The Workplace Giving Handbook: Everything You Need to Know
Workplace giving programs offer employees an important benefit.
It gives employees a way to support the causes they care about and trust that their support is actually doing good in the world.
It's not news that people are skeptical of corporate charity — it's why words like pink-washing and greenwashing have entered the public vocabulary. Workplace giving programs offer a way to combat that skepticism and give employees a reason to feel good about the places where they work.
But what exactly is workplace giving, and how do you set up an employee-powered giving program at your company?
What is Workplace Giving?
Workplace giving is any organized program that collects employee donations for charitable causes through payroll deductions and/or one-time donations. The company then disburses those donations to nonprofits.
Over the years, the term has evolved to include volunteer giving programs, and other forms of employee giving programs. These giving programs take many forms today, including payroll deductions, donation match programs, and volunteer giving programs.
Matching Gift Programs
Donation match programs are among the most popular types of workplace giving programs, offered at nearly 65% of Fortune 500 companies, and accounting for $2 billion to $3 billion in donations annually.
The concept is simple in theory: an employee donates to a qualified nonprofit, and the company then makes a matching donation to the same nonprofit.
In practice, matching gift programs can be cumbersome and difficult to manage. In fact, for every dollar donated through matching gift programs, more than $2 goes unclaimed.
In addition to typical volunteer programs — serving dinners at a local shelter or reading to school kids, for example — many companies create or participate in volunteer fundraising events, such as walk-a-thons or charity 5k runs.
Employees participate as a team, and the money raised is donated to the specific non-profit named. These campaigns can be great for team building and bonding, not to mention providing high-profile PR opportunities for the company.
Many companies offer grants to organizations where their employees volunteer. This kind of program ensures that the company is helping to support genuine community organizations that their employees care about. They help deepen the ties between the company and the community and send the message to your employees that you care about the things that are important to them.
Volunteer Hours Matching
The third iteration of volunteer donation programs rewards your employees with the extra cash they can donate to others based on hours that they spend volunteering with community organizations.
Giving employees paid time off for volunteering can make it difficult for workers to keep up with their workload and make more work for nonprofits. Some companies have found ways to reimburse employees for their time working in their communities.
One way is to deposit the equivalent of their salary for hours spent into a Groundswell Personal Giving Account. From there, the employee can direct the donation to their chosen cause, effectively doubling their impact on the ground.
Donations Through Payroll Deduction
Many companies offer employees the opportunity to make giving easy by enrolling in an automatic payroll deduction for a chosen charity. Payroll deductions allow employees to essentially budget their charitable contributions over the course of the year.
However, the choice of charities to support is usually very narrow — often only one or two charities are chosen by the board.
What Is a Workplace Giving Campaign?
Workplace giving campaigns are typically annual events companies hold to encourage employee donations to a cause.
They're often held in the fall, to coordinate with the holiday season — and of course, the end of the tax year. They can, however, take place at any time. Their purpose is to publicize and raise awareness of any company-sponsored employee giving programs, and get more people involved in them.
Campaigns may also revolve around a specific need or event. These campaigns include disaster relief campaigns, or campaigns to support specific needs in the local community — supporting the unhoused, or providing funds for meals during a pandemic, for example.
How Does Workplace Giving Work?
The nuts and bolts of employee giving programs are rapidly evolving. Legacy workplace giving programs collected donations from employees then combined them and funneled them to one or two charities chosen by the board of directors or the CEO. Historically, there are two major models for doing this.
Programs that collect charitable donations through payroll deductions are the most common workplace giving programs, accounting for nearly 75% of all employee giving annually. Payroll deductions make charitable giving easy on employees — they fill out a payroll deduction form once, and HR/Payroll does the rest. It's so easy, in fact, that when Google implemented a pilot payroll giving program, it increased the likelihood of donations to a promoted charity by 50% without reducing the average amount donated.
In addition, each participating employee has a running record of their deductions on their pay stub, with the current and year-to-date donations recorded. That's a big boon at tax time — their pay stub serves as proof of their donation, so they don't have to scrounge around looking for acknowledgment letters from the nonprofits they donate to.
Nonprofits also benefit from this type of workplace giving program in several ways: they get predictable, sustainable donations, and often get more donations. Just as important, a payroll deduction model reduces the amount of work that falls on their shoulders by transferring much of it to the company's payroll department. Managing a workplace giving campaign is a complex undertaking involving multiple steps and responsibilities.
