Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are an effective way for businesses to engage employees while also boosting their reputation through corporate citizenship. In fact, 72% of consumers state they are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t.
However, deciding you want to launch a CSR program is just the first step. To be effective, philanthropy needs to be organized. This enables you to maximize your resource allocation, ensure you’re helping reputable causes, and accurately report your impact to employees and consumers.
One key element of modern CSR programs is software. CSR software for businesses enables you to track every aspect of your philanthropic activities, helping you make the biggest impact possible.
To help, this guide will explore the essentials of CSR software by looking at:
- What is CSR Software?
- 5 Features to Look for in CSR Software
- How to Implement Your CSR Software: 5 Steps
Sponsorships, corporate volunteerism, workplace giving, and other CSR efforts have the potential to make a real difference in your community. The right software will aid your efforts to keep you on track, make your processes more efficient, and help you do good in the world.
What is CSR Software?
CSR software is essentially any business-oriented software solution that enables for-profit organizations to participate in CSR activities. As such, CSR software encompasses platforms with a variety of functionalities, including management tools for:
- Employee giving
- Corporate volunteerism
- Relief funds
Essentially, any philanthropic activity that your company might participate in is likely to have a corresponding CSR software solution you can invest in. Note that many CSR platforms will have features to facilitate multiple types of corporate giving. However, different software has different focus areas, so consider what type of program you want to launch before looking into platforms.
5 Features to Look for in CSR Software
Once you know what type of philanthropy program you want to launch, you can start creating a list of top CSR platforms you’re considering. Assess these candidates based on their user-friendliness, how well they align with your budget, and whether they have the necessary features.
While your priorities will depend on your specific corporate giving program, a few top features to look for include:
1. Employee Giving Features
While there are types of corporate philanthropy that don’t involve employees, using a solution with employee giving program features will put your business in a good position to start one if you later have an interest in doing so. And many corporations end up launching some sort of giving program for their employees as it lets them have an active role in helping their communities.
For example, one popular type of employee giving program that highly benefits from software is matching gifts. Here’s a breakdown of technology’s role in this specific CSR program:
- Employees check their matching gift eligibility. Create a dedicated space on your website or through your employee CSR portal that outlines your matching gift requirements. Putting this information online makes it easy for matching gift databases to access it. That way, employees who donate to nonprofits that use matching gift software can easily check their eligibility.
- Employees access matching gift applications. Let employees conveniently fill out your matching gift application online. Some CSR software even has matching gift auto-submission features, which allow employees to complete their applications in just a few clicks. Here’s a video walking through the basics of our auto-submission software:
- The business receives and approves applications. Once applications are submitted, your CSR platform can keep them organized. This allows for a more streamlined review process compared to paper applications where it’s possible to lose forms or receive incomplete ones.
Matching gifts are an especially effective type of CSR program because they give employees an extra incentive to participate. After all, 84% of donors state that they’re more likely to make a donation if they know it will be matched.
2. Reporting Tools
Employees and consumers want to interact with businesses that engage in corporate philanthropy. Make sure your CSR software will equip you with the reporting tools you need to gather data, keep it organized, and create reports showing your impact.
Reporting tools allow you to understand how well your CSR initiatives are performing, if resources should be allocated differently, and what tangible difference you have made. For a real-life example, let’s talk about a trend we saw in 2023. Many companies that previously paused their matching gift programs started them back up partly due to data demonstrating their importance.
Additionally, reporting helps you maintain transparency. Employees who participate in a workplace giving program want to know that their contributions are going to specific nonprofits that then use them to fulfill their missions. Plus, straightforward reports on your philanthropic spending will be useful when completing your business’s tax forms.
3. Nonprofit Vetting
Some CSR platforms connect corporations with a list of trusted nonprofits or provide them with the tools to vet nonprofits’ credentials. Ensuring you’re working with reputable organizations is essential for making an impact through your philanthropic efforts.
Software that provides a database of nonprofits looking for sponsorships, business partnerships, and other CSR assistance can also help you find new organizations to support. For example, you might search for small local nonprofits that do important work but get overlooked when compared to nationally known charitable organizations.
If your business only wants to work with specific types of nonprofits, databases with filtering tools can be incredibly useful. For example, you might set your parameters to exempt religious organizations, show only organizations that receive a certain amount of revenue annually, and sort by proximity to your business’s headquarters.
You can use this information to determine which organizations you’ll support and even provide a list to employees as part of your workplace giving program. They might appreciate having a range of organizations to support.
