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Employee-Centered Philanthropy: Considerations for an Employee Engagement Strategy

Employees can be brought into the grant-making process in many ways. Here are key questions to ask when developing your employee engagement strategy.

By Tiffany Cao, Philanthropy Advisor

Give2Asia has helped implement employee engagement strategies for many of our corporate partners who seek greater buy-in and participation from their staff as they develop their philanthropic goals.

To date, we have facilitated over US$4.2 million in employee engagement grants, many of which are focused on social services, education, and the environment. Corporate employees have helped conservation organizations in Taoyuan plant trees, participated in sign language outreach courses in Kuala Lumpur, and donated funds to upgrade multimedia equipment at a primary school in Xuancheng.

Employees can be brought into the grantmaking process in many ways including through the selection of nonprofits, donations, and volunteerism. The benefits of developing an employee engagement strategy include a positive reputation within the community and improved employee performance. Nonetheless, developing an employee engagement strategy from scratch can be daunting. Give2Asia has compiled strategic questions to help your corporation begin developing its employee engagement strategy:

Donations, Volunteering, or Both?

The first strategic decision should address how your corporation wants to engage employees. There are a few ways to do this.

Donations allow the grantee to use funds meaningfully for their operations or project activities. For corporate donors interested in setting up employee donation programs, questions to consider include:

  • Will employee donations be matched by corporate foundation funds? If so, what will the ratio of matching funds be?
  • Will donations be collected as a portion of employee pre-taxed salaries, or will employees provide donations separately?
  • What technical platform will be used to collect funds?

Setting up a volunteering program for your teams can create a more tangible connection between staff and charities, as well as provide nonprofits with pro bono services vital to their business. Corporate donors interested in incorporating employee volunteering opportunities will need to consider:

What type of volunteering will be the best fit: Some nonprofits need support with non-specialized operational activities, such as tutoring, tree-planting, and painting. Others welcome pro bono volunteers with business and strategic expertise. Critical to this process is letting the charity define their needs to ensure any volunteer effort aligns appropriately.

Customization of the volunteer opportunity: Volunteer events with large groups of employees or those that are separate from the charity’s regular programming may require more time and planning for both the corporation and charity.

The incorporation of Volunteer Time Off (VTO): VTO is an increasingly popular workforce perk that allows employees to spend paid time volunteering. VTO can be implemented by allowing groups to volunteer on designated paid workdays or by allowing individuals to coordinate the volunteering day off with the charity.

Branding and marketing: Corporate-branded gear during a volunteer event is a great way to establish company pride among employees and makes for cohesive marketing assets. Photos and videos of the event can help garner support for your partner charity and promote your own corporation’s values and social responsibility. Discuss photo and video plans with your selected charity to ensure that they align with the charity’s internal policies, as some organizations work with sensitive or vulnerable communities.

Tapping into Give2Asia’s local country advisors as an in-country resource to help bridge the relationship and activities between your staff and the charity.

If your organization has the capacity, the implementation of both a giving program and volunteering program can be a powerful combination of productive time and dollars to maximize impact toward the causes that your employees value.

How can employees be involved in the grantee selection process?

Involving employees in the grantee selection process can be one way to demonstrate a commitment to the communities and causes that your employees care about.

For corporations with the flexibility to integrate employee input into the selection process, an open nomination process soliciting charity suggestions from employees can be an inclusive format that allows your corporation to understand the range of causes and organizations that your employees are interested in, ensure that the charities that you are giving to align with your employees’ interests, and expand the pool of charities on your corporation’s radar.

For complicated nomination processes, corporations will need to think about their submission system and whether it will be managed in-house or by a third party. Complex grantmaking contexts may necessitate a longer planning timeline and third-party expertise.

For corporations with a developed and fixed strategic plan, grantees and sector priorities may already be decided. If the corporation’s philanthropic pillars are decided but the charities are not, employees can be involved through the nomination of organizations falling under your corporation’s pre-determined focus areas. If the grantees are decided, employees can still be engaged as volunteer participants in the grant activities.

This graphic shows the spectrum of employee involvement during the nonprofit selection process:

How often should employee engagement opportunities be held?

The frequency of employee engagement can vary depending on a corporation’s goals. One-off employee donations and matching donations are popular during disaster events, particularly those that affect regions where a corporation has many employees. For the first and subsequent waves of COVID, Give2Asia set up corporation-specific employee donation pages on our website as an easy way to collect employee donations for grants and for donors to track donations for matching in real time through our online portal.

Other corporations opt for more regular employee events. A dedicated week or month of employee engagement requires proactive planning but can demonstrate a long-term commitment to employees and their communities.

Whether your corporation has finalized its employee engagement strategy or is seeking experienced input on how to develop your strategy, Give2Asia can advise on and manage your employee giving and volunteering projects in the Asia-Pacific region. Reach out to our team to learn more.

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