Cause Campaigns Might Be the Next Silver Bullet

Workplace giving is a time-honored tradition responsible for raising over $4 billion annually for thousands of nonprofit organizations but like any program, over time they become stale. Companies are always looking for ideas to infuse new excitement and enthusiasm into these rituals.

This isn’t the first time companies have looked for the “silver bullet” that will once again make the workplace giving campaign attractive to employees. We’ve gone from United Way only campaigns to one where employees are given the opportunity to give to a broad range of charities. We’ve seen more and more companies incentivize employees by offering a corporate match of employee payroll contributions. With each of these innovations, employee participation increased.

In the quest to be innovative and responsive, programs are now moving from an annual giving campaign to more of a year-round program. But the question remains, what’s next? What is going to keep my program relevant and exciting?

The answer is to look at the workforce and identify the interests and passion of our employees and determine what will motivate them to participate. The next silver bullet might be to move your program from a once-a-year campaign focused on charities to creating cause campaigns that highlight specific issues important to both the company and its employees.

Why Causes?

According to Pew Research Center, millennials now represent the largest generation in the U.S. labor force with more than one-in-three American workers belonging to that demographic. The arrival of millennials is having a tremendous impact on all aspects of the workplace including the giving programs.

Research shows that millennial employees are more likely to give to an issue rather than a specific organization. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report found that, “millennial employees will give to causes they care about.” The recommendation to employers is “to create giving programs that help millennial employees give to an issue and internally highlight the issue and individual help, rather than the entity or organization.”

As with any successful program there are the essential ingredients of building a new approach. Here are a few recommendations as you implement a cause campaign at your company.

Cause Campaigns

Identify the Causes Important to Your Company and Employees

What does your company – and what do your employees – care about? It is perfectly acceptable to include both corporate and employee interests.

Many company focus on issues or causes that have an impact on the future workforce or the company’s mission and values. For many, STEM education is important for others it is building a healthy workforce. The specific issue isn’t important. There are many to choose from. What is important is knowing the chosen issues are relevant to your company and your employees and will motivate them to act.

You may want to consider conducting a survey to determine the passions and interests of employees or put it up to a company-wide vote. However, you go about determining what you will support, the important point is to gain as much buy-in as possible. The primary objective is to motivate and encourage a greater number of employees to participate.

Remember that Causes Are Associated with a Charity

While the outward focus is on causes, we still need the charities to receive the donations, work with volunteers, and more. Causes are often found as internal programs within a charity. For example, breast cancer might be the cause that is marketed and seen externally by employees but the recipient charities might be Susan G. Komen for the Cure or the American Cancer Society.

Avoid the temptation to include all charities supporting breast cancer. This is a great opportunity to create strategic partnerships with a limited number of credible and trustworthy nonprofit organizations. Two or three charities should be sufficient to support the identified cause.

Choose charities that will not only be worthy stewards of the donations you raise but can also engage with your employees on a variety of volunteer opportunities. Determine if the charity can accommodate a ‘hands on’ volunteer project or accept employees who want to be involved in more skills-based volunteerism.

A new trend is to bring volunteer opportunities into the workplace as part of a cause campaign. This provides exposure to the employees and gets them engaged in a meaningful way with the cause.


Build Themes around Your Causes

Cause giving can occur any time during the year. Develop themes around the causes you’ve identified and spread them throughout the year.

Take advantage of events/recognitions that are widely known. For example, February is National Heart Month. This might be a good time to implement a cause campaign around heart health. Earth Day is in April, and we know from research that millennials are concerned about the environment and most likely will participate in a cause campaign around environmental concerns.

Promote and Communicate

Employees don’t want to look too hard to find information on engagement opportunities. Leverage tried-and-true communications channels to help spread the word including internal emails and newsletters, collateral or events, intranets or customized portals, appointed employee ambassadors, word of mouth, and social media.

Utilize Technology

Technology is your friend. These platforms can help communicate, facilitate financial contributions, record volunteer hours, sign up for a volunteer event, evaluate a volunteer event, and receive information about the impact of an employee’s donation and volunteer service.

In selecting a technology platform find one that is easy to use and motivates employees to engage. Good Done Great has supported cause campaigns for a number of years and recently launched its tool geared to small and mid-sized businesses. We’re happy to consult with you as you consider the move to a cause giving campaign.

Are Causes Really a Silver Bullet?

Going from campaigns to causes is a great way to inject new life into your employee engagement programs. They also provide an opportunity to better align your CSR activities with both corporate goals and employee interests.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single “silver bullet” to make workplace giving programs more appealing to today’s employee. However, we do know that it is important that your giving programs include causes that are relevant to them and address their passions and interests.

Interest in giving and volunteering will increase with a cause campaign, but it is important to make sure your program includes all the proven practices of ensuring your corporate culture is supportive of giving and volunteer programs. Furthermore, the culture must include the authentic involvement of senior leadership.  When these elements are combined, we’ll take employee giving to a new level of engagement.