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Charitable Giving at Work

Posted by Aaron Green  July 1, 2011 09:44 AM

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Epic flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, a nuclear meltdown. Combined with ongoing need and the increased demands felt during our economy's last recession, it seems there have never been more opportunities to support those in need. Because there is power in numbers, workplace philanthropy is an effective way to support others in need.

According to a study commissioned by the United Way Worldwide, just over one-third of full-time employees work at a company offering some type of workplace giving campaign. Almost one-quarter of employees with a workplace campaign were asked to give to more than one cause during the year and 54 percent of those asked to give to a workplace campaign donated. 

Workplace giving campaigns offer benefits to the office as well:

  • Workplace giving campaigns can improve employee engagement by instilling a sense of pride toward their employer, a sense of accomplishment for making a difference, and a greater connection to co-workers
  • Studies also show that if employees are philanthropic through their work, they are more likely to recommend their employer
  • The newest generation of workers takes a company's charitable efforts very seriously. According to a USA Today article, 61 percent of people aged 13-25 feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world. Additionally, 69 percent consider a company's social and environmental commitment when deciding where to shop, and 83 percent will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible. Most importantly, 79% said they want to work for a company that cares about how it affects or contributes to society.
  • Giving campaigns can be part of branding and marketing efforts if the campaign is linked to the company's mission or industry, e.g. a building supply company that donates to construction repair efforts

However, workplace giving campaigns can backfire if employees feel pressure to participate or feel that the effort is not a company-wide one, i.e. senior management does not participate. Asking employees to give above and beyond their job responsibilities can be a delicate task and should be handled sensitively. It's also important to establish a company-wide policy -- how extensive and formal the policy is depends on the organization.

When determining how to set up a workplace giving campaign or set policy, here are a few recommendations:

  • Look for innovative giving campaigns that can advance your company's broader corporate responsibility goals and strategies. Seek philanthropic partners who understand and work with the company's commitment to support brand strategy while providing value to employees and consumers beyond the dollars they raise. 
  • Utilize technology to reduce the resources and time needed to run a campaign while expanding the options for sharing campaign information.
  • Support causes that resonate with your employees; they'll be more enthusiastic if they're working for a cause they believe in or have a hand in choosing to support
  • Have senior leadership set the tone and demonstrate involvement
  • Understand that workplace giving is a long-term commitment. If a giving campaign isn't successful or doesn't seem to resonate with employees, shift tactics and learn from the experience to establish a new campaign that is successful.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

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Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.

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