Emerging Trends

The Social Impact Benchmark is based on a compelling body of research that began to emerge in 2012. The research we found most useful included interviews with more than 200 leaders in companies and institutions that could benefit from improving the user experience with doing good, regardless of the causes supported. The research ultimately led to new ways to pursue the important work relating to “doing good,” which has emerged as a catalyst to build emotional loyalty with employees, customers, and donors. This is especially true for high net worth individuals and families, female consumers, and talented professionals; therefore, we focused our initial research efforts on those key segments.

We are heavily influenced by research methods that are both academic and empirical. The experts behind the Social Impact Benchmark are committed to rigorously staying on top of trends in the marketplace. We figure out what works with real people, one by one. We are as interested in little data as we are in big data because we believe solutions lie at the intersection of the two. We track behavior through media platforms we create for the purpose of observing employee and consumer behavior. We test ideas. We pilot initiatives. We seek new approaches and alternative strategies for improving the way doing good is experienced by the people doing it, especially employees in companies.

Philanthropy is an important part of American culture. Our goal at the Social Impact Benchmark is to inspire more people, companies, and institutions to realize their own visions of doing good through the best possible personal experience. This, we believe, will in turn increase the effectiveness of philanthropy overall.

We pay attention to research related to critical emerging trends in philanthropy and social responsibility, especially in the workplace. We seek out the latest studies and pilot programs that we believe will yield new ideas for developing marketing messages, employee engagement tools, and education programs that are grounded in social impact values.  

The studies we track signal loud and clear that making organizations more human leads to greater success.

Here are examples of the research we find particularly compelling.

Consumers--especially women

The social consciousness of Americans is on an upswing that is bigger than most people realize. Philanthropy--in terms of giving money to charitable organizations registered with the IRS--has held steady at 2% of Gross Domestic Product for more than 40 years. But Americans today are defining “philanthropy” more broadly--including giving to charities, and also volunteering for causes, serving on boards, celebrating at community events, recycling and respecting a sustainable environment, marketing their favorite nonprofits, donating cans and clothing to people in need, purchasing brands that support a cause--even sharing with family and friends and caring about their own health and wellness. Philanthropy covers far more territory than a single way to do good--especially in the hearts and minds of women who are raising values-conscious children. We believe this means brands today have an untapped opportunity to connect emotionally with female consumers in ways that accelerate engagement and loyalty.

Philanthropic families--especially high net worth donors

Wealthy Americans want more satisfaction from their experiences with giving. This is true of a donor's experience directly with a charity. But it is perhaps even more important for financial services companies who want to build emotional loyalty with their clients and the next generation through legacy planning and charitable giving tools. We believe high net worth families want their financial institutions and advisors to recognize the good they are already doing, show them ways they can craft financial and estate plans to carry out their giving priorities, and offer services, technology, and tools that continue to inspire and motivate them and their families to make philanthropy a part of their lives.


Talented professionals want “doing good” to be part of the workplace environment--but the executives they work for aren’t quite sure how to set up a corporate giving system that meets employee expectations and also supports business goals. And the market pressures on C-level executives to do something about it are mounting--regulatory influences, sustainability trends, consumer preferences, corporate governance standards, philanthropic solicitations, and expectations of employees and recruits are just six of many economic factors driving "doing good" to a higher-level corporate priority. We believe employers need a simple, real-time solution to celebrate philanthropy and align activities with corporate priorities. For related content, please read an editorial on doing well by doing good, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal's online publication, MarketWatch.

So what does all of this mean? It means that our research team believes we can help our clients find ways to make philanthropy a more positive experience for the people doing it. In fact, we believe a focus on the giver’s experience with philanthropy is an imperative, not only to ensure that philanthropy remains strong as a part of American culture, but also so that consumer products companies, financial services firms, and employers of all sizes can continue to support a growing bottom line.

We believe “doing good” should be a positive, celebrated experience for the people doing it. If you believe that, too, we look forward to working together and we invite you to be part of the Social Impact Benchmark.