Upper body headshot of Evolve host Brandon Stover


How to Create Social Impact Strategies

Featuring EXPERT -

Ben Sampson

Headshot of podcast host.
hosted by: Brandon Stover
March 6, 2021

Today's expert is Ben Sampson, Co-Founder of WeHero,  which gives companies the solutions to accomplish their social mission through powerful giving and volunteer programs to create a better culture, a better brand, and a greater social impact. Their mission: To empower 10 million people with the tools to give easily and impactfully. Ben Sampson has spoken at a number of conferences in the CSR and Sustainability space. Ben's particularly well known for designing social impact strategies and high impact corporate volunteer programs. Companies he has worked with include Visa, Facebook, Adobe, Deloitte, Salesforce, Autodesk, Linkedin, and many more.

In today's lesson Ben reveals how to establish successful corporate social impact strategies that not only make a social difference but also drive increased revenues to build a better business as an end result.

Today's Lessons

  1. Understand the why of your strategy
  2. Designing the right strategy
  3. Launching the strategy and activating your employees
  4. Managing the strategy for continued success.

Action Step to take today!

I think most companies have not considered a social impact strategy, at least not at this level. I think there's a lot of opportunity for everybody listening to us to ask how can a social impact strategy impact my business. Take some time and plan a few hours with your team, with your leadership team, or all of your employees and think about this seriously.

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This article is sourced from the Evolve Podcast, a top social entrepreneur startup podcast. Listen or subscribe below.

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Scroll below for important resource links & transcripts mentioned in this episode.

Want hear to hear a founder who uses impact directly in their business model? - Listen to Episode 049 with Kuda Biza, Co-founder of Nunbelievable Cookies, a mission-based baked goods company that donates a meal for every cookie sold. Within just one year they have donated more than 100,000 meals and even had one person committed to buying close to six figures’ worth of these socially conscious cookies.



Ben Sampson Interview

Brandon Stover: [00:00:00] Welcome to evolve a podcast about social entrepreneurs, changing the world. I'm your host, Brandon Stover. And today I'm here with corporate social impact expert. Ben Samson is going to share how to establish successful corporate social impact strategies.

Ben is going to be sharing that in just a moment. But Ben is particularly well-known for designing social impact strategies and high impact corporate volunteer programs for companies such as visa, Facebook, Adobe, Salesforce, Autodesk, LinkedIn, and so many more. His company, we hero has a mission to empower 10 million people with the tools to give easily and impactfully.

No small feat at all. So the tools he is sharing with us today not only make a social difference, but also drive increased revenues to build a better business as an end result. Now, Ben steps to creating a successful corporate impact strategy are one, understand the why of your strategy to designing the right strategy three, launching the strategy and activating your employees and for managing the strategy for continued success.

So Ben let's go ahead and dive into it and introduce yourself and your expertise in corporate social responsibility.

Ben Sampson: [00:01:06] So my name's Ben Samson. I'm a co-founder at we hero. We help companies in the fortune 500 and small businesses that are emerging with their corporate impact strategies along with their volunteer and giving goals. And so we work with companies day in and day out to make sure that if they have social impact plans or strategies that we're helping them implement those successfully and making sure that impact for these nonprofit organizations is actually being made.

And so we've been doing this for two years, have worked with well over a hundred companies. And it's something that we do every single day.

Brandon Stover: [00:01:38] Nice. And why is this so important for you to make a strategy for your corporate social impact?

Ben Sampson: [00:01:45] Great question. So I think the easy answer to that as a lot of companies first think about like the social impact that can be made. But we look at it more comprehensively for a company. We think of it, not just from a social impact strategy, but in regards to how that makes an impact in the field, but also more so how it impacts a company internally, how it helps with employee retention and engagement.

How it helps with culture and brand sentiment. We also think about how these programs operate in a way that benefit a company's bottom line. And so not only do we think about executing strategies that make social impact, we're also making sure the strategies are helping to build a better business and a larger business.

And so you spoke to, you know, with the results imagery team, that program is very much designed, one increase social impact, but to also to drive more business for their company we're in a world where we can operate that way where we have more consumers and more businesses wanting to do business with companies that give back.

And so we really help bring that to the forefront, help companies execute that.

Brandon Stover: [00:02:44] We're able to give back and also drive revenue for the company. Like that's a, win-win no brainer. It makes it easy for everybody to get on board with it.

Ben Sampson: [00:02:52] exactly. And there's a lot of easy ways to do it. That aren't as effective, but doing it the hard way. Sometimes it, when you integrate it the right way with, throughout your, the blood of your company it works really well. Oftentimes it's very successful.

Brandon Stover: [00:03:06] Designing the right strategy for creating one of these social impact strategies.

