4. Make Matching Meaningful
Ok, this is a big deal! Matching gifts of time and/or money is the most powerful and effective incentive to participate in giving programs. And matching has a multiplier effect: $1 of matching creates far greater leverage than $1 directly to a charity. The best practice is to make matching matter by (i) creating a meaningful matching budget and (ii) making it super-easy for employees to get at the match.
We think companies should focus most of their investment in workplace giving on matching. Spend your money on matching, donation currency incentives and program promotion - not on software, manual processes and administration. Create a matching budget that is as large and strategic as you can afford so that you will incent participation and get the most leverage from your program. Many companies choose to establish both an overall matching budget (i.e.: the total matching dollars available for matching is ) and then to segment that budget so they can use the funds to match both to featured causes and to charities that employees choose to give to. (But think about promoting participation in your own programs or events, not external events. People may participate but it has little to do with your brand).
Some companies choose to vary the match rate to encourage giving to featured causes (e.g.: employees can donate to any registered charity and the company will match at 100%; if employees donate to featured causes, the company will match at 150%). As well, many companies determine a match cap per employee (the dollar amount the company will match per employee for employee giving); we’ve seen this range from $250 to $25,000; the larger the match, the greater the likely participation for employees). Another consideration is to think about external third-party partners who could fund matching offers where strategically sensible. Don’t be afraid to engage your supply chain in your initiatives.
The second critically important thing is to make matching really easy for employees to get at. In many corporate programs matching, (if it exists), is treated as a discrete step, separate from the act of giving (employees submit their donation tax receipts to be approved for corporate matching after-the-fact). This post facto “workflow approach” to matching not only decreases the impact and goodwill that should flow from the matching, the addition of discrete steps increases the likelihood that employees won’t participate. Corporate matching should be easy and impactful and your goal should be to maximize the use of your budget (which means you have engaged your people in the program!). Matching should be done automatically and in real-time, which will increase participation rates and leverage existing budgets. Real-time matching increases the likelihood of take-up, and alleviates a cumbersome manual process, saving time and money and freeing up resources to work on more strategic aspects of your giving programs.
5. Viva Volunteering
Promoting and encouraging employee volunteerism is a key best practice: after all, your employees are your brand so employees in the community are brand ambassadors.
As you may know, corporate volunteering is having a moment. And it’s not just because 2011 is the Year of the Volunteer. It’s because giving time is a key part of employee giving; a way of giving that is important to many employees, especially Millennials. There is an increased appetite for corporate volunteerism and a desire - from both employees’ and employers’ perspectives - to make tracking, managing and rewarding corporate volunteering easier to spur increased participation.
And remember another thing: there are lots of terrific causes that have difficulty utilizing volunteers, perhaps because their mission requires specialized talent or resources. Don’t leave those causes out by requiring that any rewards or grants that are earned by employee volunteers have to go to the same cause where they volunteered…Be flexible and you will be rewarded.
Consider the best solution to encourage employee participation: think about things like easy, online ways to promote corporately-sponsored, partner and community volunteering opportunities to employees, the capability to create “campaigns” for volunteering opportunities, the ability for employees to easily select, plan and track their volunteering participation (including the ability to track hours via their mobile devices) and the ability for your company to easily reward participants with donation currency and generate reports on the metrics that matter.
6. Motivate: Make Workplace Giving an Interactive (& Fun!) Experience – Not A Chore
Making workplace giving an experience that employees want to participate in is a key best practice. Since participation is key, an employee giving program is only effective if people are willingly using it. The entire experience needs to be interactive, easy (and, yes, fun!) for both employees and administrators alike. And it should go without saying (though with the persistent prevalence of Fall giving campaigns we do have to say it!) strive to make this a positive part of your company culture year round (after all, employee engagement is a year round goal).
Here’s a couple of dirty little secrets that we’ve gleaned from our professional adventures: (i) most workplace giving solutions don’t focus on making things easy and fun for users, especially employees; and (ii) a lot of the well intentioned arm twisting that forms part of the programs creates animosity among the very people that the programs are supposed to be engaging and inspiring.
User experiences and processes are often built from either the corporate administrators’ perspective or from the recipient charities’ point of view. Too infrequently is the employee user experience considered or made a priority. What this means is that there are a lot of digitized pledge forms and manual matching processes out there. And there are a lot of executives who think “yeah, we have a workplace giving program” when really they have checked the box so that they have a way to administer an employee matching program but they have failed to develop something compelling that gets people involved. Typically these programs attract the 0-20% of employees who are really passionate about a cause and want to support it, no matter what hoops they have to jump through, but fail to engage the other 80% plus of employees who likely have causes or issues they care about, too.
Consider this: outside of work (and maybe even sometimes at work ;) – people are online: they’re using Facebook, booking travel online, buying custom running shoes from Nike.com; making recommendations on Zappos and Yelp and, all in all, enjoying personalized, interactive experiences online…on their computers and increasingly, and especially for Millennials, on their mobile devices. Now they come to work and they are given a once-a-year option to participate in a workplace giving campaign via a digital pledge form (set and forget) or perhaps a paper form. And on the volunteerism front, there are sadly, often, huge hoops to jump through and a ton of paperwork to tackle to get a grant to their chosen charity? How exciting is that? Don’t do it!
We live in a one or two click world. Bring the web to workplace giving to involve more employees year round and improve the experience. Your online solution should include personal accounts, empowered choices about where, how and how much to give, easy and interactive communication and an online interface that inspires, doesn’t require reading glasses to figure out. Replicating the experience most users have in all other of their online interactions is a great way to increase attention and takeup for employee giving and volunteering.
And, to the ends of increasing participation and impact on employee engagement, don’t forget to focus on the HEART of workplace giving to ignite people’s passions for causes. We don’t mean to sound too peacenik about it but giving is uniquely personal and if you can tap into the zeal that people have for causes and issues that matter to them (with a program/solution delivered under your company brand), you can translate that zeal into goodwill for your company.
7. Use Metrics to Manage What Matters
If you embrace the New School way of thinking that looks at employee engagement as a key outcome of a successful workplace giving program, a key (if not the most important) metric for measuring success and impact is willing participation (not dollars aggregated to specific charities.)
Participation should be passionate, unforced and yes, even inspiring! Ironically, many well intended programs put so much emphasis on “persuasion” to hit a targeted donation number or have such cumbersome processes for enabling donations, matching or volunteering that they turn something that is supposed to be aspirational into something that generates animosity at the employee level. And the worst thing is, many of the senior management that support the programs don't even realize it...
Influencers are important, but don't just focus on the 10% or 20% of your current population that participates. Happily for you and society, they would likely participate even if your program wasn’t great, so they are likely not the benchmark. Focus on why the other 80 or 90% that isn't engaged and figure out what might help. If your workplace giving program isn't fetching participation rates in the 50% range or higher and indicating a positive correlation with employee engagement, there is something wrong with the process, the technology, the program design, the targeted outcomes or the commitment of senior management. Get help if you need it, but beware the consultant that seeks pictures of big cardboard checks as their main measure of impact. This is about broad, participative engagement!
Done properly, employee giving and volunteering will help you attract, retain and engage your employees, increase your brand/reputation, and form part of your ability to "outbehave" the competition for sustainable advantage. You just need to be inspired...