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Boost Workplace Giving with These 3 (Fun) Strategies

Workplace giving can help increase employee engagement and deliver impact. Here’s how.

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BY Bruce Poon Tip - 13 Dec 2017

Boost Workplace Giving with These 3 (Fun) Strategies

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

One employee walked barefoot through India. Another decided to shave her head. One of our software engineers created a SwearBot that monitored my humorous use of four-letter words during our annual company summit. They did it all for the same reason: to help us change lives through travel by raising money to support our company's nonprofit partner, the Planeterra Foundation.

Employee giving generally isn't the sexiest of topics. It takes a similar form at many companies: near the end of the year, an employee makes a donation to the nonprofit of her choice, and the company agrees to match it. There's nothing wrong with that, but consider this:

Together, these factors point to an appetite for workplace-giving programs that offer more meaningful and playful ways to engage. With the talent wars raging, is it time to revamp your company's approach? Here's what's worked well for my team so far.

Align giving with your company values.

My company, G Adventures, offers small-group adventure tours with a focus on immersive, local travel experiences. Our employee-giving approach - what we call FUNdraising - encourages the team to raise money for the Planeterra Foundation, a nonprofit that supports tourism-focused social enterprises all around the globe. We've helped launch and fund more than 50 such community impact projects so far, helping to empower women, train youth and conserve traditional cultures through work in tourism. This alignment between company and cause means that the sense of purpose that drives our day-to-day efforts, also motivates us to go all out in our give-back efforts.

Along these lines, some companies organize employee-giving efforts around a specific social mission that aligns with their business (rather than a single nonprofit). Ernst & Young - a company that's focused on the importance of building a talent pipeline - matches employee donations made only to accredited higher education institutions. 

Many companies don't designate a specific cause or nonprofit for employee giving and fundraising activities, and that's completely fine - what's important is that the desire to give back is an authentic part of your company culture and employee recognition programs. That said, uniting around a cause your team genuinely believes in - and one that's aligned with the company's values - can help deepen their sense of purpose at work and allow them to feel more directly connected to its mission (the 'why' of your business), ultimately making employee giving and fundraising activities more effective, and fun.

Give your team ownership.

Our efforts focus on one organization, but we give employees the freedom to donate and raise money however they want. This freedom, paired with our purpose-centric culture, means that our teams have gotten more and more creative in making the process their own. In some cases, regional offices will come together and identify a specific fundraising goal, which they'll work toward achieving in creative ways throughout the year. In others, individual people will commit to doing something crazy or unique - like dying their beard purple or cycling more than 4,300 miles across Canada - in exchange for pledges and donations.

We've seen success by focusing less on centralized opportunities for company-wide engagement and more on giving people the framework and tools to make it their own. In other words, it's all about spreading happiness and community while celebrating our freedom as individuals.

This is the approach Microsoft takes through its massive employee giving program, and it's always fun to see what their employees come up with - like the annual Dogs of Microsoft calendar, where the going price to get your pet on the cover is $1,500. When your team takes ownership, the end result will be more fun, creative and organically collaborative - boosting employee engagement along the way.

Don't limit it to employees.

One of my favorite things about FUNdraising is seeing how our trip leaders involve customers in the process. Whether it's completing a customer's dare to plunge into cold water, planning a 50/50 raffle or auctioning off a free activity on the trip, it's inspiring to see what our staff comes up with - and how well customers respond. Many companies have employee and customer-giving campaigns; the more you can integrate them, the better. Not only will you raise more money, but you also give customer-facing employees a meaningful way to deepen relationships.

'Tis the season for giving, but if you ask me, team fundraising programs work best if they're embedded in your culture year-round, and built to promote fun. In our case, I'm proud that 13 percent of all funds raised for the Planeterra Foundation last year came from our employees' fundraising efforts. With people seeking a greater sense of purpose at work, strengthening your giving program and aligning it with your company's values can help you find and keep the best talent while also raising more money for important causes.

How's that for a win-win? 

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