- The company creates a campaign to engage and encourage employees to sign up for the giving program. This is no small undertaking — entire toolkits are devoted to teaching employees and volunteers to run successful campaigns.
- The employee fills out a pledge card, designating the amount of the donation and/or the amount to be deducted each pay period. If the company allows it, they may also choose one of several pre-approved nonprofits to receive their donation.
- The payroll department — or the company's payroll provider — sets up the recurring deduction for each employee.
- If the company also operates a matching donation program, HR processes all donations to set up the matching donation.
- Each pay period, the payroll department deducts and deposits the funds from each employee into a central account, then sends the final donation amount to the paying agent, such as the United Way.
- The paying agent distributes the funds to the designated organizations.
Donation Matching Programs
Donation match programs can also be time-consuming and difficult to navigate — so much so, that billions of dollars in matching funds go unclaimed every year. A typical donation match program works like this:
- The company determines which organizations will qualify for a matching gift and makes the list of qualifying organizations available to employees, and creates rules to determine the amount of the match. There may be differing amounts depending on the employee's position or other criteria. For example, all full-time employees may qualify for 100% matching, while managers qualify for 200% matching.
- The employee makes a donation to the charity of their choice.
- After determining that their chosen organization qualifies for a match, the employee fills out and submits a request to HR for their employer to match their donation.
- HR processes the request and determines the match amount based on the rules.
- The company sends a check for the matching amount to the qualifying organization.
Emerging Trends in Workplace Giving
Since the early 2000s, there's been a growing movement to allow employees more choices of donors. Many donation match programs, for example, will match employee donations to any 501(c)3 charity. New platforms are streamlining corporate and employee giving, reducing the amount of work and time that goes into managing workplace giving campaigns and employee giving programs in general.
The newest trends in corporate giving include making charitable giving part of the employee's benefits package and providing granular control and choice on when and where to donate their funds.
Advances in technology provided new tools — yes, there's an app for that — to help companies manage and deploy their corporate giving programs in ways that make sense for their workforces. As the workplace and trends in giving continue to evolve, employee giving programs will also evolve to keep pace and provide the most seamless, empowering giving experience.
Benefits of Workplace Giving Programs
Employee giving programs are not just good for the causes that get the donations. They provide important positives for employees, the company, and the community. These are a few of the most important.
- Improved Employee Recruitment: 55% of employees — including 75% of Millennials — would choose to work for a socially responsible company, even if they got paid less.
- Increased Employee Engagement: Employees are more engaged at work when they feel their employer aligns with their values.
- Increased Profitability: Companies with the most engaged workers are 21% more profitable.
- Better Public Image: People think more positively about businesses that give back to the community.
- Deeper Community Connections: A well-planned employee giving program helps the business connect and cement relationships with organizations in the community.
- Increased Employee Loyalty: Employees are more likely to recommend businesses that support them and their interests.
- Higher Retention Rates: Employees who take advantage of employee giving programs stay with the company 75% longer.
What Employees Care About
According to a recent Deloitte Workplace Giving survey, 37% of workers donated to charity through a workplace giving program, but — and this is a big but — when they looked at Millennial and Gen Z employees, that percentage skyrocketed to 58%.
Younger workers, those destined for leadership positions in future companies, care deeply about doing good in the world, and they reflect it in their behavior. They donate because they are connected to a cause or charity, because they want to support their community, and because giving makes them feel good.
When you make it easy for them to plant a tree, buy a kid a desk, or adopt sheltered puppies, your company is showing them that they respect and support the people that they are, not just the work that they do for your business.
Why Is Employee Giving Important?
In addition to the benefits to your employees and your business bottom line, employee giving also brings an immense benefit to the community.
In 2021, workplace giving programs raised more than $5 billion, with about 50% of that coming from matching gift programs. Those donations went to
- Education-related causes: 29%
- Health and wellness causes: 25%
- Community and economic development causes: 15%
Employees who donated through workplace giving programs reported that they donated to
- Hunger and homelessness relief: 47%
- Education: 23%
- Social and racial equity causes: 20%
The right workplace giving program empowers your employees to support the causes closest to their hearts, without judgment and with the confidence that their employer trusts them to put their money where it will matter the most.
How to Set Up a Workplace Giving Program
If this is your first time setting up a workplace giving program, there are some important steps to consider. You want a program that reflects your company's mission and core philosophy, one that your employees will embrace and be proud to use. These are some key principles to keep in mind and some action steps to get you started.
Evaluate Your Company's Corporate Social Responsibility Policy. If You Don't Have One, This Is A Good Time To Brainstorm.
