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I’m amazed how hard it is for a business to get feedback on the difference their donations, grants or volunteering hours have made to the community.

I understand why… both businesses and community organizations are so incredibly busy that after a contribution is awarded, the final and critical step of finding out what the community group did with the contribution is often difficult.

In this blog post I talk about the process we developed to help businesses like Coca Cola Hellenic and Virgin Trains get valuable feedback from their community contributions. Some of these business now see over 75% of their support projects returning feedback, whereas previously they spent hours on the phone or emailing and achieved under 10%. I have to say, it’s really exciting!

As a bit of background, our Thrive CSR software helps businesses manage their donations, grants or volunteering. We realized that while our system was saving clients tonnes of admin time, what they also needed was more feedback from the community they were supporting. Too often CSR staff would talk of the frustrations caused by giving something to a community and never hearing back. CSR staff wanted to collect stats, stories and even photos or video of the difference a contribution made. They wanted to use this to showcase their great community work; understand their employee engagement; measure social value; or to evaluate the use of their grants.

We have worked closely with community organizations and businesses over the last year to find the right way to elicit this feedback. It’s win/win because the more quality information the community groups share with a business, the more likely they are to get additional support in the future.

What we found is that community organizations will provide valuable feedback, if the process is as low friction as possible. So we built a system that automatically follows up community organizations after they have received a donation, grant or been the recipient of volunteering hours. Over 6 months trialling we have found the best way to do this is via a series of emails and text messages. These need to be perfectly timed to prime the community group on the feedback required and then to give them a low friction way (via text message or using a mobile app) to report their feedback directly to the business.

The results, have even surprised ourselves! Our customers are receiving feedback from up to 75% of recipients, with no effort at all on their part. And even better than this, when their feedback comes directly into their Thrive CSR portal, managers have a choice of how to use it; share directly to their web, intranet or social channels at the click of a button; incorporate into social value calcs, or add it to monthly or annual reports to showcase their amazing community impact.

It’s really exciting to see! So if you aren’t getting valuable feedback from your community giving, consider implementing an approach as we’ve described above. If you would like to know how our Thrive CSR software could help chat to us today.

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3 Big CSR Problems

I speak to CSR and Community Relations Managers all the time – in lots of different countries and in lots of different industries. I see fantastic diversity in the community support that is being given by our corporates all over the world and well developed community investment strategies.

Yet most of the people I meet face the same challenges…..they’ve got the strategy, they’ve launched the initiatives but….

  1. How do they track what goes on right across their organisation and out into the communities they connect with?
  2. How do they prove return on investment to their board?
  3. How do they maximize the use of their limited resources and budget?

These problems manifest in real daily struggles. Well-paid, senior managers are routinely bogged down in the admin of managing their initiatives rather than driving them from the helm, and collating and preparing reports is a nightmare.

Indeed, the life of the CSR or Community Manager is not an easy one – limited budgets expected to stretch far (both physically and metaphorically) and there is now constant pressure to convey value-add to the bottom line.

Yet, at its core, the solution is relatively simple – collect more data and communicate it better. This leads to a positive feedback loop and a win-win for both the company and the community.

So, how can more data capture and better reporting be achieved? ‘Easier said than done’, I hear you say! Well, I see lots of approaches. Here’s my comparison….

In my experience CSR managers don’t automatically look to proprietary software to solve problems. I’ve found that technical innovation is not something that’s naturally front of mind in the CSR sector, and often software is perceived to be too expensive with ‘I have no budget for software’, the standard line of the frustrated CSR/Community Manager.

The new reality is that, with the advent of cloud based software, the costs of proprietary software are plummeting and recent surveys* show over 90% of large businesses embracing cloud software. The good news is that cloud-based software is perfect for CSR managers – enabling easy oversight of community activity in one country or many scattered across the globe. Automated data capture and easy reporting also enables staff time to be channelled into more productive tasks.

So I tend to ask CSR and Community Relations managers these 2 questions:

  1. If a software solution could reduce you or a colleague’s admin time by 50%, what value could that person add to the organisation through more direct community outreach?
  2. If you could achieve feedback from over 75% of participants or recipients with automated software feedback tools, what value would that allow you to convey to the board, employees, and the wider community?

With those two questions answered, the choice to use cloud based software to manage CSR seems clear!

Neil Macdonald is CEO of Thrive CSR and ardent advocate of technology innovation in the CSR Sector. If you would like to learn more about how Thrive’s cloud software can assist CSR and Community Relations managers, you can read more on our website or get in touch directly with Neil at

Impact Measurement

I have the benefit of talking to a diverse range of CSR and Community Investment managers in a whole range of industries which gives me a great overview of the day to day issues they face.

Yet I’ve noticed that a couple of themes are industry-agnostic. One is that community support, whether this be volunteering, donations or in-kind support, is now integral to almost all companies’ CSR strategies; with a growing understanding of how an active community programme can boost employee engagement and brand reputation.

The other is that, now that community investment strategies are in place, managers are coming under increasing pressure to measure, understand the impact and accurately report on the work that is being done. And this makes perfect sense – from a corporate viewpoint where Return on Investment is king, why wouldn’t the executive management want to know the benefit of the time and resources being spent? From a manager’s viewpoint, how can you know that your strategy is working if you don’t benchmark its performance? And from a community standpoint, providing information on the impact of corporate giving has been shown to increase the likelihood of future support.

That’s all well and good but the measurement and reporting of community investment is tricky. Firstly, CSR teams tend to be pretty stretched so finding additional time to capture more data / do more admin is difficult. Secondly, most CSR managers sit centrally but their initiatives cut across the entire company, so collecting accurate data from a dispersed workforce or across multiple countries is, frankly, nigh on impossible using traditional phone calls and emails and the time they have available. And finally, measurement of community impact doesn’t rely solely on stats, it requires additional, subjective measures of benefit that are difficult to capture on spreadsheets.

Thankfully over the last year we have seen a strong trend with CSR managers throwing out their old manual processes and embracing software to help get more useful insights, in a shorter period of time.

This has become so important to the sector that Business in the Community (NI) has chosen to partner with us (Thrive CSR) because these types of tools are now something their membership are demanding.

At Thrive CSR we have unique, easy to use, software that helps centrally capture data and gather feedback. It’s something, as a business, we are very focused on and excited about.

Once a ‘project’ is in our system, the system can automatically follow up with participants and beneficiaries using both email and text message. And the return of data is ‘friction-free’ and can even be done through short surveys straight from their smartphone. The result has been amazing. Companies like Coca Cola HBC and Virgin Trains have been receiving response rates of over 75% with ZERO time input from their CSR team. And the information they are uncovering is invaluable for their quarterly and annual reports and helping to shape the future direction of their community investment strategy.

Using a software solution, like Thrive CSR, to automatically capture your community investment activity and to understand its impact is now a no-brainer. Our experience shows you can slash your admin time, spend more time on strategy and active community engagement work, have full oversight on your activities and their impact and easily report to internal and external stakeholders.

To learn more about Thrive, click here