CR and employee engagement during Covid-19

Neil MacDonald

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CR and employee engagement during Covid-19

How to foster employee engagement during Covid-19

You know how when you?re really engaged with something, you care about it, feel loyal towards it and will do your best to support it? It could be a club you?ve joined or your kids? school or a group of friends you love to spend time with, but whatever it is, you?re emotionally invested and you want to help it grow and succeed. When an employee has those feelings towards their job and place of work, it creates one of the most valuable commodities a company can aspire to have.

Imagine working in a company where every employee was fully engaged. Everyone cared about the work they did and the future of the company and they did their best to help make it the best it could be. What better conditions for success could there possibly be? The latest Global Employee Experience research[1] shows that only 50% of employees in the UK are ?engaged?, suggesting that many employers are struggling to provide the right conditions.

How can volunteering help with Employee Engagement?

There are many different definitions of employee engagement but typically these include metrics such as; commitment, job satisfaction, sense of connection and pride in the company[2] [3]. Having high scores in all of those areas should indicate a company that takes its responsibilities towards its people seriously and in turn, will reap the many rewards of a highly engaged workforce. And a number of studies have shown how volunteering can increase this?

For example, the 2017 Deloitte IMPACT Survey found that 74% of employee respondents think volunteerism provides an improved sense of purpose with their employer. Also, the Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey 2011 revealed that Millennial employees that undertook volunteering were:

More likely to be very proud to work for their company (55% vs. 36% of those who didn?t volunteer)
More likely to feel very loyal [committed] towards their company (52% vs 33% of those who didn?t volunteer
If CR (corporate responsibility) is about how a company acts in order to make its profits rather than how it spends them (and it definitely is), then employee engagement ? addressing responsibility from the inside, out ? has got to be where it all starts.

Maintaining engagement while working remotely

In the current climate, where many or most employees may be working remotely, that engagement is more critical than ever. Staying connected and supportive and enabling employees to be involved, demonstrate commitment and enjoy satisfaction is undoubtedly a challenge, but it?s achievable.

It will be important for employees to know that your commitment to CR hasn?t fallen by the wayside during lockdown?

Many companies have shown an increased commitment to supporting local communities and those hardest hit during the pandemic and there are numerous examples of how this can be done safely and remotely while having a valuable impact.

Likewise, showing your employees you care about them and their mental health and providing flexibility and tools to support your people at this difficult time, will help them stay engaged and loyal.

To sustain levels of engagement it is also vitally important is to capture and communicate your volunteering and its impact. A 2013 study by the MGSM CSR Partnership Network4 noted that effectively communicating the impact of volunteering, such as the reduction in food insecurity or improved employability ?will assist in recruiting new participants and increasing levels of satisfaction among existing participants?.

So, when it comes to CR and employee engagement during Covid-19, it is safe to say that promoting remote volunteering and local community aid, along with effectively capturing and communicating your impact will be a key facet to engaging your remote workforce.

Read more community volunteering opportunities during covid-19

CR and employee engagement during Covid-19





Co-Authored by Gillian McKee & Neil Macdonald?

Gillian McKee is the founder of Giraffe Associates, a specialist CSR Consultancy, and also former Deputy MD of Business in the Community NI –

Neil Macdonald is CEO of Thrive CSR ? specialist community investment software which helps businesses better capture and showcase their CSR –

Why you should align your Corporate Responsibility to themes

How to align your corporate responsibility strategy to issues and themes

For some companies, the notion of corporate responsibility (CR) is still embedded in ideas of philanthropy and good works rather than being recognised as a necessary and sustainable approach to running a business. For these companies, it?s still more about what they do with their profits rather than how they make those profits in the first place.

Such companies may not yet have fully understood or embraced the idea of shared value. This is the belief that they can increase their own competitive advantage while investing in and supporting the communities where they operate. And by communities, I don?t just mean local neighbourhoods in the strictly geographic sense ? these can be communities of interest ? groups of people with shared interests or characteristics or experience.

Increasingly, companies are thinking carefully about who and what they support when developing corporate responsibility programmes, and that?s good.

There are 3 main aspects to consider when choosing to align your corporate responsibility programme to specific issues or themes?

