Volunteering and Donating Still Important in a Recession: How to Engage Employees

Jan 16, 2012 7:30 AM ET

Another Look at CSR

Despite the current economic recession, corporations are still offering matching gift, volunteer, and other giving programs as benefits to employees. In fact according to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP):

•      94 percent of companies offered at least one matching gift program in 2010

•      89 percent of companies had a formal domestic employee volunteer program in 2010

However, only about 25 percent of employees actually participate in corporate giving.[1] Some may argue that employees are not participating because of the economic downturn. The argument can be made that people are busy doing more than one job and cannot volunteer. An even stronger case could be made for the fact that money is tight and even those who have jobs are unable to spare much time or money.   Yet, nonprofits still need donations and volunteers. Many nonprofits need more in the recession than ever before, just so they can keep up with the growing population in need of their service. The good news is there are ways to increase participation in corporate giving programs even during these tough economic times.   First, we will provide insights on some of the reasons employees don’t participate. Second, we will let you know how to address those issues, including how JK Group can assist. Third, we will discuss how and why to demonstrate the impact of giving programs to employees.   1.    Why don’t employees participate in giving programs? There are several reasons why employees don’t utilize company giving programs and none of them have to do with the economy.

•      Many times employees are unaware that a benefit is available to them.

•      Some employees believe it takes too much time and effort to make a request or learn a new tool.

•      Mostly, employees just do not understand the tremendous benefit these programs have on non-profits and communities as a whole.

  2.    Communicate Early and Often – The best way to address employee participation challenges. Create awareness through targeted communications. Before the launch of a giving or volunteer program, develop a launch plan to inform employees of the new benefit.  The plan should involve a carefully considered communications strategy.   One communications tactic JK Group finds useful is to target smaller segments of the employee population. For example, a company with 80,000 employees would benefit by breaking down the employees into regions or business units. Make sure that the groups are no larger than 10,000 people. From our research at JK, we found that the more personal and targeted the communication, the better the response rate.   In addition to communicating at launch, develop an ongoing communications strategy that will continuously inform and remind employees of the giving program.   3.    Show the Impact, Make the Case The impact of giving is one of the most difficult things to measure. For instance, how do you measure the impact of planting flowers in front of a school? Or, what will a $25 donation mean for a soup kitchen?   Despite the challenge, demonstrating impact to prospective donors helps make the case for contributing. The more donors understand about the value of their efforts, the more likely they are to participate.   JK Group has a wide array of reporting techniques that help clients show impact and share benefits. Here is an example of how any company can demonstrate impact. If a company with 80,000 employees could increase participation by just one percent that translates to an extra 800 donations. And if each donation was just $25, that translates to an extra $20,000 to the nonprofits that need it.   Communicating effectively, demonstrating new tools, and showing the impact of giving programs help encourage employee participation. Even in tough economic times it is possible, with help from an expert and experienced consultant, to get more employees involved in philanthropic giving programs. Even a one percent increase in participation can translate to thousands of dollars for worthy non-profits. So, with a little enthusiasm, encouragement and enlightenment, imagine the impact your employees can make on the community and the world.
[1] This calculation came from JK group’s 312 clients, and is an average based on each client’s participation rate.   JK20122