Employee Engagement Best Practices

Employee Engagement Best Practices: Transform Your Culture

Employee engagement has become a hot button topic in the past few years. There are multiple guides, reports, and articles that all offer tips and tricks to boost employee engagement up from where it is (which is just above 30% by the way).

How do you know what advice to follow?

Well, we’ve compiled a quick and easy list of best practices to help you increase your company’s employee engagement.

Know what employee engagement actually is

Just because your employees show up to work and seem happy doesn’t mean they’re engaged. Employee engagement is loosely defined as the emotional and functional commitment an employee has to helping achieve the mission of the company.

More specifically, engaged employees:

  • Volunteer for extra projects or tasks
  • Help their coworkers and offer advice
  • Support the company’s mission and goals
  • Speak positively about the company
  • Take part in training activities to broaden their skill sets
  • Are open to constructive criticism and feedback

Becoming aware of whether or not your employees are engaged can help you know what strategies to use to boost employee engagement.

Wondering why employee engagement is even important? Check out this article.

Implement employee recognition programs

Your workers want to know that the work they do doesn’t go unnoticed. If an employee does particularly well on a project, big or small, congratulate them on a job well done.

Employee recognition can take a few different forms:

  1. A simple thank you. Letting employees know that you appreciate the daily work they do can be a good way to encourage better performance and increase employee engagement.
  2. Rewarding tenure. When an employee has been with a company for three, five, ten, or even twenty years, use their dedication to your organization as a chance to recognize them and thank them.
  3. Peer-to-peer recognition. Encourage employees to recognize each other for jobs well done or other milestones in their careers.
  4. Tell stories. Instead of having a traditional “Employee of the Month” award, let employees tell stories of success about themselves or their coworkers. These stories can go out in monthly company newsletters, emails, or be posted on an office bulletin board.

Appreciated employees are more likely to feel connected and engaged with the company they work for, and while there are many other ways to recognize your stellar employees, remember that recognition should be frequent and consistent. While some employees may perform better than others, try to highlight each worker’s strengths and let them know you appreciate them.

Develop a culture of corporate philanthropy

Over two thirds of millennial employees expect their employers to focus on societal or mission-driven problems. With the millennial generation set to overtake the baby boomers and the Gen-Xers in the workplace within the next few years, creating an environment of corporate philanthropy is becoming more important than ever.

You can engage your employees by implementing corporate giving programs such as:

  • Matching gift programs that allow employees’ donations to nonprofit organizations be doubled or even tripled by the company they work for.
  • Volunteer grant programs that provide money and other resources to groups of employees who donate and volunteer at nonprofits.
  • Dollars for Doers programs that contribute a set amount of money per hour that an employee volunteers at a nonprofit organization.
  • Fundraising matching programs that match the funds pledged to an employee participating in a fundraising walk or run.

By encouraging employees to be more philanthropically minded, companies can boost employee engagement at work and in the community. When employees feel like the company they work for cares about a cause they themselves support, they are more likely to connect with the company and feel engaged.

Learn more about the different types of corporate giving programs.

Treat employees like people, not machines

Productivity and profits are vital to an organization, but keep in mind that your employees are humans, not robots. While this point may seem fairly obvious, it can be easy to forget that employees perform better and feel more engaged when they have regular breaks and time to recharge.

Easy ways to help your employees feel more productive and engaged include:

  1. Implementing flextime. Flextime requires employees to be at the office during a core period of time, usually a few hours in the afternoon, while the rest of the work day is open for them to use how they want. Flextime can help all employees reach their full potential and be more engaged.
  2. Trying flexspace, which offers the same versatility as flextime with regard to workspaces. Flexspace allows employees to choose their own location for the workday. Some employees may thrive in an office environment while others prefer the noises of a coffee shop. Giving employees the option will help them feel cared for and will boost their engagement.
  3. Offering longer breaks. Employees who don’t take breaks are susceptible to burning out and feeling dissatisfied with their jobs. Encourage your workers to take regular breaks to recharge, especially if they stare at a computer for hours at a time.
  4. Providing them with competitive compensation. Workers want to know that the work they’re doing is valuable, but they also want to feel valued. Giving your employees competitive pay plus benefits can be a huge way to increase employee engagement. If workers feel like they aren’t being monetarily rewarded for their hard work, not only will they feel disengaged, but they may leave their jobs completely.

Obviously, not every company will be able to implement the same programs and procedures. What works for massive companies like Google and Facebook might not be as effective or easy to execute on a smaller level. Discover what your employees want and try your best to accommodate them.

Conduct employee engagement surveys

One of the most effective ways to find out exactly what your employees want and determine how engaged they are is by developing and conducting an employee engagement survey. While employee engagement surveys have recently gotten a bad rap for being too generic and not accurately measuring employee engagement, they can still be great tools for improving engagement if you know what to measure and what to do with the information you gather.

For tips on creating a great employee engagement survey, check out this article.

Offer career support

Employees want to know that the company they work for is personally invested in them. One of the ways you can demonstrate your support and help engage more employees is by offering career support.

Employees should feel like there is mobility within the company. If there are no opportunities for advancement, they will likely sink into a rut, become disengaged, and look for other employment.

You can prevent these problems by having conversations with employees on a regular basis about their career aspirations and goals. Listening to them and giving them the tools and chances to professionally grow will help stimulate employee engagement and help your company thrive.

Communicate effectively with employees

There is nothing that frustrates employees more than a lack of communication between themselves and their supervisors. Ineffectual conversations that don’t help employees understand their projects and tasks can lead to misunderstandings and a decline in productivity.

When employees feel like they have an open dialogue with managers and other company leaders, they will be able to communicate when they are dissatisfied or need support. Being available to employees can help them feel more confident and encouraged, leading to higher employee engagement.

Learn more about increasing employee engagement in your company.

