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The future of CSR

Lucy Bennett-Baggs
"I think millennials and the younger generation are very adamant about what they stand for and won't support companies that aren't doing good. That's exciting, because I think that will change the way that we do business."

Nathan Anibaba is joined by Lucy Bennett-Baggs, the Founder and CEO of Force for Good which helps charities connect with disadvantaged communities around the globe. With 15 years of experience in philanthropy, marketing, and CSR, Lucy’s experience is far-reaching. On this week’s ClientSide episode, Lucy shares her insights on the future of CSR, how different generations interact with charities and how public support for companies is becoming increasingly linked to their stance on key global issues.

Transcript:

Speaker 1:

This is ClientSide from Fox Agency. (singing)

Nathan Anibaba:

Lucy Bennett-Baggs is the Founder and CEO of Force for Good, a purpose driven entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in philanthropy, marketing and CSR. She is also a Founder of two other businesses, Just Challenge and Force for Good. Force for Good is a tech for good app where people, companies and charities connect to drive change, helping the charities sector meet more of the needs of disadvantaged people around the world. Lucy, welcome to ClientSide.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Thanks Nathan.

Nathan Anibaba:

Super excited to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us. I thought a good place to start would be for you to bring us up to date with the state of CSR today. How has giving and the role of business changed in the last 20 years and where are we today?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah, it’s a really good question. And it’s something that I believe has evolved significantly over sort of, certainly my career, but over the last couple of decades. And CSR for businesses, corporates, brands was, back in the day a writing a check for a charity aligned to your ambitions and goals as a business. And that was kind of sufficient and it was a tick box exercise and not everybody did it. Some companies did and some companies didn’t.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

And purpose and what a companies stands for has just become front and center now, of almost all touchpoints within an organizations. So employees care about it, customers care about it, the marketing team are talking about it. And it’s more important than ever before for CSR and ESG to be front and center of company strategies. And I guess I’ve seen that evolution throughout my career as, it’s sort of moved from being a nice to have and a tick box exercise and the occasional check to a charity, to actually being a core vital part of company’s strategies.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

And I just think that’s going to become more and more apparent throughout the next five to 10 years. And when we’ve just got out of COP 26 and we can see the issues the world is facing, but also the pivotal role that companies can play in addressing their strategies and becoming more focused on their ESG commitments. So I think it’s changing a lot. Ultimately, I think that companies that will do very well in the future and attract brilliant talent and customers that are loyal to their brands and their products are going to be those that have solid commitments to ESG and CSR.

Nathan Anibaba:

Well, let’s talk a little bit about your background and sort of how you got started before we talk about what you are doing with Force for Good. You started your career at HSBC. A company with over 300,000 people, that’s in your words, the size of a small town, which it is. What did you learn about the willingness of people and the company in general to kind of give back and the role that big business could have in that?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah. I mean, I was incredibly lucky to start my career at HSBC. I think of all the companies out there, it provided me the most incredible foundation and experience as a young graduate coming into the corporate world. So I joined on their graduate program and spent seven years moving through the organization, and ultimately ending up in marketing partnerships teams with a real focus on the community and giving back through such a large corporate. And HSBC was brilliant, in terms of willingness of employees to give their time and resource back to causes. And being within such a large organization, just really opened my eyes to the impact and scale of employees’ ability to give back and drive impact within such a large organization.

Nathan Anibaba:

Fast forward a few years and you set up an agency called, Just Challenge. Tell us a little bit about that company.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah, so I was with HSBC for seven years and ended up in their partnerships, sponsorship and CSR team. And for me, I felt there was a huge gap in the market for an agency that was helping corporate activate their purpose well. So, I was doing a lot of work and volunteering internally on CSR initiatives within HSBC, and just found myself really engaging employees in it and taking them along the journey of HSBC’s commitment to charity and giving back. And I felt it was an opportunity to set up an agency and do that for other corporates.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

So in 2017, I left HSBC and set up Just Challenge. That’s an agency that works with large corporates on their charity partnerships and helps them activate it. So whether that’s through digital, through events, we’ve organized and delivered these incredible experiences around the world that raise money for charity and really engage employees and customers in their purpose. So really helping its move away from just writing a check to actually bringing their employees on the journey, making sure they feel part of it and amplifying their commitments.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

So, yeah. And it has been an incredible experience. So, I left HSBC in 2017, they were our first client. So we worked very closely with them in campaigns around Asia that supported their partnership with WWF. So that was from coms, PR events, tracks, employee engagement, all sorts. And then worked with the likes of Barclays, Arsenal Football Club, KPMG, Laureus Sport for Good and lots of big corporates on helping them really activate what they’re doing in cause and their purpose.

