Nonprofits Advised to Tie Goals of Volunteers to Organization

November 11, 2018 — Nonprofits seeking volunteer support from potential corporate partners will be more likely to attain their goals if they design programs that satisfy volunteers' goals as well as their own, according to a recently completed study on workplace giving and corporate social responsibility efforts.

The Giving USA Special Report on the Evolution of Workplace Giving, released by Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, found that employees increasingly want a choice in how their employer gives back, and for their employer to give to a charity of the employee’s choice. This reflects trends among nonprofit donors overall, who want more information about their donation’s impact and more choice over how it is used.

The report noted that changes to the workforce and new attitudes toward work are affecting workplace giving, with philanthropy increasingly important to employees, employers, and nonprofits.

The report, which developed insights that nonprofits can implement, noted that landscape of workplace giving campaigns has radically expanded to include a wide range of activities, from skilled volunteer opportunities and matching gifts to more traditional federated campaigns such as United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign.

“This report underscores the importance of the partnership between nonprofits and corporations,” said Rick Dunham, chair of Giving USA Foundation. “These findings emphasize to companies, fundraising professionals and nonprofits that effective communication, through a wide range of platforms, empowers employees to become donors and advocates for their causes in and through their workplaces, which is not only advantageous for the nonprofit, but for the corporation as well.”

Among the findings:
  • Nonprofits should seek out longer-term volunteer opportunities with employee groups that fit with their needs, capacity and long-term goals.

    While volunteering is a common form of corporate social responsibility (CSR), nonprofit organizations should be aware of potential costs, such as for developing new programs or hiring more staff to accommodate large volunteer groups. Nonprofits should not only seek strategic partnerships that benefit the nonprofit, but the corporate volunteer group as well for best results.

  • Employee choice is key.

    Employees want to use their talents, skills and time on a cause that they find personally meaningful. Employees also respond well when employers match time, donations or other resources to causes that the employee has chosen.

  • Engaged employees are more generous in workplace giving campaigns.

    Employees who are involved with an employer’s CSR efforts (or otherwise feel loyalty to their employer) tend to give more to workplace giving campaigns. Therefore, it is important that companies educate their employees about opportunities to get involved and keep in touch with employees about the outcomes of ongoing CSR efforts.
Another theme that emerges throughout the new report is the increased prevalence of technology in the workplace and in workplace giving. For example, employees have come to expect options for how they make their gifts (e.g., payroll deduction, online platforms, etc.). Indeed, the majority of workplace giving now takes place online. While this can be considered a positive development for giving, the proliferation of technology also presents the challenge of how to engage remote workers, who may not be physically present in an office environment, in the company’s CSR initiatives.

Workplace giving is a key aspect of corporations’ giving. Total giving by corporations, including workplace giving, reached the highest inflation-adjusted level ever in 2017 at an estimated $20.77 billion, an increase of 8.0% in current dollars (5.7% in inflation-adjusted dollars), according to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy for that year.