Having had the privilege to work with hundreds of enterprise companies — many of which are part of the Fortune 1000, we're often asked about what works best when it comes to workplace giving programs. Companies want to know how to get the greatest social and business outcomes out of their programs and we want to help. 

The first and last thing to remember? 

The goal of your giving programs must be employee engagement. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because many programs aren’t designed with this goal in mind.

Companies with high employee engagement consistently outperform on financial measures. According to Project ROI, CSR practices have great potential to deliver financial returns on investment as well as related business and competitive benefits.

For instance, in a large, publicly traded company, CSR has the potential to raise market value by 4-6%, increase revenues by up to 20% and decrease staff turnover rates by up to 50%.

Lately, our clients have seen positive effects on corporate culture when they focus their programs on employee engagement, especially in a global context. Goodness is one of the few things that can unify people across borders, languages, ethnicities, age, contexts and more.

As such, giving back programs provide people with something positive and authentic to rally around, and are an increasingly important tool in the human resource/corporate social responsibility (CSR) arsenal.

With an understanding of the importance of engagement under our belts, we now share our first three secrets aimed at increasing engagement.

1. Commitment from the Top

Employee engagement needs to start from the top. If your executive team genuinely understands that your giving program is a critical element to engaging employees within your culture, it sets both up for success by showing everyone at the company what matters.

And it’s important to define what a successful workplace giving program means. Yes, workplace giving is about social impact and altruism, but one of the best business reasons for having a program is to engage your people.

If the focus of an employee’s connection with your company is primarily on cash compensation or benefits, that person is more likely to leave when higher wages or better benefits are offered elsewhere.

Instead, inspire your employees by creating opportunities for them to give back in ways that truly matter to them as part of their work experience, and you'll build a truly sustainable relationship.

Dos and Don’ts for Involving Your Management Team

Do: Have an earnest conversation about the underlying drivers, goals and value of your workplace giving program, in particular, relating to the corporate culture you are trying to shape.

Don’t: Limit their involvement to sending emails asking employees to give to a cause so the company can hit a target. Find ways for your higher-ups to meaningfully interact to show they care about what their employees care about. It could be through volunteering alongside employees or matching donations.

Do: Encourage the C-suite to lead the way when it comes to workplace giving. Some of the most successful programs are driven from the top.

Don't: Force participation. In the same way that employees don't want to feel coerced to give, neither does management.

Do: Provide opportunities for both your management team and employees to give time and money to causes they care about. That will help you create meaningful connections that positively impact their view of the company — which in turn helps attract, retain and motivate them. For management, tapping into their personal causes will give them an avenue to lead others in giving.

When your executives truly understand the potential impact (both social and business), your company will give higher priority and resources to building a culture of giving, and your program will be better positioned for success.

2. Empower Employee Choice

Giving is personal. People affected by cancer are more likely to support cancer research while those who have travelled to Haiti may wish to donate to projects in that area. People give to causes that resonate with them and reward companies that help them support these causes.

Make it easy for employees to donate to the causes they care about, not just causes you choose for them. Most people — especially millennials — want to decide for themselves where their money goes.

When you provide opportunities as part of your company’s workplace giving program for people to support the causes they care about, people will be five times more likely to participate. These employees will feel good about giving to their causes, generating goodwill they will associate with your company.

3. The Power of "And": Complement Open-Choice Giving Opportunities to Participate in Company-Branded Causes

Empowering choice is critical, but it's also important to align programs with your company’s corporate values. Providing choice doesn’t mean you can't also guide those choices. Employees can support both personal causes and company ones. Highlighting company-branded featured causes, campaigns or disaster relief initiatives also increases employee participation.

For example, if your company identifies health and environment as key pillars of its corporate values, then create a company-wide "Living Healthy" campaign or a company Green Fund to align these causes with your CSR strategy.

For disaster relief, companies need to be able to quickly create featured campaigns, whether the crisis is international or local to help employees who choose to give back. Increasingly, people have greater appetites to support those in crisis and also greater expectations of companies to help when the need is acute.

That's a strong reason to have an international giving component to your program that enables employees to give to organizations like the Red Cross when disaster strikes, as well as local on-the-ground charities that help with long-term relief.

Get Engaged and Feel Good About It!

Ultimately, the end goal is getting people to participate. So, the more ways you offer your employees to support causes they care about, as well as causes the company cares about, the more they're likely to get involved and to feel good doing it. By extension, they feel good about your company. As we like to say at Benevity, “a rising tide raises all boats.”

With these engagement strategies gained, be sure to check out part two of this post to see 4 more secrets to ensuring a successful giving program.

Find out how Benevity can help boost your program with our market-leading workplace giving cloud solution.