Corporate giving programs enable businesses to work alongside their employees to make a positive difference in the world. These programs are often driven by employee giving, allowing your team to play an active role in helping the causes they care about.
However, while most employees enjoy working for employers with giving programs, even the most passionate employees sometimes need a little push to participate. This can be for a number of reasons, from being unsure how the program works to simply forgetting about it to even not knowing it exists at all!
To help your business make better, more effective contributions to good causes, this guide will explore eight ways you can encourage employees to donate through your workplace giving program. But first, let’s dig into just why employee giving is so important.
Why does employee giving matter?
Employee giving is a win-win-win situation for businesses, employees, and nonprofits. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these groups can gain from a healthy employee giving program:
The Business Perspective
At first businesses, especially small organizations, may have reservations about jumping into corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives due to the associated costs. However, along with making a positive difference in the world, these donations can pay for themselves in a number of ways.
Today’s employees, especially economically-present Gen Z workers and consumers, are socially conscious and want to associate with businesses committed to charitable causes. Let’s take a look at just a fraction of the research on CSR:
- CSR efforts can improve customer relationships as 70% of consumers state that they want to know what the brands they buy from are doing to address social and environmental issues.
- Strong CSR programs have been linked to increased employee engagement, improved productivity, and even reduced turnover by as much as 50%.
- 86% of employees want the opportunity to participate in corporate giving.
An employee giving program is one of the easiest ways your business can get started with CSR. It’s employee-driven and is at least partially funded by them, sharing the potential financial burden.
All your business needs to do is invest in the proper resources to facilitate employee giving, vet promoted causes, establish giving requirements, provide impact reports, and regularly promote the program.
The Employee Perspective
Quite plainly, donating to a good cause makes the individual who donates feel good. They know they’re actively contributing to a cause that makes a positive difference in the world. Plus, when their employer also cares about and supports that same cause, employees know they’re working for an organization that shares their values.
Employee giving programs can incentivize donating. If an employee gets quarterly reports about how much the business has contributed to good causes, that can remind them to chip in a contribution of their own. Some employee giving programs even allow employees to opt-in to automatic paycheck deductions, making the donation process automatic.
The Nonprofit Perspective
Foremost, nonprofits earn valuable fundraising revenue from employee giving programs. While each individual’s donation alone is helpful, entire teams of like-minded donors all giving together can make a massive impact.
Employee giving programs are also an opportunity for nonprofits to attract attention to their organization. Nonprofits can partner with local businesses to receive funds (or get highlighted to employees looking to give in more open programs), spreading awareness of their cause and attracting new donors.
8 Strategies to Spark Employee Giving
Employee engagement programs like workplace giving programs can essentially run themselves after launch with businesses just needing to send the occasional reminder and impact report. However, to get them to that state, you’ll need to attain employee buy-in and make participation in your giving program a regular part of your company culture.
Whether you’re starting a new employee giving program or trying to reinvigorate your current one, here are eight strategies that will inspire your employees to participate:
1. Plan a formal launch.
Brand new employee giving programs face two major hurdles: letting employees know the program exists and teaching employees how to participate. You can accomplish both of these by treating your giving program’s launch like you would any other business initiative.
For instance, consider preparing the following materials for your giving program launch:
- Announcement video. Part of inspiring your team means getting them excited, and a video announcement can do just that. Consider making a video announcement that both employees and customers can watch. You can use the video to present the program to your employees and then add it to your website to demonstrate your CSR to consumers.
- Process documentation. Giving to charity is an uplifting but ultimately serious matter. Make sure your approach feels anything but slapdash by creating a formal policy for your giving program that’s accessible to employees. Explain the program’s goal, how it relates to your company’s values (or philanthropic statement if you have one), why certain giving requirements are in place, and what steps employees need to take to participate.
- Q&A session. Plan a meeting with employees to present your employee giving program to them directly and answer any questions. This could involve a tutorial on how to navigate your giving software’s interface, receive feedback on improvements employees would like to see, and generally get a sense of how your team feels about the new program.
If you already have an employee giving program that’s seeing lackluster results, consider planning a formal re-launch to reintroduce it to employees. This can be an opportunity to respond to questions employees may have had but never got answered, re-confirm your commitment to social good, and make charitableness a more notable part of your company culture.
