How Social Impact Can Drive Employee Engagement

Originally posted on

I recently had the opportunity to moderate a MassTLC panel featuring four leaders in the Boston tech industry who are effectively leveraging social impact programming to drive employee engagement, recruitment, and retention.  Before introducing the panel, I asked the audience to raise their hands if they had a ping-pong table in their offices (or any other tabletop game) or if they ever serve alcohol to employees (via a beer cart, for example).  Quickly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the room was filled with raised hands. 

So yes, the tech scene is fun… but this trend exposes two concerning realities for recruiters.

First, it is clear that perks like free beer and ping-pong tables have become the norm for Boston-area tech companies.  The “fun office” pitch is simply the price of admission in the war on talent.  Take five minutes to browse the recruiting page of any Boston-area tech company, and you are almost guaranteed to see photo collages of pub games, beer, and happy employees in sunglasses.  If everyone has these perks, they are quite obviously no longer differentiators nor unique in their ability to recruit the very best talent. 

A second, perhaps more fundamental concern about this trend, is that many of these companies are conflating “ping pong” with “culture,” seemingly checking the culture box by showing that they have classic arcade games or piles of snacks.  The reality, as we all know, is that culture runs much deeper than these superficial perks and comes in many forms that can be built from the ground-up with enough organizational buy-in and commitment to the company’s mission....

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Thanks to Donald Trump, Corporate Social Responsibility Just Became Mainstream

And just like that, the new corporate social responsibility is born.

When the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) began to gain traction among mainstream consumers more than a decade ago, corporate champions of the movement were heralded for developing programs primarily focused on enhancing the greater good, though often at the expense of the bottom line.  Over time, we have seen CSR leaders create programs that elegantly and strategically weave together business and social/environmental goals.

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Is This the End of the Charity Gala?

By Reed Bundy

Originally posted on TriplePundit (December 19, 2016)

While running corporate philanthropy at a public company, I received thousands of emails and letters requesting sponsorships for various nonprofit events. The majority of inquiring organizations approached corporate philanthropy the same way as 30 years ago: Sponsor our event, buy a table, give us a copy of your logo to display.  But amidst an exploding and socially-engaged workforce, the charity gala is quickly becoming a relic of traditional philanthropy — falling short in driving real, sustained engagement with donors.

The charity gala was the hallmark of traditional checkbook philanthropy for decades, and the majority of these events follow the same formula: Hold the event in a hotel or convention space with an hour of cocktails followed by a chicken dinner, a video and/or speaker to heighten emotions, and then an hour (or more) of the dreaded, drawn-out live auction with the local celebrity.  

For many organizations, this formula works well, at least as a once-a-year fundraising boost that caters to the largest donors in the room.  Yet, when talking to so many of these organizations, I am often asked how they can stimulate repeat, year-round and multi-year engagement with donors.

Employee engagement is supplanting the charity gala

Parallel to the endless slate of charity galas, employee engagement has emerged as central to the successful modern corporate responsibility program.  

The days of simply writing a large check to meet a corporate responsibility quota have long since passed, with millennials insisting that their employers have programs that enable genuine, sustained engagement within the community.  To that end, nonprofits need to build relationships with corporations that go well beyond a few well-placed logos at the annual event.  For an increasing number of corporate philanthropy managers who are asked to sponsor an event, the primary filtering mechanism is now to ask the question: “How can our employees get involved?”  

At a gala, corporate tables are often filled with executives and last-minute additions who otherwise have no direct connection to the organization.  But an event that incorporates and engages a critical mass of employees through volunteerism, pro-bono service, personal interaction and a little bit of fun can help create the next generation of millennial supporters and, more importantly, advocates.

For corporate responsibility professionals who ultimately need to convince the executive team or board of certain social investments, the argument to increase funding is far more convincing if they can point to an army of happy employees who have a personal connection to a specific organization.  Recruiting and retaining top talent is one of the most essential strategic investments of most growing companies, so integrating a corporate responsibility strategy into the employee benefit program is absolutely aligned with most businesses’ priorities.

Nonprofits that want to secure lasting, meaningful relationships with corporations need to embrace the reality that the old model of corporate philanthropy no longer appeals to most growing companies.  

Rather than eliminate galas entirely, fundraising professionals should consider supplementary events and engagements that can draw in younger supporters who may be more inclined to become ambassadors for a new class of repeat donors.  

One executive director of a local nonprofit that supports at-risk youth once told me that she’ll never hold a formal gala, instead opting for smaller, more intimate events where attendees can engage directly with the organization’s young beneficiaries.  It was at one of these smaller events that I not only reaffirmed my company’s support for the organization, but also opened up my own wallet to become a personal supporter.

The next generation of donors does not want to sit through a plated dinner in order to demonstrate their commitment to an organization.  They want to get their hands dirty, get to know the people they are helping, and make a personal connection with that organization (and then, of course, share their activity all over social media).  Organizations looking to drive sustained relationships with donors need to recognize that the new corporate philanthropy is driven by engagement first, not checkbooks.  

