The 7 Secrets of Successful Workplace Giving Programs - Part 1

Best Practices for Employee Giving, Matching and Volunteering Programs
Nov 16, 2011 9:00 AM ET

What are the best practices for workplace giving programs? This is a question we hear often from companies of all sizes looking to get the greatest social and business impacts from their employee giving programs.

Although social impacts are of course a key outcome, the goal of greater employee engagement is the main driver behind the increased interest in workplace giving programs and how to improve them. Empirical data increasingly connects successful workplace giving programs with higher levels of employee engagement.  And companies with high employee engagement scores consistently outperform on financial measures.    1.     Executive Support – Inspiring Employees Starts in the C-Suite A genuine commitment from the C-Suite and active involvement toward pursuit of the right desired outcomes is key for successful workplace giving programs. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how frequently this element could be improved. Everyone knows that getting the executive team behind an initiative sets it up for success. It’s also important to have a firm focus on what success looks like for a workplace giving program. Yes, it is about social impact and altruism, but the ultimate business reason for having a program is not to hit a charity’s campaign number, but to engage your people.   It’s like this: providing opportunities for employees to give time/money to causes they care about (and making it easy, fun and rewarding to do so) creates meaningful connections with employees that positively impact their view of the company, which helps attract, retain and motivate people. Inspiration is a very powerful tool and beats the motivational or coercive power of any ‘carrot or stick’.  If the focus of an employee’s connection with a company is on cash compensation or other benefits, that person will likely leave for a higher wage or better benefits.  If instead the company inspires this employee or gives her or him a broader sense of meaning by creating opportunities that matter to that individual so that person can give back as part of my work experience under the company brand, that is a truly sustainable relationship.   So if you’re heading up or administering employee giving programs at your company, try to connect with your senior leadership team and have an earnest conversation about the underlying drivers, goals and value of your workplace giving programs. Don’t limit their involvement to sending letters and emails to people exhorting them to give to a cause so the company can hit a target; get them to meaningfully interact with people in a way that shows that they care about what the employees care about. When the C-Suite truly understands the potential impact (both social and business), your company will give higher priority and resources to building a culture of giving, and your programs will be better positioned for success. Remember, your company brand isn’t what the company says about it; it’s what their employees and customers say…   2.     Empower Employee Choice Enabling and encouraging employees to easily and conveniently donate to the causes they care about (not just the causes you choose for them) is a clear best practice for workplace giving programs. And it increases participation, which is key to the corporate goal of impacting employee engagement. The simple equation goes like this:   Increased Choice = Increased Participation = Increased Total Contributions = Increased Social and Business Impacts which equals value creation!   Giving is personal. People give to causes that resonate with them personally and reward companies that help them do it. When you provide opportunities, as part of your company’s workplace giving program, for people to support the causes that they care about (and even better, if you encourage them through matching funds – more on that to follow) more people will participate in your programs. This means a greater number of employees will feel good about giving back to causes they care about, generating goodwill that employees associate with the company. It’s commonsensical, really.   And don’t just pay lip service to providing choice. Don’t make your people look up names and EIN’s of charities in order to give to them or provide a cumbersome process. Make it easy, so you reduce the friction and increase participation.   3.     Engage Employees in Featured Causes, Campaigns and Crisis Giving Under Your Brand While empowering choice is critical, it is also important for companies to have an identity and profile for their WPG programs and community investment initiatives. Making it easy for employees to give through highlighting featured causes or campaigns or cause related events also increases employee participation and helps align programs with the company’s strategic profile and brand.   When we talk about “featured causes” we mean creating cause focus areas comprised of groups of charities and communicating them prominently to employees, so they can easily support these causes. Ideally, there are matching funds that incent participation. These featured causes can be aligned with all or any combination of:  
  • corporate goals and pillars (e.g.: the company has identified health and environmental as key pillars of its aligned CSR strategy so creates the Company Z Living Healthy Campaign or the Company Z Green Fund; or a company has a cause marketing program called EarthEdge that benefits an environmental cause so it creates the EarthEdge at Work featured cause to enable employees to support the environmental cause and align with customer-facing initiatives).

  • general cause areas (i.e.: giving is personal and people want choices, yet at the same time the majority of people give to a few categories of causes, like Health, Education, Environmental, Kids etc.; so creating featured causes or campaigns that reflect these categories makes it easier for people to find and give to causes they care about (which in turn increases participation and all the good things that flow from it).

  • crisis giving (i.e.: increasingly, people have greater appetites to give to crises and also greater expectations of companies to help when the need is acute; therefore, companies need to be able to quickly create featured causes for crisis giving, whether the crisis is international (Fight African Famine, Help Haiti) or local (Support Flooding, Fight Forest Fires etc.) to help their employees who choose to give back to these causes.

(Note: creating featured causes also works with individual causes or charities that the company may have existing partnerships with - including traditional workplace giving campaigns - or that its employees advocate supporting).    And remember, one last point about featured causes: as we like to say at Benevity, “a rising tide raises all boats”… meaning if you let people give to any charity through your program, you will get more people using it.  More people using it means more will donate to or volunteer with the Featured Causes or Campaigns that you promote.  Give people choice but create bias to corporate supported charities through matching.  Most people today - especially younger ones - don't want someone else deciding where their money goes…     Lastly, don’t be afraid to get help on this stuff. There are some great, forwarding thinking consultants in this area, like Jocelyne Daw, Chris Jarvis – a volunteering and WPG guru, and Diane Solinger and her folks at EF who can do it all.  Having technology is only part of having a program that rocks; you’ll also need a solid strategy, policies and approaches that aren’t Old School…   Stay tuned for Part 2 of "The 7 Secrets of Successful Workplace Giving Programs" to read about the four other best practices for employee giving, matching and volunteering programs.   BENE18773