While this is by no means a completely comprehensive list of every single way to increase employee engagement, these best practices, when used together, will help your employees feel more engaged and content at work, resulting in better productivity and profits.

employee engagement tips

10 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

Engaged employees can be a fantastic asset to your company. They work harder, are more passionate about their jobs, go the extra mile, and feel connected to the company and its mission.

Unfortunately, most employees are not engaged at work.

A recent Gallup poll found that only 30% of American workers feel engaged at their jobs.

Increasing that percentage, even by a small margin, can help boost company productivity, overall happiness levels, and can strengthen the bonds between workers and their employers.

Here are ten ways to increase employee engagement!

1. Start at the top

If the managers and other leaders in your company don’t feel engaged, there’s a strong possibility that a majority of your employees won’t, either.

Making sure that everyone from the top leadership down feels like their job is worthwhile and important will create a culture of engagement, one that is critical for helping employees on every rung of the corporate ladder reach their full potential.

2. Create a positive work environment

Employee engagement will suffer if workers don’t look forward to coming to the office every day. Of course, not every company can implement comfortable beanbag chairs and lay out the ultimate red carpet for its employees. You can, however, create a friendly environment, one that emphasizes teamwork and camaraderie amongst managers and employees.

Making sure that workers feel at home and comfortable in their workspace is a key component to helping them feel more engaged.

3. Set clear goals and expectations

If employees are unsure about what direction the company is heading, they’re more likely to check out and stay disengaged. Keeping focused goals in the forefront of your mind as well as in the minds of your staff will help them feel connected to the company and will help boost employee engagement.

Employees want to know that the work they’re doing matters. Whether you’re selling paper products or building playgrounds, reinforce the idea that your company is doing something worthwhile. Employees will feel motivated and connected to each other as well as the company as a whole.

4. Foster a culture of corporate philanthropy

Employees want to feel a connection to the companies that they work for. If a company takes an interest in the causes that employees care about, workers are more likely to feel more engaged.

You can create an environment of corporate philanthropy by:

  • Creating a matching gift program. When employees give to nonprofit organizations, matching gift programs enable employers to contribute the same amount to the nonprofit. Employees will know that the company they work for supports them and the causes that they care about if their donations are matched.

Discover how matching gifts positively impact employee engagement.

  • Encouraging volunteerism. If you know that employees regularly donate their money or time to a nonprofit, help cultivate their relationship with that organization. Employees are proud to work for a company that has a shared investment in the community. Helping employees volunteer either individually or in groups and rewarding that volunteerism with volunteer grants can be a great way to connect with employees and keep them engaged.

Learn more about using volunteer grants to boost employee engagement.

  • Recognizing and praising employees who donate to nonprofit organizations. Employees will feel connected and engaged if you reward them for their charitable donations. Additionally, they’re more likely to continue to give to those organizations if they feel supported by their employers. Encouraging nonprofit giving is a fantastic way to help your employees feel connected to the company they work for and the causes they’re passionate about.

Find out how corporate philanthropy can help employee engagement.

5. Distribute employee engagement surveys

It’s difficult to know what employees enjoy and dislike about working in a company. However, distributing comprehensive employee engagement surveys on a regular basis, whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly, can help you assess what you’re doing right and what could use improvement.

If you detect problems, talk to employees about their concerns. Maintaining an open dialogue will help assuage some issues before they become major problems.

Check out these ways to create an effective employee engagement survey.

6. Encourage individual growth

Employees feel engaged when their employers are invested in them. Encouraging employee growth and providing opportunities to develop their skills either through training or by taking on bigger projects will ensure that employees feel connected and engaged in the workplace.

If workers feel that there is no room to grow individually and professionally, they will either leave the company or become disengaged as soon as they walk in the door every morning. You can avoid these problems simply by helping your employees reach their full potential.

7. Provide feedback – good and bad

If you don’t let your employees know how they’re performing, they will assume that you don’t have a vested interest in them or the work they’re doing. This can lead to disengagement and an apathetic attitude about work.

If an employee does well on a particular assignment, let him or her know that you appreciate the hard work and dedication.

Additionally, if an employee seems to be disconnected and distant and hasn’t been performing up to standards, have a conversation with him or her. The reasons for disengagement could vary, but having a candid exchange can help you determine the best way to help the employee reach his or her full potential.

8. Remember that employees are people, not machines

While productivity and meeting quotas are important, keep in mind that your employees can only do so much. They have lives outside of work that already demand a lot from them. Don’t overburden your workers with more than they can take.

Additionally, allow employees to have regular breaks and time to recharge. Taking short breaks throughout the day can help boost productivity and creativity.

9. Be transparent

Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re in the dark when it comes to the inner workings of your company. Naturally, there are certain things that have to remain confidential, but sharing information about the company’s next steps and goals as well as any news will help employees feel connected and in the know.

10. Encourage collaboration

Allowing employees to regularly work in teams and groups instead of on their own can not only help cultivate friendship and trust among them, but it will also boost productivity and engagement. When employees feel like they are part of a team, they are more likely to work harder and enjoy the work that they do.

Learn more about employee engagement best practices.

Boosting employee engagement doesn’t have to be complex. By combining these ten tips and finding out which ones work best for your company, you’ll be able to retain more employees, keep your current employees happy and content, and increase productivity.

Learn more about the importance of employee engagement.

employee engagement

8 Results-Driven Reasons You Need Employee Engagement

Andrew Carnegie once said, “You must capture and keep the heart of the original and supremely able man before his brain can do its best.”

Although Carnegie wasn’t explicitly talking about employee engagement, this quote perfectly illustrates how vital it is to engage your employees so they will be happier and perform to the best of their abilities.

Unfortunately, employee engagement is sometimes an afterthought. Instead, engaging employees should be practiced at all levels of the business hierarchy and cultivated on a regular basis.

Studies show that less than a third of American workers are engaged at their jobs, so there is definitely room for improvement. But why exactly does employee engagement matter?

