What Is Workplace Giving? How to Get Started and What Are the Benefits?

In this episode, we discuss, what is workplace giving? How do you start one in your company and what are the benefits? We also explore how to encourage employees to participate and donate and who leads these programs. Finally, we talk about friend-raising, peer matching and tax benefits of workplace giving programs.

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Karl Yeh:

So in today's episode, I'm joined by Goodness Catalyst, Danielle Valle Gilchrist. And we're going to talk about workplace giving.

Now, Danielle, could we go all the way to the top?

Could you explain to me what is workplace giving? And then we're going to talk about [00:00:30] how do you start one in your company?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Yes, of course. Thanks for taking the time today Karl.

What is workplace giving?

Workplace giving is a great opportunity for companies to be able to engage their employees in small acts that catalyze big impact.

So for example, if I'm really passionate about a nonprofit, I can make a personal donation.

My company matches that donation and that nonprofit is able to get even more funds to be able to [00:01:00] advance their mission.

And a recent ACCP study found that workplace giving is actually a $5 billion per year industry.

Karl Yeh:

If let's say I was someone in a company that really just wanted to start this type of program how do I, I guess, how do I begin?

How to start a workplace giving program/campaign

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

The biggest thing to start with is your company mission and set some goals [00:01:30].

So you want to build a campaign and an entire program that’s really authentic to your company and what your company is focused on.

What I like to think about is having drum beats and guitar solos.

So having things that are consistent throughout the entire year on your campaign, and then a few times a year, have a campaign that's really specific about a specific issue area that you can really engage [00:02:00] your employees and get to get excited.

Karl Yeh:

So if you're starting out, what you're saying is you have a couple key moments in the year that you're really trying to get people to, I guess, give, and then it's maybe the best way to start out is that, just pick some key moments throughout the year and that's pretty much it and then grow from there?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

The other big thing that I would recommend as [00:02:30] you are getting started is to think about feeding employee campaigns.

So for example, when I launched my Benevity account, I can have $10 in my goodness account that then I can choose a nonprofit to give to.

And so that way it's a great way for me to learn about how to give, get engaged and show that my company really cares about what I care about.

Karl Yeh:

And I think one of the [00:03:00] biggest challenges as I'm learning about corporate social responsibility programs, workplace giving programs is how do you get employees to actually participate?

Or how do you increase employee participation?

How do you encourage employees to participate in workplace giving campaigns?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Yes. Something I'm so passionate about is getting employees excited and engaged in giving.

Executive participation

The first thing is it starts from both the top and from the bottom.

So from the [00:03:30] top, you really have to get executives engaged. Have it be something that the company is talking about.

Have it be part of the company culture.

Even have the Vice Presidents and above have goals of how many members of their organization are participating.

Grassroots participation

And then from the bottom, you really want to have it be grassroots of something that employees can share their personal passions and be able to tell [00:04:00] their colleagues what they care about.

And then through both bottom-down and top-up, you're able to bring the entire company together in a way that feels really authentic and gets folks excited about getting engaged.

Karl Yeh:

So in your experience, how fast do these workplace giving programs grow?


Is it usually maybe five, 10 employees to start and as people see more and more [00:04:30] people giving that's when more people participate or is it more of a, yeah is it a grassroots kind of component or is it top-down where, is it you shall do this and then people are starting?

I would imagine the grassroots is probably the more effective, but what have you seen in your experience?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Definitely I agree with you the grassroots is more effective.

As an industry, we've moved away from the top-down you must give at [00:05:00] this time, this amount. Employees really see through it.

And they have such unique ways that they want to give back to companies that we really need to respect what they care about.

What I see most often is that snowball effect that you were talking about, that a few employees get involved and then they tell their colleagues and then it kind of goes from there.

But being [00:05:30] able to do things like having new hire credits, communicating about their program and having specific campaign, you can really have a big burst really quickly.

Karl Yeh:

And how do you go about asking people to participate or donate? Is it just through emails? Is it through lunch and learns? How does that work?

How do you encourage employees to give?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

The more creative you can be the better.

Of course, you should [00:06:00] have the emails going out on a regular cadence. My biggest thing is find where your employees already are.

So let's say there's an all managers meeting. Let's say there's a company-wide get together.

Find a way to sneak your department into that, to be able to show sprinkled goodness into all parts of your organization, as well as [00:06:30] being able to do other out of the ordinary ways of getting involved.

For example, one of our clients, actually, the day that they launched their giving campaign, a member of their staff rode their bicycle around the campus ringing their bell saying, "It's launch day, make sure that you give your account."

