CSR Software 101: How to level up your social impact program 

In today's episode, you'll learn all about corporate social responsibility (CSR) software from what it does to how it helps social impact professionals with their employee engagement programs. We explore what features and capabilities to look for when buying and why implementation crucial for success.

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What we discussed:

Karl Yeh:  

So my special guest today is Kathryn Pisco, who is the [00:00:30] Director of Goodness Solutions with Benevity. And the topic we're going to discuss today is all about CSR software. So Kathryn, let's just get right into it.

How can CSR software actually help reduce workload when it comes to employee engagement for organizations?

What is CSR software?

Kathryn Pisco:

Oh, great question.

So CSR software, essentially the goal is to streamline and automate your CSR programs, make them easier, more user friendly, but also significantly reduced workload on the administrator side all while increasing your impact to nonprofits that you support as well as increasing employee engagement.

And so there's a couple ways that we really see the CSR software reduce kind of that workload on an organization.

How CSR software reduces workload for social impact programs

Helps put everything in one place

One is really just, if you can imagine it, many of our new partners that come to Benevity have previously been running their entire CSR [00:01:30] program off of a spreadsheet or through email.

And so you have things in all these different locations, it's not in one place, it's not streamlined. It's very difficult to get reporting out of it.

And so first and foremost, CSR software just allows you to have everything in one place and then really allow you to ditch those spreadsheets.

All reporting in one place

 It also allows you to have that holistic reporting in one place.

We hear so often that we know even more [00:02:00] volunteering is going on than what we're seeing, or we know people are really giving to causes they care about, but there's no way that we can capture all of that information.

And so one nice thing about having CSR software is that as your employees take action in the software, every action that they take is tracked, and then you can then report on it at the back end.

And so you can have a much more holistic view of what's happening in a much easier way.

Better user experience - reduce friction for employees to participate


And then I think also software allows for a better, more intuitive user experience.

So you're [00:02:30] reducing friction for your employees to participate in the programs and just by taking work out of their hands as well.

They no longer have to fill out a form, convert it to PDF, send it. Your AR team no longer has to cut checks to send disbursements.

Don't have to field questions alone from end users

And then finally, well I'm sure there's many more ways too, but one other thing I was thinking about is that we hear time and time again from our clients that by having some sort of software [00:03:00] in place and support system from a partner like Benevity or others, you don't have to field questions alone from your end user.

So from your employees.

And so that's a way that you can really cut down on the amount of an administrative burden across no longer having spreadsheets, being able to have that streamline reporting, a better user experience for your employees, everything in one place.

And then you're also getting much less questions from your employees.


Karl Yeh:

So when you talk [00:03:30] about better experience for employees, I've heard just from listening to various other organizations, them talking about like, it's kind of clunky for like, I have to fill out this to fill out either my volunteer hours or fill out this, this is how much I donated.

And then it's, I guess it's even more work for the administrator who has to take in all that information [00:04:00] and make sure it's somewhat coordinated and then to report that back to their team on how much was donated.

So, but I guess is it actually worth it to convert to an entire system because wouldn't you have to relearn everything and then make I guess, for all the employees have to, like, there's a lot of change management.

They'd have to learn a brand new system as well, right?

Learning new software vs status quo

Kathryn Pisco:

Well, there is a little bit [00:04:30] of change management in place whenever you convert from manual workflows to bringing things into technology.

But I would kind of just give an example of almost every other aspect of your life.

I get really upset if at the doctor, I have to go in and fill out a physical form instead of being able to fill it out online.

And so I think that's just one example, but when you look at how people live their lives in general, most things have converted from that really manual filling [00:05:00] out a piece of paper process to that whole online experience.

And so there is a little bit of change there, but it's so much more intuitive and user friendly for the employees that we actually see their engagement and involvement skyrocket.

So one thing that we always say at Benevity is our goal with the technology is to take away any sort of friction between your employees getting involved in a program.

And we've heard time and time again that it's confusing first [00:05:30] of all, very difficult to know if there's a multi-step process that's all offline, what's expected of the employees to fill out a match request or to track a volunteer hour.

It's also very difficult to follow that process when it's all one off emails, back and forth with attachments and things of that sort.

I was just in a conversation the other day, actually with a prospective client who said, and she was the person running their program and she said, I actually [00:06:00] have, she's like, don't tell anyone, I actually have $500 of match requests that I've donated that I haven't submitted yet to the company, because it is so frustrating to have to fill out all the paperwork.

