, in getting sometimes that the data's not good enough and the reports aren't good enough and, and it's really taxing and takes a massive amount of time to get those reports pulled together.

Ben Sampson: And so I think this will be immensely helpful and save what, you know, CSR leaders, their teams are already so small. We, we work with so many companies, we're like the CSR person. It's a one person team. And so I think just the ability to save them time and make them more efficient is going to be super appreciated by the entire space.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, I mean, just to be candid, like this has not been an industry where you get tech heavy data analysis people, you know, they, you know, it's not normally the hiring scope because it's a part of the job. And so I think anything we can do to make data or this industry to have better data that's easier to analyze, I think the impacts are going to be really large and, and there's so many tools coming out that I'm hopeful get distributed amongst these teams. So excited to see that.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. I know we want to give folks some Q&A time. Do you have any of other kind of like big themes or big trends that you want to just like call out?

Andy VandenBerg: Well, one thing we've done in the last couple times is what cause area do you think is going to get the most attention and donations in volunteering in 2024? Do you want me to go first? Go first then I, I unfortunately think it's going to be disaster response by far. I think we're seeing that, you know, the second half of the year we're seeing a, a huge, huge outflows of funds and supplies and volunteering around disaster response. That's due to both natural disasters as well as military conflict. And so I think we're going to con continue to unfortunately see that trend into the next year. I think companies that are actively planning around that as well, it's encouraging to see companies actively planning and budgeting for what that could look like and how they should be responding and empowering their employees to respond. And I, there's, you know, some folks that I know are on this call that are part of companies that are doing that. And I just applaud you for, for having that forward thinking mentality and being ready to, to support folks that are in need. And so unfortunately I think that is, you know, where the big trend is.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, I, I agree. I mean, I think the last two years we have said environmental as being kind of our leader. Because You're seeing more and more interest in that. But I agree. I think you know, one of the great things about the world is the vast 99.99% of us all want the same thing.

Andy VandenBerg: We want to be happy, we want to live in a safe place, we want to have good relationships with people. And so I think from a giving and volunteering perspective, that it's going to become really focused area for the average employee. And we're seeing, you know, I think to the credit of so many great companies out there and you know, a lot of the service providers in the space, we're, we're doing that in a really thoughtful way that is supporting all these individuals who, you know, are, you know, living in a war zone or, you know, have been struck by a natural disaster. And we're, we're, we're getting aid and support to people quicker. And I'm hopeful that that continues. Yeah.

Ben Sampson: Big kind of tenure trend. I know you and I always talk about this at the end of every one of these, like, what does the future look like for our space?

Ben Sampson: We're talking about small moments of time quite often. I think big picture, Andy and I are like so bullish on the social impact industry. We're so excited about it. I think just seeing the big macro trends around ESG the number of companies that are wanting to be a B-Corp, for example, I, when WeHero became AB Corp and we were like, what in the, as like a thousand companies that are B Corp now, it's like over 6,000 or something like that. Yeah, yeah. It's, it's grown and, and waiting lists are long  to become in, it's becoming harder and harder to, to become a B Corp and stay a B Corp, right. That, you know, companies keep leveling up and that's what we want. So, which we're, what we're trying to say is that I think there's a lot of macro trends that are super encouraging to see for our space.

Ben Sampson: We have these small bumps like we did in the beginning of 2023. But I think overall where I think we're super excited for the future of our space for the companies that are being active and involved in it and for the people that are really driving it forward. So it's a super huge joy for Andy and I to get to do this and work with so many amazing people. And so people that are on this call, Marie, I see you say hi. Hi, Marie. Yeah, it, it's, it's, we're super excited about it. Yeah.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. We can, we can take some questions if people have any in the Q&A section.

Ben Sampson: While people add to the Q&A or Jeremy, I don't know if the Q&A shows up on your end

Jeremy: Yeah, there is a question. It's actually in the chat. And just as a quick reminder, if you do have a question, please put it in the q and a tab, but the question in chat, how do you measure or calculate volunteering and social activities, the impact that they have in the community?