When choosing a CSR vendor, ask them about their vetting process, specifically what criteria they use. Some systems have different weights that can inadvertently penalize small but still reputable organizations.
4. Vendor Support
Purchasing any new software application is a major investment, and businesses need CSR software solutions that come from reliable vendors. Research vendor reviews from past clients to get trustable opinions on their professionalism, experience, and helpfulness. Specifically, look up whether the vendor provides the following:
- Onboarding. Does the vendor hold onboarding sessions with companies to help them set up their software? Some vendors will have a team member walk you through the implementation process. In contrast, others will refer you to their trusted technology consulting partners, and a few may even leave your organization to figure it out yourself.
- Training resources. Along with the software, what other resources does the vendor provide? This will likely come in the form of documentation about how to use basic features of the software, but some providers go above and beyond by creating training video series you can watch at any time. Thorough training resources are especially important to have for growing companies and those in high-turnover fields as you’ll regularly need to get new employees up to speed.
- Technical support. If you encounter a technical issue, will the vendor be able to help? Vendors offer multiple types of technical support systems such as emailed support tickets, phone support, and 24-hour live chat. Ensure whatever vendor you partner with is easy to get in touch with and will provide support from a human.
Buying new software can be a lengthy process, so make the most of this time by getting to know your potential providers. Request demos, ask questions, and check reviews of their software to make a fully informed decision before committing to a purchase.
5. User Convenience
It’s possible but difficult to run a low-tech CSR program. This method involves keeping physical forms organized long-term, which means you’ll need a good printer and lots of file cabinet space. These systems also tend to be slower and require more effort on both your employees and leadership’s parts, lowering participation.
In contrast, software enables you to keep all relevant program information in one location that anyone with a computer and internet connection can access. This can help you engage remote employees, speed up your programs, and stay organized.
For example, let’s take a closer look at one CSR feature we discussed earlier: matching gift auto-submission.
Auto-submission is a new technology in the CSR space, but it can make matching gifts a significantly faster and easier process. Here’s a comparison of the matching gift request process with and without auto-submission:
- A donor makes a contribution as normal.
- A donor is provided with their match eligibility information if the nonprofit has matching gift software. If not, the donor will need to look up their employer’s matching gift information themselves.
- The donor navigates to your CSR portal to fill out a matching gift application.
- The donor looks up information required for the application, such as the nonprofit’s tax ID and mailing address.
- If your CSR has a matching gift search feature, the donor can be automatically connected with the information they need about the nonprofit they gave to. Otherwise, they will need to fill in the information by hand and hope that it’s correct.
- The donor provides the rest of the needed information about their gift, such as how much they gave, when they donated, and what payment method they used.
- The donor confirms this information is accurate and submits the matching gift request.
- The matching gift request is submitted and sent to the appropriate parties at your business for review.
- A donor makes a gift on the nonprofit’s website as normal.
- If the nonprofit has matching gift software (which is required for auto-submission), the donor can enter their workplace email to be connected with their employer’s application form.
- The donor chooses to have the gift automatically completed for them, and the matching gift request is sent to your business for review.
Any technology that can cut down an eight-step process to a three-step process is worth considering. Participating in CSR programs is entirely voluntary, and user-friendly software can make all the difference in whether or not your employees decide to engage.
How to Implement Your CSR Software: 5 Steps
Once you’ve chosen your CSR software, you’ll need to plan your implementation. This involves not just setting up your software but gaining employee buy-in as well.
This process will vary based on your business’s past experiences with CSR programs, but in general, businesses can follow these five steps:
1. Develop Your CSR Program
Your chosen software manages your CSR program, so ensure you know what type of CSR program you intend to launch and how you’ll configure the software to facilitate it.
For example, you might choose a CSR software solution with matching gift functionalities to promote your employee giving program. From there, you’ll need to develop that matching gift program and set up your CSR software to:
- Allow employees to complete matching gift applications online. Consider the requirements your business will put in place for this CSR initiative, such as minimum and maximum donation amounts, which types of organizations are supported, and whether part-time and retired employees can also participate. Then, make your forms accessible on your website or an employee portal through your CSR software.
- Review matching gift applications. Once applications are submitted, your software should keep them organized for review and approval. Determine how you’ll conduct the review process or even if it will be automated if all form fields are filled correctly.
- Distribute matching gift funds. Consider how matching donations will be delivered. Will you use your CSR software to handle contributions automatically? How will you ensure you have enough funds available for matching gifts? Is there a target amount you want your program to distribute through matching gifts?