Ben Sampson: [00:03:10] Yeah, I think so. I can, I can talk a little bit about what a lot of companies do. Especially smaller emerging companies is they do a one-stop shop in the sense of they place a donation, which is wonderful, or they do a one-time volunteer event, which is fantastic, but there's no carry through. There's no level of relationships or going deeper into a challenge.

And that means you're just, you know, unfortunately not you're wasting spend and you're not building something that can withstand as well as improve your company. So steps to think about is, is one. Considering and understanding if your company's ready to make that jump, to make that jump and having a dedicated social impact strategy.

Once you've gone, like we'd like to dedicate resources towards this. We want to dedicate time towards this. It then comes down to what are we going to support? What do we stand for as a brand? And what do we stand for as a culture? And so in this step, it's really important to think about, you know, non-profits and causes and themes that you really care about.

For some people, this is social justice for others, it's the environment, sustainability. It might be food insecurity, for example, education. And so understanding that, and also pulling your team to understand what they care about. Because ultimately it's your employees that are going to be the ones that engage with this and make it stronger and make it carry through to the end customer.

So really understanding what your people care about. I think a lot of companies miss this stage, they go, we're going to support this, but the team might not be behind that. So getting a sense of what your people care about and what's valuable to them. That's really important. So once you understand what you're going to support the cause that your company and your brand wants to stand behind it, that comes into that strategy of how do we not just support this cause.

But how do we implement this throughout our entire company? And so again, this is where it gets missed. A lot of cups we'll make like that. One-stop shop of just placing a large donation on an annual basis. Just doing a one-time volunteer event on a regular basis. But that's just scratching the surface.

If you really want to build something, that's going to drive increased revenue bring your clients and your customers into the process. You have to implement this throughout the entire company. That's where our strategy comes in. That's where like a impact strategy really comes in and fit looks at every aspect of your business.

So from the product standpoint or the service standpoint, what you're selling, how do we bring the client into this social impact experience? How do we make them part of that process for your employee hiring your employee retention, employee engagement. How do we embed that in every single quarter, every six months, whatever the cadence is to make sure that they're engaged with this.

How do we handle our financials? How do we show commitment on our website? Maybe it's a 1% for the planet partnership becoming a B Corp. There's a lot of things to consider. And so building out that strategy and looking at every aspect of your company and how you become a socially-minded brand.

It takes time and is really, really important. That's the biggest step. You know, you select that nonprofit and then you build that strategy. And then the last part of that is the execution phase. If you build a really good strategy and you've really thought through every aspect of your company and every aspect of how we're gonna deliver on the promises execution should be fairly simple.

Then just going out and executing that plan. And so I think the important thing there is just making sure you're holding yourself accountable and you're holding your employees accountable and you're holding the nonprofit partners that you've made accountable  that you're working together instinct to accomplish those social impact goals that you set out and adjusting as needed.

I think it should be covered in every single executive discussion. So if companies are being on a quarterly basis, this should be a topic that's discussed. And so there's a lot of things to do there on that. Execution front and happy to dive into any of those Brandon, but those are kind of the big major steps that we see all the way from ideation to execution and that the reporting of the impact at the backend.

Brandon Stover: [00:06:55] Touch on a few things that you mentioned in the ideation phase, when you're coming up with what values you have, what values your team has, how you want to make an impact you get those clearly written down. You figure out whatever we want us to do. How do you start stressing through all the different options?

All the non-profits, you know, do I go with 1% for the planet or do I work with this nonprofit specifically? Or, how do we kind of dig through that?

Ben Sampson: [00:07:20] Yeah, great question. You know, you have people that are passionate about so many different things and you, as a company might go like, Oh, we can support all these different areas. It then comes down to the question of what are we, you know, the most well versed to support what kind of resources do we have as a company, as a brand.

And where do we think we can come into support in a very active fashion that can make the most impact. And where do we think our clients would be most eager to support us? Well? So I think that's part of it. When we look at the business landscape of this is what are our clients and our customers going to be really interested as well.

And so I think it's then. That fit that second level or that second layer, if you will, Brandon and then, okay. That cuts out like probably 70% of the options that you had in regards to that ideation phase. And then it comes back to just, usually a lot of times they'll have like two programs that they're trying to choose between and those cases like let's select one, let's move forward with it.

See if it feels right. And if it doesn't, we can always come back and try a different one.

Brandon Stover: [00:08:17] Yeah, absolutely. So then when we move to the execution phase, are we getting this strategy out there? How are we, you know, activating our employees, everybody in the company to really move this thing forward.

Ben Sampson: [00:08:28] I think first and foremost, it's like you know, the easy thing is just announcing the launch and allowing the plan. And making your clients aware your customers aware and your employees aware of the steps that you're planning to take, because it holds you accountable right out the gate. It's also making sure that the nonprofit partner or partners that you're working with they're locked in and ready to go as well.

