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How to Win Executive Buy-In For Your CSR Program

Cori Hammoor headshot
Cori Hammoor • Director of Marketing

You’re sold on a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. You see the benefits: improvement in retention, employee experience, recruitment, and brand. And now it’s time for you to bring executives to the same page. 

It can be challenging to get executive buy-in with budget restrictions, lack of personnel, etc. But we have saved the day with six steps to winning executive buy-in. 

Before we begin, I want to note that Percent Pledge successfully powers all of these following steps. If you’d like to learn more about how Percent Pledge can help you win executive buy-in and build your company a customized social impact program, meet with our social impact experts.

Step 1: collect first-party employee data.

Ask your employees what they care about and how they are currently giving back.


Gathering first-party data from your employees is critical for these reasons: 

  1. Executives cannot ignore it.
    • In fact, on average, 92% of employees feel that having opportunities to give back will improve their employee experience. Sharing this and many more rich data points from employees will strengthen your social impact case.
    • A majority of employees are currently philanthropically active. Bringing this philanthropic activity to the office will inherently create a sustainable culture of giving.
  2. Employees appreciate it.
    • When Percent Pledge collects employee data for clients, most employee feedback is thanking their employer and Percent Pledge for caring and asking about how they want to give back.
    • Many also share their appreciation once they see that the program is actually inclusive of what employees care about. And those employees are always excited for and engaged with the social impact program.
  3. This data serves as a guide to make your program inclusive and engaging. 

Pro tips

Here are five questions to start with based on our proprietary Passion Assessment.

Step 2: collect third-party data.

Find third-party data points that focus on business ROI cost-savings (i.e. retention), not revenue generation. Data around the benefits of CSR driving revenue doesn’t show an intriguing ROI, especially for small, fast-growing businesses. It is more effective to display the cost savings of CSR programs attracting talent and retaining a lot more talent.


Sharing third-party data proves credibility and shows the success of social impact efforts for companies.

Pro tips

  1. ​​Identify anything that can be improved in your business (i.e. low engagement rate? poor employee experience?). Make sure to highlight the ROI related to these improvements.
  2. Here are a few data points that will help move the needle:
    • 71% of employees say it is imperative or very important to work where the culture supports giving and volunteering (America's Charities).
    • 76% of employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work (Cone Communications).
    • 4.4 million employees quit their jobs in September 2021. Employees are leaving in increasingly record-setting numbers (Labor Department).

Step 3: define your CSR strategy.

Your corporate giving program should have a dual objective -- to benefit:

  1. Your company
    • When positioning company benefits, find the areas where you and executives would like to see improvements (i.e. employee retention, employee engagement).
  2. Your community
    • When defining community benefits, identify 1-2 causes that align with both your employees and company.


Your executives want to know the proposed outputs (i.e. improvement in retention) from the requested inputs (i.e. resources). They will only give a budget to programs that positively impact the company in some way. 

Pro tips

  1. The main benefit to businesses from CSR programs is reducing employee turnover. This has long been the top talent-related challenge for businesses, and employees are leaving at increasingly record-setting numbers. 4.4 million employees left their jobs in September 2021 alone. 
  2. Your social impact program should focus only on 1-2 cause areas. Once you define those, make sure to ask people outside of your organization if those cause areas make sense for your brand to support. 

Step 4: design your CSR program.

Specify how employees and the company will give back. Looking back to the collected employee data, did employees want to donate and volunteer?

This is also the time to decide how your program will be built and measured. Are you taking it on internally with spreadsheets, emails, etc. –OR– are you going to your trusted social impact friends and experts at Percent Pledge? 


To tell a compelling story to executives, you want to share how the program will work, how employees will give, and how the company’s impact will be measured. 

Pro tips

  1. When deciding how employees will give back, it is important to note that offering them multiple ways is a best practice. We found that 60% of employees prefer to both donate and volunteer in 2021.
  2. Matching donations and volunteering are the most common ways to give back and are the easiest to measure.
  3. It is an established best practice to “give” 1% of revenue across your social impact program and spend 10% of your “give” to manage, measure, and market your social impact program. 

Step 5: identify potential nonprofit partners.

To have a deeper vision into your corporate giving program, determine potential nonprofit partners that fit within the 1-2 cause areas and strategy you previously identified. 


This will improve your presentation to executives as they can see examples of the nonprofit logos and missions your company will positively impact. Also, it will better prepare you for the launch of your program.

Pro tips

  1. To help your research process, make sure:
    • The organization takes a unique and innovative approach to solve long-standing issues, often through technology, system design, or strategic partnerships.
    • The organization is committed to--and can demonstrate–consistent impact transparency.
    • The organization carries top-tier ratings from evidence-based vetting organizations, such as GiveWell, GuideStar, CharityNavigator, and GreatNonprofits.
  2. Look for organizations that have established corporate volunteer programs. It will be easier to launch your program and manage ongoing events. 

Step 6: win buy-in & resourcing!

At last, we have made it to WINNING executive buy-in. Now it’s time to create a presentation filled with goodies from steps 1-5, set that meeting with executives, and go get ‘em!


To tell a complete story, make sure to distinguish the specific inputs (budget, team members, Percent Pledge, resources, etc.) to generate the best outputs (your company and community return).

Pro tips

  1. Percent Pledge successfully powers all of the steps above for businesses every day. If you’d like to learn more about how Percent Pledge can help you win executive buy-in and build your company a customized CSR program, meet with our social impact experts.

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