Enhanced technology has made giving simple and convenient, so why aren’t you booming with success and increasing your donors and donations year over year? Sounds like you? Don’t take it personally and definitely don’t worry. There are many ways to reinvigorate your program. The following information and guidance are intended to inspire you to take a new look at your employee giving program or employee crisis fund through a fresh lens. The observations, practical tips, and recommendations are divided into three areas:
- Strengthen Your Internal Partnerships
- Increase Employee Giving
- Information Sharing and Storytelling
Strengthen your Internal Partnerships
Many leaders and colleagues may still view CSR programs as extra or separate, important work in this day and time, but not truly connected to the business strategy. You can dramatically change that perception.
If your CSR programs are not integrated across lines of business and support departments, keep in mind this is a journey. The separation and silo mentality are remnants from the past. CSR programs were once kept separate on purpose, to protect the integrity of the programs. This is no longer the case and doesn’t fit with today’s need for an integrated business strategy. Once you prove the value to your colleagues, integration, and alignment becomes easier over time and more fluid.
There are several areas to target for increased collaboration: Human Resources, Marketing, Communications, Executive Team
You can show your value by demonstrating the relationship you have to engagement, recruitment, and retention. Reducing turnover reduces costs. Team members who feel part of a community at work are more productive. Productive employees are the top talent, increasing market share and revenue. Having and keeping the top talent is directly related to brand strength.
Your program contributes to strengthening the company culture. This makes an employee giving program, or employee relief fund, a big brick in the foundation of any company. Try these suggestions to connect with your HR colleagues:
- Provide recruitment messages with impact data and storytelling.
- Participate in onboarding and orientation programs.
- Develop a program for new employees to immediately give to their favorite charity, such as a Cause Card initiative.
- Offer profile/success stories for employee communications.
Remember, Human Resources is a dynamic and dramatically changing industry, particularly in the past decade, now with very specialized divisions and service areas. The very good news is HR collects and manages employee data and can provide distribution lists and insights to help your targeted communications efforts. HR departments are hyper employee-focused, vigorously working to retain top talent, and striving to personalize the work experience as much as possible. Ask how to most effectively reach peoples’ managers. HR constantly reaches out to this important group and can provide excellent guidance on the best way to engage them. HR can also provide advice on conducting employee surveys.
Locate the right person in HR and conduct an open exploratory to discover how CSR can support and collaborate with HR.
How employees come together to positively improve the communities where they live and work is a powerful brand differentiation message.
Become familiar with the CSR research available and pull the data or stats that will help inform your colleagues. Consumers now require more transparency than ever from the companies that they purchase goods and services. A strong CSR program integrated with the brand story can make the difference in purchase decisions and consumer loyalty. CSR programs can increase and improve stakeholder engagement, reduce risk, and improve overall reputation. The following are a few of my favorite sites with great research to get you started:
- Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship
- Cone Research
- PwC Keys to Corporate Responsibility and Employee Engagement
Reaching employees with internal messages and program information is more challenging than ever, but possible with creativity and commitment.
When just at the office, employees are inundated with important company news, updates from leadership, product, software system, changing employee benefits, the pending acquisition. Everyone is on a 24-hour information cycle. With the world more connected than ever, how do you cut through the noise? Communications colleagues can help you develop the right messaging and select the most effective communication channels to get heard.
Rather than expect the executive team to actively support and engage with your program, work on developing a strong relationship with one or two of the more accessible leaders. Keep in mind, executive teams are really busy! Especially if there has been any type of change or disruption at your company. Seek out market leaders and multiple levels of executives to support your efforts. Their ability to influence peers over time is the type of champion you want and need.
Whatever you do, continue working to break down silos. See if there are any individual team members in HR, Marketing, Communications, etc. who will support you with brainstorming and ideation. If you aren’t able to get things done formally, go informal. Grab a coffee together and be ready to listen. Input and guidance from these experts will help you.
