A Higher Aim for CSR: Volunteering Transcendence

by Maryam Shariat, Partnership Development Director, IMPACT 2030

A professor at Columbia University passes out  big blue buttons with an all caps message, “AWARENESS IS NOT AN OBJECTIVE.” He’s printed these buttons for his graduate students  several times during his tenure in the Strategic Communications program, and they’re always gone in a flash. Last semester, I joined the club, eagerly pinning one to my jean jacket to help steer my work in CSR and corporate volunteering with IMPACT 2030.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams should take his message to heart also. Certainly, awareness is good and necessary, and the companies we work for and partner with quantify brand and campaign awareness as a key performance indicator. But the CSR field must not forget that awareness is a means to our goals, rather than an end unto itself. What we all really want is action: to have employees participate in a given volunteer activity, record hours and provide feedback on the experience and ultimately,commit to ongoing volunteering. Awareness only matters if it helps us achieve that.

At IMPACT 2030, we aim beyond awareness, we aim for the highest level of engagement, what we call “volunteering transcendence” through our Action Teams, Regional Voice Network, and Operational Teams. This idea of transcendence is not new – you might call it nirvana or enlightenment, or in the case of psychology, you might refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy and call it self-actualization. What you may not remember from your high school psychology class, however, is that in his later years, Maslow added another layer beyond self-actualization: self-transcendence[1]. In Maslow’s view, true self-actualization was “simultaneously an end-goal in itself, and also a transitional goal, a rite of passage, a step along the path to the transcendence of identity.”

So, what does “volunteering transcendence” look like? Well, first it’s good to note that transcendence doesn’t come easy, and the pursuit is part of the process. We believe that volunteering transcendence occurs when three things are aligned: what is good for others, what I am good at, and what is good for me[2].

At IMPACT 2030, we activate these areas to achieve volunteering transcendence through several channels.

Good for Others: IMPACT 2030’s mission is anchored in the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving these goals will bring positive change to countless individuals, families and communities across the world. Through our robust network of Partners, Stakeholders and friends, IMPACT 2030 provides tools to help educate employees and communities on the power of achieving these Goals, as well as tangible guidance on how volunteers can get involved.

What I’m Good At: Volunteering is never one-size fits all. IMPACT 2030 creates multiple on-ramps for engagement and participation through our network of company Partners and nonprofit Stakeholders across the globe. Through IMPACT 2030 activities, employees from GSK and SAP delivered expertise to community health clinics in Rwanda; in Madrid, employees from Telefónica, “la Caixa” and SAP helped address the issue of youth unemployment; and additional Action Teams have launched in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dubai with more Teams in development. And, with the release of our forthcoming Global Goals Awareness volunteer toolkit, employees of our Partner companies, will be able to leverage their skills to teach students about getting involved in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is Good for Me: Volunteering is good for individuals, it increases serotonin, making them healthier, more productive, and just plain happier. It’s also good for companies, leading to increased employee retention, positive association, and productivity. At IMPACT 2030 we jumpstart these positive effects through compelling communication, measurement frameworks, and recognition of the good work our Partner companies and their employees do.

By connecting to each of the areas above, IMPACT 2030 creates a pathway for company Partners, nonprofit Stakeholders and volunteers to move beyond awareness or one-off participation to reach a state of volunteering transcendence.

We are proud of the work IMPACT 2030 has achieved so far, but our success is tied to the transcendence of employee volunteers globally and as a result, to the companies who employ them. If you are interested in becoming part of this global movement, I invite you to email me directly at MaryamShariat@IMPACT2030.com and let’s discuss how your company can benefit from volunteering transcendence in partnership with IMPACT 2030.

[1] Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research, and Unification 

[2] Breaking Good: Transcending The Good For Others/Good For Me Tradeoff