The patient nonprofit executive director will be rewarded when he or she looks at corporate philanthropy through the lens of employees, putting employee engagement ahead of monetary donations.  Putting employee engagement first will open up new and sustained avenues for donations, drive more meaningful corporate relationships, and perhaps even spare us from one more serving of chicken at the next charity gala.

The Giving Tuesday Paradox

The Giving Tuesday Paradox


Founded in 2012, Giving Tuesday has enabled nonprofits to raise a staggering amount of money over a short period of time, with more than $166 million raised last year alone.  As Giving Tuesday continues to grow, the scale of its impact may be the very thing that threatens its long-term success unless participating nonprofits, particularly the smallest organizations, understand the strategic opportunities - and limitations - of this single day of philanthropy.


Several years ago, while working on a project in Mumbai, I wandered into a marketplace to explore a sampling of local crafts.  Knowing that I would be returning home in a matter of days, I was intent on picking up a few choice souvenirs.  Perhaps sensing my eagerness to make a few purchases, vendors bombarded me from all sides, clamoring to grab my attention, push merchandise, and insist that their product was superior.  Feeling overwhelmed from the start, I left the market that afternoon having purchased nothing.


With each passing year, my inbox on Giving Tuesday feels more and more like that marketplace in Mumbai.  The paradox of choice and the sheer noise on a single day has left many donors feeling overwhelmed and even irritated, and the number of solicitations is only expected to grow this year.  An over-reliance on a single day of fundraising not only exposes an organization to increased risk and potentially siphons off support provided at other times of the year, but also fails to recognize the long-term, strategic relationship needed between a nonprofit and its donor base.  


When thinking about a donor’s reaction to a Giving Tuesday email solicitation, one can expect one of two likely results: Either your email is ignored (sadly, the more likely scenario) or a transaction takes place, hopefully in the form of a large donation.  But what if Giving Tuesday was about more than that single transaction?  What if Giving Tuesday was treated less like a one-off solicitation and more like a matchmaking opportunity for nonprofits to find and create relationships that are driven by repeat donor engagement opportunities well beyond the checkbook? What if, instead of asking their donor base to click “Donate”, they asked them to instead serve as an ambassador to the organization and share its mission with their friends, family, and social networks over the holidays, arming these ambassadors with collateral, videos, and personal stories?  What if every political post on Facebook was replaced with personal stories of triumph thanks to your local nonprofit?


At the core of any innovative fundraising strategy, regardless of what day it falls, is to acknowledge that the next generation of donors is looking to do more than just click “Donate”.  This emerging donor base, driven by socially-mindful and social-media savvy Millennials, are seeking a sustained, personal relationship with the organizations that they support.  This type of relationship rarely comes with a 24-hour campaign that is centered on raising dollars. The true measurement of a donor base comes in sustained, repeat engagement - not single-day totals.


Giving Tuesday will continue to grow and thrive so long as participating organizations recognize the need to build a fundraising campaign beyond that single day, not around it.  The power to drive meaningful social change needs to start, not end, with Giving Tuesday.  The onus falls on every participating nonprofit and donor to be the catalyst for that engaged conversation.  The end result will hopefully be a fundraising and engagement model where giving happens every day of the year.


Learn more about #GivingTuesday at

Solve for "Why" - The Beginning of ethostrategies

I am thrilled to announce today as Day 1 in the life of my new company, ethostrategies.  I’ve come to this day after months (actually, years) of consideration, and ultimately feel like the time is right to venture out and create a resource for companies that will empower them to do more good in the world.

I am a firm believer in Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “Start with Why”, which is why I intend to build my business around this very simple idea: Your business - no matter the size - is not driven by WHAT you do, but by WHY you do it.  Your employees don’t just want to come to work to do their jobs.  They want to come to work because they are a part of a movement.  A clearly articulated “why” is what will get your employees out of bed and fired up to come to the office every day, and connecting your employees with a strategic social mission is an integral part of a genuine and meaningful “why”.

In the world of corporate social responsibility (CSR), writing a big check or holding one big service day per year is simply no longer enough.  Employees, customers, and investors are asking for more: CSR programming that is integrated, strategic, and deeply personal.  When a company effectively creates meaningful CSR programming, their “why” becomes that much more alive and actionable.  Working at Constant Contact for the past six years, I felt great coming to work because I knew we were doing everything in our power to make our customers and their communities more successful.  Our “why” got me started and kept me engaged every day.

The ethostrategies model is simple: Find those companies that are not only offering incredible products and services, but are also primed to build out a strategic CSR program that connects all of their key stakeholders, particularly their employees.  My vision with ethostrategies is a world where companies of ALL sizes have CSR programs, not for PR purposes or to offset some negative externality, but because they recognize the deep connection between social impact, an engaged workforce and a loyal customer base.

Just here in Boston, we are seeing extraordinary growth with new companies sprouting up every day that have the power and the mindset to truly change the world.  At ethostrategies, we will find those companies, harness their energy, and empower them to use their powers for good.

Join us in the movement.  Starting with “Why”, and starting… now.