Ben Sampson: Andy do you want me to touch on this or... Yeah, go for it. And then I can, this is the golden goose. This is like what everybody wants to be able to do, like actually calculate the impact. This is like one of the most challenging things to like, it's easy to calculate like employee volunteer hours value of that time where people were volunteering. Like with technology that's easy to do. What hasn't been cracked, which is really challenging, is like, what is the actual quantified impact that has been created from this volunteer initiative or this giving opportunity in the community. At WeHero we do a lot of this like, and it's a very manual effort working with the nonprofit organizations. We produce an impact report for every single volunteer experience at scale. There are models that are making it better. You know, an example I use is the Impact Genome is a project that some people might be familiar with. You can go to their website and take a look, but they're, they're doing some really great work in trying to figure out how to scale that and model that. What's hard, as you can imagine, is that like, it's so variable, you know, nonprofit to nonprofit, what the impact is. You know, if I go and build a water filter, that's going to create a totally different impact than donating a backpack to an underserved child in a community, right? So I think, you know, again, if you're looking for examples and models on how to do this at scale, the impact genome outside of, that's a lot of manual reporting and work that has to be done in building relationships with the nonprofits. And so just some thoughts there. Andy, I don't know if you want to add on to that.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. Number one, work with great nonprofits who care about this, that, that's, you know, the end of the day is you know, ourselves as technology and support vendors for this industry. We're doing our best, but number one thing is work with nonprofits that prioritize impact. You know, if I don't want to be guiding here, but when you work, speak to a nonprofit, it's not about how much money they raise, that doesn't matter. It's really about what is the end root of that and how are they measuring that. And so I would say that's number one. Number two we are not on here, you know, I don't want to speak, promote WeHero, but work with vendors who do this, right? I mean, we have done the manual effort to, to find out the actual end impact.

Andy VandenBerg: And we're at the point now where all of our volunteer events have an average impact. And that's where we kind of currently sit in this industry is, Hey, if you donate X, Y, Z, we can give you the exact impact of that in the community. But what we want to get to eventually, and the impact genome is working to that is like, what was the actual impact of that specific unit? So you can actually track it from creation to usage and be able to constantly monitor the usage. Very difficult to do and only relevant for certain things, but that's ultimately the vision of where you want to go. I don't think anyone's there yet. That's probably a 10 to 15 year prediction, but ultimately just work with great nonprofits. Yeah.

Jeremy: I have a quick question. Maybe it's not quick. But recently I had a conversation with a social impact leader who was essentially blindsided by her executive team. And their executive team basically said, you now have a revenue goal that's not typical for social impact teams, and she's not the only one who has expressed that to me. I've talked to several leaders who now have revenue goals attached to their, their programs in addition to all the community building and employee engagement activities that they have. Going out of curiosity, you know, when you are, when you're having conversations with the customers or other leaders in this space, are you seeing the same type of thing and, or is this, do you think this is a trend that is going to continue in, in terms of social impact teams having some level of revenue, a revenue goal attached to their activities?

Ben Sampson: You want me to jump in or do you want to.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. Jump in. I have some thoughts, but yeah, I want to hear yours.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, it super honest, Jeremy, it doesn't come up super often, like the revenue targets like that. I've heard it once or twice. It's, it's far and few in between, like the revenue targets, just because the correlation can be really, it can be really hard to build that correlation between revenue that's being generated. It's way easier from a business outcome standpoint to be thinking about like, what are the cost savings that can occur from like, you know, employee turnover for example and stuff like that. Revenue stuff. Where it plays better is in consumer facing brands. Where we're, you're creating social impact programs to drive brand sentiments and increase buying decisions for that brand, right? So Procter and Gamble does a lot of this. Unilever does a lot of this. And so it, I think that's where we do see revenue targets. You know, Tide had a fantastic campaign, which is like tide cold, which was if you run Tide cold, it decreases your energy, but by like $110 and like they, you know, that was a combined effort between a marketing team and a social impact team that drove a lot of revenue for the brand. So we see it more often with consumer facing brands is what I would say harder with the B2B companies that are selling B2B software services. So just my, my quick thoughts on that, I, I could see it with consumer facing brands because we're seeing a lot of social impact levers being pulled. I, I could see it happening more often. Again, that Tide example is an example of a, a case where it was ultra successful, right? And so I, I guess, yeah, that's my, my long-winded. Andy, anything else you want to share there?

