American companies are increasingly seeking to align their corporate giving and employee volunteer programs with the interests and passions of their workers, new research shows, leaving some historically popular programs and strategies on the way out.
According to the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals’ 2017 Benchmarking Report, just over half of companies surveyed have Dollars-for-Doers programs, and a similar number now allow their workers to volunteer during work hours for non-company-sponsored events—both of which are proving ever more popular with employees. Meanwhile, the number of companies with signature volunteering programs, where employees are called on to support a company-sponsored and coordinated volunteer project, is declining.
“This reflects an overall trend in companies following a more employee-centric focus with their giving and volunteer programs,” said Maryann Fiala, the ACCP’s communications and marketing director.
With signature programs, a company is essentially telling its workers to support a particular issue or cause, typically one that aligns with the company’s business interests in one way or another. In contrast, by letting them volunteer with non-company-sponsored projects, or rewarding their volunteer efforts through cash Dollars-for-Doers grants for whichever charity suits their fancy, companies are letting their workers take the lead in directing corporate charity, Fiala said.
Other findings from the Benchmarking Report highlight this trend as well. For example, just 29 percent of surveyed companies participate in a federated campaign. Long a staple for major corporations, federated campaigns offer workers a set slate of well-vetted charities to support through payroll deductions, but that might be proving to be too prescriptive, according to Caitlin McDanels, the ACCP’s marketing technology and communications manager.
“There’s more emphasis today on the employees’ choice of recipients,” McDanels said. “But there’s no way to include all of the possible choices” in the roster of organizations that employees can support through federated campaigns.
That’s because a significant amount of time and resources goes into selecting recipient organizations that are on the up and up.
“It’s just too hard to have every possible nonprofit sufficiently vetted,” she said.
The same issue crops up with matching gift programs, McDanels said. According to the survey, about 40 percent of companies offer matching gifts, but the inherent limits to such programs—namely, determining which ones are on the list of eligible charities to receive matches—can make them less attractive for workers who have specific organizations they would like to donate to.
Fiala noted that taking a more employee-centric approach to giving and volunteer programs can be a boon for employee morale and satisfaction. But there is a caveat to that, she said.
“Companies will often see a big boost in employee satisfaction right up front, for the first year or two,” she explained. “But then it starts to level off. By year three or four, it’s considered more of a given. And if a company decides to cut the program, it will cause the reverse,” she said—a big drop in employee satisfaction.
“There’s a delicate balance when deciding to add these programs,” she said. “Companies should really consider whether they can commit to them for the long term.”
For more information or to access the Benchmarking Report in full, visit http://www.accprof.org.