6 Tips for Making Social Impact Essential to Your Business from Day One
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These days, it seems like every startup is trying to figure out how to launch a social impact or ".org" arm. They see it helps build the brand, boost loyalty and even drive revenue. But, many aren't sure how to start.
In my time working in social impact at Yahoo, Google and now at Twilio, I’ve learned that social impact can’t be “a nice to have” or something you add on so that your company is able to say, “We give back.” Social impact works best when it is an integral part of your company’s strategy, culture and values. How do you make that happen? Here are my tips for anyone who is getting started:
1. Figure out the unique assets your company can offer.
Too often, a company’s attempt at doing good in the world is inspired by the favorite cause of a philanthropy-minded executive. Instead, consider the assets and offerings of your company, and find an angle into helping the world that your company can uniquely provide. While I was at Yahoo, I was working on the company's green initiative. At the time, Yahoo’s home page was viewed by hundreds of millions of people every month, so it became our greatest asset for sharing tips on how consumers can be more eco-friendly in their own lives.
Ask yourself, does your product make it easier to mobilize volunteers? Do your employees have a specific skill that’s hard to come by? You’ll drive more impact by drafting off the momentum of your company’s core offering, and you’ll generate a halo that makes sense for your brand.
2. Make social responsibility as critical to the success of your company as any other strategic initiative.
Build ties so that when your company grows and generates more revenue, you also increase your ability to generate social impact. With an estimated 10 million nonprofits worldwide, providing your products at discounted rates to nonprofits, like Tableau, Splunk, Slack and many others do, allows you to make your products more accessible to many organizations while generating sustainable program revenue. Creating a virtuous cycle between social impact and business success and actively making them inextricably tied is important for the sustainability of both efforts.
3. Put a team in place.
If you're serious about social impact, then it can't be the side project of an employee who has another role at the company. When you value your social impact program as much as any other revenue-generating program, it is critical that you staff it that way. Hire a team who is responsible for creating, executing and reporting on your plan. That way, it won’t be ancillary, it will be integral to the success of the business.
For example, if it's a product-driven company, then the social impact team should report into product or supply chain to ensure they align with the goals of product development. Or if the company's brand is one of its biggest assets, then reporting into marketing will help social impact be imbedded into the overall positioning. Better yet, have the team leader report into the CEO as part of the executive team to ensure social impact aligns with the overall company strategy and direction.
4. Join Pledge 1%.
Pledge 1% is an organization that encourages companies to dedicate 1 percent of their employees’ time, their product or their profits to social impact. More than the authenticity of putting your money and time where your mouth is, formalizing your commitment to social impact will inspire your company to real action for the long haul. Taking the pledge also immediately brings you into a community of over 1,500 peer companies, including Atlassian, Box and Okta, who are committed to giving back in the same ways you are.
5. Celebrate loudly.
So often we work, work, work, and even when we have a win, we move too quickly to the next thing. Take time to celebrate because it helps everyone in the company feel proud of the good work they’re doing in the world. For example, at the Salesforce annual Dreamforce conference, there's an entire summit track dedicated to customers who are doing good. It’s powerful watching the employees as well as the community be inspired by the work of these organizations. One of the genuinely wonderful realities of corporate social impact is the impact on morale.
6. Measure and report.
Set goals for social impact in the same way you would any area of the company -- this holds you accountable and keeps you focused on progress. Be sure to articulate metrics for business impact as well as social impact in your objectives. Measure monthly and quarterly, report out to other departments to share your impact and successes. Many companies, including Google, LinkedIn and Twitter, use an OKR (Objectives and Key Results) system to track progress. The social impact team’s OKRs should roll up and support the overall company objectives, just like every other team at your company.