This interview was conducted by Jen Boynton the former Editor in Chief of TriplePundit.com, a leading source of news and commentary on corporate social responsibility.
Q. Hi Melynnie, can you tell us about yourself and your background?
A: My name is Melynnie Rizvi, and I am the Director of Employment Inclusion and Impact at SurveyMonkey. I have a couple of different jobs. I am the employment lawyer for SurveyMonkey, and I also lead SurveyMonkey for Good, which is our social impact initiative.
Q: Wow, those seem like very different roles! How do you manage?
A: I think that both roles complement each other well. I spend a lot of time as an employment lawyer making sure that we are not only legally compliant, but we are creating a positive culture for our employees where they will learn, and grow, and thrive.
Doing that work gives me really good insight into leading SurveyMonkey for Good because one of the missions of SurveyMonkey for Good is to create a positive culture where diversity, inclusion, and equity are celebrated, and people can come here and do their best work. I think it’s kind of fun to do them both.
Q: Tell us some more about SurveyMonkey for Good
A: SurveyMonkey for Good is our social impact program. Our mission is to use People Powered Data to improve our world and to give everyone a voice. We do this by focusing on three different focus areas: empowering local communities, cultivating diversity equity and inclusion, and creating impact through technology.
Q: What are some of the programs under the SurveyMonkey for Good umbrella?
A: We're a relatively new program, but we’ve been able to build on programs that began before SurveyMonkey for Good was formed. One of our core initiatives is SurveyMonkey Contribute. I love what we have done with Contribute because we have integrated social impact into how we do business and how we operate. SurveyMonkey Contribute is a platform whereby individuals can sign up to be survey takers. For each survey that they take, we donate 50 cents to a nonprofit of their choice in the list of nonprofits that we have on our platform.
SurveyMonkey Contribute is an important part of our business because it fuels our SurveyMonkey Audience product. Companies can use our SurveyMonkey Audience to conduct market research or to gather data on any topic. In order for us to fuel that, we have to have millions of survey takers. That's where SurveyMonkey Contribute comes in. SurveyMonkey Contribute has been around since 2011. To date, we've donated over $14.5 million to various nonprofits around the world, which is pretty cool.
One of the goals of SurveyMonkey for Good is to really integrate social impact into every area of our business and how we operate, and also to use it to create a really great culture for our employees who choose to give their time and talent to SurveyMonkey. With Power the Community, we invite every new employee to SurveyMonkey to participate in a volunteer event to support their local communities as apart of their onboarding. The reason for that is we want to help new employees make an impact as soon as they start here, and we also want to introduce them in a really special way to our values, to our commitment to giving back, and to SurveyMonkey for Good and what that means.
Q: Tell us about your theme of “belonging” and how it centers your work.
A: It's really important for us at SurveyMonkey to create not just a culture of inclusion and diversity, but also to create a culture of belonging where everybody and anybody can come here and feel like they truly belong, that they can truly add value, and that they can do the best work of their lives. One of the ways that we ensure that we're doing that is we talk to people throughout the company, and we ask them to tell us what belonging means to them. We've done that through interviews.
We also have created our own belonging and inclusion survey template that is available on our SurveyMonkey platform. Anybody can use it for free if they sign up for a free SurveyMonkey license. We use this template to survey our employees once a year on seven different factors of belonging. We gather insights and understanding around how our employees feel about whether we are creating or being successful at creating this culture of belonging.
Q: I understand you have a new website that you've been working on. What can we find there?
A: Yes! We are very excited. The website is our way of telling the story of SurveyMonkey for Good to all of our important external stakeholders including customers, potential employees, and the communities where we do business. Our website explains what SurveyMonkey for Good's mission is, what our focus areas are, and then the impact that we have made to date through things like Contribute, our employee giving and volunteerism programs and initiatives, our product discount programs, and also our partnership with Listen4Good.
Listen4Good is a partnership we've had for several years where we give our products to nonprofits so that they can gather data on the effectiveness of their services. They can then use this data to increase the impact, to make sure that they are reaching their intended beneficiaries, and to be able to do more good. Our website is designed to tell all of those stories to the public at large so they can see the impact that we're having. The website is now live here.
Q: Tell us about the corporate social responsibility template that you developed.
A: When we at SurveyMonkey develop surveys, if they can be useful to others or if they can help others increase their impact or add value, then we make them available to all.
When we decided to launch SurveyMonkey for Good, our first step was to use the principals of materiality to determine which issues that are most important to those individuals that are most important to us as a company: to our employees, to our executive team, to our board of directors, and to our users and our customers. Materiality is a key component of corporate social responsibility because it tells corporate leaders which key sustainability themes should take their focus.
Through our survey, we received thousands of responses, and from that data we created the mission and the focus areas for SurveyMonkey for Good. That template, called the Corporate Social Responsibility template, is now available for any SurveyMonkey user to use to conduct their own materiality assessment.
Q: What do you have in store for the rest of 2019?
A: Since we are a new program, we’re focused on building the team. The next priority will be to amplify the impact that we are having with Contribute, be more strategic around how we are using it, and also to understand the impact that we have had with the various nonprofit partners who are in our platform.
For example, the Boys and Girls Club of America has received almost $1.5 million from SurveyMonkey Contribute, and we would love to be able to understand what that impact is. Another Contribute partner, GLIDE is a San Francisco-based organization that serves the homeless population. They have received just over $150,000 through Contribute. When we spoke with them, they told us that they have put all of that money towards their free meal program. They provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday of the year to the homeless population in San Francisco. Through the money that they received through Contribute, they've fed almost 40,000 homeless people in the Bay Area. Understanding that type of impact and then being able to amplify it would be really, really exciting for us to be able to accomplish this year.
Q: How can SurveyMonkey employees get involved with SurveyMonkey for Good?
A: We have a really strong employee resource group population, so if they're not a member of an employee resource group, they can join one, they can choose to lead one, or they can even choose to start their own if we don't have one that resonates with their identity.
Employees can also participate in our planned giving through our SurveyMonkey for Good Social Impact Fund, which is a strategic giving fund. It’s funded through our internal rewards program Bonusly and employees decide where the funds should go.
We also do an annual week of service in October, which started a couple of years ago. We created a week of service to remember our former CEO and co-founder, Dave Goldberg, who passed suddenly. His birthday is in October. He was very passionate about philanthropy and giving back, so every October we take a week across the company where we have both onsite volunteering activities and offsite volunteering activities. We encourage our employees to #MakeDaveProud and volunteer their time to give back to their local communities.