And she's like, and I'm person that owns the program.

And so think about how many other people aren't doing these things to basically improve nonprofits and give money and volunteer just because it's that challenging.

And so one nice thing is I think as companies [00:06:30] look to evaluate technology partner, really making sure that that user interface is simple and intuitive because if that's the case, then while there is a little bit of change management, it's something a little bit different that they're doing as long as it's a better experience, we see that adopted quite easily.

And here at Benevity we actually don't have any need to even do any end user training because it's that intuitive.

Karl Yeh:

So speaking of actually what to look for in terms of features and capabilities, [00:07:00] like when a business is actually ready to take the step to potentially, acquiring a CSR software solution, what are some things that they should look for?

What features and capabilities to look for when buying CSR software?


Kathryn Pisco:

Yes, there's so many things that I could probably talk about.

I'll hit on some of the key ones that at least I would recommend in just through my conversations with current clients, perspective clients, other practitioners in this space.

Client Success and End User Support


First I'll mention, and this isn't necessarily a capability [00:07:30] of the technology, but something more that you look for in a partner and that is client success and end user support.

And so one advantage of partnering and purchasing technology to support your program is that it's no longer all on you where you're managing these spreadsheets.

You should have a whole team behind you.

I know here at Benevity we have over 45% of our Benevity team dedicated [00:08:00] towards client success.

We have a team that really supports the administrator, supports from a technology perspective as well.

And then we also have a whole end user care team.

And that, as an example, so I know when Visa joined as a client a few years ago, they estimated that their email requests coming from their employees decreased by about 75%, just because of our Benevity end user team, because we're able to field those questions, help them change their passwords, all [00:08:30] of that sort of thing.

And so as those requests dropped by 75% and they were saving on admin time, they more than doubled their giving, doubled the number of offices that were included.

And I think grew by about 250% on their volunteerism as well.

And so by having that support, that's something I would definitely ask when you're looking to partner with a technology company.

So one advantage of partnering and purchasing technology to support your program is that it's no longer all on you where you're managing these spreadsheets.

Some of the actual technological capabilities that you would look for as well.

Vetting and Security

And so [00:09:00] vetting and security are both very important in terms of making sure that you're partnering with a reputable company, certainly, but those are things that take a lot of time to manage when you're doing a manual program.

So at Benevity, for instance, we work with over two million nonprofits within our platform, all of them have been vetted by us and we do that continuously.

And so if you are running a program on your own or without [00:09:30] the support of a technology provider, chances are that it's on you or someone on your team to vet each and every cause that you give money to or want to volunteer with.

That takes a tremendous amount of time.

And it's just for a lot of our partners, just not scalable or feasible from a time perspective.


So another thing I was thinking about is disbursements.

So in current state, a lot of companies that don't have a technology [00:10:00] provider or a CSR software are processing all of the donations on their own.

A lot of times that looks like a process where you will work with your accounts receivable team, your accounts receivable team is sending out checks.

Those checks as we've seen data on, oftentimes get stale dated, or don't reach the nonprofit at the right time. It's actually challenging on the nonprofit side too, to cash those checks.

And so [00:10:30] from a disbursement perspective, I would look for a partner that can utilize electronic funds transfer, so EFT to disperse funds for you, make sure that you understand their process and that it's legit and that these funds get reconciled, but those are all things to ask.

It can save you and your overall team a tremendous amount of time, and it's actually typically much more cost effective as well to send those funds EFT.

Global Capabilities

And then global another piece.

Really important to [00:11:00] kind of make sure that your partner, if you are a global organization or would like your employees to give to, or volunteer to global causes around the world, really important to ask about those global capabilities.

This not only allows you to have a truly inclusive program where all of your employees are a part of it, but it allows you to have everything in one space, which really kind of streamlines that program.

We often see even Benevity clients that have maybe [00:11:30] just their North American employees on technology, but then some of their global employees not.

And so then it's up to each of those global offices to run things manually.

And so if your potential technology provider has a global capabilities, you're able to have everything in one space and have it really be streamlined.


Karl Yeh:

Is there something that businesses should know about CSR software related to causes in terms of anything that they should look for [00:12:00] that connects to the charities or causes that they work with?

