Key Findings

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Use of tech

Use of technology was strongly correlated to overall high performance on the benchmarks across all tiers (0.82 at a 99% CI), although tech’s usefulness differed across the individual sub-components of each benchmark, and in some cases was not relevant at all (see the individual benchmark pages for details).

Performance on benchmarks strongly correlated to use of tech

Correlation to tech


For each of the three benchmark groups, tech was generally helpful for:


  • Sharing of data internally (for example between HR and CSR teams to measure ROI and business impact)
  • Giving employees access to an up-to-date, widely available and appealing database of volunteer opportunities


  • Facilitating more effective relationships with third-party experts / partners (for example in continuous engagement & monitoring of performance)
  • Tapping into wider pools of employees to take part in volunteering (For Established companies in particular, I was able to measure how the overall use of tech was very strongly correlated to an increased % of employees volunteering: 0.75 at 99% CI)


  • Facilitating “gamification” and company-wide storytelling to reinforce desired volunteering behaviours and activities.
  • Increasing ease of measuring ROI and tracking KPIs (a few of the more impressive tools used are moving towards automated tracking of KPIs – such as volunteer hours – to make this ever easier for companies to measure)



1) The Benchmarks

The ten benchmarks are recommended as defining the sub-components of strong corporate volunteerism practice. In setting and executing their volunteerism strategy, companies (of all shapes and sizes) should use them to guide their actions, having an awareness of the typical strengths and development areas for each tier, as discussed within each individual benchmark.


2) Decentralise CSR

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” 

– Peter Drucker, management consultant

As observed in most of the high-performing companies across tiers and in the literature, CSR and corporate volunteerism were never held tightly to a centralised team at company HQ. Senior leadership were generally vocal about, and often themselves engaged in, employee volunteerism, but key to success was having a grassroots, business-wide involvement in setting volunteerism strategy.


3) Treat volunteer management as a marketing machine

CSR Leads at top performing companies often saw marketing as a key tenet of their role: not for making headlines or propaganda, but for:

  • Reinforcing a strong social brand through clarity of strategy & mission focus
  • Communicating opportunities as widely as possible
  • Energizing across the business
  • Seeking regular feedback from your “users” i.e. employees (and third-party partners / beneficiaries)


4) Delegate to third-party partners: it’s critical

Established companies took the lead in being particularly comfortable with what they are and what they are not. They tended to outsource parts where third-party experts already had infrastructure in place to avoid reinventing the wheel (even where they had technical capability in-house to build a tool themselves, Airbnb being just one example).


Particularly useful in educational initiatives – where both educators & employers often used the phrase “we don’t speak the same language” – a third-party operational partner managing the day-to-day logistics can make all the difference to long-term fruitful partnerships free of logistical fuss, frustrations over communication and mismatched expectations.


The same can be said for educational institutions. Stanford and MIT, some of the top universities globally, have robust employer networks for their students to tap into, but it’s more than a full-time job. If you do not have the luxury of a staff member dedicated to networking and managing employer relationships, as many schools do not, this should be outsourced to third-party partners.


Acting as a broker, third-party partners can also help corporates take a more strategic approach to finding school, social enterprises and non-profit partners to work with, rather than (for example) simply connecting with a senior leader’s old school or overwhelming smaller partners with their sheer numbers of employee volunteers.


  • International validity: Of course, a problem with any international study lies in inferring validity of findings back on home soil. For example, a range of factors are likely to drive corporate volunteering success, including political, economic and cultural factors which are likely specific to one country or another. Thus, we had to think carefully as to whether the successes witnessed were tied to the culture and context of the US & Canada or could possibly be transferred back to the UK. Hopefully we’ve made the right call, but please keep this in mind as you explore the benchmarks in detail.


  • Generalisability: Given the nature of a case study approach, findings cannot necessarily be generalised to a wider population. I tried to negate this by drawing upon multiple case studies, and triangulating findings (and refining the benchmarks) with feedback from third-party thought leaders and secondary evidence (in the form of academic & business literature).

Next: Read onwards to The Benchmarks >>