Here are eight reasons why employee engagement is vital to your company.

Employee Engagement Helps Cause Marketing

1. Employee Engagement Can Help Your Cause Marketing

If your nonprofit takes up a particular cause throughout the year or during a specific time period, having engaged employees is a must.

Nothing is worse than trying to get people on board with a cause they don’t care about or making them participate in an event that they don’t want any part of.

But engaged employees can be a boon for your company’s cause marketing efforts.

Engaged employees enjoy being part of a solution. They like to participate in events and volunteer with nonprofits.

Employees who are engaged at work will be more than willing to help out when the company they work for pursues a noble cause.

Better Engagement Means Better Productivity

2. Better engagement means better productivity

Corporations whose employees are engaged perform better than companies whose employees are not by over 200%.

When employees are engaged at work, they feel a connection with the company. They believe that the work they’re doing is important and therefore work harder.

According to Gallup, the lack of employee engagement costs American businesses anywhere from $450 billion to $550 billion a year when workplace accidents, absenteeism, and larger heath care costs are factored in. This massive chunk of money could significantly shrink if more companies emphasized employee engagement.

Engaged Employees are Less Likely to Quit

3. Engaged employees are less likely to quit

If you’re completely happy and content in a relationship, why would you break up with your significant other?

You probably wouldn’t.

The same principle goes for employees’ relationships with their employers. Nearly $11 billion is lost due to annual employee turnover.

But, if the members of your team are engaged and feel appreciated, they are less inclined to look for other employment opportunities. Fostering a culture of employee engagement can be the key to reducing turnover rates and boosting employee retention.

If employees feel needed and wanted when they go into work each day, the connections they form with the company and their other coworkers are not easily eroded. By cultivating and maintaining these relationships, you reduce the risk that your employees will quit.

Engaged Employees Bring a Positive Attitude

4. Engaged employees are positive

Workers who feel disconnected and disengaged are more likely to have negative things to say about your company. If a disengaged employee leaves or is fired, they are able to vent their frustrations on any number of social forums and sites.

Because negative feedback tends to be magnified more than positive, your company’s reputation and credibility could be damaged due to a single disengaged, disgruntled employee.

Conversely, engaged employees are positive and have enthusiastic things to say about where they work. Whether they are bragging about their job to customers or simply telling friends and family how much they enjoy working, employees who are engaged will help spread good news about your company.

Employees are Satisfied when they're Engaged

5. Employees feel satisfied when they’re engaged

Employee engagement isn’t just beneficial for your company, however. Employees who are engaged at work feel satisfied with their careers and are generally happier individuals than employees who aren’t engaged.

It’s important to remember that boosting employee engagement isn’t simply about creating more productive, robotic employees and increasing profits. Employee engagement is advantageous for both parties and should be treated as a two-way street.

One of the biggest advantages to increased employee engagement is that you’ll be surrounded by happy workers who enjoy coming to work nearly every day. Engaged employees are cheerful employees.

Engaged Employees are More Philanthropic

6. Engaged employees are more philanthropically minded

Employees who are engaged at work want to know that the company they work for cares about the community. If the company encourages volunteerism or provides matching gift or volunteer grant programs, engaged employees are more likely to take advantage of these opportunities to donate their time and money toward worthy causes.

Learn how to use matching gift programs to foster employee engagement.

By creating an atmosphere of corporate philanthropy, you can not only help employees contribute to nonprofit organizations, but you can also help them feel more engaged and fulfilled at work.

Discover the top ways corporate philanthropy can help your company increase employee engagement.

Engaged Employees are Better Communicators

7. Engaged employees are better communicators

Employees who care about their jobs are more effective communicators with their coworkers, leaders, and customers alike. Disengaged workers may mindlessly go through their day without remembering any of the conversations that they had (if they had any at all!).

Engaged employees, however, will engage each other in stimulating discussions that could turn into productive brainstorming sessions. Incorporating a culture of employee engagement can not only help employees connect with one another, but it can also help create new innovations and ideas.

Engaged Employees are More Creative

8. Engaged employees are more creative

All of the conversations that will spring up within your company because of increased employee engagement have the potential to make your employees more creative.

Disengaged employees rarely produce new solutions or bring innovative ideas to the table; they have little interest in contributing to the bigger picture or being creative with their job.

Engaged employees, on the other hand, find creativity to be essential. They thrive on knowing that they can find new ways of completing tasks and projects and are always looking for fresh takes on old ideas.

Learn more about increasing employee engagement.

By creating an atmosphere of employee engagement, you can not only boost productivity and profits, but you can also help your employees reach their full potential and look forward to coming to work each day. Your workers will feel more satisfied and content with their careers, and your company will benefit from higher productivity and profits.

Additional Employee Engagement Resources:

Matching Gifts Employee Engagement

The Impact of Matching Gift Programs on Employee Engagement

Philanthropy has become a core value of many American corporations. CEOs and corporate leaders see philanthropy as a major part of their commitment to society as well as a valuable benefit for their employees. It’s a way to give something back to employees and support causes that are important to them.

One of the biggest ways that corporate philanthropy manifests itself is in the  form of matching gift programs.

However, an important consideration for implementing, maintaining, or expanding a matching gift program should be its impact on employee engagement. Matching Gifts and Employee Engagement

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is typically defined as the extent to which employee commitment, both emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission and vision of the organization.

Engaged employees work with passion and feel a strong connection to their company. Companies with high levels of engagement also see higher levels of employee retention.

Find out more about why employee engagement is so important.

Unfortunately the converse is also true. Disengaged employees feel distant from their organization and generally do not view their connection to their employers as anything more than a job.

They are less likely to commit time and effort to help the organization succeed. Studies show that disengaged employees are less productive than engaged employees.

A key driver of employee engagement has been reported to be an employee’s perception of the organization’s values. Without a positive feeling about the values of the organization, employee engagement will likely remain low.

