Inclusive workplace giving programs can yield long term results beyond dollars raised and hours contributed.
By Kal Stein, EarthShare
So you’ve taken the first step and decided that your organization needs to create a workplace-giving engagement program. My colleague and EarthShare's SVP for National Business Development Mary MacDonald, recently outlined on GreenBiz.com six questions every community relations manager must ask when planning a workplace giving program.
If you’ve answered those starter questions, you are ready to choose the tools that will work for your organization's culture. Here are six criteria to consider when making that important decision:
1. Aligning Cultures, Values and Causes
During your initial planning phase it was critical to gather data from leadership and employees about the causes your workplace will support. Now it’s time to find the partner and tools that align with your company’s core values and your employees’ interests to help you fulfill your goals. The right partner will not only connect you with the appropriate cause(s), they will also supply you with the tools and resources that meet your organization’s needs.
Gallup research shows that engaged workplaces have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate, and that U.S. companies lose more than $300 billion in productivity annually due to disengaged employees, so if your company is going to implement a workplace giving program it’s important to throw your energy and resources behind the right one.
In fact, a Cone Communications study found that 77 percent of employees believe their companies should provide opportunities to become involved in causes, while an Aon survey showed that 95 percent of employees think their company should make donations to charitable causes.
At EarthShare we specialize in connecting our corporate partners with environmental charities and nonprofits. For corporations to work successfully with the green community, it is crucial that missions align and the employees feel strongly about the cause and the impact they are driving with their dollars and time.
And this is not a recent sentiment. In 2008, a National Geographic poll reported that more than 80 percent of employees surveyed wanted to work for a company that makes the environment a top priority, yet only 53 percent of the surveyed companies made the environment a top priority.
So where is the disconnect? After all, a workplace giving campaign should be a reflection of the company's culture and values -- that's why there are so many equally impactful variations. Once companies started owning their campaigns, culture asserted itself.
As giving campaigns have evolved, so has EarthShare. Today, we offer our workplace partners not only choice in giving, but training, education and the tools needed to offer a modern campaign.
2. A Diverse Workforce Demands Choice & Innovative Tools
Effective tools afford organizations choices and are scalable to grow with your company’s needs. Organizations with multigenerational workforces must use a combination of online and physical tools that allow employees to give and participate in the campaign according to their individual ease and motivations. Choice will give your organization the best chance to accommodate as many employees as possible in the campaign, leading to higher levels of engagement and impact.
“For younger employees who are earning beginning or entry salaries, payroll giving is a logical option because they can give small amounts throughout the year, maximizing their donations," said Cheron Carlson, EarthShare’s Campaign Director.
"It is important that we continue to help employers and employees understand that donating through payroll contributions is one of the most efficient, easy and logical ways to give. We need to do more on this front with millennials," added Mary MacDonald.
While hard copy materials – such as print brochures and pledge forms – still work for certain workplaces, the more computer-savvy and younger workforce will gravitate toward technology solutions such as online giving, mobile apps, social media interaction, and gamification tools. To ensure maximum engagement, EarthShare offers its workplace partners a variety of print materials, an online giving tool, and a volunteerism program to meet every employee groups’ needs and interests.
3. Convenience is King
Giving and engagement tools must be easy to use, intuitive, quick, and timely. In the case of online tools, employees should be able to receive real-time feedback. Users should be able to see their donations instantly and compare how their team or division is doing in comparison to other teams/divisions at their company.
These tools should also be affordable and work within your company’s technical and security requirements. Keeping these seemingly mutually exclusive factors in mind, EarthShare offers its Give @ the Office (G@TO) program, one of the most affordable online pledging systems currently available. Each of our partner companies receives a branded website for their workforce’s use, with each employee getting their own log in.
Employers choose the charities they wish to include in their campaign, as G@TO can offer giving options beyond EarthShare’s charity list, and our staff handles all the set up. All data is encrypted so that employees can determine how much to give and in what permutation and combination, in complete privacy.
The product also allows employers to generate reports that show how much has been donated, and use the extremely intuitive database to benchmark team results, contribute yearly data to its annual CSR report, and better analyze how to expand or modify the company’s giving program.
4. Building a Community of Changemakers
Tools like Give @ the Office show users not only their individual giving history but also their organization’s matching donations (a huge motivator when companies choose to align such programs with employee giving) and division totals, which promotes team building and creates a sense of community. The ability to see these numbers and how they underscore and align with their company's mission and commitment to sustainability creates a sense of loyalty and pride among employees.
At EarthShare we have found that another effective community-building tool is to facilitate discussion opportunities between the professionals responsible for sustainability initiatives and employee giving engagement with their peers from other workplaces. I’ve mentioned our Green Team forums in earlier posts, and I cannot emphasize enough what an invaluable tool it can be for sustainability professionals to come together and share best practices, challenges and solutions.
For Laurie Wylie, Oliver Wyman's Marketing Head of Internal Sustainability:
"[The Green Team forum], with members from all different areas of industry, is a unique opportunity to work together to contribute to the discussion of what sustainability management means for corporations."
"I’d like to be a part of a group that continues to explore how we can work together to raise the profile of sustainability, which is still a very new and misunderstood concept for many," she says. And that's what my team at EarthShare is driving every day.
This is also why EarthShare works with partner federations each year to host professionals from the corporate philanthropy, employee engagement and CSR communities for a best practices summit. Working with a corporate advisory council, we develop and explore topics such as:
- Building high-impact volunteer programs
- Increasing involvement in workplace giving
- Engaging employees in sustainability
- Creating effective communications
- Measuring results
- Building the business case for future investment
The summit attracts thought leaders in employee engagement from across the country because of its specific focus on peer-to-peer learning and actionable information that managers can readily integrate into their work. Together, we are a "community of changemakers."
5. Flexibility: Dollars vs. Time
With a workforce that is increasingly diverse in its work style, age, ethnicity and culture, engagement tools should not only allow users to donate money but also give them the option of donating their time through volunteerism opportunities that address their interests. When companies and organizations truly partner and tackle projects and goals together, collaboration can achieve amazing results.
To amplify our workplace partners’ philanthropic commitments, EarthShare’s Volunteer Matters 365 program [VM365] can help them find events according to location and cause. Users set the parameters for the types of volunteer events they are looking for, and the VM365 widget will present options filtered by zip code – a great option for an employee intranet or engagement website.
6. Recognition: Incentivizing Positive Behavior
Last but not least, one of the most important aspects of a successful program is recognizing the generosity and hard work of the employees who participated.
Some popular incentives include employee champion awards, team grants, personal recognition, higher percentage company matches and company-sponsored sabbaticals.
Workplace giving and engagement programs can be hugely impactful on employees, communities, corporate goals, and the environment -- if done in an inclusive and comprehensive manner. Whether hyper-local or global in scale, these programs allow our nonprofit member organizations to make huge strides in targeting critical environmental causes and preserving our natural resources by uniting these groups with definitive causes and goals.