When examining the shared value of employee giving programs I have to ask myself, “what is business’s role in giving busy people easy and meaningful ways to give back?” How can we amplify the great work our people are already doing? How do employee engagement strategies disrupt traditional thinking around charitable giving? Can technology and social media exponentially increase the reach, and thus impact, of the microphone we lend our people? And ultimately, can an innovative program resonate with millennials and become self-sustaining?
Historically, those of us who manage employee giving campaigns have asked ourselves “what behavior are we trying to affect (community impact goal)” and then “how will we get there?” The focus of the CR community has often been on the “over 30 crowd” who were most apt to be settled into their careers and willing to sign up for annual charitable contributions.
Today’s shared value corporate responsibility models have conditioned us to look at programs more broadly: what is the benefit to society, the individual contributor, and the business. Employee giving won’t live up to this criteria if we don’t innovate programs to meet people where their hearts, minds, and giving habits already are. And so today we find ourselves asking not “how do we want people to give” but rather “how do people give, and how can we help optimize that?”
Typically, people make charitable contributions because someone asked them to or they feel social pressure to be a part of a fundraising effort. This request typically comes from either a personal connection (family, friend, neighbor, colleague), a non-profit institution (your alma mater, the board you sit on, the organization you volunteer with), or your employer.
Employee giving campaigns that have beaten the past decade’s decline in workplace giving participation have evolved that ask from a check-the-box exercise to an invitation to be a part of something bigger. But what if employee giving could further evolve to put individuals, not their employers, in the driver’s seat?
When we invite employees to give back, are we asking too little of them? Think of your donors as increasingly sophisticated investors and consumers in the world of charitable giving. Empowering them to leverage their network to fundraise for the causes and organizations important to them could dissipate the employer as the middle man, increase impact reporting, and drive powerful, grass-roots results.
Through an admittedly unscientific approach I recently tested this theory. When I, as a corporate responsibility director leading our employee giving program, have our leadership invite our people to donate through our online platform, the results are over 50% participation. When I, as a friend and colleague, ask individuals, one at a time, to make a donation to an organization I support, the results are 100%.
The challenge of course is one of scale – I have neither the time nor personal connections to reach out to thousands of people. But somewhere, at the intersection of technology and passion, lies the formula to empower the right connectors to take employee giving to the next level and remain relevant with today’s donors. And if we build it right, maybe with tomorrow’s donors too.
PwC is pleased to sponsor the 14th Annual Charities@Work Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship Summit March 23-25 in New York City. Click here for more information and to register Charities@Work Summit