At a time when employee engagement is on the decline and corporations are depicted as greedy and insensitive, a well-designed matching gift program can help companies show their employees that they care and have shared values. While this is not the sole driver of engagement, it is an important contributing factor.

Check out these companies that do a great job engaging employees through their corporate giving programs.

Common Themes of Effective Matching Gift Programs

  1. They are easily understood and communicated to employees.The Three Keys to Designing Effective Employee Matching Gift Programs
  2. They are easy for the corporation to administer.
  3. They are flexible enough to be utilized by employees in their desire to support nonprofits and causes of their choosing.

Check out these best practices for matching gifts!

An alternative approach is to construct the matching gift program in a way that garners and encourages support for causes that the organization chooses to champion. With this approach, corporate values are emphasized and reinforced for employees who share those values.

Conversely it can have less of a positive impact on employee engagement as it limits their choices to areas that the company values. This would be the case where a corporation focuses its matching gifts program exclusively in areas like education, for example.

Learn more about matching gift and other corporate giving programs.

Companies seeking to positively impact employee engagement should consider implementing a matching gift program that is broad in scope, easy to communicate, and demonstrates the shared values of the company and employees.

For other ways to increase employee engagement, check out these best practices.

 

Matching gift letters

What Happens After a Donor Makes a Matching Gift Submission?

HURRAH! You’ve done it.

Your nonprofit has gotten a donor to see the light and submit a matching gift request.

Now what?

The most difficult work is done. Your promotional effort has worked. The responsibility is now in the hands of the donor’s employer — at least momentarily.

Well, you can sit back and twiddle your thumbs … but not for long. Pretty soon the ball will be back in your court, and it’ll be your turn to handle things. The donor’s company is not going to blindly accept their employee’s submission.

The donor’s submission process is going to vary from company to company, but it will roughly follow similar patterns:

  1. Employees log into the company’s matching gift submission website
  2. Employees search for the nonprofit they donated to
  3. Employees select the nonprofit from the search results (if not found, they enter the organization’s information)
  4. Employees register their donation and submit the matching gift request

After a donor makes a matching gift request submission to his or her employer, that company then needs to process the request.

Your nonprofit is going to have to be involved, albeit rather peripherally, in that process.

What should your nonprofit expect to receive from a company that’s just received a matching gift request from one of your organization’s donors?

Well, expect a letter for starters. It may come by mail, email, fax, plane, train, or automobile. Okay, so maybe not those last three, but definitely mail, email, or fax.

The letter will basically be asking for verification that the employee made the donation and that you’re the nonprofit that the employee says you are. It will be a quick and painless process. The letter will usually come through a third party company that handles matching gift requests for the employer at hand and it will ask you take a few verification steps.

It should be quick and painless for your nonprofit.

To help clear up any potential questions you may have, let’s walk through a sample letter from a company to a nonprofit.

In the case of this sample:

  • Corporation X represents your donor’s employer
  • Y Nonprofit represents you, the ones receiving the donation
  • Company Z represents the third party business handling the corporate giving program

Corporation X’s Corporate Giving Program

Dear Y Nonprofit,

Company Z is Corporation X’s vendor that helps process and fulfill requests through the corporate giving program. As Corporation X’s vendor, we at Company Z work to ensure that the donation process goes as smoothly as possible. Part of that process involves guaranteeing that funds requested by employees are allocated to the correct charities.

We have great news! An employee has made a match request on your behalf!

That match request now needs your confirmation.

In order to complete the confirmation, please follow the link below.

“Link to Company Z’s vendor portal with Corporation X”

Once on the site, create a new account or log into your existing account if you already have one.

If creating a new account, you will be prompted to answer a series of questions which are as follows:

  • Organization contact information
  • Contact information for the specific employee handling the request
  • A registration code unique to your case — ABC-DEFG
  • A match ID unique to your case — 12345

You will be able to set up a username and password and then confirm the match request that is currently pending.

Questions? Please call us at 111-222-3333 or email us at support@companyz.corporationx.com, and one of our representatives will be able to assist you.

Thank you for all the great work you do.

Best,

Company Z Support

111-222-3333 / support@companyz.corporationx.com

As you can see from that letter template, it is not going to take much to confirm a matching gift request and see those extra funds come in, but you will need to essentially verify that the employee making the request did in fact make the donation that he or she reported. And the letter will give you all the information needed to do so.

To help track your progress, a matching gift best practice that we recommend, keep records of any confirmations your organization makes.

That way, you know to be expecting funds and can cross them off the list when the employers donate them.

It is quite common that donors will submit a matching gift request without telling the nonprofit that they are doing so. They are certainly not required to tell the nonprofit anything. Therefore, the first chance your organization has to begin tracking these submission requests is when the employer contacts you. Take advantage of that knowledge.

One of the best and most proactive steps a nonprofit can take to keep donors around is thanking quickly and often.

Don’t officially thank the donor until you receive the matching gift donation from that donor’s employer; however, if you are keeping careful records of matching gift submissions in progress you will be able to prepare to send out acknowledgments sooner and you will be less likely to lose track of a donor, and / or that donor’s records, in the shuffle.

The matching gift submission process is by no means brain surgery. In fact, many of the third party vendors that corporations use have handled submissions for so long the whole experience is as streamlined and timely as possible.

It never hurts to know what to expect though, and now you do. Make sure those letters do not get mixed up in the wrong place or filed away before anyone has had a chance to make the confirmation! They are your key to converting matching gift requests into matching gift funds. Don’t let your organization be the bottleneck holding up the process.

If your organization is going to seriously pursue matching gifts, it should assign the processing of requests to one staff member, probably on your development team. That way, when letters like the sample above come in, your whole office knows exactly who to send them to. And, that person will quickly gain familiarity with the process and be able to make and track the confirmations as efficiently as possible.

companies doing corporate philanthropy right

The Top 6 Corporate Philanthropy Infographics

There’s a good news / bad news situation regarding data on corporate philanthropy.