Nathan Anibaba:

You set up Force for Good in April, 2021. What’s the founding vision of the business? And tell us what impacts you hope to make.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah. So, Force for Good is what I like to my happy accident. Because I, as we sort of touched on before, I’ve spent a long time working with corporates in activating their purpose across their organizations. And COVID then hit, which made it very hard for us to do anything in person with our corporate charity partners, corporate and charity partners, sorry. And so for me, we very quickly, when COVID hit a couple of years ago, we very quickly started looking for digital solutions. So ways that people, companies, corporates, brands could engage with charity giving, but in a digital way.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

And so, we’ve set up Force for Good, which ultimately is a community led platform that companies can use to engage their people in their purpose. So, your employees join the app, it’s a white labeled platform to your brand and you can do all of your charity fundraising, your matching, challenges, clubs, social elements all within Force for Good. So we’ve piloted it with Barclays, it was a huge success, raised quarter a million US dollars to their charity. And we’re now rolling it out globally, which is, it’s very exciting. But it was certainly a product of challenging times with COVID and forcing businesses to pivot around the world and we were definitely an example of that.

Nathan Anibaba:

Definitely. And as you say, everybody wants to do something. I think there’s a willingness with a lot of people around the world. There’s an acknowledgement first and foremost, that the world is not perfect and that there are [crosstalk 00:09:16] challenges that we have. And there’s a willingness, an increasing willingness, especially with younger people, I’ll let you talk to that, it may not be younger people necessarily, it may be across all ages and demographics. But there’s a willingness for a lot more people to do something now to change or have some kind of impact on the challenges that we’re having in the world. And that speaks to, I guess, the demand and the need for something like Force for Good. And a lot of people, I guess just don’t know where to start and how to start sort of giving back or helping people that are disadvantaged. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah, definitely. And I mean, if you look at the last 20 years, I mean, we’ve been through the decade of connectivity in the 2000s, where Facebook became big, and messengers, and Instagram came to life, and suddenly we were connected with everybody and anybody that we want two around the world. The last decade was very much around what we look at as the decade of convenience. So everything was at our fingertips. You can order food or takeaways or-

Nathan Anibaba:

Or a pen from Amazon.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

… Exactly.

Nathan Anibaba:

That would… Just one pen.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Totally. Everything is so easy. And so, millennials and the younger generation are, they’ve lived through that. So they’re used to everything being on their phones, at their fingertips. And they’re very much used to this connected world of two-way communication. And so, I just think it’s really important and where we think there’s a big gap in the market, is really making giving back and doing more very accessible and very easy. And at the moment it’s quite a fragmented market, like the charity, I mean, if you want to make a donation, you go onto Google and then you sort of get lost in looking at different websites or you might make a donation through your sort of justgiving.com. But it’s very transactional. And actually for people to be able to download an app and do more, whether that’s making it a donation, it’s offsetting, it’s taking part in a charity run. There’s so many different ways that people can give back. And we just want it that much more connected and much more accessible.

Nathan Anibaba:

So, tell us what the platform looks like from a user’s perspective, explain some of the features.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah. So, a user logs on to Force for Good. And the first thing that they’re asked is the causes that they care about. So those are aligned to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. So I might join Force for Good and say, “I’m passionate about gender equality, climate change and mental health.” for example. And I then can I’m into the platform and because the platform knows what I’m passionate about, I’m served content charities, campaigns, challenges, impact circles, opportunities to give back that aligns to the causes that I’m passionate about. And the opportunity to with like-minded people, within sort of local environments and globally that are equally passionate about the causes that I am.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

So, it’s really just bringing that all into one platform, but making it more connected and more accessible. So we’ve partnered up with 150 charities, but also a database of nearly two million UK and US charities, so that people can reach the charities that they’re passionate about too, within the app. So we’re just making it easier and more connected. And ultimately for charities, just giving them access to a more engaged and wider audience. And I think that’s one of their biggest struggles, particularly through COVID-19 and it’s been an incredibly challenging time for charities.

