Roseanne Wark and Tamara Bibby | August 5, 2021

What’s the Secret to a Fun, Successful Workplace Giving Campaign? A Kick-off Party!

One of the first rules when it comes to holding a successful workplace giving campaign or fundraiser is to make it fun. How do you do that? Host a kick-off party, charity fair, or similar type of networking event.

More than 50% of employers surveyed in America’s Charities Snapshot Employer Research have increased the number of gatherings associated with giving campaigns. These types of events give employees the opportunity to learn more about charities they can support through the campaign, which creates a deeper connection between employees and the impact they can have on a nonprofit’s mission. These events also give employees a chance to interact with colleagues and organizational leadership, a critical part of building and demonstrating leadership’s buy-in and embedding giving into the corporate DNA

A well-planned kick-off event generates contagious energy that propels your fundraiser forward to reach your goals. Not only will your donations soar, your employees will also be eager to participate in other fundraising events. 

Nonprofits engage with employees at Optimizely workplace giving kick-off partyTake Optimizely, for example. This San Francisco-based tech startup, which makes software for website experimentation and personalization, had launched its OPTIGIVE employee giving campaign as a way to help its employees give back to charity. The initial effort did well with more than one-fifth of the company’s employees participating. But when the company brought back the campaign, employees responded in a huge way. Optimizely’s employee giving campaign results increased sevenfold, with more than half of its 340 employees making contributions.

A big part of Optimizely’s success was due to the “fun factor” they incorporated into their campaign. The company kicked off its campaign with a happy hour party attended by more than half of its staff. At the party, senior executives volunteered as bartenders and collected more than $500 in tips that were donated to three nonprofits who had booths at the party. You can read more about Optimizely’s success here.

How to Have a Kickin’ Kick-off Party

  1. Establish a Theme: A theme offers a condensed version of what you’re interested in accomplishing. When selecting your theme, consider your company’s mission and objectives, as well as your organization’s demographics and culture. Also think about the season and any holidays that you can incorporate into your theme. For example, our team at America’s Charities chose the theme, “Harvesting Good” for our workplace giving campaign last year, which took place during the first two weeks of November. We combined the purpose of the campaign (i.e. giving) with the autumn season and applied the autumn concept of “harvesting” to our campaign objective.
  2. Get the Boss Involved: Employees are keenly aware if leadership is authentically involved or not. 83% of employers surveyed in America’s Charities Snapshot Employer Research indicated the most important factors in building and sustaining successful integrated employee engagement programs is obtaining support from leadership and ensuring engagement that is embedded into its corporate culture authentically.
  3. Create a Positive Atmosphere with Entertainment and Decorations: Make your theme come alive with entertainment and decorations. Awkward silence can be a mood-killer. Consider hiring a local band to play music in the background or tap into an employees’ passion for music by having him/her create a music playlist for your event. Likewise, give some of your craftier employees an outlet by letting them take care of decorations for the event. You’d be surprised how much $50-75 worth of decorations can change a setting. Some employees might even have decorations at home that they’re willing to loan-out for the event.
  4. Entice Employees with Free Food: Whether you order pizza for lunch, bagels for breakfast, or cookies for a 2pm pick-me-up, few people turn down the opportunity for free food. To get employees even more engaged (and reduce the cost of providing food), consider holding a potluck or food competition like a chili cook-off.
  5. Allow employees to start giving at the kick-off party: Provide blank pledge forms or have a lap top or two logged into your giving platform available. Ask employees to complete the form or stop by the lap top to make their pledge before they leave the room. If you have a big crowd and enabling giving during the event isn’t feasible, ask people to give as soon as they get back to their desks. Send an email out within moments of concluding the event, giving them clear instructions on how to do so. Enter any employee who turns in a signed pledge form during the first hour following the event in a special drawing for a great prize.
  6. Create some pizzazz and fun: Think of something that will get your fellow co-workers interested, engaged and excited about your campaign. Keep in mind your company culture – your employees are diverse, fun people, and these events should reflect that and speak to their hearts. Here are some ideas to try:
    • Jersey Day: Encourage employees to wear a jersey of their favorite sports team to your campaign kickoff. The entire event can be built around a sports theme and sports-related music can be played as they enter the room. Even better, only people who have donated $5 gets to wear their favorite jerseys.
    • Casual Dress/Jeans Day: Allow employees to “dress down” the day of the event, but they only get this opportunity if they attend the campaign event or donate money to a charity featured in the campaign.
    • Photo Guessing Contest: Raise money as well as some good laughs by having company executives share a photo of them as a baby or from high school and have employees match the photo to the correct executive.
    • Wii Tournament: Hold a Wii golf, bowling, or hula-hoop challenge. Employees can enter and compete for a prize such as a $500 matching gift to their favorite charity…or just bragging rights.
    • Balloon Pop: Get a donated prize or gift certificate for this event – a variation of a traditional raffle. The prize doesn’t have to be big – even if it’s a free cup of coffee, it shows appreciation. Before filling a balloon with helium, put a note inside with the name of the prize. Employees get a balloon after they’ve turned in their pledge form.
    • Silent Auction/White Elephant/Book Sale: Holding events like these not only build campaign awareness, they are ways to increase overall contributions.
    • Incorporate Competition: Food always brings people to events and can also be a way to increase contributions to the campaign. Holding a chili cook-off competition not only incorporates an element of spirited internal competition, but by charging co-workers to judge the contest, it brings in more campaign funds. If the fair is in the morning think about selling baked goods donated by employees. If your culture thrives on competition, go deeper. Host departmental challenges – whichever department raises the most, has the most participation, etc., gets a prize.
    • Hold a raffle: Consider prizes like a parking space, sports tickets, electronics, or any unique events or opportunities you might be able to offer (see how Carnival Cruise Line leveraged a Rose Parade float to engage employees in fundraising).

Ready to kick-off your workplace giving campaign or fundraiser with a kickin’ party? Contact our team to learn more about best practices and to get a customized strategic plan to guide your campaign’s success.

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