And The Survey Says...

America’s Charities latest research report “Snapshot” – hums a tune we sing loudly
Mar 15, 2013 3:25 PM ET


In terms of understanding the charitable landscape, we’re lucky. We get to talk to all kinds and sizes of companies and charities about how they perceive the success or weakness of existing workplace giving or community investment programs and strategies.  So we have a well informed, but predominantly anecdotal perspective on what’s going on and what’s needed around corporate giving.

The  ‘Snapshot’ research report released this month by our friends at America’s Charities confirms much of what we hear everyday, and if you haven’t yet had a look at it, you should.

Why?  The main message is clear – corporate giving programs are undergoing a huge transformation.  Even though things may seem okay on the surface, the data show that participation (as opposed to dollars raised) is down across the board.  While this may not be disconcerting if you’re a charitable recipient of funds (although it should be, too), it is definitely of concern if you are the steward of a corporate giving program that is trying to create business and social impact through the breadth and scope of your engagement with your people (put another way, is a program that is ‘just okay’ good enough to make you a hero and attract more budget to what you’re trying to do?).

Highlighting the need for high impact/low cost technology, year-round, branded giving programs and an engaging, social experience (you know, all the stuff we’ve been saying for a while now) – it’s safe to say that, at least as it relates to us, America’s Charities was preaching to the converted.   

What the Survey Said…

America’s Charities compiled info from nearly 100 private sector employers - who employ a combined total of more than two million people - and got some useful insights/confirmation into what’s working and what needs some work.

When it comes to corporate giving campaigns, the report listed the top five emerging trends and strategies as:

  1. Branded campaigns that fit with the company’s values

We’ve blogged about this before – your giving program is about engaging your brand, your people and your business around social responsibility.  You need to be branding it, letting your employees connect with it and, truly, making it your own.  *Caution – Don’t just focus on the company’s values; done well, your program can connect emotively with your people’s values as well…

  1. A more socially-charged giving program that lets employees share and engage with their peers;

We are all mostly consumers, and we live in an incredibly plugged-in world where more than a one or two clicks may be too much commitment.  Make sure your giving and volunteering program is empowered, robust, webby and fun. If you do, you’ll get your employees to share their Goodness inside and outside the office walls.  *Caution –You may need to change (…I know, I said it – the C-Word!) things about your current processes, policies and providers to get there.

  1. A program that meets the expectations of – and engages with – the growing segment of Millennials in the workforce;

The diversity of the workforce is an opportunity facing everyone, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, especially with the younger folks.  Engaging Millennials requires empowerment, choice, interactivity and a measure of democratization - not well intentioned arm-twisting. The idea that they’re going to be asked to give a dollar to a charity – even a big one like the United Way – and have that organization decide what other charity it goes to is a model from another time… *Caution - Happily for society, your people are more engaged than ever in giving back; if you want them to do it under your brand and your program, you need to consider their WIFM (what’s in it for me?) orientation.

  1. Finding a high impact/low-cost tool to manage their giving program;

We hear this concern from organizations all the time, but in fact – you really can have it all (insert subtle Spark! plug here).  *Caution – If you have a customized giving solution or a platform that is more than three years old – whether you built it yourself or bought it from a vendor – the chances of you being able to fulfill this goal are virtually nil.  How close you are to realizing this though, is a function of whether you have seen a demo from Benevity or any other of the ‘new breed’ Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products J

  1. A one-stop shop to highlight all aspects of giving - donations, volunteering, engagement, measurement, etc.

They really set us up for this one…cough,..Spark!...cough. But seriously, just as the ‘consumerization’ of software is occurring in enterprise, so too is there a melding of the different components that comprise a successful CSR/CI strategy.  The more siloed and discrete these elements (and the user experience around them), the less likely it is that successful outcomes will occur.  *Caution – Don’t forget that (if you’ll pardon the analogy) this isn’t just about gathering and handing out fish to a handful of charities; it’s about creating a passion for fishing around your brand.  Take an ecosystem view!

Sorry, this is supposed to be about a survey, not a soapbox or a sales pitch.  But the fact is, there is unequivocal evidence that the conventional ‘set and forget’ approach to workplace giving programs is no longer working (not to mention other hallmarks of legacy approaches: the clunky tools, poor customer service and passing on all the social costs of donation processing to the charities).

The report backs up our stance that corporate giving programs need to change to be most effective and all signs point to them changing in the right ways.  Every week, we see more evidence of it and it is an exciting time to be in this space.

The fact that a charity federation like America’s Charities recognizes the need to reinvent some of what it has historically done is evidence that it is not only corporations and workplace giving software vendors that need to change. The bar is being raised for all participants in the charitable landscape (as it constantly should be).

So, if you’re looking for something to motivate you to start your own dialogue for change, all you need is 15 minutes and this America’s Charities Snapshot report on Trends and Strategies to Engage Employees in Greater Giving  (a comfy chair and bevvie of choice are optional).  It may be a great springboard to get you thinking about how your giving program can go from ‘just okay’ to exceptional.