Increase Employee Giving
Before you create your annual campaign calendar or set fundraising goals, make sure you take time to assess, assess, assess. For example, evaluating any changes in your company from the previous year will help to avoid typical pitfalls that can derail your well-intentioned efforts to raise dollars or increase employee donors, such as:
- A merger/acquisition or layoffs
- New leadership, or shifting business strategy
- Launch of a new product or a significant company-wide rollout
- HR or IT system changes or new software implementation
Develop a calendar of fundraising initiatives when your colleagues will not be overly distracted, inundated or adjusting to significant change. Working collaboratively across the organization will keep you from competing with other company initiatives. Avoid the typically overwhelming times: tax season, graduations, holidays, vacations, etc. Getting to know what works and doesn’t work for your particular company is critical. Analyze all the previous year’s performance data, developing goals that truly reflect what is possible. Try to get as much understanding as you can from those that participate and those that do not, you could conduct two surveys, asking tailored questions of each group, examine the data and integrate what you have learned.
Explore the following to increase your donations:
- Go way beyond the basics of convenience and tax benefits when promoting the program and conducting your campaign.
- Connect in a meaningful way with inspirational stories of impact and demonstrate why joining together as a company has a positive impact on the community and the brand.
- We are all being asked to give, to support causes and donate to charities on every social media channel, almost daily in snail mail, and to contribute at school and church, so an emotional connection is key.
- Develop a sharable data dashboard to show progress and goals.
- Create momentum with a challenge grant campaign, with your company matching all employee donations dollar for dollar.
- Launch a “week of giving” during the same time every year to complement various other types of activities, build a brand for your program over time, and reach out to HR, Marketing and communications colleagues for advice and support – don’t let the concept get stale, freshen it up every year.
- Meet employees where they are by creating a hybrid program model: an annual campaign with year-round giving with multiple ways to give, payroll deduction, credit card, debit card or check.
- Produce an annual event that is really unique, fun and engaging, and designed to raises money – be creative, such as a cooking contest or talent show.
- Organize a healthy competition between departments that is fun and positive.
- Actively partner with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), a strong, influential group already in existence can greatly complement your efforts.
Remember your role is to influence company culture, be a change agent, create a movement – bigger than you, the program, and the CSR department. Recruit those that want to help, get their feedback, ask them to have one-on-ones with colleagues or to present at their next department meeting. Give them a voice and let them help you spread the word.
Information Sharing and Storytelling
Employees want to feel good about their company’s reputation and brand. Link employee giving with the collective impact of the brand. Base storytelling on that broader impact: how the funds helped a community problem, social issue, or specific nonprofit. Invite nonprofits to your next town hall to share how their clients, services, organization were most impacted by your employee giving program. Employees will feel more connected to purpose and impact when they can understand how their donation has changed a life.
This is where your Communications colleagues can really amplify and extend your efforts, helping build a campaign that supports fundraising goals, being mindful of the many different ways an employee needs to hear, see and absorb messages, whether verbal, written, visual, formal or informal. Think about the saying, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” this directly applies to you, the more you can align with employees where they are in location, mindset, and subculture, the better.
- If you must use email, keep it short and to the point, with links to more information should an employee want to know more. Always include a specific call to action and a deadline, using marketing speak with a powerful subject line, then send the email from someone who can drive the open rate. Timing is everything, learn the best day/time to send emails.
- Set up the infrastructure to quickly and efficiently gather and compile success stories. Design a dependable and a consistent pipeline so the stories actually get to you, consistently.
- Create a quick, low-cost video and distribute enterprise-wide with employee and nonprofit testimonials.
- Recruit a relief fund grant recipient, share their story, in person, on video, with a voicemail or email.
- Print is not dead. Sometimes a desk-delivered postcard can make the difference in your company. Post flyers where employees are located: the coffee room, café, restroom, and elevator. Remember to balance printing with your company’s environmental commitment.
- Inventory in-person opportunities for storytelling: town halls, dept. meetings, employee events, etc. More in-person gatherings are happening around you than you realize.
- Determine what you need to effectively partner with Communications – vetted stories, photos, contact information, data, then get prepared. The more turn-key your process, the better your chance of getting these experts’ support.
Stay positive and remember, staying on course these days means being agile, responsive and bold. Reduce the fear of making mistakes. One of my favorite quotes is from Frank Wilczek, “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a mistake.”
If a campaign doesn’t go as well as planned, quickly learn from it and move forward. Rather than course-correcting, you are in a constant state of course-strengthening. Don’t forget to celebrate and share good news when milestones are met. Maximize your CSR online tool and pull your detailed reports, but try to remain data-driven, not data-obsessed. Use data to inform your program’s direction but not solely dictate it. Keep everything in the context of what is happening specifically at your company, which is always changing, and with the employees across all departments. The more custom and tailored your approach is, the more effective you will be.