Ultimate guide to workplace and employee giving
What is an employee giving program? How does it work?
On a very high level, employee giving is a way to describe employees who regularly engage in altruistic giving that’s encouraged, supported and amplified by their company.
As an example, if an employee donates their own money to a local nonprofit fighting homelessness and their company matches that donation, the nonprofit now has even more funds they can use to advance their mission, and the employee feels even more supported and connected to the company.
With generations of employees becoming more socially conscious, they’re looking for ways to be forces for good in the world — and they want to be able to do that at work.
(Workplace giving can be amplified even further with innovations like Peer Matching, which empowers employees to match their coworkers’ donations — for even more connection and impact).
The structures of employee giving programs are as varied and broad as companies themselves and can range from large-scale campaigns that direct funds to a single cause, to open-choice programs that allow employees to have much more say about where their donations are going. More modern programs tend to run continuously throughout the year, while more traditional programs may be focused on a particular season or day for encouraging giving, such as GivingTuesday.
Your giving program could be part of a broader corporate purpose initiative that includes volunteering and community investment, or it can exist independently.
Did you know?
Employees in open-choice programs are two times more likely to make donations.
How do I get started with a giving program?
If you think your company would benefit from an employee giving program, before even thinking about launching it you’ll want to make a business case to your company leadership about why an employee giving program matters and how it can be a boost for business, culture and employee retention.
Take the time to consider the structure and culture of your organization, what model would work best for you, and how much budget is available to get your program up and running.
Consider whether your company already takes a stand or plays a role in your community on particular issues (a chain of grocery stores who are committed to ending hunger, or a tech company committed to providing children in low-income communities with opportunities to learn to code).
Consider the “why” of your company and your future employee giving program:
- What causes or issues are important to your company?
- What gaps are you trying to fill in your communities?
- What are the demographics of your employees? Millennials? Gen Z? Boomers? An even mix?
- What social issues are important to your employees? (i.e., racial equity, the environment, gender equality, homelessness), and what kinds of grassroots fundraising efforts have they initiated?
- What causes do you think are most important to your investors and customers?
Once you get approval from your leadership team, it’s time to set some goals and get people really engaged.
WATCH THIS ON-DEMAND WEBINAR:
Encouraging employees to donate and get involved
Host a kickoff (and have fun with it!):
Enlist the help of your marketing and communications team to help you craft a launch plan for your program! You may consider using an all-hands or town hall meeting to announce it.
If you have the creative resources, you could make a video about the new program to play during the company-wide meeting.
Or, have some fun by asking your corporate social responsibility team to ride into the meeting on bicycles or wear party hats to announce the launch. It doesn’t matter what you do — the goal is to have fun and make a splash!
Recruit local champions to help:
If your organization is spread across several locations, and even countries, consider finding and building relationships with local employees who’ll be more familiar with the culture of that office and the surrounding region.
This also spreads out the workload for CSR professionals so they don’t have to run the broader program all by themselves or with a tiny team.
You can even find a local champion exclusively for remote employees — who may feel a bit disconnected from the people working in your head office (especially as many employees head back to physical offices post-COVID).
They can act as champions for hyperlocal causes — relief for a hurricane or incident of flooding in the community — that may not be on the radar of employees on the other end of the country or world.
Try seeding to grow participation quickly:
Seeding means providing your people with donation currency — as much or as little as your budget can accommodate — and encouraging them to direct the funds to the cause of their choice. (If you use corporate purpose software, also called employee giving software, you can even put the money directly into your employees’ giving accounts).
It’s a great way to introduce employees, especially new ones, to the concept of employee giving, to get them used to using your corporate purpose software and to drive overall participation.
Splunk, a Benevity client, did exactly this with their first-ever global giving campaign and they saw massive success.
The catch was they had to log into the corporate purpose software to find out if they were the recipient (which upped the chances of them spending their seed money in the first place)!
Encourage both grassroots and leadership participation:
A really successful program starts from the top and from the bottom.
At the top, your leadership will really set the tone for your employee giving program. They could offer to match donations made by employees to encourage participation, or they could take the time to share what causes they personally plan to support — and why.