The good news:

The bad(ish) news:

  • Sometimes you’ll come across so much data that you won’t know which way is up and which way is down, which data is accurate, which less so, which is relevant, which less so. You get the idea.

Well, we’re here to solve that corporate philanthropy conundrum.

Below you’ll find the top 6 corporate philanthropy infographics.

We’ve done the work of sifting through the many in order to highlight an elite few. So without further ado, here they are in no particular order.

Infographic #1: Giving in Numbers Brief

CECP giving in numbers brief

Put together by the CECP, in conjunction with The Conference Board, the Giving in Numbers Brief takes a comprehensive look at trends and statistics in corporate giving. The infographic is filled with data culled from the survey responses of 271 multi-billion dollar companies.

Here are a few highlights:

  • 9 out of 10 companies offered a matching gift program
  • an average of 30% of employees volunteer
  • 29% of corporate giving went to education related causes — a combined percentage from K-12 and higher education

Infographic #2: Top 10 Corporations That Gave Cash to Charity

Corporate Giving in Cash to Charities

Here at Double the Donation, we thought we’d throw our hat into the ring with an infographic of our own. As its title suggests, this graphic focuses on the ten corporations that gave the most cash to charity in the year the graphic was produced.

Walmart leads the pack with $311.6 million in cash donations. And not too far off the lead, in tenth, was Target with a still very generous $148.5 million. A breakdown of leaders in the philanthropic giving community is a good way to be introduced to the possibilities of these programs and programs like them.

If you’re interested in matching gift programs specifically, check out the top corporate programs. 

Either way you slice it, if you’re looking into corporate giving, whether you’re an employee, nonprofit, or company, it is useful to get a sense for the power players in the world of corporate giving.

To see analysis of corporations numbered 2 – 9, you can follow this link.

Infographic #3: BP’s Fabric of America

BP Fabric of America Fund

This infographic is a great example of a corporation taking the initiative to outline and highlight its own efforts. Through its Fabric of America Fund, BP will donate $300 to the charity of an employee’s choice.

Learn more about BP’s employee giving programs.

Infographic #4: Meaningful Match-Making by Benevity

Meaningful Match-Making by Benevity

This infographic focuses on how corporations can use matching gift programs to increase employee engagement. It offers tons of valuable and insightful advice.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Five tips for increased employee engagement in matching gift programs
    1. Inclusivity — providing matching gifts for donations to a large range of nonprofits
    2. Letting external matches occur — accounting for and honoring donations made outside of your company’s matching gift program
    3. Expediency — make the matches as quickly as possible in order to demonstrate your commitment and dedication to your employees’ nonprofits of interest
    4. Share-ability — give employees the chance to share the news of their recent gifts and matched gifts
    5. Clarity — let your employees know exactly what the eligibility requirements are for your program
  • Match broadly to appeal to the inclusivity tip, but provide greater incentives for certain causes or nonprofits that your company is specifically interested and invested in helping.

 

Infographic #5: Corporate Citizenship — A Necessary Investment for Success

Current State of Corporate Citizenship

Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship created a helpful infographic regarding the current state of corporate citizenship. The infographic revealed a general upward trend in business investment in corporate citizenship and a rising understanding of the necessity of these programs.

Specifically, the infographic zeroes in on the benefits of corporate citizenship, which it separates into three categories:

  • contributing to company success
  • returning value to shareholders
  • meriting additional investment

Corporate citizenship initiatives, which usually include employee volunteering programs and corporate philanthropic giving as components, are implemented with the idea of businesses serving the communities in which they thrive in, generating a mutually beneficial situation between the company and stakeholders.

Corporate citizenship is a diverse topic to handle. Discover why it’s so important!

Infographic #6: State of Developing Good

International Corporate Giving Infographic

YourCause created this infographic on the state of developing global good as a way of summarizing key international corporate giving statistics.

A couple stats that jump out at us include:

  • 80% of adults around the world agree they can make the world a better place with their actions —
  • 85% of companies in the US have a formal domestic corporate giving program in place vs. only 45% with a formal international program.

Both represent tremendous opportunities for companies to further their global impact.

These six infographics should more than whet your appetite for data, statistics, and analysis regarding corporate philanthropy. These were all put together with a lot of thought, care, and research. We hope you find the information invaluable to your quest for a greater understanding of corporate giving.

road map to challenge grants

The Road Map to Securing a Challenge Grant

A challenge grant is a commitment made by a grant making organization to donate a set number of funds to a nonprofit or educational institution once that grantee has raised a certain amount of money as specified by the challenge.

They provide an excellent revenue opportunity for nonprofits.

If your organization is interested in applying for one and pursuing the opportunity, you’re in the right place.

Use the advice below as a road map for securing a challenge grant and successfully reaching the fundraising bar set by your grant’s parameters. 

Like with any fundraising effort, obtaining a challenge grant takes proper planning and preparation. They should be treated like contingency offers. There’s an inherent risk, but also a great possible reward on the other side of things.

One of the more tedious aspects of grant seeking is the writing of grant proposals. However, the good thing about a challenge grant proposal is it forces your nonprofit to explicitly design its strategy for attaining the grant. The boy scouts are definitely onto something with their “always prepared” motto.

In order to properly plan for a challenge grant a nonprofit or educational institution has to look forward. Assessing and predicting future organizational behavior and needs is crucial. Think through what your nonprofit needs six, nine, twelve, eighteen months out. Work backwards to plan out the steps you’ll need to take.

Questions to Ask During the Challenge Grant Application and Appeal Process

#1: What is our nonprofit’s current and/or standard approach to fundraising?

By asking this question, you are determining if a challenge grant is worth it for your nonprofit or educational institution. Think through how your organization traditionally fundraises. What methods are you using to reach your financial aims?

Do you use any of the following fundraising strategies?

