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Is Your Company Ready To Handle the Next Hot-Button Issue? How To Stay Two Steps Ahead

October 12, 2022
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Crickets. That’s the sound coming from many companies over today’s most pressing hot-button issues. Yet there is an increasingly blurred line between business and politics, leaving business leaders wondering how they should weigh in. These issues are both plentiful and polarizing. It would be easy, if not forgivable, to remain silent from a business standpoint. However, it’s not so simple. The public supports and even expects companies to speak out. In recent years as the political landscape becomes even more divisive that expectation continues to grow. In a Forbes poll, 75% think that companies should be leaders and change makers. And why not? Thanks to employees, stakeholders and the communities they are privileged to serve, companies have the bully pulpit and the resources needed to make a difference. Moreover, recent polls indicate that people trust businesses more than the government. Leaders must ask themselves what role their companies should play in the evolving political environment. But before they decide how to engage, they must consider both the risks and the challenges.

Current Landscape of Hot-Button Issues

It’s not just about the things that any good corporate citizen ought to do, like be a responsible steward of the earth’s precious resources. It’s about values that cut to the core of every American. Issues like voting rights, vaccine mandates, Roe v. Wade and gun control. There are new issues arising monthly.

Impact on Business

Make no mistake: Taking a stand can have both good consequences and bad. For some companies, it may mean an increase in sales or a boost to their reputation. When Uber and Lyft offered to pay the legal fees for drivers sued under Texas law for driving pregnant people to abortion clinics, they saw an uptick in their stock. However, there was also a negative backlash. Purportedly, the company doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to supporting its drivers in other regards. Yes, taking a stand opens the company up to scrutiny. But it also helps keep leadership accountable and make them even more determined to ensure that their actions match their words, a good all-around strategy for every sustainable business.

New Issue, New Strategy

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for hot-button issues. Most require case-by-case analysis. You may not want to issue a public statement at all, but that’s not the only option. Before you do anything, you’ll need to assess the potential impact on your business. It always pays to know your customers — not just the products and services they will buy but what they believe and value. What are they saying on social media? The same is true for stakeholders and employees, including the company’s affinity groups. What do they want you to do? Acknowledge and respect differing viewpoints while ensuring that the decision-making process is transparent. Of course, everyone will not agree but it’s important that the process is fair and that once the decision has been made, you are clear and unapologetic about how the decision aligns with company values. Follow through on your promises and be consistent.L’oreal Paris learned the hard way how important it is to practice what you preach. After posting in support of Black Lives Matter, the fashion company was lambasted for dismissing one of their models who had previously taken a public stance against racism and white supremacy.

How To Be Proactive Against Hot-Button Issues: 3 Preparation Steps

In addition to making deliberate decisions, here are three concrete steps your company can take to ensure that they are prepared for the next hot-button issue.

1. Establish Safety Nets

Safety nets are resources that are set aside to protect employees and other stakeholders of the company against inequities and provide fair treatment across the board. They provide tangible benefits to all employees and to the community. A safety net allows the company to help without necessarily taking a public political stand. Despite their own business woes, consider the many companies that stepped up to the plate during the pandemic to provide, for example, support to first responders and vulnerable populations, or that adapted their supply chains to provide personal protective equipment. When companies establish a track record of pitching in during times of greatest need, they build the type of social currency that generates public trust.A safety net could be considered the company’s own economic relief fund. There are no hard and fast rules about how it should operate. However, safety net funds could support:

  • Travel for health care that is not offered locally
  • Consistent levels of accessibility in all of the company’s offices, whether or not it is mandated by law
  • Volunteer activities in the community
  • Extended employee benefits like remote work, flex time, etc
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Trauma treatment across all of the various communities and identities
  • Temporary shelters for weather-related and other emergencies
  • Nonpartisan resources that support elections

2. Operationalize Your DEI Strategy

Hot-button issues present an opportunity to lean into the company’s core values and support them through your DEI strategy. To do so, however, the strategy must be operationalized. Until you formulate and actualize a plan, it’s just a mental exercise. Operationalization means making DEI part of your business and operating model. You will be most successful in your support of the underserved communities you’ve identified if your strategy establishes the following:

