by Roger Herman - In many ways, we're lucky to face the problems that we do--how to keep up with the IT explosion, how to find employees in a job market so tight you're sometimes lucky to find any applicants at all, how to keep qualified employees once you've found them... our problems are the easy kind, viewed from outside our daily lives. We don't really have to worry about where our next meal will come from, whether or not we'll find shelter for the night, or if we can provide for basic needs for our families and ourselves. It's not that we don't feel these pressures from time to time, but certainly there are people out there far less fortunate than ourselves. And, in this economy, these people and their needs are increasingly swept by the wayside.
Giving Your Employees a Chance To Make a Difference
Your employees recognize and share the types of concerns discussed above. Charitable giving has long been a mainstay of American culture, and specifically that of corporate American culture. Companies give their people a chance to help others, a chance, really, to change the world, when they open up opportunities to give something back to those who need it. Survey after survey has shown that employees see and appreciate the value of benefits such as charitable giving and opportunities for charitable work. The question, therefore, is not whether to find opportunities for participation in outreach, but how to provide those opportunities.
Giving Your Employees a Choice To Make a Difference
Participation in programs such as March of Dimes walks and Habitat for Humanity homebuilding projects is a wonderful way to involve large groups of employees in teambuilding and community enhancing exercises. However, sometimes, due to company size or diversity of interests, it can be difficult to unite groups of employees for common charitable causes. What, then, can you do to continue to provide outlets for charitable giving while keeping in mind many different sets of needs?
Two services have come on the market recent years that can help you provide multiple ways for your people to give back to the people they most want to help. Here is a brief summary and review of those services:
Share America! is a conglomeration of member charities which provides both an on-line portal as well as off-line means for employees to make contributions to charities of their choice. It is governed by member charities and provides the grouped service for a basic fee plan that is outlined in refreshingly straightforward terms. So often the actual costs associated with giving can be cloaked in percentages and convoluted fee schedules; Share America! offers materials that are plainly written and outlined.
In addition, they present hard information about how the plan works, both from the perspective of the organization as well as from clients. Ed Harding, Campaign Chairperson for National Instruments, notes that employee gifts for his company jumped more than 400% once the Share America! program was instituted. Dell Computer saw total giving increase 4,796%. And the benefits aren't just wrapped up in big numbers--imagine the jump in employee morale once you provide the means for them to give something back.
The press kit and associated materials are comprehensive and show you exactly what you'd get to show your employees, including a terrific stat sheet that outlines what employees would be giving at certain levels. A contribution of just $1 per pay period (biweekly), for example, can buy the materials to outfit a guide dog puppy. $10 per pay period might purchase food for a child in Bangladesh for a year. Employees can really see where their money is headed and the good that it does. Much more information is available at www.shareamerica.org, including lists of charities and how to go about implementing the program.
Taking the idea of online managed giving to a new level, charitableway.com has created what they call Workplace Giving Centers. The Workplace Giving Centers offer companies a chance to create customized giving programs dependent upon their benefits program plans, upon employees' needs and desires, and according to HR and financial constraints or needs. Online at wwwcharitableway.com, the site offers a complete walkthrough of possible options, and offers a demonstration page as well. The service is completely online, automated, and secure, and for anyone who has had to sort through stacks of pledge forms and giving materials, this ease of access will be a welcome step in giving technology.
The site and the company revolve around the idea that giving can energize your workforce and create a more dynamic giving atmosphere among your employees. Certainly this shift is possible, whether "untied" in a common giving drive or presented with the opportunity to make their own choices, giving employees are almost always happier employees.
A Last Look at Giving
Don't shy away from charitable programs because of cost or added work. The above companies alleviate a bit of both of those concerns, and what's more, those concerns ought to be secondary to providing an important employee benefit. In a market where employees and prospective employees are now making distinctions between employment opportunities based on benefits just like these, you'd do well to look into diversifying your giving options.
Roger Herman, CSP, CMC is CEO of The Herman Group, a firm of Certified Management Consultants in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is author of ten books, including How to Choose Your Next Employer. Roger is also Senior Fellow of the Institute. Joyce Gioia is the co-author of Lean & Meaningful as well as of the forthcoming book, How to Become an Employer of Choice. She is also President of The Herman Group and a Fellow of the Institute.
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