The 7 Sins of Workplace Giving (Part 2)

7 Common Challenges of Current Employee Giving and Volunteering Programs
Mar 15, 2011 1:00 PM ET

Happily for society, giving back is more important now than ever; a corollary is that people have greater expectations of companies to help them give back, both as consumers and as employees. A growing number of companies, aware of the link between workplace giving and employee engagement, have a heightened interest in employee giving and volunteering programs.  

Mounting research shows that employees want to work for companies that care, that social responsibility is a consideration in employees’ decisions to join, stay with or leave companies, and that there is a link between social responsibility and engaged, productive employees. This is especially important for certain segments – like Millennials and Moms. Nearly 70% of Americans say causes factor into where to work; for Moms that increases to 79% and for Millennials to 87% (2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study). So if part of your people strategy is geared toward any of these segments, this is pretty important stuff!   Despite this increased demand, the employee element of corporate giving often lags in attention and innovation behind the focus given to the community and consumer-facing aspects of corporate philanthropy. In part two, we look at the four remaining common challenges with current workplace giving and volunteering programs.    4.   The Curse of the “Giving Season”… Make it Year ‘Round! Existing giving campaigns/programs tend to be seasonal, often limited to one annual Fall campaign, but engagement is an ongoing, year-round goal. Employees are passionate about causes that matter to them all year long, not just in November. So for the other three seasons, companies are missing out on an important way to engage their employees and extend their brand in a meaningful way.    Developing a culture of giving back requires workplace giving programs that engage people year round. Creating a platform that can accommodate annual campaigns but provides easy-to-administer ongoing opportunities to give back is critical. (Besides, what’s with this “giving season” thing; does anyone think that charities only need money only once-a-year?).   A related challenge is the lack of responsiveness in most workplace giving programs. Many workplace giving programs currently in place are unable to quickly address giving needs that arise in a dynamic environment, whether those needs stem from disaster relief requirements, local or employee giving needs.   A top-of-mind example is Haiti: many, many companies stepped up to the plate to provide assistance as part of their corporate philanthropy initiatives, though many of those same companies did not have a way to easily involve employees in those efforts, or defaulted to charity choices that may not have been the most effective in getting funds to where they were needed.   5.   Existing Matching Programs Mostly Suck (at least compared to what they could be!) We all know that matching increases participation (in the order of 20%!), but in most corporate programs matching - if it exists at all - is treated as a discrete act, separate from the act of giving or volunteering and often with an extremely cumbersome application process.  (Many programs require employees to submit their donation tax receipts or signed confirmation letters to be approved for corporate matching/grants after the fact, which not only decreases the impact/goodwill intended to flow from matching, it adds additional steps to the process that increase the likelihood that employees won’t actually participate.)   Organizations may be understandably reluctant to enable empowered, real time matching offers because of the administrative burden that so often accompanies them. It need not be so.    Matching is a key way companies can encourage employees to give to causes that matter corporately – since matching increases participation, companies can use matching strategically to incent employees to give to causes (specific charities, groups of charities, themes or types of causes) that the company has decided are important to support.    Unless you can connect the matching offer more directly and temporally with the targeted behavior, you’re missing a key opportunity and arguably eroding business and social ROI.    6.   Manual Is Not Magnificent Most existing workplace giving models have one or more manual components that make it difficult from a resource management perspective to self-administer any kind of program that is likely to succeed – especially if you don’t have an army of community investment personnel. (And don’t talk to me about your technology solution: an online pledge form does not automate workplace giving. It’s time to move beyond once a year “set and forget” digital pledge forms!)     Manual processes mean time-lags, paper forms (either all the way or somewhere along the line), huge resource costs, inflexible programs and a general PITA. And outsourcing a (fully or partially) manual workplace giving program may alleviate the administrative burden – but it will be costly! Wouldn’t that money be better spent on promotion and social programs? Further, in a world where people live much of their lives online (either at their computer or, increasingly, their mobile devices), where most people bank online, buy online and even socialize online, employees are less likely to take part in a manual or clunky online process; one where the paperwork pain factor taxes their motivation to give.    Even if you have or pay for the required army of folks, manual processes are costly, error-prone, and make it difficult to accommodate flexibility or choice in execution. The good news is, when it comes to new, automated approaches to workplace giving, technology is your friend: there are new approaches that can automate entire programs, greatly reducing your administrative requirements (and costs, which brings us to the final “sin”!)   7.   It’s the Money, Honey: Current Programs are Too Costly Fairly consistently, we’re hearing that current workplace giving programs and technology solutions are too expensive, whether it’s a home-grown solution or third party provider.   Custom built solutions designed to address some of the above issues are cost-prohibitive for all but the largest organizations (and even then, they struggle to stay current – where are the mobile interfaces?!). All required functionality is built into the front end, and most back-end processing is still largely manual – whether outsourced or done in-house. This makes it difficult for companies in the mid-market to afford to implement a solution, and difficult to achieve the efficiencies on volume that should drive costs down.    But efficiencies and cost aside, engagement through workplace giving shouldn’t be available only to individuals working for large companies. As we said earlier, it need not be so.   Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll focus on 10 Steps to the New Workplace Giving: an approach to realize better returns from your employee giving and volunteering programs. 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 workplace giving and volunteering. Spark! is a highly customizable product that gives employers the ability to involve their employees in workplace giving and community investment under their own brand. Find out more at   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 created a donation platform, a highly customizable giving engine that 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 also powers Benevity’s web-based products, such as Spark! workplace giving. To find out more, visit us at and view our short video at    Read Part 1 of this article on the 7 Sins of Workplace Giving.