Today’s talent is mostly millennial–1 in 3 now, and 3 in 4 by 2030, according to Pew–and millennials are more socially-conscious than any previous generation. As employees, they expect opportunities to make the world a better place at work, and for many growing companies, this expectation initially leads to employee-led “Cares Teams.”

We know this because we specialize in helping growing companies engage their teams in giving and, for many clients, this means enhancing the efforts of existing Cares Teams–or Volunteer/Culture/Fun Committees. For example, our work with SpotHero and Yello has centered around partnering with their Happy Heroes and Yello Cares teams, respectively.

Cares Teams are a fantastic way to build an employee-driven foundation of giving, but they are a tall order for a small group of employee do-gooders. “We tried to have a cadence and strategy, but we’re a growing startup and got busy so it was pretty all over the place,” said one Happy Hero when asked about her experience before partnering with Percent Pledge. We’ve seen many examples of Cares Teams being “all over the place,” and it makes perfect sense. Limited bandwidth, competing business priorities, and a lack of philanthropic expertise are common–and understandable–roadblocks. After all, there’s a reason why the Fortune 500 has entire Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams and spends $15B annually on CSR programs.

We exist to help growing companies overcome these common roadblocks, and we’ve learned what’s needed to build effective Cares Teams. So if you’re looking to kickstart a Cares Team, or even improve an existing one, consider these best practices:

1. Recruit Cares Team Leaders from Across the Company:

Announcing that you’re launching a company Cares Team piques the interest of those who already care. However, to develop a well-rounded team, you’ll need more than do-gooders with personal connections to specific charities. Encourage each department to nominate at least one person; doing so ensures greater longterm success and increases diversity in the team.

2. Empower Team-Leaders to Define Goals (Don’t Hand Them Down from the C-Suite):

All too often we see companies practice what we call ‘C-Suite Giving’…someone in the C-Suite is on the Board for Charity X, so that’s where the company gives. While we don’t disparage any form of giving, C-Suite alls short of actually engaging employees. Once you form your Cares Team, empower them to define the company’s impact strategy.  

3. Identify Opportunities for Sustained Giving (No More Ad-Hoc):

Many Cares Teams jump right into planning volunteer events, only to realize later how much planning is involved in maintaining even a quarterly volunteer calendar. When identifying strategies, incorporate both volunteering and workplace giving. Doing so is inherently more holistic–providing employees opportunities to give back experientially or financially–and workplace giving is often easier to manage–and measure. Plus, enabling your employees to donate a small amount to their favorite causes each month, even just $20, snowballs into a shockingly sizable annual impact.

4. Track, Measure, and Report on Team Impact (Transparency Drives the Real Business ROI from Giving Related Activities):

Tracking impact is the most important step, and where most companies fall short. We always ask companies with existing giving initiatives, what’s the impact been? We almost always hear crickets, and it’s understandable given all the roadblocks mentioned above. However, as with any other initiative, how can you measure success–however it was defined–if you aren’t tracking any of the outputs? (e.g. hours volunteered, dollars donated, charities helped). Measuring your impact not only creates accountability, but it also fuels business ROI. It enables you to tell an authentic, transparent story of giving both internally for retention (e.g., during town halls) and externally for recruitment (e.g., marketing and recruiting materials).