- Create a vision for your CSR that balances your responsibilities to your shareholders/owners, your employees, the community, the planet, and any other stakeholders.
- Evaluate your current activities in light of community service. Do you partner with local organizations? Host volunteer activities? Make donations to local charities? Any of these would fit under the umbrella of CSR.
- Establish a corporate code of ethics detailing how your company will treat employees, customers, the environment, and competitors in all your dealings.
- Get strategic with your giving program to ensure that it aligns with your company's values and ethics.
Set a Budget for Your Giving Program.
- The amount you budget for corporate giving should be no more than you can afford to give without affecting the cash flow you need to operate your business.
- Many large companies earmark 1% - 5% of their pre-tax earnings for charitable giving. Small companies often donate 6% or more to charity.
- Consider designating profits from one particular product for giving.
- Use the Sabsevitz Ante-Up Formula — multiply last year's pre-tax net income by 1.2% to come up with a donation budget.
- Check out more suggestions for setting your budget in this blog post.
Set Up Guidelines for Your Program
- Employees: will all employees be included in your benefits program? Will they all be level-funded, or will some positions qualify for a higher workplace giving benefit?
- Moments That Matter: Can you make donations more meaningful by tying deposit amounts to specific events in the lives for your employees?
- Decide which charities/causes your company will support. Will you restrict employee giving to designated nonprofits? How expansive will your list of eligible organizations be?
Establish A Process For Collecting, Matching, And Donating Contributions.
- See the section on How Does Workplace Giving Work?
- (Hint: Groundswell takes the stress out of this step.)
Publicize The Program.
The key to a successful workplace giving program is awareness. Your employees can't use a benefit they don't know about, and your company won't reap the benefits if your customers and employees don't know what you're doing. These are a few suggestions for raising awareness of your new employee giving program.
- List it as a benefit in your recruitment materials.
- Provide an easy — and very visible — way to access your program's front end on your employee website, Discord, or other communication software.
- Highlight your program in the company newsletter.
- Create and distribute flyers explaining the program, its benefits, and how to use it to your employees.
- If you offer donation matches, make sure that local nonprofits are aware of it.
- Partner with local nonprofits and community organizations when it makes sense.
Is Workplace Giving Tax Deductible?
The simple answer is yes, in most cases, workplace giving is tax deductible, and has been since 1935 when Congress passed a law allowing corporations to deduct up to 10% of their pretax income on their tax returns. That limit was raised to 25% to encourage more giving during the pandemic.
Maximizing Tax Benefits for Workplace Giving
It's important to understand how tax-deductible donations work in order to maximize the benefits of a workplace giving program.
Some types of corporate giving offer more benefits than others.
DAFs offer unique tax benefits, but until recently, they've been reserved for high-dollar donors. Briefly, a DAF allows your company to make a donation at the most advantageous time — before the end of the tax year, for example — and take the deduction immediately, and decide when and where that money should be donated to nonprofits. In addition, DAFs make it more efficient to donate non-cash assets, such as stock and real estate, to charity, without incurring an additional tax burden.
Workplace Giving with Groundswell
Groundswell's innovative Philanthropy as a Service model democratizes workplace giving by setting up a Personal Giving Account — an individual DAF — for each employee, effectively putting the power of a DAF in the palm of their hand.
The company can make donations into each Personal Giving Account as part of an overall corporate giving strategy, timing the donations to provide the most benefit. The employee then decides when and where to make donations to the causes that are most important to them.
If you're ready to increase the impact of your workplace giving programs, contact us to learn more about how Groundswell can empower you and your employees to do more good and make the changes they want to see in the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- How satisfied are you with our company’s benefits package?
- Do you feel our benefits package is comprehensive in its offering?
- Do you feel our benefits package supports our cultural values?
- Do you feel our benefits package supports our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion?
- Do you feel our benefits package supports our remote or multi-location workforce?
- How likely are you to recommend applying based on our benefits package?
- How satisfied are you with our physical health benefits (i.e. health care, sick leave, etc)?
- How satisfied are you with our social impact benefits (i.e. corporate matching, volunteering, etc)?
- How satisfied are you with our mental health benefits (i.e. vacation time, EAP, etc)?
- How satisfied are you with our financial health benefits? (i.e. retirement, student loan assistance, etc)
- How satisfied are you with our fringe benefits and perks? (i.e. fitness subsidies, stipends, etc)
- If you could choose one benefit not currently offered, what would it be?