How workplace giving and corporate philanthropy programs are making businesses wealthier with unique assets – like engaged employees, industry goodwill, and a compelling employer brand.

No one has every become poor by giving

Altruism – be it in the form of charity, oblation, or gifts – is one of life’s greatest paradoxes. Economists are foxed by them… accountants can’t account for them… clients aren’t too sure about them. The reason is simple. Giving - without the expectation of receiving - goes against the very grain that defines our daily rut-race (defined as a rat race, caught in an infinite loop rut).  And, like a phantom component, it balances life’s lopsided equation. Replaces the Take-Take with Give-Take. And resets the wheels of engagement with honor, justice, and gratitude.

The Helper's High

Giving is good. But if you think it makes only the receiver smile, think again. Indeed, there are so many benefits of giving that one could be forgiven for wondering if it qualifies as a selfless act at all. ‘Helper’s High’ – a dopamine-induced physical sensation usually experienced after an act of giving and validated by research - is known to carry big-time advantages: It makes us feel happier, calmer, live longer, and less stressed. Given that the act is associated with chemical changes in the mind and body, it’s not surprising that the joy of giving – as they say – lasts longer than the joy of receiving. And it is this joy – rarer in the course of a regulation day than it perhaps should be - that leaders and businesses must revive if they are to recharge their journeys in a new age.

Gen Z & Millenials are in 'Give Mode'. Are Employers Receiving the Signals?

Despite the financial insecurity induced by the pandemic, millennials – more than any other generation group - are donating to charity passionately. 75% of them, to be precise, as per payment app Zelle’s Consumer Payment Behaviors report. They are followed by Gen Z. It’s not just the pandemic, though. Even back in 2014, a whopping 84% of millennial employees donated both money and time to charitable causes, according to the Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report: 2015. The habit persists - despite incomes coming down in the #NewNormal and student debts on the rise - making this generation amongst the most generous in history. Digital technologies have made accessing information about the world’s problems – and collaborating with like-minded communities to address and solve them – easier than ever, catalyzing the intent to contribute.

"I don’t see this as a generation that wants to write a check and be done with it. They want to see how their donation is making an impact and affecting real change."  - Jessica Carlino, volunteer engagement coordinator for United Way of Greater Waterbury, a nonprofit which serves ten towns in Connecticut.

Millennials already constitute nearly half the working population. That number is rising fast, even as Gen Z is expanding its own clout in the workplace. Employers must connect with this spirit of philanthropy by bringing out their own philanthropic side. Institutionalize ‘Giving’ in its many forms and avatars. Convert it into a strategic tool and competitive advantage. Make it the cornerstone of their culture. And accentuate their journey with a sense of purpose that resonates strongly with teams, channels, networks, clients, and indeed, the industry at large.

Case Study: How Microsoft’s Employee Giving Program Harmonized Careers With Philanthropy

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Workplace Giving for Corporates: A Quick Action-map

Giving can be evangelized in the workplace in a variety of ways. The digital age lets us engage with our communities in novel and powerful ways, opening up unique ways of contributing to their betterment. Workplace giving today, not surprisingly, has gone well beyond charity donations and salary-slip deductions (which remain essential) – limited only by the imagination.

Here’s a tested template to deploy a workplace giving program. Do tailor it to your culture, and add your own spark to it.

  • Plan community activities and volunteer opportunities your employees strongly identify with and want to be a part of. Make sure these activities pivot around kindness, gratitude, and generosity.
  • Tie up with NGOs and organizations who are active in the space, carry focussed expertise around a specific niche or demographic of the population, and with whom you can partner for programs around the year.
  • Make room in your workflow calendar to accommodate these activities. Allow employees some time off their schedule to engage in them.
  • Communicate the program and opportunity (of ‘giving back to society) adequately amongst teams via your intranet or slack channels. Design a microsite or platform dedicated to engaging employees around the theme. Create cheerleaders and ambassadors to steer the initiative. Let them spread the vibe – not just internally but externally on social networks as well.
  • Seeing real impact happen on the ground builds involvement and ramps up a sense of pride. Make sure you track and share the progress of the activity regularly with participants and teams. Make it easy for them to share this information in their networks.
  • Catalyze the spirit and pep things up with gamification and contests. Track and share the status on a leaderboard.

Case Study: Leading the Way

corporate philanthropy examples
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3 Thumb Rules of Corporate Philanthropy

1. Options

Get creative in designing your Workplace giving activities – the more avenues and channels you give your employees to reach out to the community and express their altruism, the greater the chances of participation, involvement, and fulfillment. One great way is to map the Giving activity to your teams' intrinsic and extrinsic motivational drivers – so that it hits home.

2. Networks

Nurture relationships with local NGOs and nonprofits. Encourage them to keep you notified about their latest programs and innovations. Co-create Giving Activities with their campaign teams.

3. Recognition

Spot and applaud the intent and effort of your employees at every step – to keep them enthused and focussed.

How they Gave it Away: Case Studies of Workplace Giving Programs

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Impact of Workplace Giving

1. Sticky employer brand

The connotation of ‘work’ is changing – especially with the emerging generation, which equates work with career growth and financial freedom and as a platform to make a difference to society and the planet. An organization that lets them do that ‘on its own clock’ (such as by allowing employees ‘paid time’ to pursue their community passions or making room in its workflows for ‘social work’) makes an instant connection with this wavelength. By putting its money where its mouth is, the company proves its values are more than just a policy file stashed away in a forgotten folder. No better way to build your employer brand, is there? No better way to land the talent you want, either. And, for companies who treat this as more than just a fad or ‘tactic,’ no better way to experience the true meaning of pride.

2. Efficient teams with high morale

The spirit of Giving breaks down emotional silos and knits teams tighter. Research work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer suggests that generosity - more often than not - is likely to be reciprocated, drawing both parties into a common ‘pact of positivity.’ In her book The How of Happiness, Lyubomirsky states that this fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.” In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health discovered that the act of philanthropy – such as donating to charities – triggers a ‘glow’ of warmth, trust, and social closeness. This is validated by biology: When we trust someone, our system releases a neurochemical or hormone called oxytocin that reduces the typical wariness (which we feel when accosting strangers), thus increasing our ability to understand others better. In the work setting, enhanced cooperation, better collaboration, and amped-up morale are all essential ingredients of an efficient outfit.

“A number of businesses, including retailer Zappos.com and office designer Herman Miller, agreed to let me draw blood and measure brain activity from their employees as they worked. These tests confirmed our lab findings: Teams that caused oxytocin release in each other were more productive and innovative, and enjoyed the tasks they were doing more, than those whose brains did not connect to their teammates.” - Paul J. Zak (Ph.D.): Author of Trust Factor: The Science of High-Performance Companies and The Moral Molecule: How Trust Works.

The best part? This is a self-propagating cycle. Once you have planted the ethos of giving across your organizational rank and file, the effort you need to put in (to keep it going) will progressively come down. The system will grow on auto-pilot as it enters a ‘virtuous circle’ where each individual’s behavior inspires and ignites another’s. Researchers at the University of California and Harvard opine as much: “Each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

3. Better business ROI

A team that trusts each other performs more efficiently and consistently, lifting business outcomes perceptibly. Progress and prosperity follow as researcher John Cacioppo captures in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection… “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection . . . the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.”

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Get your Workplace Giving Program on the Road with Empuls.

Empuls lets startups and mid-size organizations build special groups and forums of employees with common philanthropic interests and engage them powerfully and consistently to achieve kindness missions.