Karl Yeh:

That's pretty neat.

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Yeah, it's fun.

Karl Yeh:

If you have people doing that [00:07:00] and I'm sure it's a higher participation then. Because I remember in organizations that I've worked with, you get the United Way email or something kind of email.

It's like, "Hey, you should do this." But there's no really followup and there's no passion behind it. That connects me to my next question is, should there be some sort of, I guess, local champion or somebody who's really passionate about it that is driving?

So it may not be the actual [00:07:30] CSR professional, but there should really be that one person, right?

Who leads workplace and employee giving programs?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Local champions are unbelievably powerful and great at getting your message out, of not only is it that the colleagues are getting asked by somebody that they already know, but it is locally relevant and often even locally language content that makes the most sense for that department. [00:08:00]

And then also for the CSR professional, less work for you because you don't have to be calling thousands of individuals.

You're able to have this army that is helping you put this all together.

Karl Yeh:

But the thing is, the danger I see with the locals champion and maybe you only have one is again, previous organizations when that local champion left, whatever that program was I saw that program kind of just wilt.

And so [00:08:30] how would a CSR professional, who isn't the local champion, how would they counteract that?

Or how would they make sure that the program... Because sometimes the will of one person or two people really drive something and if they're gone that drive is kind of gone and you want to make sure you build that momentum, right?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

The biggest thing is building your bench so that it really can be continuous, regardless if the CSR director leaves or one of your local champions leaves, it’s something that’s so ingrained in the company culture that it’s not a nice to have, it’s a need to have.

And what I often see is when you're doing it well, when someone leaves, you have an entire bench of folks that are interested in taking that leadership role and are able to keep getting even more momentum on the project.

Karl Yeh:

So Danielle, what are exactly the benefits of having a workplace giving program for an organization? Benefits as in internal benefits or even external benefits?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Yeah, so internally it is unbelievably helpful for belonging, [00:10:00] for employee retention, for HR to be able to have storytelling.

A lot of candidates are actually asking about workplace giving and corporate responsibility when they are in the interview process right now.

So you're really able to hire better candidates by being really involved in your communities.

Externally there's a big halo effect and even a license to operate that comes from [00:10:30] having a robust workplace giving.

And the other important factor is the impact that it makes on those non-profits. Because workplace giving is often unrestricted funding for those nonprofits, it really helps the causes advance their mission and help them go even further.

Karl Yeh:

I've heard a couple of these terms, right. Friendraising and peer matching.

Could you maybe explain a couple of those things for us?

What are Friendraising and Peer Matching?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Yes. [00:11:00] Friendly raising and peer matching are examples of creative ways to really capitalize on that energy that we were talking about before.

So either with friendraising, I am personally passionate about the Red Cross and I'm participating in a walk.

And so I can have a specific fundraiser for myself that I can ask my friends [00:11:30] to support my specific campaign within a broader issue.

Peer matching is similar, but a little bit different in that I am matching along with the company match, I'm upping the ante and putting my own money on the line as well.

So for example, we had a colleague that had a cause that she was really passionate about, shared her very personal story, and [00:12:00] then said that she would give $1,000 of her own money in addition to the company match.

And then even more employees then got engaged and the $50 that I donated then became $150 because of the company match and that individual's match as well.

The other really exciting part that you can use to get employees engaged is using Dollars for Doers [00:12:30] or some sort of reward credit for volunteering.

As well as we were talking about new hire credits and other ways that you can creatively get employees engaged in their company program.

Karl Yeh:

So one more question for you, Danielle is and I've seen this and I've done my research on some of this too is, what are some of the tax benefits of having a workplace giving program, either or both from a [00:13:00] individual perspective and from a organization perspective?

We don't really have into the total tax details here, right?

Is workplace giving tax-deductible?

Danielle Valle Gilchrist:

Yes, I am certainly not a CPA. So I'm not going to get into very much of the details, but just high level, both for the individual and for the company itself, there are tax benefits of having a corporate giving account.

So for example, for the individual, if I'm [00:13:30] able to collect all of the receipts of my nonprofit giving at the end of the calendar year and use that for filing my taxes, as well as, as a company, I can collect all of my matching gifts, all of the other ways that I have donated to the community.

And I'm able to collect all of that when I'm doing my corporate taxes, to be able to share the impact that I'm making in the community.

Karl Yeh: [00:14:00] Now, remember, if you want to learn more about developing and growing your CSR program, you've got to check out this playlist here.

Thanks for watching. And we'll see you on our next episode.

Question for you

 And the question of the day for you is, have you started a workplace giving program in your organization and how is it working?


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