When you’re brainstorming how to increase employee engagement, corporate giving is probably pretty far down the list. And, to be fair, it may not measure up to other strategies like flexible schedules and good management. But a giving program can help your employees feel better about the company and, in turn, work harder for its success.
Employees prefer to work for companies that have a clear objective other than just making a profit. Corporate giving is one way of showing your staff that your business has one and that you stick by it. This opens up new avenues for employees to become engaged in the work the company does. According to Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), employee involvement in charitable activities has increased over the past few years.
All signs point to one thing — that employees are anxious to be involved in something good.
What Does Business Giving Look Like?
Business giving can be anything from writing a check to a charitable organization or sponsoring a little league team to directly providing goods and services to a community in need. Disaster relief has been a huge target of giving — for instance, Walmart often makes headlines when it pulls into disaster-stricken areas with trucks full of much-needed goods. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies are usually leaders in corporate giving due to their track record of making donations. CECP notes that donating products is a popular form of company giving, and it’s one way to get employees engaged in your charitable efforts. While the decisions may be made behind closed doors, the effects are extremely public, and employees can see the impact.
But where employees really have space to engage is in pro bono work, one of the fastest-growing areas of corporate giving, according to CECP. When your company offers its services to the needy and your employees get involved firsthand, they get an intimate look into how their work helps others. That deep personal investment will do more to help employee engagement than writing a check or even donating products (though those are definitely both good things to do).
These acts of giving shape how employees see the company. Younger workers, especially, value work with purpose. Sure, they like good salaries and bonuses, too, but they want to make a difference in the world. Show them how their work at your organization is a great way to do so.
How Can You Start a Corporate Giving Program?
Big companies may be comfortable shelling out millions of dollars, but small businesses can make a real impact without going to that kind of extreme. There are just a few things you need to do to make your program effective and increase employee engagement:
- Align your charities with employee interests. You probably have at least an idea of what gets your employees excited. Catch their attention with a giving opportunity that fits their interests, either by keeping the program’s goal general or by getting employees’ input before choosing a focus. Steer clear of controversial or politically motivated organizations that may cause conflict.
- Keep it local. Employees often prefer nearby organizations to big charities. Sponsoring a local sports team or art class can go a long way toward building goodwill within your community and between your employees. Just a word of caution — the team shouldn’t be the one the boss’s kids play on, as that might look self-serving.
- Get creative with pro bono work. If you’re a family law firm, it’s easy to find pro bono work. If you’re a rivet manufacturer, there aren’t as many obvious ways to donate your time to the community. Still, having employees actively engaged in other ways will still benefit the charity and your business. Spending time on a local cleanup project or at a food bank is something everyone can get involved in.
- Keep your communication clear. What are the goals of this involvement? Will you provide results back to employees so they can see their impact? How much time can you devote to this project? Is the project ongoing, or will you plan a single yearly volunteer session or donation event?
- Keep all participation voluntary. Rather than boosting engagement, having quotas for donations to charities will only sour your employees against management. Demanding that everyone go clean up the park will result in resentment (if not a few cases of playing hooky). Donations, whether of time or money, always need to be voluntary. Any work done during the workday should be paid. Many companies offer extra “days off” with pay for volunteer work. If you require your employees to attend a charitable event, your nonexempt employees must be paid for their time.
You don’t have to change the whole world to impact the community, increase your employees’ engagement at work and create a positive workplace environment. Corporate giving is an effective way to do some good that can be as elaborate and expensive — or as simple and affordable — as you want.
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