The Giving USA Special Report (Autumn 2018) provides valuable insight into workplace giving. Workplace giving is defined as “the practice of employees contributing time or money through the workplace.”  Historically, when an employee donated through the workplace by giving to the United Way, for example, the employee had limited direct contact with the end charity who benefited from the donation. Further, workplace giving campaigns were decided upon by senior management, not by the employees. This is changing along with other factors affecting workplace giving.


Workplace giving for a company is often associated with their overall Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy and objectives. CSR has many aspects, including giving. It is increasingly linked to business strategy, performance, organisational trust, and, importantly, the ability to attract and retain employees. Workers, and Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) in particular, are demanding more from their employer when it comes to a company’s CSR; the CSR program influences their participation in a workplace giving program.  


Millennials are keen to know how their employer is impacting and contributing to society. Millennials want to work for a company that has strong social and environmental commitments so much that 64% would refuse a potential employer who did not have a strong CSR program. It is important that companies are aware of these feelings, as Millennials have no fear in using social media to provide feedback or share their opinions. Of course, this can impact the workforce, but it can also impact sales.  The Millennial CSR Study (2015) found that 91% of the Millennials surveyed would switch brands in a heartbeat if the company were better aligned with a cause important to them, if the price and quality were the same.


In addition to the coming of the Millennials in the workforce, other demographics of the workforce are rapidly changing. Sage charities look at the diversify of their donor base — does it represent society at large or reflect some of the diversity of the people the organisation serves?  For example, does alumni giving at a university reflect the diversity of the alumni body? The report states, “not only will the future workforce be more diverse in terms of age and ethnicity, but women are also expected to represent a larger percentage of the workplace.”


The Report highlights how women are more likely to participate in workplace giving programs than men.  Further, when men work in departments with more women, these men donate more to workplace giving programs. When it comes to age, research shows that people give as they get older to workplace giving programs, however, this giving decreases near retirement. This presents an opportunity through the creation of an employee alumni program.  


Too often a long-term employee retires and never hears from the company again. There are resources — for example, volunteer time — to be harnessed from former employees that can support a workplace giving program. A former employee can help liaise with their former colleagues — personally, I accept phone calls or return texts from former colleagues. However, having great dedicated people only helps when they feel connected or recognise the value in helping the charity the company is supporting. Volunteering for the CEO’s pet charity may not be met with enthusiastic cheer.


Workplace giving is affected by an employee’s alignment with a charity, but also by an employee’s relationship with their employer. Therefore, charities should seek out the pulse of the employee’s morale. A company embattled in a labor dispute, for instance, is likely to negatively impact any type of workplace giving program, especially if the program is in the early stages of development. There could be an argument made that such a program could help to improve workplace relationships, but proceed with caution.


Regardless, it is critical to have employees who are respected and liked to be ambassadors for workplace giving. The Report identifies that employees’ giving behaviour, and the level of this giving, is influenced by their peers. The findings in the Report referenced the article “Philanthropic Identity at Work: Employer Influences on the Charitable Giving Attitudes and Behaviors of Employees” by Jennifer Mize Smith (2013), who found “creating a ‘culture of giving’ in the workplace further positively affected employees’ philanthropic behavior, including support for workplace giving campaigns.”


An area addressed in the Report centres on workplace volunteers. These programs are particularly beneficial to charities: awareness is raised among volunteers, projects are tackled that would not have been possible without a corporate partner, and volunteering is seen as an entry point for possible future donations. The latter point is salient; there is the need for nonprofits to commence lasting, meaningful, and deep relationships with a company, as companies have moved away from transactional relationships. If your organisation currently has a relationship with a company, how institutional is the relationship? If your corporate contact were to depart the company, would your workplace giving program cease?


The Giving USA Special Report (Fall 2018) highlights trends and developments in workplace giving. For many charities, the biggest challenge can be to get their foot in the door of a quality company to commence a workplace giving program. There is plenty of competition and companies have a choice of their non-profit partner. When a charity establishes a workplace giving program with an A-list company, it is important that they do their research and listen to the challenges the company is having, as opposed to listing the company’s problems and the ways they can be solved.