Key Takeaways and Aha! Moments from Benevity Live! 2024

Top insights from the leading social impact conference


Published on May 22, 2024

Anyone who’s ever attended the Benevity Live! conference comes away saying, “You just had to be there.” If you wish you had been (or just want to relive it all again!), we’re sharing the Aha! moments and standout takeaways from Benevity Live! 2024.  

Benevity’s flagship conference brings together purpose-driven professionals from around the world to share insights and strategies about the future of social impact.

In a year marked by challenges like ESG and DEI backlash, ongoing global conflicts and deepening political and economic divides, companies stepped up in a big way and leaned in as changemakers. They recognize that CSR investments can increase both social and business impact and over 1,000 of these changemakers representing 550+ brands joined Benevity Live! 2024 to affirm their commitment to the greater good.

Read on for the five key takeaways from the social impact event of the year. 

Takeaway #1: Demonstrate that social impact delivers business value

Companies are moving past the react-and-respond phase of the early 2020s, which was dominated by crisis relief. They’re going back to their roots, tying their social impact strategies more directly to their corporate values to ensure agility and resilience for their communities and their programs. This approach is further fueled by the current economic environment and the need for every business unit to demonstrate value and return on investment. 


Brian Tippens, Cisco’s SVP and Chief Social Impact Officer joined Sona Khosla, Benevity’s Chief Impact Officer, for a fireside chat and first ever live recording of the Speaking of Purpose podcast (out this Fall!) to talk about how social impact creates tangible business value and how Cisco was able to prove this.

Aha! Moment:

“I think our challenge as impact leaders is to be able to talk about the impact on lives, impact on communities, the work we do that drives positive change but importantly, how it ties back to the work of the business. Otherwise our programs are not as
sticky as they could be.”

— Brian Tippens, SVP and Chief Social Impact Officer,


Cisco exceeded their ambitious goal to get at least 80% of their 85,000 team members engaged in social impact actions in just four years. And they published a longitudinal study tying those impressive employee participation metrics right back to business value. Of the people that took at least one social impact action:

  • attrition decreased
  • bonuses climbed
  • recognition from teammates rose
  • promotion rates increased (when compared to individuals who didn’t take a social impact action)

The need to show impact data was echoed in Benevity’s survey of 400+ impact leaders in the State of Corporate Purpose 2024 (launched at Benevity Live!) — 89% are being asked to show how the impact generated by their CSR initiatives is being measured.

Takeaway #2: Embrace outcomes-driven philanthropy

A groundswell of companies are moving beyond inputs like number of dollars donated or volunteer hours logged. They're shifting to quantify outcomes like the number of people they’re assisting with access to essentials like food, shelter and healthcare. And nowhere did the message resonate more than during the opening keynote session.

Attendees were on the edge of their seats for every heartfelt minute that renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés was on stage. He founded World Central Kitchen, which responds to climate, humanitarian and community crises around the world and has served over 350 million meals to those
in need.


Prior to World Central Kitchen, José was inspired by DC Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger to join the nonprofit as a cook, transforming food waste into meals that were then feeding 10,000 people a day. 

José urged the importance of investing in solutions and delivering outcomes rather than just throwing money at a problem, advocating that we think of philanthropy as an investment.


Aha! Moment:

“Robert Egger told me…doing good is not good enough. We all must do a ‘smart good.’ We all need to be using philanthropy dollars as a tool of investment with a true understanding of what the return is. [He said] that philanthropy was about the redemption of the giver. What philanthropy has to become is about the liberation of the receiver.”

— José Andrés, Founder and Chief Feeding Officer,
World Central Kitchen


José’s message is reflected in data from Benevity’s State of Corporate Purpose 2024, which shows the top increase in budget within CSR in 2024 will be in impact data and measurement. And 90% of leaders say more impact data will increase investments. Over the next five years, as the focus shifts toward outcomes, the adoption of standardized data, measurement and reporting will increase substantially. 

Takeaway #3: Employee Resource Groups are now business critical

Employee resource groups (ERGs) have transcended their DEI origins and are now integral to all areas of the business. Data from the State of Corporate Purpose 2024 shows that 81% of companies say ERGs are being consulted more often by departments like HR, communications and marketing, where they bring perspectives on the needs of diverse communities, add authenticity to crisis responses and influence social impact strategies, funding and decision-making.

Benevity’s Founder and Chief Enthusiast, Bryan de Lottinville, hosted a panel to discuss changing workforce dynamics across generations. Panelist Maceo Owens, CEO and Founder of The ERG Movement, aptly described ERGs as “the intersection of employee engagement, DEI, learning and development and community service”.


Unlike broad employee engagement programs that are created for all employees, Maceo believes the specific nature of ERGs provides an opportunity to personalize the employee experience at scale.

