What Is Employee Giving and Why Is It Important?

In today's episode, we discuss what is employee giving, why it matters and how to get employees and executives involved. We also explore how to start an employee giving program, especially on a small budget. 

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Karl Yeh:

Today I'm joined by Danielle Valle Gilchrist, Goodness Catalyst with Benevity. We're going to talk about employee giving.

Danielle, first of all, what is employee giving? Then why does it matter?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Thanks Karl, thanks for having me.

Today we're talking about employee giving, which is a great way to be able to engage your employees and [00:01:00] catalyze impact.

What is employee giving?

On a very high level, employee giving is the ways that I as an employee can use my altruistic efforts, and then be supported by my company to be able to expand that even more.

For example, I can give a dollar to the nonprofit down the street, and then if my company matches that, my dollar goes even further and that nonprofit is able to further their impact.

Karl Yeh: [00:01:30]

Why does this matter? Wouldn't it be the same as if I'm giving a charitable donation to an organization? Why does it matter from a organization perspective?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Why employee giving matters

It's a great way to really show your culture and that you care about your employees, by empowering them to give in their communities, and to even take your dollars to make the impact even [00:02:00] further.

[00:02:00] On an internal company level, it really matters because it can impact employee retention, feeling a sense of belonging, and even being able to recruit higher quality candidates.

Then on the external, it is a great way to have a halo effect of your community knowing that you're really doing the right thing for them, and that the [00:02:30] cause is able to advance more impact because of your efforts.

Karl Yeh:

Got it. Now let's say there's a couple people in the organization that want to do this a lot more and maybe get more people involved.

How do they or how does that one person get going or get some sort of program started in an organization?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

How do you start an employee giving program?

As you're getting a program started, the first thing is to [00:03:00] make the business case of why it matters to the company of the issues that I was just talking about.

Then once you have the approval, to set some goals and get people really engaged.

I'm personally a really competitive person.

I go all the way to the executives and really up the ante and say, "We're going to compete by department to see what department has the most impact in the community this year."

Karl Yeh:

I've seen challenges in [00:03:30] the past with organizations I've worked with where X company has donated X amount, so we want to try to beat it.

I've always been skeptical of that because I'm not sure how people react to like, does it really matter how much this organization gave versus us?

Is it really more about the cause rather than the actual we just gave this much more?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

When you are communicating with employees, the bigger thing is remembering what’s in it for me as an employee.

[00:04:00]  Because if I've even personally made the mistake of having my communications be very specific about the campaign and what the company goals are, but the employee wants to know why it matters to them.

Being able to take that step back, either by telling a story or asking that employee what [00:04:30] they care about, you're really able to inspire them and get them to actually be your advocate on building out your program.

Karl Yeh:

Let's say you got your program started, but there's only maybe three or four, maybe five people regularly participating. How do you get more people involved? How do you get them passionate or engaged with that?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

I would really start [00:05:00] by building a relationship with those five people that are already involved, and nominating them to be your local champions.

Because the biggest thing is employees like to be asked by their peers.

It goes a lot further if I tell my personal story of why I care about a nonprofit, than just it being something that everyone is doing just because somebody asked.

I would start by having those local champions, having [00:05:30] something that's really relevant to your company culture, and then more creatively there are ways that you can feed employee accounts, utilize dollars for doers, other ways that you can be able to encourage even more impact off of that.

Karl Yeh:

How do you find these local champions?

Obviously some people will be apparent, but I've seen some people where they're very quiet, not very quiet, [00:06:00] but more of like you don't know about them until you actually reach out.

Then once they really get involved, they get really involved and they become the catalyst. How do you go about finding those people in maybe a bigger organization?

How do you find local champions or ambassadors for employee giving programs?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

I absolutely agree with you, sometimes they're the sleepers that are just waiting to be asked.

Then once they're asked, it's like you really opened them up. In a bigger organization when you might not have those relationships, [00:06:30] I would connect with the leadership to be able to see if they have any recommendations.

One of our clients actually even took it further and did a international road show and [inaudible 00:06:44] visited each of her office locations, and was able to meet with the employees there and have a conversation about social impact.

Off of those conversations, she was able to say, "This person seems [00:07:00] really passionate, I'm going to continue conversations with them."

Karl Yeh:

Danielle, we talk about how to get employees involved, but I'm really curious how do you get leadership and executives involved?

Because sometimes while employees [00:07:30] are involved, I see the director levels and the higher VPs they don't necessarily get involved.

How do you get them passionate or at least being there or present for some of the events that you're putting on?

How to get executive/leadership involved

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

It really does matter because employees see through it, of if they're taking their day to go to a food bank and they're noticing that their director just happened [00:08:00] to skip it that day, they're going to see that and it's going to stick.

The biggest thing is connecting with leadership and having conversations with why it matters. Sometimes even finding out what they're personally passionate about.

