/ Entrepreneurship

Building a Company Culture Through Giving Back

Giving at work, particularly when it’s done visibly and socially, with an emphasis on results, helps people feel more connected to (and therefore work better with) their teams and co-workers.

As millennials continue to enter and takeover the workforce, companies are scrambling to hire and retain the right employees. While finding the people who can help a growing business and sign on for the long haul has always been a challenge, millennials and their expectations for employment have made getting “the right people on the bus” and keeping employees happy a formidable task.

Curmudgeon media reports declare the rising generation flighty and self-centered, unable to commit to any one company. However a study conducted by Bentley University found that “more than 72 percent [of millennials] say they are interested in working in a big corporation someday, with 48 percent saying that their ideal career path would be working at only one or two companies over the course of their careers.” And, despite what those old folks yelling at us to get off their proverbial lawns may believe, the expectations of millennials in the workforce are far from selfish.The Bentley University study found that 84% of millennials say they feel a personal responsibility to make the world a better place and more than half say they’d turn down higher pay to work at a company that helped them do it. So while it may seem that millennials jump from job to job in search of the nonexistent perfect fit, in reality many are simply searching for a company that will help them do good, and are willing to stick around when they find it.

So why don’t companies just implement a social impact system? Up until now, it hasn’t been that easy. Vetting charities, enrolling employees, and generating reports on contributions requires more time and effort than most company heads have. But lucky for those company heads, they can now turn to Purpose Portfolio.

As founder SaraJoy Pond describes it, “Purpose Portfolio is a plug-and-play SaaS platform that allows companies to engage in authentic, employee-driven social impact in their own backyards and around the world.” Purpose Portfolio has a pool of vetted nonprofits and social enterprises from which employers can create mission-aligned impact portfolios. “Think education for Instructure, vision and eyecare for 1–800 Contacts, etc.,” Pond explains. Employees sign up and contribute a small amount from every paycheck, then watch their contributions make a difference. “All those little contributions (and the results our partners get putting them to work) come together on the company’s impact dashboard to help them recruit, retain, and engage employees,” Pond says. Pond reports that clients talk about projecting their dashboard on conference room screens, loading it on ipads at job fairs, and making it part of every interview.

“Giving at work, particularly when it’s done visibly and socially, with an emphasis on results, helps people feel more connected to (and therefore work better with) their teams and co-workers,” Pond says. “Recent research out of Harvard shows that prosocial incentives (those intended to be passed on to someone else rather than used on oneself) have the same employee satisfaction and loyalty effects at 1/10th the size. So a $50 charity gift card is literally as powerful as a $500 bonus. Plus, corporate social responsibility is good for the bottom line.”

Pond says that the most common response to a 30-second introduction to Purpose Portfolio is an employer spending the next ten minutes pontificating on how important giving back is, how profound the effect is on culture, and how excited employees are about it. “They get especially excited when they see the product. Everyone — companies that are just starting out giving back, and those that have put a ton of time and money into it — is floored by how easy it can be,” Pond says.

Part of the appeal of Purpose Portfolio is the ability for companies to build whatever portfolio is best for them and their employees. That portfolio might span the globe and and include everything from health and education to clean energy and human trafficking. Companies build portfolios and employees choose how they engage. “They do it knowing that if it’s on the platform, it’s been vetted — and they can trust that this is an organization that uses money wisely, engages effectively with the communities it serves, and is accountable for its results,” Pond says.

Purpose Portfolio’s process for vetting charities involves partnering with individuals and organizations such as foundations, researchers, journalists, and policymakers who evaluate social impact for a living. “We take on the research and storytelling, and leverage outside on-the-ground expertise to make sure the top experts and innovators are in our portfolio,” Pond says. “Too often in philanthropy, it’s the organizations that can tell the best story and not the organizations that are doing the best work that get the support. We choose partners based on their results, not the sexiness of their messaging.” Purpose Portfolio has an international team of portfolio coordinators conducting research and analysis, and they solicit expert opinions from foundation directors, professional evaluators, and professors from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford to ensure that every charity included is aligned with Purpose Portfolio’s mission.

But companies really need look no further than Pond’s background to know that Purpose Portfolio can be trusted to handle social impact effectively. Pond built TippingBucket, an impact-focused crowdfunding platform with over 10,000 donors that supported 70 projects in 42 countries over the course of a year. TippingBucket contributed more than $750,000 to projects worldwide, but, as Pond explains it, “was inherently limited by the nonprofit model and didn’t generate enough revenue to really grow.” The experience helped Pond realize that a better way to grow a meaningful impact platform was a venture that aligned to solve a business problem and generate resources to support charitable work. Purpost Portfolio was born from that realization.

Pond was later joined by Chase Murdock, formerly of Dress Code Custom, named one of the fastest-growing suit companies in the world, and Nathan Wells, all-around tech guru. Together they’ve built Purpose Portfolio into a powerful recruiting tool that lends companies a culture that lets employees feel like they’re making a significant difference.

Published 7/21/2015