Creating a workplace philanthropy program is one of the best ways to improve a company’s reputation in the community. When a corporation helps other people, those same people will return the favor by supporting that corporation — either in dollars or in word-of-mouth.
But workplace philanthropy, and the reputation that comes with it, also does a lot for a company’s ability to both recruit and retain talent. After all, 67 percent of people would rather work for organizations that support social initiatives, and 50 percent of millennials want to work for ethical companies.
In other words, corporate social responsibility — or CSR, for short — makes your company more attractive to job seekers.
The only problem is that many businesses stumble when designing charitable programs, believing that staff will simply participate when given the opportunity. But not all giving activities are equal, and trying to “standardize” the process only makes the program easier to manage, not easier to get employees to volunteer and donate.
Doing Better When Doing Good
That leaves us with one question: How does an organization create CSR initiatives that benefit both the business and the community-at-large? While it’s rarely an easy task, a good place to start is with the following:
1. Give employees a voice. To be truly effective, workplace philanthropy programs should be designed to maximize engagement. As such, you’ll want to organize your efforts around the causes that resonate with employees. By asking staff about what they care about, you allow them the opportunity to make a difference based on their values — with the added bonus of showing employees that you value their input.
2. Choose a relevant cause. Most organizations choose to support causes that make sense to their business. Otherwise, people (including employees) begin to question the exact motives of those outreach efforts. When designing a program, make sure it aligns with the business, mission, values, or culture of your company.
Let’s say, for example, you make products for women. A logical choice would be to devote your energies to fighting breast cancer through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, or the Young Survival Coalition.
3. Offer more than money. Sure, cutting a check to a charitable organization is generous, but it doesn’t often provide the organizational benefits that come with workplace philanthropy. By giving your time to causes, your efforts seem more authentic — at least from a marketing perspective. People will see your company as an organization that genuinely cares.
That said, you shouldn’t forgo financial support, but you’ll also want to look for ways to get out into the community. Offer free services, sponsor some events, and get staff out into the community to become an actual part of that community. Besides, giving activities can be powerful employee engagement tools for your business.
4. Empower employees to give. It isn’t enough to just set up CSR initiatives and call it good; you must also empower employees to give by making it as easy as possible to serve. Make opportunities readily accessible and available. Encourage employees to take advantage of those opportunities that play to their strengths or resonate with their interests.
When you empower employees to serve, and allow them the freedom to decide how and where to serve, they’re far more apt to participate. And your support in their volunteerism can translate into greater loyalty and engagement, which can do wonders for your retention and recruitment efforts.
5. Get the word out. Companies often establish workplace philanthropy programs without ever making employees aware of their existence — or encouraging participation. Increase awareness by organizing a number of communication strategies that involve staff from all departments and at all levels.
In fact, treat a CSR initiative like you would any new product or service, and start marketing it to your internal customers. Determine what will move them to take action. A millennial will respond differently to a message than a baby boomer, so try to really get to know your employees before creating your messaging.
6. Make it about people. People respond to people. Instead of focusing solely on the hours and dollars your company contributed to a cause, put the personal stories front and center. Make your employees the heroes, not your organization. Their involvement will essentially vouch for the authenticity of your involvement.
As a result, consumers will believe your commitment and choose you over other brands — what with 90 percent of shoppers saying they’d switch brands to one that supports a cause. Besides this stronger public image, your efforts can improve employee loyalty by 38 percent and even save in salary expenses, as 45 percent of people would take a pay cut for a job that makes a social impact.
With all the buzz surrounding workplace philanthropy programs, it’s no wonder why so many companies take the plunge without ever testing the waters — or learning how to swim, at that. But if you take the time to pick the right causes and develop initiatives around your staff, you’ll not only see greater employee participation but engagement and retention.