If they're somebody that really loves puppies and it's authentic to your company culture, then maybe have the volunteer event at an animal shelter.

So that something that leadership that that leader [00:08:30] really cares about. But the big things for me are communicate with them early and often.

Communicate why it matters, and again, Danielle is competitive, make it a competition.

Karl Yeh:

Maybe that leads me to my next question too. How do you go about creating these types of programs with a smaller budget?

It's one thing if you have an [00:09:00] established program, and then you can go out and do these events and so on.

What if you're just starting and you may have minimal budget or no budget at all, how do you get started like that?

How to start and run an employee giving program on a small budget

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

I work with a lot of the smaller companies every day and I have this conversation because I get it.

When you have a smaller company, smaller budget, you have to prove the use case in order to move forward.

It's hard because you can just give [00:09:30] Everence thousands of dollars.

Some tactics that we have seen really work are to have feeding campaigns that are small.

For example, even if you give each employee five, $10 to show them that you care and to do a raffle.

For example, when Splunk launched their program a few years ago, they gave every employee $10.

Then one employee got $10,000 and it was [00:10:00] like a raffle competition to find out which employee was going to get the money.

By doing that, everyone logged into their site. Then once they were in, they were giving more money, they were getting more engaged.

Within the first week, 62% of their employees donated and supported 1,300 causes.

The other great thing is because of the way a employee giving platform is built [00:10:30] out we can set the budgets, both for individuals and the whole company, so that you don't have to be penny pinching every day.



Karl Yeh:

That's really interesting with Splunk.

When you're talking about 10,000 is that 10,000 a donation or 10,000 someone's going to win $10,000?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

It's a $10,000 donation that was in their employee giving account.

There's a great story on our website [00:11:00] of the nonprofits that, that employee selected, and how it really got the entire company more excited.

Karl Yeh:

I'll leave a link to that in the description below.

I know the last question I want to ask, and we're all affected by the pandemic and COVID and lockdowns and so on.

How have you seen employee giving I guess, evolve before, maybe during, and what do you maybe foresee in the future of [00:11:30] how employee giving programs will work? Or will it just go back to normal?

How has employee giving evolved throughout the pandemic and what does its future look like?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

It's quite been the year Karl.

The first thing that I noticed 2020 was at first a lot of us were wondering if our corporate responsibility budgets were going to get cut, were going to continue.

Then once we felt solid about our existence during COVID, then we were [00:12:00] able to really catalyze all of the employee passion.

We at Benevity saw a big spike in donating last year, both to hunger nonprofits and to Black Lives Matter movement nonprofits.

We were able to really make a bigger impact than I've seen in the past. The other part of that is because of social distancing, not much in-person volunteering [00:12:30] was happening.

A lot of companies were adapting their campaigns to be more virtual volunteering and donating specific.

Longer term I would love to see companies to continue to catalyze this impact and put big dollars behind this impact, but I'm also hopeful that fingers crossed we'll be able to eventually volunteer in person again and get our hands dirty [00:13:00] at it.

Karl Yeh:

I do think that interaction not through Zoom or not through whatever channels that we go through, but more so that personal connection being at the same place, especially when you're volunteering.

I think there is something special about that, and I definitely hope that we can definitely get there. I think you touched on this just a little bit.

Did you see a higher level [00:13:30] of employee engagement into employee giving programs, workplace giving programs during the pandemic, or during the lockdowns starting in March last year?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Oh yeah Karl. You're right I [inaudible 00:13:45] by that.

We absolutely saw a big spike in donations in 2020. One statistic that comes to mind is during one week during the month [00:14:00] of June, our number of daily users went from less to 100 to in the thousands.

That was just one day of really employees getting engaged, and throughout the rest of the year those who had the ability to donate really stepped up this year.

Karl Yeh:

Do you have anything else to add in terms of employee giving?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

No, please add more [00:14:30] in the comments, we would love to continue the conversation about this topic. We love employee giving here at Benevity and are excited to be able to support you.

Karl Yeh:

Remember, if you want to learn more about employee and workplace giving, check out this playlist here, as well as this playlist, to learn more about how to develop and grow your CSR programs. Thanks for watching and we'll see you in our next episode.




Question for you

Have you started an employee giving program in your organization and how did you start? What were some of the challenges and opportunities? 


About Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

As Manager of Goodness Solutions at Benevity, Danielle Valle Gilchrist guides brands in bringing their social mission to life. Prior to Benevity, she managed employee engagement at Blue Shield of California, where she led a record breaking 80% participation in giving and volunteering programs. She is a graduate of the Boston University Questrom School of Business with an M.B.A. in Public and Non-Profit Management. Danielle enjoys teaching yoga and is a Head of the Charles Regatta champion coxswain (the person who steers during rowing races).

Connect with Danielle on LinkedIn