For many companies, workplace giving has long been an integral part of their overall corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Today, there is more pressure on workplace giving campaigns to allow for choice, which is reflected in the Workplace Giving Report commissioned by the Giving USA Foundation and supported by Deloitte.
Corporate giving is an area that fundraising practitioners are interested in better understanding, and recent trends such as technology and changes in the workplace and employment led us to decide it was an appropriate time to dig into this area more deeply. We were excited to find in the study that more than 90% of employers make it possible for employees to donate to a range of charitable organizations.
This trend of increased pressure for employers to provide employees options in their workplace giving campaigns is an important one to consider because people today bring their whole selves to work. They walk in the door each day—literally or figuratively—as complete people who want to be given “voice and choice.”
First, they fundamentally want to be heard, which means giving them a way to share their voices and then listening to what they have said. When you think about that need in the context of giving programs, what this means is that employees are seeking a way to co-create their own philanthropic experiences, not simply participate in a program you have developed for them.
That leads us to the choice part of the equation. They seek a way, beyond being heard, to be in control of where and how they give both their time and their money. It is important for companies to recognize this fundamental shift in human behavior and allow for choice in the overall portfolio of giving options. Although it does not mean a company cannot and should not maintain giving traditions or support issues that align with its brand, it does mean that choice should be a part of the offerings it takes to its people. Allowing voice and choice builds engagement and retention.
We have seen the concept of voice and choice play out at Blackbaud as we have built and grown the CSR programs over the last 15 years. Over time, as we grew—both organically and through the acquisition of other businesses with their own traditions—it became clear that we need to update our programs to reflect who we are today and to allow for more flexibility. For example, more of our workforce is now located outside of our headquarters community and hundreds are working remotely, so “local” traditions focusing on one community alone aren’t inclusive of all our people.
We replaced one program, which matched Thanksgiving donations to a local shelter, with a program that allowed employees located anywhere to apply for a $500 donation to a nonprofit where they volunteered. We also launched a matching gifts program about 4 years ago, which is a great way to provide for choice. Blackbaud’s program had a 23% participation rate in 2017, compared with the 9% median participation nationally (according to the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice (CECP)). We attribute this to the fact that we match every cause, including gifts to houses of worship but not for donations to candidates running for political office. Put simply, we match what our people care about and leave the choice in their hands.
To accomplish a participation rate that is 2.5 times the national median requires exceptional collaboration amongst internal teams. Peggy Anderson, who is Blackbaud’s vice president, Talent Acquisition, explores a few of the findings of the report, and how workplace giving and other CSR activities impact the role of talent acquisition and diversity professionals.
Q: The report called attention to the role of increased diversity in the workplace as a motivator for employers to provide workplace giving opportunities around issues their workforce cares about. How would you advise someone to understand these different issues and preferences of their diverse workforce?
It is very important for companies to recognize that the changing workforce demographics require employers to offer more options and flexibility in all areas of the company. Allowing employees the ability to have workplace giving opportunities that align with their passions increases their commitment to their communities and to their company. Companies need to find ways to support all these different passions and recognize that everyone will have different things that inspire them. They can do this by broad support—not aligned to any specific groups—or by surveying your employees to see if there are alignments that could be made. Bottom line—to really understand these different issues and preferences of your diverse workforce—you should ask.
Q: CSR activities have been flagged as a differentiator, helping companies to attract prospective employees. What is the best way to publicize your efforts to jobseekers or to incorporate this area into conversations?
It should be a consistent and significant part of your employment brand and be visible across all candidate marketing channels that you may utilize. You should include videos and testimonials from employees on how they participate in the CSR activities and how the company match and/or volunteering supports their passions outside of the company.
Q: The report called out that employees have a more positive attitude toward their company when the employer executes several CSR efforts. How does this translate to return on investment (ROI), if someone wanted to use this argument to defend further investment in a workplace giving or other CSR initiative?
Studies have shown that Millennials are drawn to “purpose.” Studies have also shown that this same generation tends to change jobs and companies more often than generations before them. Companies that support CSR initiatives that allow these employees to connect with purpose will see both increased attraction and retention of talent. In addition, the organizations that embrace employee CSR efforts will have an employer differentiation from other organizations that means they will have an advantage for hiring top talent.
Q: In your opinion, has the employer-employee relationship changed with the rise of workplace giving programs that offer employees choices?
The employer-employee relationship is one that continues to change as the candidate and employee demographics change along with highly competitive hiring and retention needs. With low U.S. unemployment, employers need to find innovative and creative ways to attract and retain talent. Utilizing CSR workplace programs that can align with an individual’s purpose (doing something bigger than themselves) will attract top talent, provide opportunities to build and develop new skills that will increase their individual career development, and also build stronger teams and individual engagement to drive retention. These are the three most important people goals that all companies look for—that is to attract, develop, and keep top talent.
Rachel Hutchisson is the Chair of The Giving Institute and VP, Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy, Blackbaud, Inc.