  • annual fund campaigns
  • matching gifts
  • major giving programs
  • monthly donor programs
  • special events
  • and more

For each of these various strategies what methods do you employ to bring in the most donations possible?

  • newsletters
  • direct mail
  • phonathons
  • email

There are a multitude of options and combinations of fundraising methods and strategies. Consider where a challenge grant fits among your preexisting system.

#2: What do my donor and prospect pools look like?

Take a tally of who your current donors are. What traits characterize them? What types of donors are you missing from your donor pool that you think would be a good organizational fit?

You could even perform a prospect screening.

Think through how a challenge grant could tap into prospect groups you hadn’t previously been able to reach.

#3: What upcoming events will pair well with challenge grant promotions?

Like the right cheese and a good wine, the perfect pairing of event and challenge grant can help your efforts convert into reaching the grant’s required funds raised threshold. When thinking through what scheduled campaigns and events would be helpful in securing a challenge grant, remember the application process timeline.

Grant submission instructions and guidelines will typically outline a process timeline. If the challenge grant appeal takes five months and you have an event in four months that you want to use the challenge grant to encourage increased donations for, that plan won’t work.

Your answers to those questions are going to steer your challenge grant planning.

After the approval of your challenge grant appeal, you’ll be set to start the work of actually bringing in enough funds to fulfill the grant requirements.

Use the overarching goal of reaching that match threshold to encourage donations from your supporters.

As a general best practice, it is a good idea to consider offering some kind of special gift for those who upgrade or newly join in to help you reach your goal.

Techniques to Cast a Wide Net and Ensure That Your Nonprofit Doesn’t Miss the Challenge Grant Match Mark.

In our Ultimate Guide to Marketing Matching Gifts, the whole marketing process is designed around the concept of raising awareness.

With matching gifts, the biggest obstacle between your nonprofit and receiving a matching gift is how little most employees know about the corporate giving opportunities available to them.

Raising awareness of your challenge grant is of the utmost importance as well. These grants are great for donation incentives, but the encouragement only works if donors know what is happening.

For promotion, you’ll want to:

  1. incorporate your challenge grant information into your communications
  2. get your board involved
  3. target certain donor segments

Let’s look at these promotional strategies one at a time.

#1: Incorporate Your Challenge Grant Information Into Your Communications

Information regarding your nonprofit’s challenge grant and its implications in your fundraising budget should be incorporated into your various communication channels.

Take a similar approach to what you would do for matching gift marketing. Dedicate some space on your web page to informing visitors of how the grant works and what the funds will accomplish. Mention the grant as part of your asks to encourage donations. The knowledge that even more can come from your funds can be just the nudge a prospect needs to become a donor or a donor needs to contribute a little more than was predicted.

Add challenge grant details to your emails, newsletters, direct mail, social media, and phone calls. Get creative with how you’re promoting the opportunity. For example, your staff could have a challenge grant call to action as part of their email signatures.

Here is an example challenge grant letter:

Challenge Grant Letter

 

The goal is to saturate the market with your challenge grant marketing.

#2: Get Your Board Involved

Your board is one of your biggest assets. Have them lead a fundraising charge. Their social and business networks are invaluable resources for the development of your nonprofit. Much of fundraising is about who you know, and board members tend to know a lot of people. This is a great chance to expand your donor pool by bringing new donors into the fold.

Some challenge grant guidelines even stipulate that funds have to be from new donors, so if you’re in that situation make sure you’re looking to the valuable resource you have in your board.

#3: Target Certain Donor Segments

Sometimes it can really help overall results to focus in on certain segments. It is a lowering of quantity to upgrade the quality of the asks you can make. If you have a massive list of donors in your database, you need to be able to prioritize and target those you think will be most receptive to the challenge grant incentive and are most in need of increased attention from your fundraisers.

Examples of segments to target are:

  • major donors
  • major donor candidates
  • millennials
  • lapsed donors

The segment possibilities are endless. Decide what would work best for your organization.

Challenge grants will not simply fall into your nonprofit’s lap. They take research and planning to find, effort to get approved, and strategy and skill to successfully secure. Challenge is in the name for a reason. However, with the right approach, your grant seeking should go smoothly. And once your nonprofit has its newly matched funds, waiting to help serve your mission, all the work will certainly be worth it.

Read our Ultimate Guide to Challenge Grants >

Challenge Grants

The Ultimate Guide to Challenge Grants

Have you ever made a deal with someone that you would do something in the present in return for a future reward upon accomplishment?

Kids and parents have arrangements like this all the time. Clean your room and you can have thirty extra minutes of television time tonight. Watch your sister this weekend and we’ll pay for your concert tickets next month. The agreements typically follow a similar trend. The recipient must first complete a task that is in some way a form of self-improvement (i.e. a neater living situation or quality time with a sibling) and then he or she gains the preset reward that exceeds self-improvement. It is a bettering, incentive driven method of deal making.

What if I told you those agreements have a relative in the philanthropic community? Well, they do. They are called challenge grants.

What are challenge grants?

Challenge grants are usually given by corporations, foundations, trusts, or government agencies. They are mostly granted to nonprofits and higher education institutions.

In many ways, they are as they sound, grants with a challenge built in to the structure.

Challenge grants are funds given by a grant making party to a nonprofit organization or educational institution following the successful fulfillment of a predetermined list of requirements.

Let’s unpack the challenge grant definition.

Grant makers agree to give the selected grantee a set amount of funds upon completion of a preassigned task, known in this case as the challenge. These challenges are not easy feats. They involve considerable effort and work on the part of the nonprofit or educational institution.

The challenge can have one or many components. For example, there could be a set requirement that an organization bring in x number of new members.

The biggest factor is almost always a fiscal one. The challenge grant boils down to how much a nonprofit needs to raise in order to receive a grant of x dollars in funds.

Learn more about the definition of challenge grants.

What are challenge grant ratios and amounts?