And so that's like that, that that phase, one of that execution. And then it's carrying through all the different pieces. You know, we can test it. We could talk about so many different aspects, but let's just talk about one example here. So we talked a little bit about, you know, integrating this throughout the entire company.

And we also talked about how this can drive a greater business and grow the business. So, you know, if we are building out a social strategy, one of the things that we can do is build a sales development plan that makes sure we're supporting companies that have a similar focus that are socially minded.

And so one of those ways of execution is building out perhaps a sales hit list with targeted approaches of individuals that are running those programs and reaching out to them, letting them know about what we do as a company. What we're focused on from a social impact standpoint and why we think we can support this brand that is also socially minded.

And that's just an example of. Creating a program. And then just at the sales level of the organization implementing it, they're giving them a strategy that they can then take to market support, other brands that are doing something similar. And now it's part of their every day or it's part of their every week, depending on how many, you know, sales targets they're working on.

But just an example of execution and how we embed this into teams and how I make it part of everybody's job at the company.

Brandon Stover: [00:10:05] Can we run through maybe one more example? We spoke of results imagery just a minute ago. Could you maybe run through their example of how, you know, they kind of ideated this and then executed it?

Ben Sampson: [00:10:15] Yep. I think the big thing for results is they did a really good job of one. This is the program that we're going to do, but two. This is how we're going to bring our clients into this. So results, imagery, what they do is they do product photography and they also do brand photography, incentive photography as well.

And that's my description. Yeah. They probably have a better description of a branded, but essentially that's what they do. And so they made the commitment for every photo that we're going to take. We're going to plant a tree. And for every second of video that we produce, we're also going to plant a tree.

It's a very environmentally minded company. They also live in an area that has been devastated by wildfires. Recently, millions of acres just lost in the central Oregon area. And so what they did is they brought their clients into that. And so one of the things that they've started doing right now is educating the clients about that.

And so they've made their clients part of that story, all of a sudden. When a client does work with them, a client gets to see an impact report of, Hey, if I pay results imagery to do 300 photos, like I get the impact report that I planted 300 trees in my work with them. Like that's really special. And so they're executing that story.

They're making their clients aware. And they've done the marketing work to make sure that prospects know about it, that opportunity it's called snap one, plant one and their existing client base knows about it as well. And so all of a sudden for their existing client base, this is a huge added bonus.

It doesn't cost them anything extra. They're also doing exit execution work in the sense of. They've set up their partnership with 1% for the planet. It's just to show their commitment in regards to planting that many trees, as well as dedicating 1% of sales to that organized organizations in that 1% for the planet umbrella.

And so just an example of actually executing something, getting those trees in the ground with the nonprofit one tree planted and make sure their teams enabled and that their clients are aware.  

Brandon Stover: [00:12:05] Yeah, I think this is such a more stronger way to tackle having social impact, because like you said, we're making it part of the everyday process. It's throughout every piece of our company, instead of just that one-time donation or, you know, one time volunteer event.

Ben Sampson: [00:12:21] Yeah, exactly. I think the volunteer events are also really important. I know we talked about the one-time volunteer event. I like it when volunteer events are tied to a bigger picture. Like I love it when we build out a strategy and then we do volunteer events as a point of employee activation. If you will.

Like, Hey, we're launching this new strategy to kick off. We're going to do a volunteer event altogether as a team that supports this cost. And that's amazing because then the nonprofit comes on. They do a keynote, everybody gets hands-on with the project. Like when we hear a desert, we ship these all over the country.

And so people can do this from home right now environments. And so it's just a really powerful way to educate people about the cause and for them to continue giving.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:02] Awesome. So once we have this executed, how do we keep it going? You know, to have continued success in the long run.

Ben Sampson: [00:13:09] Yep. I think impact reporting is really important. And so I think it's execution is one thing, but coming in and actually doing the impact reporting is really, really important. And so what's impact reporting impact reporting is basically keeping track of everything you're investing into this program.

Everything you're doing with the nonprofit. And then measuring whether it's on a monthly cadence or a quarterly cadence the results of all those efforts. So in results, imageries case, they're measuring a couple of different things. One, how many, you know, brands and clients are utilizing this program?

Two, how many trees that they're getting in the ground, how much they're spending to get those trees in the ground? Three, you know, part of that for them and the environmental piece is how much carbon could potential be sequestered. And so we can look at early estimates of these trees have a 90% survival rate in 10 years.

How much carbon do we plan on those trees sequestering in a given year? The average tree sequesters about 48 pounds of carbon. And so there's a lot of different things they can measure on and then report on. So, and when you're measuring that impact, it then allows you to go back to the drawing board and go.

