The 7 Sins of Workplace Giving

7 Common Challenges of Current Employee Giving and Volunteering Programs
Oct 10, 2011 7:00 AM ET

Author: Jana Taylor

Happily for society, giving back is more important now than ever; a corollary is that people have greater expectations of companies to help them give back, both as consumers and as employees.  A growing number of companies, aware of the link between workplace giving and employee engagement, have a heightened interest in employee giving and volunteering programs. 

Mounting research shows that employees want to work for companies that care, that social responsibility is a consideration in employees’ decisions to join, stay with or leave companies, and that there is a link between social responsibility and engaged, productive employees.  This is especially important for certain segments – like Millennials and Moms. Nearly 70% of Americans say causes factor into where to work; for Moms that increases to 79% and for Millennials to 87% (2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study). So if part of your people strategy is geared toward any of these segments, this is pretty important stuff!
Despite this increased demand, the employee element of corporate giving often lags in attention and innovation behind the focus given to the community and consumer-facing aspects of corporate philanthropy.  In this article, we look at seven common challenges with current workplace giving and volunteering programs.
1. “We’re All in this Together” – Wait, are We?  Lack of Alignment between Corporate Giving and Employee Giving
Let’s start with the goal of workplace giving programs (from a corporate perspective).  Let’s face facts: it’s not purely altruistic.  It’s also about employee engagement, extending your brand, and resonating positively with employees and the community at large.
Here’s a common scenario:  on the one hand, the company has a corporate philanthropy or community investment strategy that clearly outlines its goals and the focus areas or pillars of causes that are important as a company (e.g.: Health, Environment, Kids, etc.); on the other hand, the workplace giving program for employees is a distinct program that doesn’t include the focus areas or pillars  (i.e.:  the workplace giving program doesn’t communicate what the corporate focus areas/CI pillars are, nor does it provide ways and reasons for employees to easily support the corporate focus areas/CI pillars).  In some cases, the workplace giving program is a third-party campaign, so workplace giving is not delivered under the company’s brand.  A lack of alignment between corporate giving and employee giving means companies are missing an opportunity to connect with their employees and build giving and strategic CSR into their corporate culture.  Not to mention bringing corporate giving into the community through your employees – because your employees are your brand!
So companies need to design their workplace giving programs to tightly align with their corporate and strategic CSR/CI goals.  You don’t need to select the “killer cause” to achieve this: your organization can create portfolios of causes that align with your philanthropic or community investment pillars, regional strategies and goals.  Promote them to employees with featured campaigns, blog posts and real-time matching offers.