2. Provide bonus match incentives.
In a survey, over 84% of donors stated they were more likely to give if their donation would be matched. Companies looking to increase employee giving can leverage this data’s findings by offering a matching gift program.
In addition to encouraging more donations, corporate matching gift programs also signal to employees that their employer cares about the same causes they do. This can help increase employee loyalty and create a sense of teamwork as you and your employees contribute in equal measure to causes that matter.
To start your matching gift program, consider the following matching stipulations:
- Minimum and maximum donations. Establish how much employees have to give in order for their gifts to be matched. Setting a floor can help encourage larger donations, but be careful to strike a balance as too high of a minimum can also dissuade donations at all. Additionally, many companies also establish a maximum amount that they will match each year per employee.
- Match ratio. Most companies match at a 1:1 rate, but some organizations offer 1:2, 1:3, or even rarely 1:4. In contrast, others go lower with a 1:0.5 rate. While a lower rate is certainly an option, it will likely result in fewer employee gifts.
- Causes and types of organizations. What causes and types of charitable organizations will you match donations to? Narrowing your range of eligible organizations focuses your corporate philanthropy efforts but provides less freedom for employees.
- Employee status. Can only full-time employees apply for matching gifts or can part-time and retired employees also participate? If you’re looking for an extra generous approach, some companies even match gifts for their employees’ spouses.
- Application deadline. When do employees need to submit their matching gift application forms? When setting a deadline, be conscious of the end-of-year giving rush and how donors who give in late December may not have the time to fill out a matching gift application by January 1st. You can accommodate for these types of giving patterns by setting a deadline for a certain number of months after a gift is made rather than establishing a static calendar date.
If you decide to incorporate matching gifts into your employee giving program, check if your CSR software has features that can help you create and process matching gift request forms. We’ll explore one of the top new technologies related to matching gifts, matching gift auto-submission, a little later.
3. Be transparent.
Employees want to work for businesses with robust CSR programs. However, it’s also common for employees to be doubtful of corporate philanthropy, especially if businesses aren’t open about their charitable practices and spending.
You can instill buy-in for both employees and customers by being as transparent about your employee giving program as possible. For example, make it a point to:
- Share program goals. Be clear about why you are launching an employee giving program, how it will work, and what you hope to accomplish through it. This is an opportunity to share your official philanthropic mission statement and cement it as part of your business’s brand.
- Provide reports. Use your CSR software to monitor your philanthropic spending, what organizations you’ve donated to, and what impact those nonprofits have made. On a regular basis, such as quarterly or annually, share this report with employees and consumers.
- Answer questions. If employees aren’t sure why a decision is being made or how funds bookmarked for CSR are being spent, invite them to ask questions and give honest answers. Consider holding a Q&A session when first launching or restarting your employee giving program to clear up any confusion.
Part of transparency involves having organized data so you can provide accurate reports and answers to questions. Use a CSR database that lets you keep track of all relevant activities and helps you maintain any relevant compliance regulations.
4. Provide freedom of choice.
Businesses often only match donations for specific types of nonprofits. For example, it’s common to see businesses that match employee donations to all types of nonprofits, except for religious organizations. These limitations can help focus philanthropic efforts and ensure you’re only supporting reputable organizations your business has taken the time to vet.
However, limiting employee freedom of choice can also limit employee giving. Many employees are motivated to participate in employee giving when they have the option to support causes they have a personal connection to, and not having that option can cause them not to give.
Consider your employee giving program’s goals and meet with your team to learn what causes matter to them. Then, you can determine the level of freedom you want to grant employees. This might involve allowing them to choose from a range of nonprofits that tackle a variety of issues, nonprofits with a focus area relevant to your business, any nonprofit employees can think of, or something in between.
5. Facilitate in-kind gifts.
Some members of your team may be interested in giving back in ways other than monetary donations. For these employees, consider adding in-kind donation options to your employee giving program. In-kind donations can be broken up into two categories:
- Physical objects. Many nonprofits accept item donations, such as homeless shelters appreciating donations of clothes and blankets. To encourage this type of giving, run a donation drive and designate a place in your main office where employees can bring their physical donations. Seeing items, whether they’re clothes, food, dog toys, or anything else, pile up can encourage other employees to donate as well.
- Professional services. Employees can donate their specific skills to nonprofits. This is similar to volunteering but involves the employee performing a service the nonprofit would otherwise have to pay for, such as taking professional photographs, creating graphic design assets, or helping run a first aid tent at a 5K fundraiser. Research local nonprofits that could benefit from your employees’ unique skill sets.