These questions are a combination of fleshing out your CSR program and your software’s role. Make sure the process for participating in any CSR programs is fully ironed out before presenting it to employees or consumers to avoid questions, confusion, or mishaps.
2. Host a Training Session
As with any new software you implement, determine how you will train employees to use it. This might involve sending out a recording and detailed instructions on how to use the software, hosting a live demo, or even having members of your CSR vendor’s team conduct the training session for you.
Whichever method you choose, be sure to create detailed documentation that covers how to use the software, fixes for recurring technical issues, and information on how to handle system updates. When you hire new employees or if a member of your technical team leaves, this documentation will speed up training and ensure knowledge is maintained.
3. Promote CSR Participation
Once your software is set up, it’s time to promote your CSR activities like corporate volunteer days and employee giving. To do this, you need to make your employees aware of your programs and motivate them to participate.
Lack of knowledge of CSR programs is more prevalent than you might realize. For instance, 78% of donors are unaware of whether their employer offers a matching gift program, leaving a lot of money on the table that’s earmarked for philanthropy.
Make sure your employees know about and are incentivized to participate in CSR by implementing strategies like these:
- Provide regular program updates. Make updating your employees about your CSR programs a routine part of your communication. This helps communicate your impact and reminds employees to participate.
- Offer freedom of choice. Employees want to give to the causes they care about in the method that works best for them. While you may want to impose certain limitations on what types of nonprofits your business will support, opening up your employee giving program to a wide range of organizations can boost participation by giving individual employees more control over their contributions.
- Organize structured activities. Sometimes the easiest way to get employees involved in CSR activities is to make it a part of their day. Rather than encouraging employees to volunteer on their own time, you might plan a formal corporate volunteer day where your entire team volunteers at a nonprofit together. Or, you might discuss signing up for automatic payroll deductions with employees when they first join your business to get them to contribute to an employee assistance fund.
Additionally, employees may advocate for the creation of new CSR programs. Consider employee requests, the costs and benefits of these programs, and whether your current software is equipped to handle them. In some cases, you might find your CSR platform can already facilitate what your employees are asking for.
4. Gather Employee Feedback
After rolling out your new CSR software, be open to employee questions, suggestions, and frustrations. Workplace giving programs only succeed when employees buy into them, and ensuring that employee voices are heard and concerns are addressed is the first step to attaining that buy-in.
Create formal surveys and ask questions like:
- How easy is the software to use?
- Does it feel like any features or processes are missing?
- Is it clear how your donations are being collected and used?
- Have you experienced any technical difficulties since the software’s implementation?
- Have there been any notable improvements to CSR programs since the software’s implementation?
This feedback can help you make targeted improvements to your CSR program and point to future software upgrades. For example, you might learn that many employees are unaware your CSR software has corporate volunteerism functionality and send out written directions or a recording of someone navigating the platform showing how to access them. Or, you may learn that certain processes are slow and dissuade employees from participating in them, leading you to consider a new CSR software solution altogether.
Keep a record of employee feedback and refer back to it when announcing changes in your CSR program to demonstrate your commitment to listening to employees. This can not only boost buy-in for specific CSR initiatives but also help improve your workplace culture in general.
5. Explore Newly Added Features
When implementing your CSR software, take the time to explore all of its features. CSR vendors continuously update their platforms to provide better, more convenient corporate giving experiences, and a new update might bring new functionalities that improve your CSR program.
For one example, we previously discussed new technology for matching gifts, auto-submission. As the technology sees wider adoption, more CSR vendors may allow users to turn on auto-submission, enabling businesses’ employees to submit their matching gift applications in seconds.
Since your initial purchase, check if your CSR platform offers new tools like auto-submission or any other feature that will improve your corporate philanthropy programs.
CSR Software: Final Thoughts
CSR software has evolved over the last few years, providing new, innovative ways to make corporate philanthropy as easy as possible. These platforms will continue evolving as well, inventing new features to improve convenience, transparency, and impact.
For businesses interested in getting started with CSR, choosing a software solution is a major first step. Along with what you’ve learned here, continue exploring the ins and outs of CSR with resources like these:
- What’s the Impact of CSR? FAQ & Key Benefits for Businesses. Looking for a straightforward explanation of what CSR can accomplish? Check out this guide that answers common questions businesses have.
- The Ultimate Fundraising Guide to Corporate Giving Programs. There are several CSR programs your business can implement. Discover the range of programs you can offer to choose the best one for your business.
- From Disengaged to Inspired: A Guide to Employee Engagement. CSR is a key strategy for engaging employees. Learn how to inspire your team with CSR and other engagement programs.