Charity Starts at Home
More than ever before, companies of all sizes are paying attention to their impact on the world outside of their business. Corporate social responsibility has become a key aspect of many operational plans; most businesses understand the importance of using their resources not only to grow the company, but also to create positive change in the world.
Corporate philanthropy forms the cornerstone of many corporate social responsibility plans. In fact, in 2014, corporations donated more than $17 billion to charities, an increase of about 13 percent over 2013. However, corporate giving is actually only a small part — less than 10 percent — of all giving in the U.S., indicating that most people prefer to support charities on their own, separate from their employer.
So what’s the problem? Why are individuals not supportive of their employer’s charitable efforts? How can companies build more support for their internal efforts?
Why Workplace Charity Matters
Corporate social responsibility is undoubtedly an important part of running any business. Studies show that consumers are more likely to support a company that is socially responsible or supportive of a good cause, and will boycott companies that they view as irresponsible.
In addition, people want to work for socially conscious companies. According to America’s Charities, 80 percent of the companies surveyed agreed that employee giving is an important part of attracting and retaining top talent. In another study, researchers found that employees who were proud of their company were more engaged than those who weren’t. This is important, because engaged employees tend to be productive employees, and less likely to leave their jobs and create expensive turnover.
Why Employees Aren’t Engaged in Corporate Philanthropy — And How to Fix It
So given the benefits of corporate charity and employee giving programs, why aren’t companies more successful? There are several reasons.
- Lack of meaning. The most successful employee giving programs are those that allow employees to select the organizations and charities they support; they don’t want to give to their employer’s favorite causes if they aren’t personally meaningful.
- Lack of matching gifts. Employer matched gifts go a long way toward increasing involvement, because employees feel they can make their money go further.
- Lack of results. Many employees report that they gave money or time, but never saw or heard about results. Without evidence of the impact of their support, they lost interest.
- Lack of opportunities. Not all employees are willing or able to give money. Again, matching donations can help, but other opportunities, such as time off to volunteer, can help an employee feel involved.
- Lack of incentive. Millennials especially tend to be very award and incentive driven. If they aren’t given sufficient reason to support even the most worthy charitable organization, they won’t engage.
Understanding the reasons that your employees aren’t engaged is the first step. Fixing the problem, though, requires implementing some specific changes.
Allow choice. More companies than ever before are allowing employees to choose the organizations they support. However, only about half allow employees to determine to choose any charity; the other half asks employees to select from a pre-determined list of organizations.
There are compelling reasons for either model, but the bottom line is that you must allow employees to choose the charities that are meaningful to them. Some employees might prefer well-known charities like the Red Cross or cancer research efforts. Others might lean toward more esoteric organizations. For example, Boat Angels accepts donations of boats that are too big for private owners to dispose of or can’t sell, and the donations fund children’s charities. Fortune Society supports ex-prisoners’ reentry into society and promotes alternatives to incarceration.
If you want to focus on a select few to maximize impact, give employees input into which organizations will be on the list.
Create incentives. Encourage employees to give time and money by offering matching gifts, or making a donation on an employee’s behalf if they volunteer for a certain number of hours. Recognize employees who support philanthropy with awards.
Offer different opportunities. Allow employees opportunities to engage on their own terms. Some might feel engaged by writing a check, while others want to devote their free time to working in the field. Meet your employees where they are and make it easy for them to support charities in the way that they are most comfortable with.
Get social. Social media is becoming a catalyst for charitable giving in all sectors. Many employees, especially millennials, are more likely to donate when asked or encouraged to by co-workers, so give employees the tools to share their experiences and reasons for giving with each other.
Report results. Don’t forget to share the outcomes of your campaigns. Workplace giving shouldn’t feel like a black hole where money disappears. Share results via social media, in celebrations, and other public arenas to help employees feel like they are making a difference.
Employee support for your philanthropic efforts helps create a positive public image, but it also indicates higher employee engagement overall while helping a worthy cause. You may never please everyone, but paying attention to choices and incentives can go a long way toward making your company a charitable giving powerhouse.