Your business can also participate in in-kind giving as part of your CSR program. For example, you might agree to donate all of your company’s old-but-usable computers when you upgrade to a new system. Or, you might combine in-kind gifts with your employee giving program, such as by promising to match employees’ donations of perishable goods to a food bank.
6. Expand to employee volunteering.
Do your employees want a more hands-on approach to doing good in your community? If so, consider expanding your employee giving program with volunteer grants. Volunteer grants are donations businesses make to the charitable organizations their employees volunteer at. The grant amount usually depends on how long the employee volunteered.
Here are the basic steps for how employees at most organizations that offer volunteer grants apply for one:
- The employee volunteers. Use your CSR software to help employees find local nonprofits they can volunteer with and record their hours.
- The employee looks up their grant eligibility. Similar to matching gifts, your business will need to consider your volunteer grant eligibility requirements. Specifically, consider how many hours employees must volunteer. Some businesses provide grant amounts on a per-hour basis whereas others have minimum and maximum hour requirements.
- The employee submits a grant application. Determine what information you’ll need from employees to assess their grant applications. This may include hours volunteered, the nonprofit’s tax ID, contact information for the volunteer supervisor, and anything else that helps you verify the volunteer work.
Use CSR software that allows you to track volunteering along with other relevant employee giving metrics. Encourage volunteering, and report to your employees how many total hours they spent helping charitable causes.
7. Leverage matching gift auto-submission.
While small businesses can run employee giving programs without CSR software, operating at scale makes it necessary. Luckily, CSR platforms have continued to advance to make workplace giving programs easier to participate in than ever.
One important new technology is matching gift auto-submission. Businesses that have CSR software with auto-submission capabilities can essentially turn on the feature and have their matching gift form connected with matching gift databases. As a result, employees can then have their matching gift applications completed for them automatically, dramatically speeding up the process.
Take a look at the following video to see the auto-submission process in action:
Check to see if your CSR software has matching gift auto-submission capability and, if so, what you need to do to turn it on.
8. Set broad employee giving participation rules.
Lower the barriers for participating in your workplace giving program. The easier it is to participate, the more likely you are to inspire your employees to get involved!
For inspiration, Re:Charity’s list of ways to drive employee giving suggests the following:
- Rethink employee eligibility requirements. Chances are, you’ll allow all full-time employees to get involved in initiatives like matching gifts and volunteer grants. Think about your part-time employees and retirees, too. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can even extend some of the same perks to employees’ spouses. For example, you might offer to match their donations to approved nonprofits, even if it’s at a lower rate.
- Consider generous nonprofit eligibility requirements. While you can restrict which nonprofits are eligible, consider allowing any 501(c)(3) organization to benefit from your employee giving program. By allowing more nonprofits to be eligible, you’ll communicate that you care about the same causes your employees do.
- Set low minimums and high maximums for matching gifts. If you offer a matching gifts program, set low minimums and high maximums. A minimum that’s too high may make it difficult for employees to meet requirements. The same goes for volunteer grants. Lower hour requirements are more likely to spark participation.
- Provide flexibility for submission request deadlines. Your employees lead busy lives outside of work hours. Provide some flexibility as to when they have to submit a matching gift or volunteer grant request. Otherwise, deadlines that arrive too quickly might turn people away. One popular option is to set a deadline one year after the contribution is made.
You want employees to participate in workplace giving, so why wouldn’t you make it easy for them? Doing so will show that your company is serious about its social responsibility efforts.
Employee Giving: Final Thoughts
Your employee giving program allows your business to make a positive social impact and invite your team to participate. Give employees the opportunity to support the causes they want to, help facilitate their giving with matching gifts, and provide regular updates about the impact they’ve made.
Of course, employee giving is a complex subject, and this overview might just be the beginning of your research. Continue learning about employee giving with these resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to Workplace Giving Platforms (+ Trends!). Workplace giving software is essential for facilitating employee giving. Get an overview of what to look for in this guide.
- From Disengaged to Inspired: A Guide to Employee Engagement. Employee giving can lead to employee engagement. Discover how else you can motivate your team.
- Corporate Philanthropy: The Ultimate Guide to Giving. Interested in other types of CSR beyond employee giving? Explore this complete guide to corporate philanthropy to learn about your options.