1. Define what matters

Considering the issues that matter to your key stakeholders and the communities you want to support ? be they local or virtual ? is the first important step for increasing engagement, particularly among your own employees. ?For example, Yorkshire Water identified that water use efficiency is critical to both its business and its communities and has spent substantial time and money putting in place water efficiency and education programmes for local communities. The value of these programs goes far beyond the direct immediate benefit to Yorkshire Water.

2. Consider how best to offer support

Recognising what you can do as a company to address those issues is the next step. It can be as simple as donating to a charity or cause that is addressing the issue ? that?s a hands-off approach that will certainly be of some value. How much benefit you and your employees will gain from such an approach may be limited however. It?s easy to give and there?s little personal investment involved.

Smart companies will think more laterally about how they can use the skills and expertise they have in-house to invest in supporting the issue while at the same time engaging their employees in a valuable way from which they derive both personal satisfaction and development. In so doing, they are also likely to improve their own ?currency? in society, thus creating value that is shared by the company, society and also the individual employees that engage in the support.

3. Capture and demonstrate your impact

After defining a clear strategy and identifying the issues that matter, it is important to capture your impact on those issues. Doing so will help further embed CR in your company?s ethos, as you are able to demonstrate to a range of stakeholders the difference your involvement has made.

As CR moves from ?outputs? (we did 1,000 hours volunteering) to ?outcomes? (our mentoring programme helped 100 people back into employment?) you must have the right tools and resources in place. Many businesses appoint local ?champions? internally in each of their offices or departments to help capture this info and, increasingly, businesses are adopting modern cloud-based software tools that can give visibility on all of your CR activity in one place and help you ?tell your story?.

Ashurst, a global law firm, has successfully adopted both of these strategies ? its central CR team and local champions promote, manage and report all of their volunteering activities through the Thrive CSR software system.

By identifying issues where the company can make a positive difference and successfully capturing and demonstrating your impact, over time, your company will come to be identified with those issues in a positive way, gleaning much more benefit than if they simply made donations to a range of ad hoc charities and causes.

Read more about what other companies are doing here

Co-Authored by Gillian McKee & Neil Macdonald?

Gillian McKee is the founder of Giraffe Associates, a specialist CSR Consultancy, and also former Deputy MD of Business in the Community NI –

Neil Macdonald is CEO of Thrive CSR ? specialist community investment software which helps businesses better capture and showcase their CSR –

Community Volunteering Opportunities During Covid-19

In this blog we look at the community volunteering and community mutual aid opportunities available for your staff to participate in.

(Note: This blog post is UK centric but community support opportunities in other regions will be covered in a later post)

In my?recent blog posts?I discussed how we?ve seen the world of corporate volunteering quickly adapting to the Covid-19 crisis. Rather than employee volunteering programmes closing down, many CSR Managers are repurposing their programmes and harnessing their employee volunteering resources in the community response to the disease.

Last week I provided an overview of the types of?virtual volunteering?(where a person does volunteering without leaving their home)?to help boost employee mental health as well provide assistance to those in need. However, many of us want to feel that we are making a difference where it means the most – in our local communities, right on our doorsteps. Due to this, we are seeing many corporates allowing employees to use their volunteering leave to do this. Below we provide a detailed list of the organisations and opportunities available for?in person?community volunteering.


We are social distancing, can I still go out to volunteer in my local community?

Yes*.?Although we are all advised to stay at home except for very limited exceptions, one of those limited exceptions is ?to provide care or to help a vulnerable person?.

You must also do so safely by following health, hygiene and safeguarding guidance.

*Based on official UK government guidance at the time of writing.?Please ensure you check?government guidance?before you do any volunteering.



In what ways can I help?

There are lots of ways volunteers can support vulnerable people who need help. And remember, it?s not just about neighbours who are self-isolating or vulnerable – other people in the community who might also appreciate help include: stretched medical staff and volunteers, staff and volunteers in key worker roles, supermarket workers and delivery drivers.

