Emerging Trends in Workplace Giving
13 November 2013 at 11:01 am
New US research reveals a workplace giving culture transformed by technology, branding and the arrival of millennials in the workforce. Margaret Smith from the Australian Charities Fund helps assess the value in embracing these new trends.
A recent study in the US by America’s Charities considered close to 100 private sector employers, covering giving programs worth $230 million in over 20 industries and 2 million employees. It included some of the US’s most high-profile companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc, The Walt Disney Company, Thomson Reuters Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co and American Airlines.
Steve Delfin, President and CEO of America’s Charities, hailed the research as demonstrative of a paradigm shift and said there was a new workplace giving model emerging empowering employees to participate in the giving experience inside and outside the walls of the workplace.
The research follows previous reports issued by America’s Charities in 2000 and 2006, a series intended to document shifts and trends in philanthropy, digital culture, workplace expectations, and demographic shifts concerning workplace giving.
Margaret Smith from the Australian Charities Fund provides Australian context for these emerging trends and assess the value to Australian companies in embracing them.
The transformative effect of technology and digital culture
“Over the past decade, technology has evolved beyond capturing pledge and contribution data. New platforms are emerging that makes the donor experience more meaningful and engaging.”
Some 54 per cent of employers surveyed reported their use of technology had changed in the last three years.
Going digital is proving effective in numerous ways in a workplace giving context:
85 per cent of employers are using technology to provide information to employees.
Nearly 40 per cent of employers are using technology to increase engagement, with nearly half of these using technology to promote volunteer opportunities.
More than two-fifths are using technology to connect employees with Not for Profit organisations.
About one-third are using technology to provide feedback on how contributions are used.
Nearly a quarter are using technology to connect employees with their peers.
According to Margaret Smith, technology use in Australia has forced more targeted thinking and planning around workplace giving programs.
“It’s an enabler,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to use technology to think about strategy and communication around workplace giving programs – they can say, why are we doing this?”
She says a key impact of technology in Australia is the minimisation of steps required in the donation process. Many Australian companies are now using a digital opt out system where employees starting in their position choose yes or no as they are entering their tax details.
Smith says the power in this is that most people are actually happy to donate but they are deterred by complicated process printing forms and returning them simply to opt in.
“People are really willing to give money but the process needs to make it easy and seamless,” she says.
New Engagement Strategies
“The real value of events is in creating opportunities to interact with colleagues and organisational leadership, learn more about charities, and catalyse greater giving.”
Some 85 per cent said that keeping the campaign fresh and vibrant is a challenge and in response employers are creating new giving models to engage employees.
The research suggests corporate matching of contributions is becoming the driving force that incentivises employees to donate to charities through their workplace. In 2000, 20 per cent matched payroll giving contributions, compared to 63 per cent now.
Another strategy proving effective is fundraising, networking and other social events help encourage greater giving. More than 50 per cent of employers surveyed have increased the number of gatherings such as networking events and fundraising activities associated with giving campaigns.
Thirty per cent of respondents report they allow employees to post videos and/or testimonials supporting their favorite charities as part of the giving program and more than half report they are likely to incorporate more social media tools into giving activities.
The research says the challenge is to balance the use of technology with the increasing expectations for peer-to-peer and the social dimensions of employee engagement.
Employers can also engage their employees by keeping them informed. When employees were asked what their employer could do to make their giving program more effective, 44 per cent of employees said they would like to more easily find information on local, national and international charities, and 32 per cent would like to access more information about those charities featured in their campaigns.
Smith says the increased power to communicate as a result of technology can be strategically used to let employees know what the business is doing in that space.
“Knowing the outcome of the program can incite in employees the feeling that they’re part of something bigger,” she says.
“It’s creating that culture of we all give, and we all give together.”
Brands R Us
We live in a branded world with logos and messages touching all aspects of our lives. Branded campaigns align a company’s values, philanthropic and increasingly overall social responsibility goals to support employee giving.
The use of branding in workplace giving programs is on the rise. Some 80 per cent of the employers surveyed are branding their workplace giving programs with their own names, themes or logos. Meanwhile, about 70 per cent of employers indicate they have aligned their giving campaign with other employee engagement programs or corporate philanthropic initiatives, a 38 per cent increase since 2006.
Branding, Smith says, enables companies to build workplace giving programs into their culture.
She uses the example of the Institute of Chartered accountants, who have branded their workplace giving program with the tagline "Everybody Counts".
They have successfully used a character mascot, "The Count" to reinforce branding around their workplace giving program.
“It’s about bringing it to life,” Smith says.“It’s that sense of buzz and connection.”
The Millennials Arrive
“They represent a powerful new wave of potential workplace donors, and they are changing the conversation.”
The report says young workers are arriving in the workplace with different expectations of their employers. ‘Millennials,’ or people born between 1982 and 2001, want their giving experiences to be engaging, empowering, and catalysing.
These new expectations are prompting employers to rethink their giving programs and find new ways to meaningfully engage them.
Over 92 per cent of employers surveyed face challenges connecting younger employees to existing employee giving programs and about 80 per cent agree that the current campaign model needs to be made more attractive for younger employees.
“Impact is what really ticks all the boxes for them,” Smith says. “The idea that it all adds up.”
JB HiFi, a business dominated by younger staff, ran ‘Helping Hands’, a campaign which saw mass donations of 50 cents to one dollar per week matched by the company contribute over a million to charity.
The report says these millennial “net-natives” expect their digital lives to transcend the walls of the workplace, nothing that more than 50 per cent of employers surveyed plan to implement more social media tools into their employee giving programs in order to attract younger employees.
Smith says the social aspect is key.
“They want that social impact, and they want the giving aspect of workplace giving to be social, not its all just about me”
Smith says companies play a crucial role in engaging young people who are set to be the leaders of Australian business ten to 15 years down the track.
“They [companies] are going to be planting the seed now [to show them] that social impact is within their reach.”
“It shows it’s a holistic approach, not a piecemeal.”
According to the research, companies and organisations are now devising overall strategies for giving, volunteerism, skill-based pro bono work, and engagement where previously these efforts were typically spread out over the company and not coordinated.
Smiths says there is tremendous benefit in this approach, in terms of reputation, clarity and organisation.
“It shows it’s a holistic approach, not a piecemeal,” she says.
“From a value perspective companies need to think more about combining and aligning their activities into one bucket.”
Smith gave an example of a recent client, who, on the surface, had donated $180,000 dollars via payroll giving. However, when extra contributions of time, expertise, office space and the like were added, that figure shot up to $270,000 dollars.
“It gives business a chance to consider how our CSR efforts are actually feeding into business strategy.”
“It’s about creating that total impact…there needs to be multiple touch points … if it’s right across the board, people will say, ‘I get it now!’”