  • In-House DEI Team: Even if you solicit outside help to facilitate your DEI strategy, you still need an in-house team. Your in-house team plays a critical role in analyzing hot-button issues and making recommendations for a thoughtful and inclusive response.
  • Diversity Training: Training is key, and not just a once-and-done workshop. Rather, you’ll need an ongoing approach to ensure that your guidelines are put into practice and everyone understands what’s expected of them. Through regular training, you signal to the organization that diversity, equity and inclusion are important values that you take seriously and that these values extend beyond the doors of your organization.
  • Affinity Groups: Your affinity groups provide the staffing and energy to take on issues. They play a key role in two-way communication that helps to bolster curiosity and empathy among the larger community. They will want to have a voice in the company’s response to these issues.

3. Fortify Your Corporate Giving Program

When hot-button issues arise, companies that have established corporate giving programs can respond internally, even without making a grand public gesture. The best programs are those that are flexible, easy to set up and require minimal administrative time. Corporate giving programs not only empower employees, they build engagement and morale, and encourage individuals to express themselves in meaningful ways. The Groundswell platform allows employees to pre-load charitable donations in a giving account for when and where they want to use them. There are a number of ways for employees to participate, including selecting from various volunteer opportunities or supporting a cause that the company champions. Employees are able to express their values to support something they believe in and they may be eligible, as well, to receive matching donations or use paid time off that the company provides. Groundswell makes it easy, allowing companies to offer giving as an employee benefit. Further, the Groundswell platform removes the hassle. There’s little administration, paperwork or reporting so that your company can easily shift gears for the next hot-button issue. Employees appreciate the opportunity to help the causes they care about year-round, as well as to be part of larger-scale, more impactful giving efforts.

Stay Ahead and Be Proactive

Hot-button issues can be tricky to navigate. But they don’t have to create internal headaches. They can, in fact, be opportunities to lean into the values that make your company unique, attract and retain diverse talent and drive innovation. You just need a good plan.

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Unlocking Philanthropy: A Ready-to-Use Corporate Giving Policy for Modern Businesses

Sample Corporate Giving Policy You Can Use Today

In today’s socially conscious environment, more companies than ever are recognizing the value of corporate philanthropy. Not only can a robust giving policy boost a brand’s image and reputation, but it can also play a pivotal role in community development and global betterment. If your company is considering the establishment of a formal corporate giving policy or refining its existing strategy, this sample policy might be the perfect starting point for you.

Download Sample Policy

Pillars of a Strong Corporate Giving Policy

Corporate giving programs range from employer donation matching programs to full blown corporate social responsibility programs with grantmaking and volunteerism.  Many companies find somewhere in the middle that aligns with their size, budget, geographic presence and most importantly company values and commitment to diversity and inclusion. But what truly makes a corporate giving policy stand out? Let’s delve into the key features, from donation matching to the strategic use of platforms like Groundswell.

1. Donation Matching: Doubling the Impact

One of the most effective tools in a giving policy is donation matching. This is where companies match employee donations to eligible non-profits, effectively doubling the contribution. Such programs not only amplify the impact but also motivate employees to participate, knowing their chosen cause will receive twice the support.

2. Charitable Stipends: Encouraging Employee Choice

Charitable stipends are allowances given to employees to donate to a non-profit of their choice. This not only encourages a culture of giving but also empowers employees to support causes they’re passionate about. The stipends can be a fixed amount annually or can vary based on the employee’s role or tenure.

3. Dollars for Doers: Volunteering Translated to Contributions

“Dollars for Doers” programs convert volunteer hours into monetary donations. When employees volunteer their time for a cause, the company makes a donation equivalent to the hours spent. This fosters a culture of hands-on involvement and ensures that both time and money are being donated to valuable initiatives.