Aha! Moment:

“We all show up differently in the workplace and we want to engage differently. [With ERGs], employees can get more from their work experience and ideally that will make them want to stay longer.”

— Maceo Owens, CEO and Founder,
The ERG Movement


In his session, “Embracing Affinity Groups for Impactful Change,” Victor Villegas, Regional DEI Manager for DPR Construction, spoke about relaunching ERGs during the pandemic so employees could feel more connected. Allowing deskless employees to sign up with their personal email addresses made their program more inclusive and over the past year 10% of their employees who have joined ERGs are using Benevity Affinity Groups to stay connected.


Takeaway #4: Drive deeper impact through volunteering 

Volunteering is capturing the spotlight this year as more companies are using it to strengthen employee connection. 

Benevity Live! brought enthusiastic participants together for micro volunteering opportunities — potting succulents and assembling care packages for seniors at the Mizell Center and making bandanas and bedding for animals at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.


With an unprecedented number of active volunteers in the last year, logging over 20 million hours on the Benevity platform (a 41% YoY increase), companies are now reimagining the possibilities and evolving their programs. While companies have embraced volunteering in the past few years to connect remote and hybrid employees, as more people transition back to the office, they’re now looking to drive deeper impact through skills-based volunteering and board service programs.

In her session, eBay’s Senior Manager of Employee Engagement, Tiana Austel, talked about infusing the principles of trust-based philanthropy into their volunteering program by focusing on their Changemakers, a small group of passionate employees who help eBay connect to the communities where their employees live and work. 

eBay’s Changemakers in Ireland, for example, focus on the company’s five-year funding commitment to Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. They’re trusted and empowered to co-create the relationships — meeting with grantees monthly, inviting them to speak, conducting 1:1 skills-based mentorship of their entrepreneurs and more.

Even with the staggering increase in volunteer hours over the last year, global volunteer participation rates within the Benevity community are still averaging under 10%. In her opening keynote, Benevity CEO Kelly Schmitt reminded everyone of the huge opportunity to bring new volunteers in the door and engage them over time to drive even deeper impact for communities, companies and employees alike.



Aha! Moment:

“You really are the helpers the world is desperately looking for right now. And it’s not just about the billions of dollars and millions of hours of time you’re investing in your communities. These numbers are important, but it’s because of the tangible difference they help make in people’s lives. Not to mention the sense of purpose and pride that your employees feel when they
get engaged.”

— Kelly Schmitt, CEO,


Takeaway #5: Embrace an
impact mindset

We’re living in a time of increasing polarity, crises and inequity and companies must adapt quickly and build resiliency to survive and thrive. As the most trusted institution according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses must rise to meet the expectations of their employees, consumers and stakeholders to have a positive impact on the world.

Benevity Live! underscored that embracing an impact mindset is integral to building a sustainable culture — and a company that everyone can be proud of.


Winner of a 2024 Bestie Award for best-in-class approach and overall impact at The Goodies, Benevity’s Corporate Goodness Awards, Vancouver Airport Authority is a shining example of an impact mindset in action.

In her session, “Building creative strategic partnerships for impact,” Jody Armstrong, Vancouver Airport Authority’s Senior Social Impact Strategist, spoke about how strategic partnerships help the company root their values into everything they do.


For example, their five-year, $500,000 partnership with Pacific Autism Family Network began in 2021 with a shared vision to make travel accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Together, they opened Paper Planes Café, a first of its kind, inclusive and accessible restaurant at the airport that trains and employs individuals from the neurodiverse community. 

The café is just one of many initiatives that engage the airport’s employees and millions of travelers in supporting the neurodivergent community and further the company’s goal of providing meaningful inclusion for all.

Aha! Moment:

“We seek partnership opportunities that are purposeful by either connecting back to providing a better, more inclusive airport experience for our customers, and engaging our employees and airport community in a meaningful and positive way. I say airport ‘community,’ and that’s important.”

— Jody Armstrong, Senior Social Impact Strategist, 
Vancouver Airport Authority

Where do we go from here?

Benevity Live! has become the epicenter of impact for changemakers around the world who are dedicated to bridging divides, embracing diverse voices, collaborating and celebrating the progress we’ve made, all while making a commitment to further action. 

It’s tough out there but the Benevity community is focused on making room at our tables to create an even greater impact for our communities, our companies and our people.

“I think sharing a meal, showing respect to each other, cooking for others, inviting them to your table in essence is what humanity is all about. Let’s make sure that the loudest voices at the table are the voices of empathy, the voices of goodness, the voices that say, what is good for you is good for me and your table (and my table) will always be open for people we don’t know. If we do that, then we have a chance.”

— José Andrés, Founder and Chief Feeding Officer, 
World Central Kitchen


For a deeper dive into these trends and more that are shaping the future of social impact, read the State of Corporate Purpose 2024.