Previously in this blog, we’ve discussed ratios for matching gifts. With employee matching gift programs, an employer determines a set ratio for how they will match employee contributions to eligible nonprofits. For instance, if a donor works for a company with a matching gift program that honors a 2:1 match ratio and that donor gives your nonprofit a $100 dollar donation and submits the appropriate paperwork, the employer will give $200 on top of the initial $100.

Challenge grants also have match ratios, but they tend to operate slightly in different ways. With a challenge grant match that is set at 2:1, the grantee puts in the two and the grant maker puts in the one. So, if a challenge grant is for $20,000 at a 2:1 ratio, the grantee has to raise $40,000 in order to receive the $20,000 from the grant maker.

Sample Four Year Challenge Grant
(Grant maker providing $1 for every $2 an organization raises)

Challenge Grants

Challenge grant ratios and amounts vary and it’s common to see challenge grants with ratios such as:

  • 1:2 (Grant maker will provide $2 for every $1 an organization raises)
  • 1:1 (Grant maker will provide $1 for every $1 an organization raises)
  • 3:1 (Grant maker will provide $1 for every $3 an organization raises)

How do challenge grants benefit nonprofits?

From a pragmatic standpoint, donations are donations are donations. All fundraising has its challenges and adversities. With challenge grants those specific circumstances can actually be addressed at the beginning of the process. They remove some of the unpredictability associated with campaigns. The grants especially compliment capital campaigns.

Challenge grants can do a lot for nonprofits and educational institutions. The grants can:

  • infuse campaigns with reinvigorated energy
  • help guide fundraising strategies
  • lead organizations to up their data tracking methods and systems
  • bring in new donors and prospects
  • increase funds raised from current donors
  • fold former supporters back into the donor pool
  • and more

Benefits are going to range from situation to situation and all the potential positive outcomes are too diverse and numerous to list. Those six points, however, should give you a sense of the ways in which seeking and receiving a challenge grant can be a boon for your nonprofit.

When considering challenge grants, it is important to also think through the big picture ramifications and how the relationship between grantee and grant maker can be mutually beneficial.

After the successful granting of funds through a challenge grant, both parties can expect:

  • the grantee to see a boost in awareness from the public endorsement by the grant maker
  • the grantee to find a way to publicly honor the grant maker
  • the grant maker to see a boost in their image from the public charitable contribution

Since grant makers can be corporations, foundations, trusts, or government agencies, the reasoning behind giving this particular type of donation cannot be pinned down in one concise sentence. What can be said is that there are clearly benefits for the grant maker as well as the grantee.

There will always be multiple factors at play for why, for instance, one corporation decides to pursue any type of corporate giving, challenge grants included. Just understand, that if your staff can understand the major factors at play in drawing these grant makers to challenge grants, your staff can better cater their grant proposals to appeal to those in charge in order to increase the likelihood of your proposal’s acceptance.

How can you get started seeking challenge grants?

In order to successfully plan a challenge grant, a nonprofit or educational institution needs to look forward and gauge future organizational actions and needs. Consider what your nonprofit wants to accomplish six months to a year from now. Then backtrack to understand what you will need to get to that point.

During the process, ask:

  • What fundraising events will I want to actively promote my challenge grant efforts in conjunction with? Your answer here needs to take into account the grant maker’s timeline for evaluating and deciding whether or not to go forward with your organization’s application. If the application process is four months and you want to use the challenge grant in three months, your timing will not work out.
  • What is the makeup of my donor pool (and prospects too)? First, it never hurts to get to know your donors better. Second, you’ll want to be strategic in designing the way you seek your challenge grant around what your donors and prospects would be most receptive to.
  • What are my fundraising standbys? Fundraising is a broad field, and most nonprofits take a customized and tailored approach. One nonprofit might favor events. A university or college might prefer phonathons. Flesh out your list of common fundraising methods and consider how challenge grants could accompany those efforts.

With a solid understanding of your answers to those questions, you’re ready to start planning. Your plan will draw from your answers to create the ideal circumstances for acquiring funds for a challenge grant.

Once your challenge grant proposal is approved, you’ll begin the work of reaching your set dollar amount. With the umbrella goal of fundraising to meet the match, you can use that as the incentive to encourage contributions.

Employ a wide range of approaches to meet your financial requirement, like:

  • including information on your challenge grant within your various communications
  • encouraging your board to participate
  • targeting certain donor segments
  • and much more

You’ll be pleased with how well your donors and prospects respond when they know what their contributions can turn into with the help of your challenge grant.

Learn more about seeking challenge grants.

What’s the difference between challenge grants and corporate matching gifts?

Although they can both fall under the larger category of corporate giving and use some of the same structures, once you understand them both, they are easy to differentiate.

Unfortunately, as if to add to any potential confusion, challenge grants can sometimes be referred to as matching grants, not to be mixed up with employee matching gift grants.

On a basic level, matching gifts are mostly in the hands of the donor and challenge grants are mostly in the hands of the nonprofit. Both have a donation match element but the surrounding circumstances are vastly different.

Employee Matching Gifts:
Employee matching gift programs are corporate philanthropy programs where companies match donations made by their employees to nonprofits employees choose to support. There are five basic steps:

  1. A supporter makes a donation
  2. A supporter realizes his company has an employee matching gift program
  3. A supporter submits a matching gift request
  4. The company confirms the details with the nonprofit
  5. The company submits a donation according to whatever their program guidelines allocate

Learn more about matching gift programs.

Challenge Grants:
In the instance of a challenge grant, a nonprofit makes an arrangement with some funding entity (which may or may not be a corporation) to receive a certain set dollar amount upon completion of a preset challenge, like raising x amount of dollars.

A direct comparison of the two processes alleviates confusion.

The general confusion stems from their seeming similarities. Both rely on a nonprofit, a donor to that nonprofit, and a third party entity to work together in order to be successful. Both function off of preset match ratios. And both can essentially provide bonus funds for the nonprofits the donations are going towards.

