YourCause’s 2017 Employee CSR Program in Review
I have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions, but as a January baby, I can’t help but spend some time reflecting at the end of each year. Not only does December bring the end of a calendar year, but also another year of me trying my best to drink a reasonable amount of wine, stifle my ‘cute dog voice, and actually meal plan longer than three weeks into the new year.
And while I like to make jokes, I take self-reflection pretty seriously. Part of my professional self-reflection this season has meant looking back on how our in-house CSR program has evolved over the past three years.
I’ve written about our internal CSR program a few times (here and here) and that’s largely because I care so much about it. It started with humble roots and, quite honestly, a bit over-ambitious. What started as a conversation between myself and CEO Matt Combs expanded into a monthly volunteer initiative. With only around 60 employees total, optional monthly volunteer events were difficult to fill consistently. So we expanded to quarterly and saw our per-event participation increase over time.
Lesson learned: Don’t over-stimulate employees with too many philanthropic initiatives if you don’t have the employee numbers to support them.
Sticking with What Works
As the program grew, we started forming little YC traditions. We’ve now done three blood drives and this March will be our fourth event bringing in everyone’s kiddos to pack over 700 sack lunches for a local homeless shelter. I know that barring a drastic shift in our company culture or composition (I’m always paranoid about the inevitable robot takeover), this event will continue on, regardless of whether I’m here to organize it or not.
Lesson learned: Failure rate isn’t as important as the impact of your success. I tried so many different types of events that first year (and the following two), that looking back, it seems like there were more types of volunteering that were unsuccessful than successful. But what matters are the events that stuck and the impact they will continue to make over the years.
We also tried some unconventional approaches once we found our footing. From shaving heads to organizing an in-office thrift shop/clothing swap; no idea has been ‘off the table.’ Granted, we at YourCause are afforded this freedom through our ability to be agile and nimble. However, there are too many times I see myself and other program owners talk ourselves out of an idea as a pre-emptive attempt to not fail.
Lesson learned: “No” is helpful in making sure nothing goes off the rails, but don’t let it be a way of selling yourself short. Taking (reasonable) risks is good sometimes.
Investing in Ourselves
And then 2017 came. And we started using our own software! This was a huge milestone for me. I’d been pushing for this for a while, but the truth was that we didn’t have the critical mass yet. But once we hit over 100 employees, we knew it was time to introduce giving, matching, and an easier way to facilitate volunteering other than me harassing everyone with emails and all-company meeting invites.
Now we can report on our numbers more thoroughly! As of December 15, 2017, we had 37% of our company with active payroll deductions, 23% with a maxed-out match cap, and 51% of employees with recorded volunteer hours. This was not the case three years ago.
Lesson learned: Just because you can see a milestone in the distance doesn’t mean it’s time for you to hit it just yet. Some things require momentum, building a foundation, and just pure patience.
Heading into the new year, I’m super excited for our company, both as a business and as an internal culture hub. We’ll focus more on specific volunteer events we know we’re good at, but still experiment enough to get us out of our comfort zone. As our company continues to grow, not just in metrics and numbers, but also in geographical locations, I’m looking forward to finding ways to integrate our company’s philanthropic efforts outside of just our Plano headquarters.
And personally? I’m looking forward to finding ways to integrate wine drinking with meal planning.