Selecting Your CSR Partner | What to Ask a Vendor?

CSR practitioners are all trying to meet a common objective of driving employee engagement through philanthropic efforts. It can be a lot of work if you don’t have the right technology partner to help you manage your giving and volunteering programs. With the right partner and platform, CSR practitioners can save a great deal of time while also elevating their efforts through dynamic reporting tools, event customization, campaigns, and much more. So how do you know which partner and platform to select?

When speaking with a CSR vendor, you’ll want to gather as much in-depth information to make an educated and informed decision. Before going into the conversation, get together with your team and make decisions on what aspects of a CSR platform your program really needs. Going in without any structure can lead your team to overspending, overcommitting, and signing up for way too much platform for your program. To help prepare you for the big conversations ahead, we’ve gathered some common and critical questions to ask that will allow you to make the best selection when the time comes.

Is the Vendor’s Platform Going to Meet my Company’s Needs?

The best place to start is with general functionality questions that will give an idea of the overall user experience for your employees and yourself as the admin.

User Experience

The first thing you’ll want your vendor to provide is a positive user experience to your employees since they are the ones you want engaging and utilizing the platform. Even if you’re a tech-wiz, try to see the platform through the eyes of someone who isn’t in front of a computer often so you can determine the comfort level of navigating the interface. Walk through the sign-up process for a volunteering event. If you’re implementing giving on the platform, don’t forget to walk through the donation process as well. During the entire process, you should be taking your employee base into consideration. Are most people on their feet all day rather than staring at a computer screen? Get an idea of the platform capabilities by asking things like:

  • Can employees log individual volunteer hours?
  • Do you offer single sign-on?
  • Is the platform easily accessible on a mobile device?
  • Does every employee see the same layout?
  • Can the platform’s visuals and features be customized based on employee’s location, job function, full-time/part-time, etc.?

Administrative Capabilities

Now it’s time to switch gears to think about you. It’s important to understand how the platform is going to support your day-to-day responsibilities, from event creation and management to reporting. You want to be sure your tasks are manageable to do on your own if you need to make a quick change, as things aren’t always smooth-sailing when they go live. Taking a look at reporting, consider the reports you’ll want to see in the platform that will make this process not so tedious. Ad-hoc reporting is a wonderful tool that allows you to make a quick report on an as-needed basis with an easy to navigate drag-and-drop interface. Yes, a positive user experience is a major priority, but don’t overlook the value of the YOU-ser, either!

  • How much access do I have when creating and managing events?
  • Can I make immediate edits to events as needed or is there a request process to follow?
  • Am I able to activate and deactivate certain features depending on what I want to utilize at that moment?
  • What are the different kinds of reports I can access?
  • Does this include ad-hoc reporting?

How will I be Supported by the Vendor?

A strong partnership between the vendor and your team is one of the key ingredients to making your programs thrive. You’ll want to fully understand the level of support the vendor provides, beginning with the first day of implementation and continuing throughout the relationship.

Account Manager-Administrator Relationship

Are you the one at your organization running social responsibility programs? You shouldn’t be alone in this! Learn how you’ll be supported by the vendor in terms of structure and communication expectations. Ideally, you’ll want to have a dedicated team member that will work alongside you to ensure you get the most out of the platform.

  • Is a dedicated account manager available?
  • Are there extra costs associated with having a dedicated account manager?
  • How often do account managers typically meet to touch-base with clients?
  • What are some examples of additional training and support clients will receive from account managers?

Assistance for Employees and Nonprofits

There are going to be questions- and a lot of them- especially before employees are acclimated to navigating the platform. If an employee is dissatisfied or doesn’t get their question answered, it will most likely circle back to you. Just like employees, nonprofits will need ample support with questions regarding checks they’ve received, donor information, and more. To handle a potential high volume of questions, vendors should have an organized and efficient response system for helping answer employee and nonprofit questions.

  • How are employee users supported?
  • How are nonprofit partners supported?
  • Are there fees associated with supporting these groups?
  • Are nonprofit partners charged for services, such as ACH?
  • On average, how quickly can employees and nonprofits expect to get their questions resolved?

What will the Vendor’s Pricing Structure Look Like?

The pricing of a platform can be a make-it-or-break-it factor. As the last step in the selection process, reviewing pricing is one of the most important and should be carefully reviewed. Vendors all have different pricing structures, so taking ample time to compare the pricing will allow you to see which vendor is most cost-efficient and where you can get the most bang for your buck.

TIP: Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for vendors to unveil hidden fees nearing the end of the selection process. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Get full transparency from your vendor by asking about all fees as soon as pricing becomes a discussion.