Offering workplace giving and volunteering boosts employee autonomy and engagement.
By Andy Howell, Chief Operating Officer
Thanks to today’s diverse and socially conscious workforce—and driven by the rise of Millennials—people are increasingly demanding more meaning and purpose in their workplace. This has led to a shift towards employee-centered and team-based volunteering programs, as companies capitalize on the powerful relationship between increased purpose at work, higher employee engagement and greater skills and leadership development.
Skills-based volunteering programs are picking up steam. In fact, according to the 2016 CECP Giving in Numbers report, they’re currently the fastest growing type of corporate volunteer program. Fifty-four percent of companies now encourage their people to offer their specialized skills and talents to charities on a pro bono basis.
A flexible, holistic Goodness program that includes both volunteering and giving leads to higher participation, greater engagement and bigger impact while demonstrating that the company truly cares about the same things their people do.
Skills-based volunteering enables individuals to apply their unique skills and experience to causes they are passionate about, yielding tangible benefits for all parties involved. Employees benefit by using their talents to give back to a favorite cause, while feeling supported by their company in doing so. Companies in turn benefit from the important competencies their people develop outside the workplace, like leadership, autonomy, cross-functional collaboration and problem-solving. They also build valuable employer brand loyalty, which helps recruit, retain and engage top talent. And, finally, charities that might be lacking access to people with these specific and necessary skills can greatly benefit from pro bono service.
So, as we often say, the “why” of an employee volunteering program is pretty obvious, but the “how” needs to be considered carefully. For instance, workplace programs that include only volunteering limit the ways in which employees can support their chosen causes. In so doing, they can deprive companies of a simple but important employee engagement opportunity.
A More Inclusive Program is a More Engaging Program
A flexible, holistic Goodness program that includes both volunteering and giving leads to higher participation, greater engagement and bigger impact while demonstrating that the company truly cares about the same things their people do. In fact, it may be the most authentic way a company can do so. The opposite is also true: a program that does not allow for individual choice leads to lower participation, engagement and impact.
This is especially true for companies that operate in a global context. For instance, in some countries, volunteering is more culturally relevant and common than donating money. That said, our experience shows that limiting the program to volunteering reduces the ways in which international employees can support the causes closest to their hearts and geographical location.
Including a giving component in your program allows employees who have built relationships with specific organizations to provide financial assistance in addition to volunteering (particularly when coupled with the convenience of payroll donations). Not only does this strongly increase the employee engagement benefits of the program, but it can also serve as a cultural benefit to your company, connecting people who work in different locations.
Not Everyone Has the Time or Inclination to Volunteer (Even Millennials)
We all live busy lives and not everyone feels they have the time to volunteer on a regular basis. But that shouldn’t preclude employees from supporting the causes they care most about. Choice is important. Some people like to donate, others volunteer and some choose to do both; and these choices can change over time as our lives and circumstances change. In reality, people often move between donating and volunteering, contributing time when funds are tight and money when time is tight. Offering multiple options gives employees the chance to give back, even if they don’t have time to volunteer.
Companies that have integrated volunteering and giving programs have 50% higher participation rates than those that only offer one option.
If your program only offers a volunteer option, employees may drop out when they’re too busy. So, why make them choose one option over the other? When employee engagement is one of your goals, and you have a diverse workforce with equally diverse needs, offering choice in how people can invest in the things most important to them—through time, money, talent or all three—is just as important as offering choice in who they can give to. You can do this by offering both volunteering and giving as options. After all, shouldn’t each count equally?
Giving and Volunteering Go Hand in Hand
Volunteers donate and donors volunteer. In fact, 70 percent of people who volunteer also donate their personal funds, so enabling both is doubly engaging. It therefore makes sense to offer giving and volunteering within the same workplace giving platform. This is the key to maximizing impact for the community, your employees and your business. (And consider how powerful it would be in a disaster situation for an employee to be able to donate to a cause they have been volunteering with for years!)
Using a single software solution with integrated reporting helps you see how your people are engaging in Goodness across your program, so you can tell a better impact story and focus future investment to support causes your employees care about.
Using software that integrates volunteering and giving programs (with or without corporate matching) makes it easy to manage both and may allow you to remove thresholds that could be limiting participation in your program. It also allows your people to choose how to direct their donations, regardless of where they volunteer, so you can reward either pro-social behavior. The ability to expand the good they’re doing by giving back in more than one way (and, potentially, to more than one charity) can drive greater employee engagement.
Your People Are Donating Anyway, Why Not Get the Full Picture?
In doing so, it’s important to understand that if you aren’t giving your employees the option to donate as part of your workplace giving program, you may be missing a key opportunity. They’re likely donating by other means, whether by contributing to a door-to-door campaign, sponsoring a friend’s charity event or giving directly through a nonprofit’s website.
By missing out on crucial matching opportunities, these methods are less efficient than donating through a Goodness program, and will likely cost the charity more money (and definitely more time). And, while the employee may be building a connection to their community, they’re not feeling more connected to your company, their colleagues or their work. People are hungry to do good! So why not harness that passion and purpose to create a workplace giving program that connects your employees to their community and your company (and helps charities in the process)?
Charities Need Volunteers AND Money
Giving and volunteering isn’t an either/or for charities. They need both. While volunteers are invaluable to nonprofits, they aren’t free. As more people give their time, charities need to increase their capacity to use those volunteers, and that requires money for volunteer management, background checks, training and supervision, even for skills-based volunteering. So, if an organization has limited financial resources, it may have to limit the number of volunteers it can take on. To maximize the volunteers’ impact, charities need to maximize their two key resources: people and money.
So, How Do You Make It Truly Matter?
A program with a volunteer-only focus is great, but an integrated approach—even one that is volunteer-heavy—that includes giving, enables and empowers your people and the charities they support to do more good. And it provides real business value. Designing a dual-focused program that includes volunteering and giving doesn’t have to strain your budget. Further, charities can net more money (particularly with giftmatching), and the employee engagement rewards your company will reap are invaluable.
So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage more people in your Goodness program. Make it just that: a “Goodness” program that supports all the ways your people want to give back.
Interested in exploring some possibilities for creating a best-in-class Goodness program? Request a demo with us today!
About the Author
A belief in a strong culture of service, transparency and accountability guides all of Andy’s interactions at Benevity. His tech experience includes a history of helping build world class service organizations and strategic partnerships. He has helped shape a number of technology companies, including Blackbaud and Benefitfocus. Having relocated to Canada from South Carolina, he brings with him a passion for the outdoors, which he actively pursues on the ski slopes and in the trout-laden streams of Southern Alberta.More Content by Andy Howell