What does employee-driven philanthropy look like in the workplace? For corporate social responsibility leaders, the idea of employee-driven volunteer and giving programs is Utopian and hard to attain. So how do corporations inspire employees to actually lead giving and volunteer programs in their communities? In this month’s Leading Edge webcast, Salesforce Chief Philanthropy Officer Ebony Beckwith interviews two CSR executives and one behavioral science expert from companies that are doing just that.
Here are the top five tips from this interview.
1. Change the corporate mindset
Krista Mondschein, National Programs Leader for Corporate Citizenship at Deloitte Services LP, says her company changed the way it talks about corporate philanthropy and started thinking of it as “community-powered social impact.” This shift allows the people and the program to go beyond monetary infusions or donations and expand to the network of individuals that make up the giving and volunteering equation. For Deloitte, that includes not only employees but also clients and nonprofits, with everyone contributing their own resources, talent, commitment, and passion to drive social impact.
2. Give employees the space to lead
A lot of forces are at play when it comes to employee volunteering: Opportunity, social interaction, ease of entry, interest, and peer activation are central to mobilizing employees. It’s important to ensure that all of these elements are set when you launch a philanthropy program. And once they are, it’s equally important to let the employees take the lead. If you provide on-ramps to opportunities, a few natural-born leaders will use them and encourage others to follow. Mondschein says, “We are a culture of hand-raisers,” implying that people are naturally seeking opportunities to lead, especially with respect to social impact. Ensure them the proper support, tools, inspiration, and encouragement, so they can tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and feel pride in their company via their giving and volunteer efforts. Our job as HR or CSR professionals is to empower their social impact goals as much as possible — and then get out of the way.
3. Recognize and reward them for what they already do
Christine Johnson, VP of HR for Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville and Wolfson Children's Hospital, was a little surprised that employees balked at the hospital’s Healthy for Life program, which required employees to spend 10 hours volunteering. Once her team explained, however, that this program was really to give them credit for the volunteering they already do, everyone’s perspective changed. So many of Baptist’s employees were already involved in their church, school, or other activities, they didn’t need to do anything more to make their 10 hours. And Baptist offers a discount on health insurance for everyone who completes their 10 hours, so counting the efforts they already made has a huge impact on how the program – and the hospital – is perceived.
4. Make it easy
Even the best do-gooder in the world is busy, so making giving and volunteering easy for people is always a good bet. Charlotte Blank, Chief Behavioral Officer at Maritz, an incentive and event company, describes a simple A/B subject line test for a giving campaign. Line A read, “Join your fellow St. Louisians to contribute to this in a collective enterprise.” Line B read, “Two minutes to a better St. Louis.” Guess which one performed better? Line B “vastly outperformed” the other. Blank says this example is a “really important reminder to meet people where they are.”
5. Help them understand what’s in it for them
Mondschein brings up a good point about skills development. She cites how volunteers enjoy bringing their work skills to a volunteer opportunity but also how volunteering can actually help employees build skill sets. Sometimes, all it takes is for a volunteer to try something new, which allows them to learn a new skill or put their talent to practice for the first time. And from there, they start to see themselves on a different career path or trajectory. In addition, Blank talks about how helping people who donate their time or money not only makes people happier but also healthier. It’s important to communicate these benefits to employees, so they understand that the more they focus their energy outward, the better off they are all around.