Are we making the impact we've planned on making, do our employees feel that way? Do our customers feel that way? And do we need to adjust? Can we do more? Should we do a little less? Or should we pivot and adjust our program completely if it's not resonating? The other thing we want to look at too is how has this impact that recurring on a social basis?

How's that also impacting our business are spending more money and not bringing in additional revenue because of this. Are you increasing our revenue because of this program, like more clients are interested in working with us because we align with other socially minded companies. Now that's a thing that has to be considered every quarter.

And so looking at that on a quarterly basis or a monthly basis and adjusting frequently is really important. I think the really important thing here and the hardest part of this is keeping your employees engaged. And so I always find quarterly volunteer experiences around the cause are really important.

You know, their skills based, volunteering, where these employees have talents and can support nonprofits that are similar in that space. So results imagery for as an example, protect our winters is a nonprofit we're looking to have them do some complimentary free. Video work for them to help promote that non-profits brand, as an example, still in the environmental space is still very much focused on that same cost, but there's work to keep your employees involved and activated around it.

Brandon Stover: [00:15:32] Yeah, I think the more that you can connect them with the outcome that they're actually having the more that they're going to be, you know, embracing it, being a cheerleader of it and, you know, marketing it as well to everybody else. So what is the one step that you think listeners should take that they could get started on one of these strategies today?

Ben Sampson: [00:15:51] Yep. I think most companies have not considered a social impact strategy, at least at this level. I think there's a lot of opportunity for everybody listening to us to go, like how can a social impact strategy impact my business. Take some time and plan a few hours with your team, with your leadership team or all of your employees.

And think about this seriously. That's the first step that would encourage everybody to take, just taking that time to think about what we could do, how it could make a social impact and also writing down in detail, how you think it could impact your business from a revenue standpoint, from a culture standpoint and a retention standpoint we have so much data that shows how much longer employee data company, when a social impact program is in place.

And so taking that time as a first step to understand it, What your business can do and how will it impact your business is the step I recommend everybody takes. Cause once you do that, you then consider all the next steps. We talked about Brandon, that ideation of what we actually now do. Do we take once we have a good program, do we take that step and build a strategy now?

And if that strategy looks good, our leadership feels good about it. We have the budget to invest. Do we then go and execute that program? Taking baby steps at this and taking out the pace that feels right is good to do. And just doing that very first step of considering it is what I really encourage companies to think about.

Brandon Stover: [00:17:08] Do you have any examples of like journaling prompts or ways to run this meeting to really get their head wrapped around it?

Ben Sampson: [00:17:15] two really easy buckets to think about it is internal. And external. So internally, what are we looking at internally? What is a social impact program?

That could one impact employee retention, company culture all those things that we think about when it comes to like what's happening inside of our company. And then think about the external buckets. How does this impact our brand sentiment and how our brand is perceived in the market? How does this drive increased revenues?

How does this further partnerships that we may have with clients or other companies or even nonprofits. And so think about it when you're doing it in those two buckets, because then it gives you a really easy view of what's going to happen inside the company. When we do this, what's going to happen outside the companies and what are the pros and cons of each.

So if for everybody in this, doing this, I recommend breaking it out into those two buckets and doing that with your team.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:06] Excellent. Well for people that want some more help with this process, where could they reach out to you? And we hear.

Ben Sampson: [00:18:12] So we hero.co if you Google we hero we'll be the first thing that comes up. We do this and we help companies all the time. I also highly recommend we do 30 minute for each strategic assessments for companies all the time. We'll jump on the phone with you, listen to, to some of your goals and give you some ideas out the gate, and that doesn't even cost anything.

And so just a way for us to, you know, give you some ideas based on your company. We work with so many companies every day, and we've seen so many social impact strategies come into play that we can just help give you some ideas and just a view of what to look out for. And so we here, our.com is our website.

You can also contact us, just contact that we hero.co. You can reach out to us on a, our social channels that we're on just@weehero.co all of our social. There's a lot of different ways you can get ahold of us and we just love helping companies do this. It's just why we exist is we're here to empower companies to make an impact, and we want to make that easy and successful for companies.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:05] Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Ben, for coming on the show today and sharing your expertise.

Ben Sampson: [00:19:10] Yeah. Thanks Brandon, for having me really appreciate it.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:12] That was Ben Sampson, founder of we hero showing us how to establish successful corporate social impact strategies. Ben's four steps are understand the why of your strategy to designing the right strategy. Three, launching the strategy inactivating employees and for managing the strategy for continued success.

Now, Ben recommends that every company should consider launching a social impact program. He suggests that the best place to start is thinking about what values you and your company hold and how you want to make an impact in the world. And then you can start thinking about a strategy that affects the internal stakeholders and assets, such as employees and brand and external stakeholders, such as clients, customers, and partners.

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