4. Corporate Grants: Sowing Seeds for Bigger Change

Beyond individual employee contributions, companies can set aside a dedicated fund for corporate grants. These grants can be given to non-profits, research initiatives, or community projects that align with the company’s CSR objectives. Such grants can lead to substantial, long-term changes and foster strong partnerships with community leaders and organizations.

Why Choose Groundswell for Your Giving Initiatives?

Incorporating these elements into a giving policy requires streamlined management, transparency, and ease of execution. This is where platforms like Groundswell come into the picture.

Groundswell offers an efficient and affordable solution for companies aiming to elevate their philanthropic endeavors. Here’s why it’s the ideal choice:

  • User-Friendly Interface: Groundswell’s platform is designed for both companies and employees, ensuring smooth navigation and straightforward donation processes.
  • Versatility: Whether it’s donation matching, handling charitable stipends, or managing corporate grants, Groundswell offers solutions tailored to each company’s unique needs.
  • Cost-Effective: Groundswell provides a comprehensive suite of tools at competitive prices, ensuring that more of your money goes towards the cause rather than platform fees.
  • Transparency: Track donations, monitor employee involvement, and generate detailed reports to measure the impact—all in one place.

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An effective corporate giving policy is a blend of structure, employee engagement, and impactful contributions. By incorporating elements like donation matching, charitable stipends, “Dollars for Doers,” and corporate grants, businesses can create a ripple effect of positive change. And with platforms like Groundswell, executing these initiatives becomes not just feasible but also highly efficient and cost-effective.

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5 Tips to Boost Engagement & Impact on Giving Tuesday

Leverage GivingTuesday to boost generosity

Every November, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is known as GivingTuesday, which often serves as the unofficial start of end-of-year giving campaigns. This comes on the heels of holiday shopping deals on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. It is a worldwide phenomenon, inspiring millions to lean into the end-of-year holiday spirit with generosity and compassion. For many charities, GivingTuesday has become their biggest day for donations – and can help resource their ability to have an even greater impact in the year ahead.

For companies, GivingTuesday and the end-of-year giving season offers an opportunity to double down on their commitment to social responsibility, strengthen relationships with employees, and boost their impact in the community and broader world.

At Groundswell, we partner with companies all across the country to design and launch GivingTuesday campaigns – leveraging our easy-to-use platform that makes it easy for employees to participate and send donations to the causes and charities that they care most about. Below are some best practices to boost engagement and inspire generosity during the giving season.

1. Make Giving Easy:

A lot of giving platforms out there make it incredibly hard to donate. Some don’t have all 1.5 million IRS-approved charities listed. Others require employees to navigate through a web of intranet or sharepoint sites to find the giving program landing page. And others require that HR is notified of any donations an employee wants to make. At Groundswell – we are committed to removing all of the friction, and ensuring that employees can find charities easily, through a platform that is accessible from the palm of their hand, so they can give whenever they want to.

2. Launch a GivingTuesday Match Campaign:

Through Groundswell you can customize and launch a special GivingTuesday match campaign in a matter of minutes. Simply pick the nonprofits to include in the special campaign, select the start and end-date for the campaign, and then determine the match – 2x, 3x – along with any overall budget limits, then you’re done!

3. Boost engagement by involving ERGs:

Share nonprofit recommendations from Employee Resource Groups to provide inspiration around causes and nonprofits that matter to your employees. You can feature these nonprofits on dedicated ERG Corporate Spotlights and Campaigns that will be visible to all employees on their Groundswell dashboard.

4. Surprise (and Delight) Employees With A Gift to Give:

Consider sending a surprise “gift to give” to reward those already participating in your giving program (and to incentivize others to enroll). These gifts might be used to further maximize impact through the existing campaign, or to donate to other nonprofits your employees care about. Groundswell’s custom gift feature allows companies to easily schedule and send gifts with little to no administrative burden.

5. Level up with Volunteer Matching:

Groundswell’s Volunteer Matching program – sometimes known as Dollars for Doers – recognizes that some employees may not have funds to contribute, but have time – and rewards them in the same way. It’s an inclusive approach that invites everyone to participate in GivingTuesday, even those who may not be able to donate their own funds.