Integration with charities/causes

I think there's a lot of things and I think it's important.

We're seeing more and more from not only our current clients, but perspective clients, that it's really important that a technology provider like Benevity supports our cause partners in many ways.

So I think asking what these CSR providers interactions are with our cause partners.

So that could include:

  • how they get causes within the platform,
  • how they disperse funds to these nonprofit partners
  • how they work with the nonprofits and connect the nonprofits to the corporate side of things
  • as well as the nonprofit side of things, any data that you're capturing from these nonprofits, 

We call it our causes portal or through a grant process where you're capturing data and information.

So I think it's important to ask about what the relationship and interaction looks like with our causes.

I also think [00:13:00] it's really important to understand I mentioned before the vetting process and disbursement process, these are two things.

One from the client side of things, from a corporate side of things, you want to feel that 100% you are comfortable with giving money to and volunteering with a cause.

You want to make sure that they are in good standing, that there hasn't been adverse media or any sort of dangerous thing going on with the causes, [00:13:30] that they're not highly risky.

And so that's something that we at Benevity can provide, really take the reputational risk away from our client partners on that.

And so it's, I think it's really important to dig into what that vetting process looks like.

Similarly, the disbursement process, that's something that not only can be a headache for a corporate client, but also for the cause partners.

Causes have told us on many occasions that they would prefer to receive [00:14:00] funds from Benevity than anyone else. Our fees are very low. It's transparent.

The money gets to them in a really timely fashion. They know when to expect it, they can go into the causes portal and check that as well.

And so I think from those aspects, it's just important to understand how the CSR software provider interacts with the causes.

Karl Yeh:

And the final question I have for you is in terms of implementation.

And I think you touched on this a little bit previously, but [00:14:30] what should companies look for in terms of implementing the actual software?

Because it's one thing about buying and having all these features, but the second thing is implementing it just right for your business.

What to look for with CSR software implementation?


Kathryn Pisco:

Yes. I think it's so important to ask a lot of questions before you decide to work and partner with a technology company like a Benevity or anyone else out there.

What does implementation look like?

The last thing you want is [00:15:00] to not have any implementation or very lean implementation.

While it might sound great oh, I can get going with them really quickly or cheaply, you really get what you pay for.


And so it's really important to kind of understand:

  • who will be supporting you in the implementation process,
  • what to expect from the days or weeks of implementation,
  • what the plan looks like,
  • how it's managed,
  • who the key stakeholders are, and
  • what the end goals are.

So recommend having [00:15:30] maybe a statement of work, put in place, understanding which stakeholders to loop in both now and in the future as well.

We constantly, I'm proud to have such a robust implementation at Benevity, but I think it can look a little bit different for every technology provider.

So just making sure that you really ask every question and don't overlook that, oh, great.

We know that they'd be a great partner, but really understand how you're going to get there instead of just, you wouldn't know how to drive a rocket ship if [00:16:00] someone just handed you the keys, you need that whole instruction manual and that step by step.

And so similarly you want to make sure that you're guided and trained and fully implemented and really understand what's custom, what's configurable.

What is outside the box. All of those questions are important to ask.

Karl Yeh:

And so, Kathryn do you have anything else to add in terms of what businesses should know about CSR software?

Kathryn Pisco:

Why it's so important for employees now, especially to engage. [00:16:30] CSR software, it's been shown with data that when companies implement CSR software, employee engagement tends to increase for many reasons.

And we've actually seen that there's a huge problem now with employee engagement.

I think we'll be talking about the great resignation a little bit later, but even prior to that, Gallup was estimating that only about 33%, so a third of employees out there are engaged at work.

Over 50% [00:17:00] are disengaged and 16% are actively disengaged.

And these disengaged employees cost companies money.

But when employees are engaged, productivity increases, absenteeism decreases, there's less likely to turn over.

And so we've seen that

by engaging employees around giving, volunteering, matching gifts, taking small actions, all contribute to more engagement and happier employees.

And leaves employees feeling more satisfied in their jobs, a deeper connection to the company they work for.

And so I think just understanding the why behind it as well, of course, that streamline in automatization is huge, but it's really important right now and has always been.

But I think even more right now to really engage employees because there is such a disengagement problem, I think going on across the country right now.

Question of the Day:

What other tips would you add when looking to purchase and implement CSR software for your business?