Social Impact Counts: Mobilizing a Diverse Workforce for Good
The one-two punch dealt to nonprofits in the year of COVID was a vicious one. At a time when job losses and economic downturn left individuals needing support services more than ever, donors who normally keep community organizations afloat were caught in the devastation themselves. From food insecurity to domestic violence, the stress of 2020 drove up the need for nonprofits who were often hanging on by a thread. With the vulnerabilities laid bare, now is the time to usher in a new era of corporate giving — one focused on inclusion and skill as much as on financials.
Emerging from a year of heightened social activism on a global scale, there is also a directive aimed at businesses to engage more around social issues, both inside and outside the office. It’s no longer enough to simply put out a statement, join a board or operate on a surface level. Today’s consumers want to know as much about the causes a company champions and the relevant work done around them as they do about a business’s products and services. Stepping up in a meaningful way will be key for organizations navigating today’s socially conscious landscape.
Companies looking to attract top talent need to demonstrate a commitment to social activism in order to be a sought-after employer. A recent study found that many employees would consider quitting their current job to work for an employer with demonstrated engagement around the social issues that matter to them. The same report found that employees are nearly twice as likely to claim high job satisfaction when a business takes a strong stance around current societal and cultural concerns.
Leading the way in demanding more social accountability from employers are Millennials, a group estimated to make up 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025. Already considered to be a purpose-driven demographic, Millennials overwhelmingly report a sense of heightened responsibility to drive positive change in the post-pandemic landscape. In evaluating job prospects, they report a need to work for organizations that foster innovative thinking, develop their skills, and make a positive contribution to society.
By capitalizing on the collective input of a diverse, empowered workforce, organizations can fuel relevant, long-lasting impact within nonprofits who benefit from their knowledge and specializations. At the same time, businesses can attract expertise from within a growing talent pool and strengthen retention by fostering employee trust in an inclusive ecosystem.
Inclusion and Psychological Safety
When assembling an internal team to direct meaningful efforts around social issues, organizations must include members of those populations most impacted. In my experience as an executive director, I’ve seen time and time again that bringing a set of diverse, representative voices to the table enables productive dialogue and opens the door to nonprofit organizations from multiple spheres of influence.
Bringing women to the forefront of these partnerships, as through our recent Women Build event, shines a light on the important role women play on both sides of the nonprofit-corporate supporter relationship. The same effort is underway for diverse voices to collaborate on our social justice initiative in June.
For these conversations to be most effective, individuals need to know that they are contributing in a psychologically safe space, that they can voice divergent viewpoints authentically without fear of negative consequences or retribution. The same applies to nonprofit organizations, where inclusivity is often presumed but can always benefit from a refreshed influx of differing viewpoints.
When an employer or a nonprofit leader intentionally fosters a climate in which unique voices are valued, that inclusion opens up possibilities, generates ideas, and ultimately leads to empowerment within the organization. When that energy is turned outward, active commitment to change benefits both business entities and the nonprofits they support.
In addition to varied backgrounds and lived experiences, a diverse and inclusive corporate culture blends distinct skillsets that can be utilized to advance social initiatives. While manual and trade-based skills are needed for specific community-based projects, like those focused on building structures or running events, there are far-reaching opportunities within the digital landscape as well.
Drawing upon the input of an inclusive workforce, corporate entities can use skilled volunteerism to blend meaningful team-building with business acumen designed to take nonprofits to the next level. An organization with free access to expertise in digital marketing, finance technology, or design, for example, can use that opportunity to better position themselves to attract donors and maximize fundraising efforts.
Businesses today are better positioned than ever before to cultivate a diverse work environment and to capitalize on the range of voices that diversity brings to the conversation. By listening, organizations can let those voices lead the way toward meaningful social impact both in and out of the office, raising up vital nonprofits at the same time.
With a background in technology program management and strategy, Sima Parekh supports organizations through transformation, execution and growth. She is the director of operations strategy and programs at IHG Hotels and Resorts and also serves as the executive director at 48in48. 48in48 is a nonprofit organization that hosts hackathon-style events that create free websites for small nonprofits. Over the past six years, she has held various roles at 48in48 prior to taking over as executive director. In the past year, she pivoted the organization from hosting onsite events to 100% virtual events. Her skills in strategy and execution have allowed her to help 48in48 continue to, not only, survive but excel during the pandemic.