Some of the ways volunteers are helping out include:

  • helping with shopping and running errands
  • collection or delivery of prescriptions and medication
  • driving people to/from health appointments or other essential appointments
  • helping to organise food deliveries from food banks and/or supermarkets
  • walking pets


Where can I find local volunteering opportunities?

The following resources provide links to over 6000 groups and charities that are currently providing support to local communities across the UK?

Each link below contains a huge amount of local, geographically dispersed organisations and opportunities your staff could avail of ? so I hope you get value from this list we have compiled. I?d like to thank our staff for the huge amount of research that has gone into this! As always, if you have other resources to share, please email me ( or comment below.



  • Our research has shown over 4000 Mutual Aid groups have been set up around the UK to help co-ordinate local community support.?The best central resource cataloging all these groups is:?
  • A matching service between those offering assistance and those needing assistance. There are many amazing possibilities here!?





If none of these suit, or you can?t find an organisation close to you, you can always do things your own way by looking out for vulnerable neighbours and relatives, or put fliers through doors offering your assistance.

Finally? Make Sure You Capture Your Employee Volunteering & Recognise Individual Efforts

It is important to track what your employees are doing in their local community. HR/Health and Safety is one reason, and the other is so you can follow the amazing work they are doing and feed that back into the organization (photos or short feedback snippets are great) to encourage more and more of your staff to get involved.

As part of our own giving back, Thrive CSR is currently offering a?FREE employee volunteering logging tool?to help CSR Managers with this. Please feel free reach out to me at? any queries.

Stay safe and we hope this helps!


20 of the best virtual volunteering opportunities for your employees

In this blog I will give an overview of the cultural and business response seen to Covid-19 volunteering and then provide a?detailed list of virtual volunteering opportunities?and resources you, and your staff, can tap into during the crisis.


Caught off guard

The unprecedented speed at which the Covid-19 crisis has impacted society as we know it has been frightening; with governments, businesses, communities and our own families all caught off guard.??And it is now, as the stories of heart-breaking personal loss and the immediate economic impact on businesses and the?charitable sector?begin to emerge, that we are starting to build a picture of the hardships to come over the next year and perhaps beyond.

However, there is a ?wartime spirit? that this crisis has envoked?which is galvanising us more as a society than anything else many of us have seen in our lifetime. In the UK, a national call for 250,000 healthcare volunteers was exceeded twofold in 24 hours, harking back to Lord Kitchener?s recruitment drive during World War I.?In the US, the private sector?s rapid rallying to build 200,000 ventilators, reminding us of the frenetic activity seen in footage of munitions factories in World War II.

Although we were ?caught napping?, we can be uplifted by and proud of how we are reacting as a society.


So, what can businesses do to help?

At?Thrive CSR, we sit at the junction between medium/large business and the charitable sector and we?ve always believed in the power of business to change society.

If we quickly look at some numbers around this (anyone who knows me knows I love a good statistic!):

  • In the UK, there are over 250,000 businesses employing 10 or more employees which in total employ over 18 million people. If even half of those adopted a typical volunteering leave policy (say 1.5 days per year per employee) that would be more than?100 million volunteering hours?contributed every year.
  • The same stats for the USA are around 6 times this number ? resulting in over?600 million volunteering hours.

Given that the employee engagement benefits of employee volunteering are now well documented, and the need in the community is clear, there are incredibly strong reasons for the 1.5 million businesses cited above to deploy their ?troops? via a volunteer army to assist with the Covid-19 fight. To those who are doing this already, our hats go off to you.


But we can’t volunteer, we can’t leave our homes…

In the UK, and globally, we are all in lockdown at present and most businesses have staff working from home or furloughed, which of course makes more ?traditional? employee volunteering such as team building events out of the question.

In?my last blog post, I commented on how forward thinking CSR Managers are quickly adapting their employee volunteering programmes to enable staff to complete ?virtual volunteering? and community aid volunteering. And we have been reading more and more stories of how businesses?large?and?small?are adopting this approach, as well as continuing to hear this directly from our own customers such as Linklaters solicitors, Wessex Water and Avanti Trains et al.

What we have heard from many, however, is that they are struggling to find good sources of Virtual Volunteering opportunities for their staff.?So we?ve put our team to work to help find you some of the best virtual volunteering available to help boost the mental wellbeing of your employees and assist in the Covid-19 fight. Below is the list we have curated.

