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What Does the Future Hold for Employee Giving and Volunteering?

What will fuel the next wave of change across employee engagement and philanthropy?

Submitted by: Guest Contributor

Posted: Apr 19, 2013 – 08:15 AM EST

Tags: fundraising, philanthropy, employee engagement, community health charities, csr, hr, millennials, benevity, technology


By Thomas Bognanno, CEO, Community Health Charities

My experiences as a fundraiser for several major health causes over my career support a truth that we all know: the way we give has greatly evolved over the past few decades.

Today, the rise of employee programs has brought with it a powerful way for individuals to come together and give back in new and innovative ways that provide collective social impact on the nonprofit sector. This has also impacted workplaces themselves, in a way that promotes growth and development and provides unique benefits to all parties involved. 

Let’s examine two trends that may significantly shape corporate giving and volunteerism programs over the next five years and beyond.

1. That disengaged employee costs me how much?

Overall, employees are now more expensive for companies than ever before. From an engagement perspective, Gallup’s Employee Engagement Index shows that disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses an estimated $350 billion a year because of issues like disconnectedness and lost productivity.

They lack qualities that engaged employees tend to have, such as motivation, passion and innovation. Further, more recent research by Gallup finds a significant connection between disengaged employees and their health and well-being. Actively disengaged employees tend to have similar levels of poor health as the unemployed. 

According to the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index, disengaged employees also have higher rates of chronic disease and obesity, which is tied to a higher percentage of unhealthy days at work that keep employees from their usual levels of productivity. So, not only do your disengaged employees impact disengagedyour bottom line through lost productivity but it’s also likely they also cost you more to employ overall through high insurance cost-drivers. 

On the other side of the coin, engaged employees tend to enjoy better health, with a lower incidence of chronic disease than the actively disengaged and underemployed population.

In my role at Community Health Charities, I’ve seen many companies in the health industry reaching across department lines to begin to marry the goals of supporting a healthy workforce with their community relations and philanthropic efforts. This approach provides a framework for better and more measurable outcomes and a more holistic approach to solving social issues both internally and externally. 

In creating the Engagement 365 program at Community Health Charities, for example, our goal was to help companies reach across departments lines and begin to better connect their various employee benefit programs. How else could they connect with important social issues – health or otherwise – besides connecting with a charitable cause through giving and volunteerism?

2. Millennials Require a Redefinition of Giving

Companies are already adapting their recruitment and retention tactics to appeal to the specific needs and desires of the average Millennial.  Since Millennials are such a large cohort (somewhere between 80 to 90 million as compared to 76 million Baby Boomers) their advancement in the workforce will be relevant very quickly. 

According to Achieve’s Millennial Impact Report, for instance, volunteerism is extremely important to this group, with 63 percent currently volunteering and 41 percent planning to volunteer even more.  But traditional workplace volunteerism may not appeal to Millennials as greatly, says the report. 

As Chris Jarvis, founder of RealizedWorth points out:

"Many employee volunteer programs seem like a solution in search of a problem. Providing employees a warehouse full of opportunities to volunteer is a good idea…but it’s not good enough."

Companies will need to be relevant and direct with their volunteerism programs – and don’t forget to focus on the impact and continued social engagement this cohort will be looking to address. 

We will also likely see a greater prevalence of “micro” concepts come to fruition. 

Research shows that even when they don’t have a great amount of time or money to give, millennials still like to give what they can in meaningful ways.

While 75 percent of Millennials donated to charitable causes in 2011, they also tend to give in smaller amounts (with 58 percent giving gifts of under $100). This points to gift maximization being a likely incentive, which can be leveraged by existing matching gift and dollars-for-doers programs. 

Expect to also catch these donors online, the preferred method of donations for 70 percent of them.  volunteerIn fact, the online habits of Millennials align very well with the tenets of the customer experience movement. “We live in a web-centric, highly visual, one or two click world. With a litany of personal experiences using technology in everyday life, the modern tech-savvy employee already has an idea of how he or she should be able to conduct their giving business at work,” explains Bryan de Lottinville, CEO of Benevity. “Software needs to be EASY, visually appealing and have a compelling user experience… if not, people won’t play.” 

But this may require a change in how we’ve traditionally thought about running our programs. 

For example, more companies are now considering a year-round model for their giving and volunteering programs to be more flexible and address employees’ needs. This could impact every area of the program – from what technology platform you utilize to aligning nonprofit relationships more strategically to corporate goals. The end result, though, should address employee interest and fuel the growth of your programs through increased participation.

Topics like this and more were covered at the Charities@Work Best Practices Summit, held in Manhattan earlier this month. Learn more about this annual summit or join a year-round working group on LinkedIn to collaborate with your peers on critical topics and join Charities@Work in 2014.

About the Author:

Thomas Bognanno is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Community Health Charities, a nonprofit entity that works with employers to connect employees to health issues that are personally important to them and their families. An experienced veteran in the nonprofit community, Mr. Bognanno previously had a distinguished 20-year career with the American Diabetes Association. At Community Health Charities, Tom has been a catalyst for creating a new direction for the organization and its 60+ trusted member health charities, with a focus on building even stronger charity, donor, corporate sector and volunteer confidence. 

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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