Sarah Ford | May 27, 2015

Time to Rethink Your Approach to Employee Giving


How happy are you with your company’s workplace giving fundraising results and employee participation rates? Could be happier? Then maybe it’s time to rethink your approach to employee giving.

Thanks to the simplicity afforded by payroll deduction, workplace giving makes employee giving practically effortless. But simplicity should not preclude connectivity.  When you fail to connect employees to why their donation matters, you end up with a transactional giving experience.  But if you can connect employees to the personal stories and social issues behind a nonprofit organization’s work, you end up creating those ‘aha’ moments that transform employees from one-off workplace giving participants into passionate, repeat donors and cause champions.

Transformational Workplace Giving Programs Effect Employee Engagement and Participation

What elements of workplace giving programs bring about transformation as opposed to just a transaction, particularly from the younger generation of employees who now make up 50% of the workforce?

Contrary to what a lot of people think about the younger generation, they do like to donate money, and for the stage in life they’re at professionally, their contribution is significant. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, 87% of millennials surveyed donated money to nonprofit organizations in 2013, and the majority donated at least $100-$500 (12% gave more than $1,000). However, if you look at findings from the 2014 Millennial Impact Six-Month Research Update, while most millennials donate money at least yearly, workplace giving campaigns are less favorable to these younger employers for the following reasons:

  • They would rather donate to a specific cause they support than give to a broader organization their company is partnering with.
  • They want more options to give than just the United Way or similar community organizations.
  • They didn’t see how donating to their workplace giving campaign would address their personal cause interests.

Elements of Giving Programs That Bring About Transformation

As an employer, what can you do to address the issues above? Take a more transformational approach to your workplace giving program.   Don’t just ask the younger generation to give or participate in your program; help them see how their contribution will make a meaningful difference – connect them to the cause. There are many ways you can do this effectively, but here are three key methods to employ:

(1) Events

More than 50% of employers surveyed in America’s Charities 2013 Snapshot Report: Trends and Strategies to Engage Employees in Greater Giving, have increased the number of gatherings such as:

  • Charity Fairs,
  • Networking/Learning Opportunities, and
  • Social Events.

The real value of events like these is in creating opportunities for employees to interact one-on-one with colleagues, nonprofit organizations, and even your company’s leadership. This interaction empowers them to ask questions and share their personal experiences and first-hand knowledge with each other. 

+IMPACT Conference

Not all events have to be hosted or coordinated by your company though.  Consider registering your campaign coordinators and staff for an event like +IMPACT one of the country’s premier conferences that brings together leaders in HR, CSR, Employee Engagement,Corporate Volunteering and Giving, and Social Impact to innovate side-by-side for the future of business. 

From Millennials who grew up with the notion that helping others is a responsibility to Boomers harnessing technology to increase their power to make a difference, one thing is certain: Society today is filled with cause enthusiasts.  But what good is all this enthusiasm doing if it’s not put into action? 

Consider sending staff, such as your campaign coordinators, to events like this where they can participate in learning labs, in-person only sessions and network with speakers and peers.  The topics and speakers from events like +IMPACT will have your team so inspired, that you’ll have a whole team of cause champions equipped to turn their enthusiasm into action.  And all you have to do is empower them to use your workplace giving and employee engagement programs as an outlet for doing so.

(2) Online Reviews of Nonprofit Impact

Make sure your company and employees know about and utilize websites like Charting Impact and GreatNonprofits. Resources like these will connect your employees to the truth about nonprofit organizations’ impact and will help prevent them from giving to bad charities like these four sham cancer charities that were charged for fraud by the FTC.

Charting Impact is a collaborative initiative by GuideStar USA, The BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Independent Sector, which your employees can use to view nonprofit responses to the following questions about impact:

  1. What is your nonprofit organization aiming to accomplish?
  2. What are your strategies for making this happen?
  3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?
  4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?
  5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

Similar in concept to Yelp!, GreatNonprofits is a website where donors, volunteers, nonprofit clients, and others share stories and reviews (positive and negative) about their first-hand experiences with nonprofits and their impact.  In 2012, Bazaarvoice, in partnership with The Center for Generational Kinetics and Kelton Research, released survey findings indicating that over 30% of Millennials will not make a big-ticket purchase without first checking on what others have to say about it. What’s more, the study found that 51% of Millennials say that consumer opinions of complete strangers found on a company’s website carry more weight than what their friends and family have to say. 

(3) Give More Options & Support Their Interests

According to LBG Research Institute’s report, Workplace Giving Works: Make it Work for You, in a survey of companies who switched away from the traditional United Way-only campaign to an expanded or open model with more giving options, more than 79% reported increased donor rates, and 73% raised more money.

Your employees want to support specific issues and charities that interest them and they are going to support those organizations whether you give them the option or not.  So why not make it easy for them and engage them through your company’s giving program?

Supporting employee interests does not mean you have to exclude your corporate cause from workplace giving. In fact, it’s an opportunity to leverage employee support for your corporate cause(s).  Just make sure your corporate cause(s) resonate with employees and offer incentives for them to contribute through programs.  You can utilize surveys or simply listen to what employees are saying to pick up on what causes echo employee interests.  To incentivize participation, make sure your executive leadership team is invested in the program and consider offering matching gifts (or do a better job promoting your matching gift program if you already have one).  According to Double the Donation, Millennials not only want, but expect companies to care, and businesses have responded. 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gifts, as do many smaller businesses. Matching gifts supply billions of dollars to nonprofits each year, and that total has only grown in recent years. Matching gifts can provide big boosts to your company giving campaigns and participation rates, but many donors don’t even know these programs exist or that their employers offer such programs.

Realizing Transformational Results

You know that quote “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s the same with transactional and transformational giving.  Ask employees to give and you’ll see a handful of one-off transactions, but empower employees to learn about, connect with and give to the causes that interest them, and you’ll have yourself a team of employees championing your company’s community involvement and cause initiatives.  If you implement even just a couple ideas, which I’ve outlined in this post, the effects of transformational giving will show-up in your workplace giving results year after year.  America’s Charities has online giving solutions, that can make it easy for your company to integrate all of these ideas into your workplace giving program.  In fact, this past year our clients increased their pledge volume by 10%, largely because they put ideas similar to these into action. We also offer consulting services that can help you build effective employee giving programs integrated with your broader corporate social responsibility objectives.

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