We?ve seen that there a number of typical broad categories that these fall into, including: Community Support, Education and Mentoring, Skills Based Volunteering and Online Research Projects.

Please use this list to kick start your employee virtual volunteering and let us know if you can recommend any more sources and we?ll repost an updated list next week?

(As always, make sure you do your own due diligence on any of the organisations below recommending them to your employees)

Let?s all do our part from home in the fight against Covid-19! #alonetogether













  • Not exactly volunteering, but a fun way for your employees to interact online while doing good? Answer the quiz questions correctly and the UN World Food Programme donates rice to change lives!?


That’s all for now, if you have additional resources to share please comment below or email me –

Corporate Volunteering in the Age of the Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Corporate Volunteering during Coronavirus? Really??

Yes. Now more than ever, the need for volunteering in the midst of this crisis is clear.

The last few weeks have been uncertain for everybody but it has been heartwarming to see the way our customers and other large corporates have pulled together in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are quickly adapting their Employee Volunteering Policies to deploy in different and innovative ways to support both their employees and their communities. Corporate volunteering during coronavirus lives on.

At Thrive CSR, we have a unique oversight from our work assisting CSR Managers to track and report on their employee volunteering, so read on to find out what your company can do, and what you can learn from others?.

(Of course, always pay attention to the government & health services? advice and usual safeguarding steps with regards to your volunteering)

March 23 2020 Update:?While government recommendations are changing daily this article is still relevant, even in a widespread lock down.

A Morale Boost for Home-bound or Socially Restricted Employees

At this stage it looks like significant social restrictions and the need to work from home will continue for some time ? recent estimates in the UK put it at anywhere up to 6-9 months.

Thus during this time, it is important to focus on your employees? mental health as the stresses from family health and economic worries build up. There are a number of things you can do here but volunteering is actually a key one to focus on. Multiple studies have shown that volunteering helps greatly in promoting positive mental health amongst participants.

Volunteering (of which there are several types, we will get to that shortly?) can provide a much needed break from this. It helps create and maintain human connections outside of the home. And it can also give them the sense of ?doing more?.

Take Pride in Mobilising Your Employees in their Local Community

We need each other more than ever; however, Covid-19 provides a cruel juxtaposition ? requiring significant social distancing at this time of increased human need.

Travel restrictions mean that national challenges now need to be addressed ?hyper locally?. ?Corporates are in a unique situation to empower their staff to play a key role within their local communities.

This is the time you can make a difference. Many corporations are altering their volunteering policies and options, away from well curated and pre-defined volunteering events towards a more fluid approach which will give staff the option to use their allowable volunteering time to assist in their local communities through self targeted staff volunteering. And to those of you who are, such as global law firm, Ashurst – we take our hats off to you all.

What New Volunteering Options Are Possible?

We have spent the last week working with our customers to understand the different types of community volunteering that are making a difference right now. Currently, it looks like three types of volunteering will be the most impactful in the months ahead:

1) Remote mentoring/teaching opportunities via Skype/Facetime/Google Hangouts etc.

Have your staff been working with groups of people (teaching, mentoring, buddy systems etc.) which could continue remotely? It?s quite possible this type of activity can still go on ? providing a wonderful outlet to keep both volunteers and their benefactors engaged during this period, while still allowing complete social distancing.

2) Helping the isolated or vulnerable

The next few months are going to be incredibly tough on many people who have to isolate without constant company and assistance. As an individual you can offer your many services to local people without direct physical contact – print off a flier such as this one our own staff have been using and place it in the letterboxes of nearby house and highlight the jobs you are willing and able to perform, such as collecting groceries or even just daily a phone call.

Alternatively, another way for your staff to find vulnerable people to help locally is via established charities like Age UK.

3) Sole Volunteering with Community Aid Groups

Large volunteer gatherings are clearly off the agenda but helping vulnerable groups in their local community is still a possibility (as long as health & safety and safeguarding guidelines are met).
Mutual Aid and Community Groups are currently being established around the country, many of which have established Facebook groups.