The great thing about the two is that a nonprofit can pursue both and doubly benefit.

With the two matching avenues at play, an organization can acquire a donation due to the added impetus of their challenge grant, receive a matching gift from that donor’s employer, fulfill the match challenge requirements thanks in part to those funds, and earn the agreed upon grant.

Fundraising is an all hands on deck endeavor that truly thrives when nonprofits approach it from a creative and multi-step approach.

challenge grants definition

What Are Challenge Grants

Challenge grants can massively boost a recipient nonprofit campaign’s final fundraising numbers. Challenge grants are less about reaching a fundraising goal and more about surpassing one. They are largely beneficial for nonprofits and educational institutions.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know much of our content is focused on the matching gift and volunteer grants side of corporate giving. Challenge grants can fall within corporate giving as well, although they aren’t exclusively part of corporate giving.

Due to the cross-over with corporate giving, we’ve decided to focus some attention on these valuable grants, and there’s no better place to start than with a definition.

Challenge Grants Definition

Challenge grants are funds given by a grant making party to a nonprofit organization or educational institution following the successful fulfillment of a predetermined list of requirements.

That’s the basic definition, but to better explain the meaning behind it and the grants as a whole, the definition can be divided into three subcategories, or, more accurately, sub-questions:

  1. How do they work?
  2. What organizations serve to benefit from challenge grants?
  3. Why pursue a challenge grant?

Let’s begin with “how they work” to deepen your understanding of the fundraising opportunity.

How Do They Work?

Essentially, a nonprofit enters into an agreement. Per this agreement, the nonprofit works to raise a set number of funds. Once the fundraising campaign crosses that dollar amount threshold, the second party to the agreement grants the nonprofit funds of a previously specified amount.

Think about the process in terms of a volcano. The agreement is the volcano and the funds raised are the lava. Prior to an eruption, the lava builds inside the volcano. That process, pushing just to the edge of eruption, is all the work a nonprofit does to get to that funding threshold. Once the lava reaches a certain level, or the funds hit that set number, the volcano erupts. The volcanic eruption is equivalent to the point at which the grant maker grants the promised funds. From there the lava flows freely and over time (a long time) an island forms — a high revenue fundraising campaign turned quarter turned year.

Challenge grants are typically given out by foundations, trusts, corporations, or government agencies.

The preassigned funding threshold is not a lowball number, but rather a lofty goal that nonprofits have to reach in order to secure the grant.

The challenge can have multiple components. As part of the arrangement a grantee may have to increase its membership to a certain number or sell a specified amount of campaign t-shirts. The terms of challenge grants will vary from nonprofit to nonprofit and from grant maker to grant maker according to individual situations.

The grants function according to match ratios, just like employee matching gifts do. For example, with a challenge grant match that is set at 2:1, the grantee is responsible for the 2 and the grant maker is responsible for the 1. Given that, if a challenge grant is for $30,000, the grantee must bring in $60,000 in donations before receiving the grant maker’s $30,000.

Per the grant making organization’s stipulations, different applicants could be eligible for different ratios. For instance, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ most recent challenge grant program stipulations stated that recipients had to honor a 3:1 ratio, with the exception of a select few types of universities and colleges that could follow a 2:1 ratio.

Grants with high dollar amounts can even be set up to be earned and distributed in segments over a set period of time. Consider a $100,000 grant to be achieved over three years. In year one the grantee raises $50,000 and is matched for $25,000. In year two the grantee again raises $50,000 and is matched for $25,000. Finally, in year three the grantee raises $100,000 and is matched for $50,000.

Sample Four Year Challenge Grant
(Grant maker providing $1 for every $2 an organization raises)

Challenge Grants

Challenge grant ratios and amounts vary and it’s common to see challenge grants with ratios such as:

  • 1:2 (Grant maker will provide $2 for every $1 an organization raises)
  • 1:1 (Grant maker will provide $1 for every $1 an organization raises)
  • 3:1 (Grant maker will provide $1 for every $3 an organization raises)

What Organizations Serve to Benefit from Challenge Grants?

Some challenge grants are aimed at a specific subset of the nonprofit sector, while others are more universally open to all nonprofit organizations.

The four main benefactors behind the grants are:

  1. corporations
  2. government agencies
  3. trusts
  4. foundations

A foundation or a government agency might be more likely to limit its grants to a select type of nonprofit, simply based on the nature or the focus of the foundation or agency. A corporation with a broader corporate giving program will most likely be more flexible with its eligibility parameters.

Similar to matching gift eligibility guidelines, many challenge grant programs will accept applications from a variety of 501(c)(3) organizations and educational institutions, including:

  • arts and cultural organizations
  • community based social services
  • environmental organizations
  • healthcare based organizations
  • K-12 educational institutions
  • higher education institutions

Like with any organization seeking a grant, researching and zeroing on the ones best suited to help your nonprofit or educational institution is the best path to take.

Why Pursue a Challenge Grant?

Challenge grants provide a unique combination of incentive and encouragement to reach new fundraising peaks with the knowledge that an even bigger reward awaits your organization if you can meet those goals.

A nonprofit working towards a challenge grant can use the momentum and the impending additional contributions to:

  • fund new projects and programs
  • reinvigorate and grow their donor base
  • target a specific donor segment
  • and much more

Clearly defined goals are always welcome and recommended with fundraising. A challenge grant is a next level of goal setting. Challenge grants are ultimately cause and effect. Reach this first amazing goal and surpass it with the help of a grant maker. You’re fundraising towards an exact number, which donors will respect and be more inclined to help you reach than not.

Impress upon them that their donations go beyond the amount they physically contribute. A $100 dollar donation to a nonprofit with a challenge grant program is more than a $100 dollar donation.

The stakes are raised, and so too are the donations.

View our Ultimate Guide to Challenge Grants >