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12 Employee Benefits Survey Questions Modern Companies Should Ask

In today's business environment, having the right and highest performing talent is more critical than ever. With benefits packages playing a vital role in these decisions, how can companies truly gauge their effectiveness? By initiating regular employee benefits surveys.

Scroll down for a free survey template below.

Let's dive in to the importance of asking the following questions.

Is our workforce satisfied with the current employee benefits package?

Gaining insights from "how satisfied are you with our company’s benefits package?" can offer companies a quick pulse on the effectiveness of their benefits. A dip in satisfaction might signal a need for re-evaluation, especially if you're looking to maximize your budget.

How comprehensive are the employee benefits we offer?

Do employees feel that the organization covers a wide range of their needs? Asking, "do you feel our benefits package is comprehensive in its offering?" can shed light on any potential gaps in coverage.

Are we showing true commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion through our benefits?

Are the company's efforts in promoting DE&I resonating? This can be gauged by asking if the benefits genuinely support diversity and inclusion. If they aren't, here's an opportunity to collect ideas directly from your employees.

Read more about how to make sure your giving program is equitable and inclusive.

Do our benefits reflect our company culture and values?

The question, "do you feel our benefits package supports our cultural values?" will highlight any potential discrepancies in practicing what you're preaching.

Did you know? Two-thirds of employees say it’s important for a company to align to their values.

Are we catering to the needs of a remote or multi-location workforce?

With remote work on the rise, is the company adapting its benefits accordingly? It's essential to find out if employees feel supported, regardless of their work setting.

Would employees recommend the company based on our benefits?

This is an easy one to skip, but it's a great question to ask. See how influential your benefits package is for employee referrals. Determining if employees would advocate for the company based on its benefits can be a key metric for recruitment.

How do specific benefit categories fare?

By querying satisfaction levels across various benefits – physical health, social impact, mental health, financial health, and fringe benefits – can companies discern which areas are thriving and which need enhancement?

What additional benefits do employees desire?

Is there a particular benefit that could make a difference in employee satisfaction and retention? Discovering this can be as straightforward as asking, "if you could choose one benefit not currently offered, what would it be?"

If your workforce desires a more meaningful benefit, see why decentralizing your corporate philanthropy strategy can achieve greater impact at scale.

How often should I send an employee survey about our benefits?

While every business has their own set of unique needs, conducing a quarterly employee survey at minimum can help you get a pulse check.

There will be some natural and unplanned peaks in valleys throughout the year that can drastically affect employee morale and company culture. By proactively seeking feedback through surveys, companies can foster a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring they remain at the forefront of employee satisfaction.

What are some affordable benefit options we can provide employees?

Corporate matching or giving programs can be a low-cost addition to your benefit offering that supports your employees’ unique passions and perspectives through charitable giving and boosts your company’s commitment to social impact.  Groundswell offers a comprehensive solution with a simple implementation and nearly zero administration burden.

[Free Template] Employee Benefits Survey Questions

  1. How satisfied are you with our company’s benefits package?
  2. Do you feel our benefits package is comprehensive in its offering?
  3. Do you feel our benefits package supports our cultural values?
  4. Do you feel our benefits package supports our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion?
  5. Do you feel our benefits package supports our remote or multi-location workforce?
  6. How likely are you to recommend applying based on our benefits package?
  7. How satisfied are you with our physical health benefits (i.e. health care, sick leave, etc)?
  8. How satisfied are you with our social impact benefits (i.e. corporate matching, volunteering, etc)?
  9. How satisfied are you with our mental health benefits (i.e. vacation time, EAP, etc)?
  10. How satisfied are you with our financial health benefits? (i.e. retirement, student loan assistance, etc)
  11. How satisfied are you with our fringe benefits and perks? (i.e. fitness subsidies, stipends, etc)
  12. If you could choose one benefit not currently offered, what would it be?
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