Many of our flagship customers are encouraging staff actively get involved in these activities as part of their company Volunteering Leave and recording the results to share them with the whole company.

Make Sure You Capture Your Employee Volunteering & Recognise Individual Efforts

Having your staff out in the community during this problematic time is a noble goal but at the same time it is important to track what they are doing. HR/Health and Safety is one reason. The second is so you can follow the amazing work they are doing and feed that back into the organization (photos or short feedback snippets are great) to encourage more and more of your staff to get involved.

This is an outstanding way to start a ?feedback loop? where many staff see what early adopters are doing and that motivates them to do something impactful too. The sense of community and company pride this can produce is exceptional.

We?d love to hear how you are deploying your employee volunteers meet the current community crisis.? If you share these with us, we?ll pass the info around our network of CSR managers. Please reach out to me at

Stay safe and we hope this helps!


Read more about volunteering opportunities for your employees

CR and employee engagement during Covid-19


3 Big CSR Problems

3 Big CSR Problems and what to do about them

I speak to CSR and Community Relations Managers all the time ? in lots of different countries and in lots of different industries. I see fantastic diversity in the community support that is being given by our corporates all over the world and well developed community investment strategies.

Yet most of the people I meet face the same challenges?..they?ve got the strategy, they?ve launched the initiatives but?.

  1. How do they track what goes on right across their organisation and out into the communities they connect with?
  2. How do they prove return on investment to their board?
  3. How do they maximize the use of their limited resources and budget?

These problems manifest in real daily struggles. Well-paid, senior managers are routinely bogged down in the admin of managing their initiatives rather than driving them from the helm, and collating and preparing reports is a nightmare.

Indeed, the life of the CSR or Community Manager is not an easy one ? limited budgets expected to stretch far (both physically and metaphorically) and there is now constant pressure to convey value-add to the bottom line.

Yet, at its core, the solution is relatively simple ? collect more data and communicate it better. This leads to a positive feedback loop and a win-win for both the company and the community.

So, how can more data capture and better reporting be achieved? ?Easier said than done?, I hear you say! Well, I see lots of approaches. Here?s my comparison?.

In my experience CSR managers don?t automatically look to proprietary software to solve problems. I?ve found that technical innovation is not something that?s naturally front of mind in the CSR sector, and often software is perceived to be too expensive with ?I have no budget for software?, the standard line of the frustrated CSR/Community Manager.

The new reality is that, with the advent of cloud based software, the costs of proprietary software are plummeting and recent surveys* show over 90% of large businesses embracing cloud software. The good news is that cloud-based software is perfect for CSR managers ? enabling easy oversight of community activity in one country or many scattered across the globe. Automated data capture and easy reporting also enables staff time to be channelled into more productive tasks.

So I tend to ask CSR and Community Relations managers these 2 questions:

  1. If a software solution could reduce you or a colleague?s admin time by 50%, what value could that person add to the organisation through more direct community outreach?
  2. If you could achieve feedback from over 75% of participants or recipients with automated software feedback tools, what value would that allow you to convey to the board, employees, and the wider community?

With those two questions answered, the choice to use cloud based software to manage CSR seems clear!

Neil Macdonald is CEO of Thrive CSR and ardent advocate of technology innovation in the CSR Sector. If you would like to learn more about how Thrive’s cloud software can assist CSR and Community Relations managers, you can read more on our website or get in touch directly with Neil at

Learn more about Thrive with our Impact Measurement

Impact measurement Thrive CSR

Impact Measurement

Impact Measurement and How To Use It

I have the benefit of talking to a diverse range of CSR and Community Investment managers in a whole range of industries which gives me a great overview of the day to day issues they face.

Yet I?ve noticed that a couple of themes are industry-agnostic. One is that community support, whether this be volunteering, donations or in-kind support, is now integral to almost all companies’ CSR strategies; with a growing understanding of how an active community programme can boost employee engagement and brand reputation.

The other is that, now that community investment strategies are in place, managers are coming under increasing pressure to measure, understand the impact and accurately report on the work that is being done. And this makes perfect sense ? from a corporate viewpoint where Return on Investment is king, why wouldn?t the executive management want to know the benefit of the time and resources being spent? From a manager?s viewpoint, how can you know that your strategy is working if you don?t benchmark its performance? And from a community standpoint, providing information on the impact of corporate giving has been shown to increase the likelihood of future support.