Nathan Anibaba:

Speaking about accessing of a wider audience. How do you think about growing the user base? I mean, you’ve built a fantastic product, there’s clearly a huge gap and a pain in the market that you are addressing with this. But now your challenge is, awareness, user acquisition and user growth. How do you think about growing the user base?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah, it’s a really good question and one that we… So in terms, for us, we’ve got a couple of user acquisition strategies that run in parallel. My key priority as a leader of a tech startup is product led growth. So ensuring that our product promotes virality and easy adoption across users. So a really good example of that is we’ve built these impact circles. So it’s groups of people that come together and they choose the charity or multiple charities that they want to support as a collective. So that might be a group of employees, it might be a group of people that passionate about Alzheimer’s or beach cleanups locally. It’s giving as a collective and in order for that to work, we’ve built in all the features to invite friends and gamification and rewarding people for ultimately bringing people onto the platform for us.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

So, my key focus is, where we can, to drive product led growth. Because we’ve got a brilliant product that is very easily adoptable and can bring people onto the platform organically, that’s obviously brilliant for the business. In parallel, we work very closely with our charity partners. They don’t pay to be on the platform, but we work closely with them to bring their audiences onto Force for Good. So for example, we’re doing a great big, thank you run for the NHS and their NHS charities together. And so, we will work very closely with them on partnership marketing and co-promoting that campaign, because obviously they’re the beneficiary of that and it makes total sense for them to use us as a platform to drive fundraising and engagement.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

And then we’ve got our sort of typical, I say traditional, because it’s not that traditional in the tech sense, but marketing strategies around acquisition, digital marketing, PR and everything that you would expect. So lots going on, particularly as we were sort of very, very early stages at the moment. So we will get lots of data and learn a lot, I’m sure over the next few months, but those are our key great strategies at the moment.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really exciting. And what have you learned about how to drive long term growth in both individual giving and that on the part of companies or corporates? What’s the best way you found to deliver that long term growth in giving?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah. Look, I think for me and we say it to our charities all the time, and hence why we’re passionate at building what we’re building. But community management is so important. And I think we all know that, or we all have experience making a donation to a charity and potentially getting a direct email to say, “Thank you.” And it’s like, in today’s world, that’s not going to incentivize me to give again. I want to know where my money’s going, I want to build a relationship up. When it feels tangible, and it feels real, and it feels like you’re really making a difference, you’re then inclined to do it again. And we just did a campaign where we funded some families in Bali. I mean, Bali’s on its knees at the moment with no tourism. And you can see, we saw directly what the family that receiving the food packages and you want to keep giving, because you really feel like you are, you are making a difference.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

So I think the charities that do very well are the charities that are privileged enough, I guess, to be able to run their charities like businesses. And they emphasize the importance of two-way communication, of community management, of nurturing their customers ultimately, and not just seeing them as transactional donors, and actually nurturing and developing those relationships for long term growth and recurring giving. Because I mean, recurring giving is like, there’s a stat somewhere and I can dig it out, but it’s like seven times more valuable than a one-off donation.

Nathan Anibaba:

I can imagine. Yeah.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah.

Nathan Anibaba:

So, tell us what else is exciting you, what else is on the horizon as we look towards 2022 in CSR? Yeah. Is there anything else that is really exciting you as we turn the corner into next year?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah. I mean, I don’t know whether it’s exciting or nerve wracking or what it is.

Nathan Anibaba:

Stressful.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Stressful. But I mean, I think the world is waking up to climate change. And I think we are in this period of time that we’ll never experience again. And I’m nervous that the corporates and companies that really can make a difference through this, this crisis won’t respond in the way that they need to. I’m excited because we’re seeing leaders and businesses waking up to it. So I guess, yeah, there’s two sides to how I feel about the future. I’m excited because I think millennials and the younger generation are very adamant about what they stand for and we’re going through a period of time where they won’t work and they won’t support companies that aren’t doing good and don’t have the planet and people in mind. And I think that’s exciting, because I think that will change the way that we do business and the way that companies strategize around it.