Your leadership team should also be able to articulate how the giving program’s priorities and focus areas align with the culture and values of your company.
They should also be aware of the goals your program has for participation and impact, and should actively work with the CSR team to meet those goals.
And then from the bottom, you really want to encourage grassroots participation. Individual employees sharing their personal stories of which causes mean something to them can go a long way to creating a Goodness movement in your company. It’s a personal and authentic way to inspire their colleagues, instead of everyone simply being told to donate to a single cause endorsed by the company.
This combined approach will help as many people as possible get involved.
Get creative when you’re promoting campaigns:
Whether you’re launching your program or a special campaign around a particular issue or cause — Earth Day or International Women’s Day, as examples — get creative with your marketing. Keep your employees in the loop with banners in the lobby, postcards dropped on desks, Slack messages from team leaders and announcements on your company Intranet.
Encourage your local champions (or even your leadership team) to show up unannounced in department meetings to spread the message about a new campaign or initiative.
Offer payroll giving:
Companies who offer payroll giving as a payment method (versus paying via credit card or even check) see four times the rate of participation than programs that don’t. Perhaps more importantly, they engage people who are more oriented towards micro-giving or smaller donation amounts, which helps many companies like yours reach people in lower salary bands.
Engage in some friendly competition:
You could encourage different departments to organize their own teams and compete over who can have the most impact for the year. Checking in regularly with results will help keep each team feeling motivated and competitive. You could offer prizes or matching funds to the group with the highest participation.
Whether it’s weekly or monthly, if you send out emails announcing new initiatives and celebrating goals you’ve achieved, your people will come to expect them and will feel informed and empowered — knowing they’ve had an impact! Don’t forget to send follow-up reminders, especially if you want your people to take action on a campaign.
Write spotlights and news features to keep your people engaged in the Goodness their team members are spreading (you can even ask your PR team to help out with creating and sharing the spotlights).
Should my company offer matching?
Matching is a powerful incentive for your employees to donate their own funds. It amplifies the impact for the cause they’re choosing to support, and it also lets them know that you support them making a difference in the world, at work. It even encourages them to give more of their own money.
Many companies provide their people with a matching budget per calendar year, anywhere from $50 to $2,000 (there’s really no limit). If that’s the path you’d like to go down, you’ll need to incorporate a matching budget into your overall workplace giving program budget.
Benevity data shows that companies who engage their people in doing good see an average of 57% lower turnover (and higher in some industries) — a huge deal when studies show that turnover costs companies hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
Is it better to run campaigns or promote employee giving all year?
For a well-rounded program, you might want to think about both “drum beats” and “guitar solos.” Drums beats are the giving opportunities your people engage in all year. Your employees support nonprofits working on causes that mean something to them, no matter what the season is.
They may even set up recurring monthly payroll donations so they know they can support nonprofits directly from their paychecks.
Consider encouraging your employees to create their own giving opportunities, so they can rally their peers behind a cause they care about. This’ll drive further grassroots engagement!
And then, a few times a year, you may want to run a campaign that’s about a specific issue that your people can get engaged and inspired by.
Many companies do this during the fall “giving season” when most donating tends to happen, but they may also create a campaign to support an awareness date like Black History Month, to raise money for a nonprofit partner like Girls Who Code, or to respond to a disaster like a hurricane.
How BlackRock drove social impact with their GivingTuesday campaign:
What are the benefits of a workplace giving program?
For companies, you can…
- Showcase (and build) your culture
- Demonstrate that you care about your employees and what matters to them
- Show that profit and purpose can co-exist — and they are the future of business
- Enjoy higher employee retention
- Cultivate a feeling of belonging
- Attract higher-quality job candidates
- Have a direct way to make a positive impact in your company’s communities, and the communities of your employees
- Improve your bottom line
For nonprofits, they can…
- Develop strong relationships and partnerships with companies and larger pools of donors
- Receive more support through corporate matching than from an individual donation made outside of work
- Create and share profiles and share opportunities directly with employees — who can then choose if they want to participate
- Receive donations directly via corporate purpose software — no need to cash checks, or worse, have those checks go missing in the mail
- Educate large groups of employees about important social issues during webinars, lunch-and-learns or cause fairs, if your company chooses
Is workplace giving tax deductible?