That?s all well and good but the impact measurement and reporting of community investment is tricky. Firstly, CSR teams tend to be pretty stretched so finding additional time to capture more data / do more admin is difficult. Secondly, most CSR managers sit centrally but their initiatives cut across the entire company, so collecting accurate data from a dispersed workforce or across multiple countries is, frankly, nigh on impossible using traditional phone calls and emails and the time they have available. And finally, measurement of community impact doesn?t rely solely on stats, it requires additional, subjective measures of benefit that are difficult to capture on spreadsheets.

Thankfully over the last year we have seen a strong trend with CSR managers throwing out their old manual processes and embracing software to help get more useful insights, in a shorter period of time.

This has become so important to the sector that Business in the Community (NI) has?chosen to partner with us (Thrive CSR) because these types of tools are now something their membership are demanding.

At Thrive CSR we have unique, easy to use, software that helps centrally capture data and gather feedback. It?s something, as a business, we are very focused on and excited about.

Once a ?project? is in our system, the system can automatically follow up with participants and beneficiaries using both email and text message. And the return of data is ?friction-free? and can even be done through short surveys straight from their smartphone. The result has been amazing. Companies like Coca Cola HBC and Virgin Trains have been receiving response rates of over 75% with ZERO time input from their CSR team. And the information they are uncovering is invaluable for their quarterly and annual reports and helping to shape the future direction of their community investment strategy.

Using a software solution, like Thrive CSR, to automatically capture your community investment activity and to understand its impact is now a no-brainer. Our experience shows you can slash your admin time, spend more time on strategy and active community engagement work, have full oversight on your activities and their impact and easily report to internal and external stakeholders.

Learn more about Thrive CSR

The power of CSR Feedback

CSR Feedback and how to use it

I?m amazed how hard it is for a business to get CSR feedback on the difference their donations, grants or volunteering hours have made to the community.

I understand why? both businesses and community organizations are so incredibly busy that after a contribution is awarded, the final and critical step of finding out what the community group did with the contribution is often difficult.

In this blog post I talk about the process we developed to help businesses like Coca Cola Hellenic and Virgin Trains get valuable feedback from their community contributions. Some of these business now see over 75% of their support projects returning feedback, whereas previously they spent hours on the phone or emailing and achieved under 10%. I have to say, it’s really exciting!

As a bit of background, our Thrive CSR software helps businesses manage their donations, grants or volunteering. We realized that while our system was saving clients tonnes of admin time, what they also needed was more feedback from the community they were supporting. Too often CSR staff would talk of the frustrations caused by giving something to a community and never hearing back. CSR staff wanted to collect stats, stories and even photos or video of the difference a contribution made. They wanted to use this to showcase their great community work; understand their employee engagement; measure social value; or to evaluate the use of their grants.

We have worked closely with community organizations and businesses over the last year to find the right way to elicit this feedback. It?s win/win because the more quality information the community groups share with a business, the more likely they are to get additional support in the future.

What we found is that community organizations will provide valuable feedback, if the process is as low friction as possible. So we built a system that automatically follows up community organizations after they have received a donation, grant or been the recipient of volunteering hours. Over 6 months trialing we have found the best way to do this is via a series of emails and text messages. These need to be perfectly timed to prime the community group on the feedback required and then to give them a low friction way (via text message or using a mobile app) to report their feedback directly to the business.

The results, have even surprised ourselves! Our customers are receiving feedback from up to 75% of recipients, with no effort at all on their part. And even better than this, when their feedback comes directly into their Thrive CSR portal, managers have a choice of how to use it; share directly to their web, intranet or social channels at the click of a button; incorporate into social value calcs, or add it to monthly or annual reports to showcase their amazing community impact.

It’s really exciting to see! So if you aren?t getting valuable feedback from your community giving, consider implementing an approach as we?ve described above. If you would like to know how our Thrive CSR software could help chat to us today.

Learn more about Thrive