Aligning corporate philanthropic initiatives with employee giving and volunteering

The evolution of corporate giving continues! This evolution has taken us from checkbook philanthropy where companies would sprinkle around grants for various good works to a new kind of philanthropy where proactive giving is closely aligned with the mission and assets of companies.

The latest step in this evolutionary process is to align this strategic philanthropic approach with employee engagement activities including a company’s employee giving and volunteering programs. Intuitively, this makes sense as companies want to maximize all the resources they are putting behind Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. It also makes sense as companies respond to the new workforce comprised of a growing number of the millennial generation.  

The 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Survey found that employees want more than the traditional donation and volunteering opportunities from their employer. They want to be have a tangible and active role in contributing to their company’s CR goals. The Cone report found that 79% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Additionally, 71% want their company to provide opportunities for them to help make a positive impact on the company’s social and environmental commitments.

Companies often struggle with the question of achieving a balance between corporate interests and employee interests. The challenge is to identify cause areas that appeal and serve both interests. Ideally, companies are able to define a company-wide strategy with objectives and causes that address corporate goals and allow employees opportunities to support those same causes or issues.

The Cone research adds a data point to highlight the need for balance. About 47% believe the company needs to find a balance around providing opportunities that focus on individuals’ personal interests and the social and environmental issues most important to the business.

Good Done Great volunteering environmental

As companies look to achieve alignment it is becoming evident that companies need to be successful in three aspects:

1. Defining specific focus areas that are important to the company and support their key business interests.

2. Aligning their corporate interests in a way that employees can be involved and have an impact.

3. Offering support to employees who want to volunteer with their own individual causes.

When it comes to giving and volunteering, employees have new expectations. They view their employers as facilitators for their own philanthropic efforts. A recent study found that employees expect their employer to provide them with three opportunities:

  • Connect them with causes they care about.
  • Allow them to volunteer during company time in both individual and company-supported projects.
  • Conduct an effective giving program that is engaging and empowering.

Volunteer Good Done Great Donations

Employees give priority to giving programs that allow them to support issues and causes that are important to them personally. They place a high value on matching gift programs, service grants in recognition of volunteer service (Dollars for Doers), appeals to help colleagues during times of need, and campaigns to address critical issues or disaster efforts.

Regarding volunteering, employees look to companies to provide them with opportunities to be engaged with their colleagues in company-sponsored and corporate-led activities.

Here are some ways companies make sure their charitable giving and volunteer programs are aligned with corporate goals and objectives:

1. Identify two or three specific focus areas that address corporate philanthropic objectives and provide opportunities to employees to engage through giving and volunteering activities.

2. Consider employee interests when identifying the focus areas. If you don’t know what employees care about, consider asking them. I’m confident they will provide information and feedback. At Good Done Great, employees voted on the focus areas.

3. Communicate the focus areas to employees and articulate why these were selected.

4. Conduct giving campaigns to be built around causes, but continue to offer employees opportunities to give to their favorite charities.

5. Sponsor company-wide volunteer projects where employees are engaged with senior leaders and their colleagues in a meaningful experience.

6. Ensure volunteer programs offer a broad range of opportunities for employees to engage. These include paid time off programs, company sponsored time during work hours, after hours opportunities, and recognition for individual volunteer efforts.

7. Support employees in their desire to use their skills to benefit a nonprofit organization or cause that supports their personal passions and the company’s initiatives.

8. Allow employees to share their giving and volunteering experience via social media networks.

9. Recognize and reward employees for their individual engagement and participation in company-sponsored activities.

10. Build mutually meaningful partnerships with nonprofit organizations. The partnership should allow for employees to engage with the nonprofit to learn more about how their involvement can make a difference.

Charitable giving and volunteering is an essential part of business today. It is important that companies learn to balance and align their programs to successfully integrate corporate objectives and priorities with employee interests and passions.

There are numerous examples of companies that have achieved this balance. We know that giving consideration to the ten suggestions we made, your company will be added to the list of companies that have achieved this alignment and balance.