Nathan Anibaba:

You touched on the millennial divide there, and I actually sort of mentioned it earlier on in the conversation. Is there a generational divide between those people who tend to give more and who are more purpose orientated on a more, I want to say, connected to the plight of others around the world that they’re not connected to? Have you seen any discernible differences between the younger generation and the older generation in terms of helping and giving back?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah. And I think it’s, I mean, you can really segment this market, not just by age, but by locations. And we’ve done a lot of work on the World Giving Index and the data that comes out that, it’s incredibly interesting to see how different countries and demographics are supporting globally. And obviously, you see increased giving as people get older, but they’ve got more access to wealth and disposable income. And so, that doesn’t give a true reflection, I don’t think, of how the younger generation care, because they do, but they’re giving on a lesser level because of their access to disposable income. I think that there’s definitely more advocacy and campaigning from the younger generation than there ever was with previous generations. And I think their voices and their actions are very, very likely to dictate how businesses and leaders respond to giving, and purpose, and activating the UNSDGs across their respective companies and countries.

Nathan Anibaba:

Last couple of questions, Lucy, and then I’ll let you go. I can’t let you go without asking a question about women in tech, probably get asked this question all the time, but I’m going to ask you as well. There’s just been so much written about women in tech or the lack thereof, as well as a number of other sort of minorities as well. I say minorities, women are not the minority, they’re actually 51% in the UK. But you wouldn’t think it by the representation in tech companies. What’s your experience been and how do we get more women and minorities into the sector?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Yeah, it’s a really good question and what I’m very passionate about. And once I’ve sort of got through this mad phase of launching the business, it’s going to definitely be something that I vocally support and really push on. But I mean, 97% of capital goes to male founders. So female founders in tech are 3% of venture capital, which is just shocking. I mean, in a world, the world that we live in now, where we’re trying to drive gender equality and hero women doing more, that needs to change. And I think it is. I think it is. There are companies, and investors, and venture capitalists, and tech advisors that are very focused on supporting women and accelerating that change. We’ve got a very, very long way to go. And the tech space is very male dominated. And you’ve just got to sort of look at stats and the stories around there and that it always has been.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

So, I think change is happening. I think it’s going to take time. And it was sort of getting better over the last couple of years, we were seeing that gap close slightly. But it’s gone downhill recently. So I think that, more can certainly be done to support women in tech and access to capital, and expertise, and support to successfully launch their businesses. Now that said, there’s definitely opportunities for women and surrounding yourself by brilliant women that have also done it, but also allies in men has certainly helped us through our journey of an early stage tech startup as a female founder.

Nathan Anibaba:

Well said. And Lucy, my final question. What advice would you give to aspiring young female technology leaders on how best to navigate their careers?

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Think long and hard before you jump into it. It’s very hard work. And no, I mean, all jokes aside. When you start your own tech company or any business, really, it becomes 24/7. I mean, it is all encompassing and it’s exciting, but it’s a rollercoaster. There are some real highs and there’s some real lows. And I mean, I dream about it, I think about it 24/7. And I absolutely love what I do, but it is very, very different to a 9:00 to 5:00 job. And so, I think that my advice to anyone starting is, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m passionate about what I do, and it gets me out of bed every morning. And I love the thrill of being an entrepreneur. But it is, you need to be resilient and it requires a lot of mental strength.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

So, my advice would be to sort of thoroughly research and ensure that you’re jumping into something that is sustainable and has potential for growth and it’s an exciting space at the moment. But most importantly, surround yourself by brilliant people, because you will not get there on your own. And that’s the best piece of advice somebody gave me at the is, the more people you can surround yourself with that are heroing you, that are celebrating you, that are introducing you to new people, that are on the end of the phone when something goes wrong is so important. Because entrepreneurship can be an incredibly lonely journey. And so it’s really important to have that support network when times are tough, but also the support network when things are going well.

Nathan Anibaba:

Couldn’t agree more. Lucy, thank you very much for doing this.

Lucy Bennett-Baggs:

Very welcome. It was great to chat. Thanks Nathan.

Nathan Anibaba:

If you’d like to share any comments on this episode or any episode of ClientSide, then find us online @fox.agency. If you’d like to appear as a guest on the show, please email zoe@fox.agency. The people that make the show possible are Jennifer Brennan, our Booker/Researcher. David Claire is our Head of Content. Ben Fox is our Executive Producer. I’m Nathan Anibaba, you’ve been listening to ClientSide from Fox Agency.

Speaker 1:

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