It’s the time of year where workplace giving campaigns kick off in earnest. With employee engagement as one of (if not the main) goals of your program – and the potential business impact that result could bring - no one wants to stick with a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” approach to employee giving campaigns. We hear from companies all the time that meeting the increasing and changing expectations of a wildly diverse workforce demographic, while trying to assist with enhancing overall levels of employee engagement, are changing the game. We also hear that companies want more ideas about what and how to do things differently.
So here are some ideas to make your programs (even more) engaging come this Fall:
1. Ignite People’s Passions, Not Just the Dollar Thermometer
Connecting with people around causes they’re passionate about is truly powerful and (since the link between employee giving and employee engagement is now very well established) has the potential to set your company’s culture on fire - in a good way. At an overall level, having the right desired outcome(s) for your program makes a difference.
While it was once all about hitting a charity driven donation target, make sure your employee giving and volunteering program now has engagement and tapping into what people care about as the desired outcome. Employee participation matters (a lot!) but inciting takeup via passion and an emotive connection will be more successful at achieving your broader metrics than impelling people solely through targets (or worse, well intentioned arm-twisting techniques that may alienate, rather than engage). For younger workers, helping them to easily take part and give meets some of the new needs and expectations that millennials bring to the workplace. Keep passion in mind when designing, communicating, implementing and measuring your program.
2. Stand for Something – And Let Your Employees Say What They Stand For
Many – if not most – companies have cause focus areas and partnerships with non-profits that comprise a key focus of their workplace giving programs. At the same time, employees come to work with their own causes that they care about and that they want to support as part of their increasingly socially conscious lives. We know from our professional adventures that the conversation has shifted (yay!) from whether or not to enable employee charity choice to how to (effectively and impactfully) both encourage corporate causes and empower employee choice at the same time. Doing this well requires being super thoughtful about choosing your corporate causes (see #2 above), creating a program that supports choices about where and how to give, and implementing your program in a way that makes it easy for employees to take part.
Give employees an easy way to find out about and support company causes and also to search, discover and help their own personal causes. The highest rate participation/engagement programs that we see use matching very strategically: a broad match, perhaps to any registered charity in good standing at one matching rate, and a ‘super-match’ at a higher rate to those causes, pillars or geographic areas that align with the company’s more strategic corporate, CSR and brand goals. Dollars for doers or volunteering grants can be structured similarly. The combination brings more of your people’s giving activity under your program, while engaging them in company initiatives and priorities as well.
3. Communicate (And Celebrate!) Impact
Corporate Goodness Programs are (quite rightly) increasingly focused on impact – see our second newsletter article below – as in, it’s about showing the good results, not just “doing good.” Employees and other stakeholders, like customers, investors and the world-at-large, want to know about the impact of your giving programs. In both consumer and workplace contexts, people want to know about the “so what” not just the “what…”
Once you’ve identified the impact that you’d like to make – the goals and measures of your workplace giving and volunteering program – it’s imperative to communicate the demonstrated progress (ideally, in an interactive and social way). You’re moving the needle, so ensure that you can - and do – disseminate the results of your program. Ideally, not just the total numbers, but what those numbers mean in terms of tangible impact or metrics/proxies of success for some of the causes that you’re supporting. You don’t need to wait until the “end” – plan your communications along the way to keep people appraised and motivated.
In addition to communicating, it’s also uber-important to celebrate your progress. The “celebration” doesn’t need to be a traditional campaign rally or thank you event (though it certainly can be), it’s really about recognizing, encouraging and appreciating employees’ involvement. It’s about thanking your employees with related news (blog) posts and messages from your senior leadership team; it’s about providing a way for employees to say directly what being part of the program means to them; it’s about getting feedback from everyone on ways to improve; it’s about sharing impact on the metrics that matter to the charitable endeavor. Heck, if you’re using Spark!, you can even reward progress with charitable gift cards, differential match rates or other incentives that may push you further.
4. Keep it “Evergreen” & Keep it Compelling
The prevailing approach to workplace giving has been a once-a-year giving campaign. Many do it in the Fall, some do it around bonus time and lots of companies even shut down their program or tool completely for the rest of the year. The reason? The perhaps over-simplified answer is “that’s the way we’ve always done it”…
Happily for programs and participants, things are changing, with more and more companies moving to an ‘evergreen’ or year-round orientation. They still may do a big push during the Fall, but it forms part of a multi-pronged strategic approach, rather than one size fits all.
The real reason things have been done this way is historical and administrative. The once-a-year model flows originally from United Way and other charity-run programs. It also flows from the amount of effort that – in the absence of user and administrator-friendly technology – historically made the AGC a royal PITA for many. But as companies recognize that their desired outcomes are more about employee engagement and not just about hitting a donation target, the once-a-year ‘set and forget’ model makes less sense. At the same time, the Benevity-type enabling technology is such that it is now EASY for even the most resource constrained companies to leave things up and running, to evolve them quarterly or more frequently, and to use them to attempt to connect with employees emotively throughout the year.
As a company, when you’ve figured out the impact that you want to make on the world, and you’re harnessing your employees passions to help you do it, you can build on an initial Fall campaign to realize year round employee engagement through giving and volunteering. If it seems like a big change, it needn’t be; take baby steps - starting with losing the concept of your workplace giving program ‘going dark’.
Done well, you’ll make your company’s program a differentiator that helps attract, retain and engage your people (which will attract more budget from the powers that be!).