10 Steps to Kickstarting Employee Engagement Through Workplace Giving - Part 1

A 10 Step Approach to Increase Employee Engagement and Get Better Returns From Employee Giving and Volunteering Programs
Apr 21, 2011 1:12 PM ET

Do you hear that buzz? It’s the wow factor of workplace giving.  No longer a “nice to have” employee program, workplace giving matters now more than ever.  As a society, people care more about giving back and we have greater expectations that the companies we work for will help us support causes that matter to us.  Companies recognize the need to do more on the employee giving and volunteering front, both to support their corporate citizenship goals and to harness the positive employee engagement impacts that meaningful workplace giving programs deliver.

Employee giving and volunteering are now essential elements of companies’ employee engagement toolkits, forming a key part of any strategic Human Capital Management and/or CSR plan.  At the same time, many large companies are looking for ways to take their workplace programs to the next level – that is, how to increase their social and business impacts.  And many small and mid-size companies are looking for easy-to-implement and cost-effective ways to deliver workplace giving.

So how can you learn about and act on the best practices in workplace giving? Read on. In this article, we’ll focus on Part 1 of the 10 Steps to the New Workplace Giving: an approach to realize better returns from your employee giving and volunteering programs.  Look for Part 2 and 3 to follow.

1.    Move Forward With Flexible Charity Choices (you can still be strategic!)

Most of the surveys and empirical data we collect or review identify some fundamental disconnects between the perceptions of people that are implementing/managing programs and the targeted participants.  One of them is on the importance of choice.  Delivering flexibility and choice in giving/volunteering is key to encouraging participation and ultimately, employee engagement.

When we talk about “flexible choice” we’re talking about flexible choices for both companies and their employees: so employers have more choices as to how they implement a workplace giving program, and their employees have more choices about which causes, where and how to give.

Open choice (any charity) or flexible/strategic choice (a subset of causes selected by the organization or perhaps through some polling or crowdsourced program to solicit employee input) allows employees to select the cause(s) that resonate with them.  You can empower choice but still be strategic by creating incentives toward corporate sponsored cause, portfolios or pillars.  Don’t forget: people are using their own money for most of these programs, so limiting what they can do with it isn’t exactly an engagement optimizer ☺

And ideally, it shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing proposition; employees should be able to create a giving account or personal foundation to support multiple charities, and to modify it whenever and however they like.

2.    Create Corporate “Cause Portfolios” To Align Corporate And Employee Giving
From a company perspective, the goals of workplace giving programs are hybrid in nature: it’s about corporate citizenship on the one hand, yet also about employee engagement/team building, extending the brand and resonating positively with employees and the community at large. 

Companies are struggling to bring their increased investments in corporate philanthropy and community investment closer to their target audiences, both on the consumer and employee fronts, and struggling to realize the social and business impacts that they want to achieve.

So it’s important to design your workplace giving program to tightly align with your corporate goals.  But be careful of the allure of the strategic “killer cause”.  Remember that the killer cause is really the one that resonates with the person you’re trying to engage (see importance of choice above).

If you really want to make CSR/CI cultural, you will have a hard time doing it picking one or two causes, regardless of their “fit” with your product or brand.  Try aligning under pillars, instead: your organization can create portfolios of causes that align with your philanthropic or community investment pillars, regional strategies and goals.  Promote them to employees with featured campaigns, blog posts and matching offers.  That way, you empower choice yet create bias toward strategic social good programs.  Cool, huh?

3.    Matching Matters –To Get More Impact, Make It Real-Time And Easy
Matching employee donations is not new, but it’s more important now than ever.  People have increased expectations that companies will match their giving.  81% of employees want matching donations and 77% want Dollars for Doers programs (Cone: 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study).  And just having a match increases participation, according to 92% of companies (LBG Research “Workplace Giving Works”, 2010)

We all know that matching increases participation, but in most corporate programs matching, if it exists, is treated as a discrete step, separate from the act of giving (employees submit their donation tax receipts to be approved for corporate matching after the fact).  This post facto “workflow approach” to matching not only decreases the impact and goodwill that should flow from the matching, the addition of discrete steps increases the likelihood that employees won’t submit.  Don’t forget, we live in a click-through world; if it’s not dead simple and seamless, it isn’t likely happening…

Corporate matching should be easy and impactful.  Matching should be done automatically and in real-time, which will increase participation rates and leverage existing budgets.  Provide automated matching to select causes, all causes, corporate cause portfolios (a mutual fund of charities under your brand), or specific campaigns (all on parameters that you set from an admin interface).  You could even include third party partners to assist with funding of matching programs, where strategically sensible.  Real-time matching increases the likelihood of take-up, and alleviates a cumbersome manual process, saving time and money and freeing up resources to work on more strategic aspects of your giving programs.  

Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3 of "10 Steps to Kickstarting Employee Engagement Through Workplace Giving" where we continue with the following steps.  Here’s to igniting the light in your employees in 2011!


Introducing Spark! by Benevity
Spark! is an “out of the box” software solution that allows companies to easily and cost-effectively offer automated, outsourced, and engaging employee giving and volunteering.  Spark! helps companies save time and money, increase employee participation rates and deliver more strategic workplace giving programs that yield greater social and business returns.  Find out more at www.benevity.org/spark.

About Benevity
Benevity is a software company that helps businesses realize a better return on their increasing investments in social good programs, including cause marketing, community investment, employee giving & volunteering programs.

Benevity has developed North America’s first embeddable micro-donation platform, enabling socially responsible businesses to engage their customers, employees and corporate partners in optional charitable giving in new ways on their terms. Benevity lets companies integrate user-directed, tax receiptable donations and corporate matching programs into their existing transaction environments, using their own brands and systems. The Benevity platform helps companies build authentic and impactful cause marketing, workplace giving and other social responsibility initiatives that increase engagement, brand differentiation and return on social and community investment.

The Benevity platform also powers Benevity’s web-based products, such as Spark! workplace giving and The Givatron, the first charity-of-choice giving application for Android-based mobile devices. To find out more, visit us at www.benevity.org and view our short video at www.benevity.org/goodness3.0.