Audrey Hepburn once said, “you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Never has this statement been more applicable to business than ever before.
In today’s competitive market, organizations are struggling to attract and retain top talent. Meanwhile, many forward-thinking leaders have adopted corporate giving as a deliberate organizational strategy. In addition to contributing to the greater good and local communities, these leaders are able to use corporate giving as a wedge to garner greater employee engagement. They can position the brand as a “good neighbor” in the community and reap the benefits that a charitable culture has on performance and productivity. Let’s examine this shift toward a “caring company” strategy and explore key considerations for any organization looking to ramp up community involvement and create a culture of volunteerism.
Marketing, Branding or Karma?
Corporate philanthropy is not a new concept, but organizations are experiencing a renewed interest in the idea, many going as far as making it a core business value. With the intersection of social media and brand recognition, companies see new opportunities to reach candidates, clients and consumers who appreciate social responsibility.
A recent Fortune magazine article notes, “corporate giving—both employee volunteerism and more traditional grants and monetary donations—has grown, with smart companies leveraging purpose-driven corporate social responsibility programs as a way to empower individuals and build stronger corporate cultures.” No one disagrees that volunteering or donating funds, feels like the “right thing to do,” but is there a link between a socially responsible culture and increased engagement and performance? The data suggests: Yes.
- Millennial Values: When employers offered volunteer opportunities, Millennials were twice as likely to rate their corporate culture as very positive, according to a recent Deloitte study. As the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace, employers can gain a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent.
- Bottom Line Benefit: Possibly more important than retention and attracting talented candidates, new research highlights the significant link between corporate giving and organizational performance through greater employee engagement.
- Boosts Health: Companies whose employees reported feeling more engaged, outperformed companies with less engaged employees, by up to 202%. Another study examined the habits and lifestyle choices of employees who volunteered as compared with those who did not. Those who were involved with giving back were found to utilize preventive services more often and spent fewer nights in the hospital.
A Culture of Caring
However, today’s corporate giving programs differ from those of earlier decades. When a volunteer program is woven into the fabric of a company, it’s more than being a good neighbor. It’s being a good employer. This cultural shift goes further than “writing the big check” philanthropy, but manifests as real work in the communities that employers serve. Employees are less able to give as individuals (studies show that Individual giving is down due to many factors), and employer programs are rapidly filling the gap. When an employee can contribute time or have donations matched by an employer, there is a tremendous emotional benefit and a sense of higher purpose and connection to the world. These factors improve the “employee experience” or how the employee feels about the brand, the culture and their contribution, which directly relates to performance. According to research conducted by Gallup:
- Enhance Performance: One-third of global employees strongly agree with the statement, “The mission and purpose of my organization make me feel my job is important.” When organizations improved that ratio to 80%, business units saw a 51% reduction in absenteeism, reduced safety incidents by 64% and noted a 29% improvement in quality.
- Competitive Edge: Organizations that create opportunities to boost engagement and build cultures that support these efforts, achieve earnings per share that are 4x their competitors.
Key Components of Corporate Giving Programs
Whether you want to call it philanthropy, corporate giving or community giving, these programs show little downside for all involved–the organization, community and employees. However, the program must be well-communicated, organized and purpose-driven.
Here are 6 considerations to think about when building a corporate giving program:
Keep it Aligned
Develop your program in a way that aligns with your corporate value drivers. For example, Bank of America promotes volunteerism to help enhance financial stability. OneDigital client and parking management company, ProPark Mobility, has developed “Carma,” as part of their 3-part corporate objectives. Through the program, their team has the opportunity to engage with charitable and community outreach initiatives to provide “perfect parking moments.”
Walk the Talk
Determine if you’ll have a paid time off policy or if employees will volunteer on their own time. Many organizations allow for a certain amount paid (one hour per week, for example, or a half-day off per quarter), with supervisor notice and/or schedule approval.
Make it Accessible
Consider using a mobile-friendly tool or app to make tracking volunteer hours, set goals and learn about participation events. This way, remote workers or locations can feel unified and part of the team at larger locations.
Organize Internally First
Assign ownership to the communication and implementation plans so that all employees are well-informed, and the program retains high visibility. Often, joining forces with other corporate initiatives (employee engagement, health and safety or wellbeing teams) can bolster support and internal cheerleading of the program.
Partner with local community organizations to grow your program and promote the good neighbor aspect of charitable giving. Check out this guide for tips on picking the right group to partner with: Aligning With the Right Charity for Your Company.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Consider an employee matching program to double the value of fundraising efforts and encourage employees to volunteer outside of company partnerships, where they may have a personal interest.
Often, millennials are credited with the recent positive shift in corporate volunteerism. However, employees across all generations are showing interest in working for and purchasing from socially responsible companies. New philanthropic campaigns, volunteer opportunities and a collaborative team approach to charitable efforts have resulted in workplaces with purpose and connection to the communities and world around them. That’s a win-win in the employee handbook and makes a positive impact on an organization’s bottom line.