It will depend on the particulars of your organization and the donations themselves, (always consult a tax professional!), as well as where each employee and nonprofit are located. But generally, there are tax advantages to employee and corporate giving programs.
When your individual employees give through corporate purpose software, their donation tax receipts are stored in one place and are easy to access. They won’t have to collect receipts from each individual nonprofit they supported, which means less work for both them and the nonprofit. Donations can generally be claimed as tax credits on individual returns.
If your company matches employee donations or makes other contributions, those donations are deductible from your company’s profits (with some exceptions — remember that tax professional we mentioned!)
What are some workplace giving trends?
The best way to see what today’s employees and customers value is to examine where (and when) they give. Each year, Benevity takes a deep look at the causes people choose to support amidst the circumstances of that year.
The year 2020 was a watershed 12 months for corporate purpose. At Benevity, we noticed that many trends that had been bubbling under the surface over the past five or six years came to a head in 2020. We took the time to analyze data from our platform to share what these corporate purpose trends mean for our 650 clients in a ground-breaking report. (There’s also an audio version).
Here are some of the trends explored in the report:
- Companies are empowering their employees to be social citizens
- Grassroots passions are fueling collective movements
- Giving is personal and companies can’t necessarily anticipate what matters to individuals
- Companies are expanding their definitions of impact
- The rise of the power of the individual —people are driving program direction
- Trust-based philanthropy has taken hold
- CEOs are spending 50% of their time on ESG topics
Read the full report to learn more about giving trends (and how we identify them):
Regularly re-evaluating and auditing your workplace giving program
It may be tempting to “set and forget” your employee giving program, but regular audits and examinations will help you ensure you’re having the most impact, while meeting the needs of your people and your charitable partners.
Many companies stick with the same program structure and partners because “it’s how they’ve always done it.” But that’s not going to create the most impact and, in fact, it can mean your participation and impact goes down each year when it could be going up.
Here are some questions to kick off your workplace giving evaluation:
- What are your participation rates? Are they rising or declining?
- Is your program closed and limited to a campaign period for two to three weeks in the fall — and that’s when you do all your activities? Why is it designed that way?
- What are the pros and cons to opening up your program? (To operate all year and provide a broad choice of causes for employees who could make donations anytime they want — at Benevity, we call this open-choice giving).
- Can your employees donate to causes across borders?
- What employee feedback have you received about the giving program? And what feedback from leadership?
How does workplace giving affect employee engagement?
Turnover is reduced by an average of 57% amongst employees who engage in workplace giving and volunteering, according to the Benevity Engagement Study. The data validates the long-held experience of CSR leaders — that employees who give, volunteer, or do both, are more connected and engaged than those who do not, and retention is higher among that cohort.
Employees who only donated money or only volunteered time had lower turnover rates than those who did neither; however, the greatest reduction in turnover was observed by the group of employees who both donated money and volunteered time.
- Employees who neither donated nor volunteered: 28% turnover
- Employees who only donated money: 18% turnover
- Employees who only volunteered time: 17% turnover
- Employees who both donated money and volunteered time: 12% turnover
What are some examples of successful workplace giving programs
Levi Strauss & Co. bakes purpose into everything they do— starting from when new employees come on board to ongoing initiatives aimed at engaging their people, customers and communities in social good.
TELUS has a strong We Give Where We Live philosophy and they make a point of highlighting personal, buzzworthy stories and the contributions of individual team members company-wide to boost participation.
Intel has a culture of giving back, on top of a long history of celebrating their successes and anniversaries with their community. Find out how they used a 50th anniversary campaign to increase participation by 64%.
How do you measure the success of your employee giving program?
A big part of measuring success will be about understanding what you’re actually trying to do with your program (and this will be different for each company).