Andy VandenBerg: It's interesting because I think we more often here, we want to see overall p and l contribution than revenue contribution, and that could just be the companies we're talking to tend to be larger and, you know, not as consumer facing. That, that, that's what makes that dotted line connection between CSR and HR really relevant. I will tell you, you know, we have worked with a lot of companies who over the last five years have tried to leverage their social impact efforts for brand building and marketing, and those companies tend to have a I would, you know, from my experience, typically run by the marketing team. And so that I think has required involvement from the CSR and ESG team to be involved in those initiatives to make sure they align with the overall company mission, but typically led by marketing. And there are a number of incredible marketing agencies around that only do impact focused marketing for companies. And so I have, I would say the larger companies, we're not seeing that revenue put on people, much smaller companies. It's like, yeah, that makes sense, right? You get get your hands dirty in marketing. If we're a 50 person company, how can we leverage the work we're doing to help on marketing? But at large companies, I would say we've seen that more fall on the marketing teams. That may change, but that's just what we're, we're seeing.

Jeremy: We have plenty of time for our questions. If you all have something that you want to ask Ben and or Andy.

Andy VandenBerg: They can be data related. I didn't mean to scare people away from our favorite topic here.

Ben Sampson: You know, I mean, hopefully this means we did an okay job, Andy.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. That or everyone's just asleep after listening to us talk, you know, that's the other option. I think it was the AI topic really put people to bed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Our nerdiness really comes out.

Ben Sampson: It's happened before. Yeah.

Jeremy: I'll give it a minute or two to see if anybody has a question that they want to ask. If not, then we will end a little early

Ben Sampson: Means early lunch for us, Andy.

Jeremy: There you go. Okay. There is another question in the chat. Are you aware, let's see. Yeah. Are you aware of any regulation or legislation related to community impact?

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, man, the biggest one I can think of here is what countries like India have done, which requires that, geez, I don't want to misquote this. I believe it's one or 2% of revenue be used for social impact related causes. Largely in, in India it's typically used as corporate giving to try to drive support from the largest companies to nonprofits. And so you're seeing other countries start to think about that. You're seeing some regulation in European countries around ESG. You're also seeing some regulation coming from capital providers if they're going to provide capital to the companies they need to meet x, y, z metrics. I would say that's, that's less regulation, more encouragement. But not any micro level regulation that I've seen. But I'm not a lawyer. So, so check with your legal advisor. Have you noticed anything, Ben?

Ben Sampson: No, I think that's spot on. I think countries like rumors of countries considering it, which is exciting. And the big one that we talked about is ESG is a huge driving force for like a lot of this right now. And so ESG has been the big one that we spend a lot of time on. But outside of that Andy's point, nothing else, you know, to our knowledge, again, we're not, we're not lawyers. So yeah, we don't even pretend to play lawyers on webinars. You know, we, we caveat that aggressively we bow out real fast.

Jeremy: All right, we'll give it another minute. Yep. Another question comes in, if not, then we'll call it a day.

Andy VandenBerg: One other thought on, you know, specifically diving into that ESG one thing where you have seen more regulation is around like the procurement of like what you, what companies can buy limited by the government. You know, like dumb example, like, you know, some countries have required like recycled or triple used paper for, you know, to be purchased rather than, you know, net new paper. And so you're seeing some like on the very micro, micro level, just another example I thought of.

Jeremy: Yeah. Alright. There doesn't seem to be any other questions coming down the pipeline, so we will call it there. Ben, Andy, you did show a slide with your email addresses a little bit earlier. But where can people find out more about you and what you're up to?

Ben Sampson: I'm going to put my email and if you don't mind doing the same like in the chat, like please reach out to us, everybody, like, you know, like I said at the beginning, everyone has different programs, goals, problems, caps, challenges, like it varies so much. There's no secret, you know, go-to formula. So please reach out. We love talking about this stuff and love helping companies with their social impact strategies and their goals. And so please reach out. We'd, we'd love to speak with you. Alternatively, if, you know, if you want to learn about WeHero, you can go to our website wehero.co we talked a lot about that today. And then WizeHive, I'll put the name of that company in wizehive.com and so you can check us out there also, and, Andy and I are on LinkedIn, so if you want to connect with us, would love to hang out in the social media spheres.

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Andy VandenBerg
Andy VandenBerg is the co-founder and COO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Andy speaks actively about the importance of aligning strategy with social responsibility and how companies can pursue both purpose and profit. Andy’s past experience includes private equity and family office investing. If he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him in the Pacific Ocean or Lake Michigan.
Ben Sampson
Ben Sampson is the co-founder and CEO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Ben speaks actively about corporate social responsibility, volunteerism, sustainability, and how companies united with activism drive powerful change. Ben’s past experience includes leading product teams, building startups, and studying sustainable business strategy at Harvard. In his free time, he’s an avid outdoor enthusiast focused on skiing, surfing, and mountain biking.

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