International giving and volunteering, and their impact on employee engagement
It’s time to look beyond your borders and internationalize your Goodness Program
International giving and volunteering are on the rise, a phenomenon that translates to opportunities beyond simply making a charitable impact on a worldwide scale. In a study recently published by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (2015 Community Involvement Study), companies are expecting a significant increase in international giving over the next two fiscal years (rising by 25%), with the goal of improving their operations in global markets, strengthening community ties internationally and building their reputation with employees and customers outside their headquarter countries. So, could 2016 be the year your company dives deeper into international waters?
Not just for global companies
When looking only at companies with an international footprint, a full 67% make contributions to charities and nonprofits outside their headquarter countries. No real surprises there. But even when strictly domestic companies are included in the mix, an impressive 42% of all companies surveyed give to causes based abroad, with 13% of companies who currently only give domestically reporting that they plan to open up international giving within the next two years. That suggests there is still much to be gained for companies who might not have any foreign presence.
Why go global?
The most obvious upside is employee engagement, which many companies drive with giving and volunteering programs. In the same BCCCC study, the number of companies offering workplace giving programs has climbed to 84%, with 80% of those companies offering matching incentives. Today’s internationally conscious workforce is more likely than ever to mobilize around disaster relief campaigns (which often have a global focus) and the corporate world is taking notice with everything from pro bono volunteering to dedicated giving campaigns they can spin up in a hurry as part of a rapid response engagement strategy. A perfect example is the Syrian refugee crisis, which captured worldwide attention, and translated to workers across the U.S. prompting their companies to assist with the coordinated response.
Unclear sailing: international waters can be a challenge
Engaging everyone from millennials to boomers with an international giving solution is a tricky business. The rally cry may be simple enough: “Help your fellow humans around the world!” but the delivery can be notoriously complex. If you have a corporate responsibility team dedicated to the project, it needs to be deft in its understanding of foreign currencies and administrative bodies. Even vetting the charities and nonprofits themselves can be uncharted territory for anyone not intricately familiar with the causes and crises themselves. Not surprisingly, 30% of companies engaged in international giving choose vendors to vet those charities, and 21% use vendors to carry out the giving itself.
The BCCCC report also touches on the importance of workplace giving programs to stimulate employee engagement, a strategy that has proven its effectiveness in studies dating back to 2008. This is the ultimate connection between worldwide giving and your employees, who are engaged by participating in your company’s involvement in a community that extends far beyond its own borders. The report highlights “commitment and loyalty” as the payoff for these programs, which we now know equates to things like employee retention and even brand evangelism. From keeping your best and brightest people to building your company’s reputation, the investment in a global program is an idea whose time has clearly come.