Here’s what to consider and what questions to ask:
Outputs: This is the number of people who donated to a campaign and the money that was raised. These metrics are relatively easy for a CSR professional to track and pull. It’s great to track these outputs, but they may not tell the whole story about whether or not your program is truly a success.
Retention rates: Consult HR to find out what your retention rates are, and if they’ve risen since you implemented your giving program.
Employee satisfaction scores: Generally, an effective employee giving program will influence employee satisfaction. What does your most recent employee engagement survey say? Are scores rising or falling?
Donor behavior: How many donors are repeat donors every year? How many donors gave for the first time in the past year?
Ambassadors and champions: Did you have employees who wanted to sign up to be champions or ambassadors for your program over the past year?
Making it real: Did you host any real-time events that involved bringing in speakers from organizations who could talk about the impact employee giving has on causes?
Your “why”: This isn’t as easy to quantify — but you’ll want to consider whether your program is truly reflecting your company’s values, culture and intentions.
Showing your employees their impact
A workplace giving program has the potential to make your employees feel like agents of change — who can really make a difference in the world while they are at work. But it’s not over after they push the donate button.
It’s important to show them examples of the impact they and their colleagues have made, whether that’s sharing the money raised, number of nonprofits supported or how their local communities were positively affected.
Maybe one of the nonprofits your company and people support could give a talk to your workplace to explain the effect your charitable giving has on their ability to operate.
Consider inviting one of the nonprofit leaders to join a company webinar tackling an important Diversity, Equity & Inclusion issue, to discuss how supporting that nonprofit may reflect your company’s core values as well.
How do you scale your workplace giving program globally
Maybe you’ve run a successful program for a few years, but it only operates out of head office when you have locations around the country or the globe.
Perhaps your employees have expressed a desire to give across borders to more international causes, many of whom can’t accept cash, but aren’t sure how to send funds globally, manage currency exchanges or how to vet nonprofits to make sure they are legitimate.
Scaling your program globally to include as many people as possible is easier than you might think and it will foster feelings of inclusion and help even more nonprofits create impact.
Here’s what you might want to do to scale:
Choose a technology platform that has the language option(s) you need: It’s one thing to want to launch your workplace giving program in India — it’s another if you can actually offer the experience in local languages.
Examine centralized or regionalized giving programs: What’s relevant to employees in your head office in the U.S. may not be relevant to those in Canada or the U.K. Running a truly global program may mean putting resources into building thriving regionalized programs, while continuing to run some campaigns out of your head office.
This is advantageous because you can tailor your regionalized programs to meet the needs of those specific employees and make sure they have the option to support causes they really care about. It also allows your programs to be responsive to what’s going on right in front them — whether that’s a natural disaster or a regional event that’s meaningful to team members in Miami but doesn’t mean much to staff in Chicago.
If you haven’t already, find local champions who can execute the program with you: You may be surprised by how many people are passionate about getting involved, and they’ll have a finger on the pulse of their respective locations and be able to advocate for the issues their co-workers care about. If there’s a local event your champions think the broader company many want to support (i.e. Boston employees competing in the Boston Marathon), they can provide that additional context for employees in Toronto who don’t necessarily understand the significance of the event (but may still want to show their support for their co-workers by matching a donation).
Some local champions are even given job titles so they can share the workload of the CSR professionals working in the head office.
Add vetting: International giving can be complex. Consider choosing corporate purpose software that vets causes and nonprofits for you, ensuring your company and people are only supporting legitimate organizations and your brand reputation is never put at risk.
Round out your program by adding volunteering: Use volunteering as the gateway to more Goodness.
70% of employees who volunteer also donate money through their workplace giving programs — and when they do, they give two times as much as non-volunteers.
Don’t wait to launch an employee giving program
Your employees are ready and eager to feel a sense of purpose at work — and a workplace giving program is one way to make that happen for them. Whether you’d rather start small with a single campaign or go big with a year-round program from the get-go, your company (and the causes you support!) will see so many benefits.
And when you’re ready, you can round out your program with volunteering, community investment, smalls acts of Goodness and a whole lot more.