Is Benevity the best corporate giving platform for you?

A brief background on Benevity

Founded in 2008, Benevity is a legacy platform that offers a suite of features in their enterprise plans such as giving, volunteering, micro-actions, global activities, and more.  

Benevity has grown largely through acquisitions of smaller companies, for example Grantstream in 2015 and Alaya in 2020, and has reportedly had difficulty integrating these disparate platforms into a single, coherent technology stack.  This is likely a leading contributor to a frequent customer complaint that the Benevity platform feels disjointed in the admin experience and that program data is challenging to extract.  In fact, an admin may have to log into as many as four separate reporting systems – two for Spark, and one each for Grants and the ERG module.

Who is Benevity for?

Benevity primarily serves large enterprises like Apple, Netflix, Starbucks, and Visa, who each have social impact teams with dozens of employees.

However, because of Benevity’s outdated technology many customers indicate that they see very poor utilization of Benevity’s sprawling feature set – yet find themselves paying for the full suite, often at a six-figure price tag.

Benevity Alternative

Alternatively, Groundswell was founded in 2021 and makes running a corporate gifting program easy. Groundswell has  been built utilizing the latest technology that makes the administrative experience fast, frictionless,  and scalable.  This is one reason why Groundswell is able to effortlessly serve customers from 25 to 25,000 employees.

More facts about Groundswell:

  • Groundswell is the first corporate giving platform that provides employees with individual donor-advised funds – a massive leap forward in employee giving.
  • Groundswell is founded by a team with deep experience in the nonprofit sector. CEO Jake Wood previously founded and led one of the nation’s leading disaster response organizations, Team Rubicon, from 2010 through 2011.
  • Groundswell’s investors include GV (Google Ventures), Human Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Moonshots Ventures, with prominent angel investors that include the CEOs of major banks, insurance companies, and wealth management firms.

How expensive is Benevity?

Annual licensing fees start at a minimum of $40,000, but often exceed the mid-six figure range. On top of that, there are also additional fees for implementation and distributing donations.

  • Implementation fees: $25,000 (minimum)
  • Distribution fees: 2.90%

Additionally, Benevity will often assess ad hoc fees to customers.  Want to send an off-cycle donation to a charity? There’s a fee for that.  Want to add volunteer rewards? There’s a fee for that. Want to get support from your client success manager during a campaign? There’s a fee for that.

Bottom line: there’s no cost-certainty with Benevity.

Alternatively, Groundswell’s fees are straightforward, transparent, and predictable.  We automatically send corporate grants off-cycle within three business days for zero additional fees. We do the same for any employee donation over $2,500. Want to chat with our customer success team or head of impact? There’s no fee for that.

Plus, our annual licensing and distribution fees are dramatically lower than Benevity, and we charge nothing for implementation.

  • Annual licensing fee: starting at $10,000
  • Implementation fee: zero
  • Distribution fee: 1% for employees and 0% for corporate grants

Want to eliminate the distribution fee so that 100% of your employees’ donations go to charity? We will negotiate a fair, flat annual fee that takes your distribution fee from 1% to 0%

How long does it take to implement Benevity?

Benevity takes about 20 weeks (4 months) or more to implement.  Making matters worse, there are often delays in getting your company slotted into Benevity’s implementation pipeline, further delaying your launch.

Alternatively, Groundswell can get a company up and running in just a few days – sometimes even hours. Because our implementation is so simple we can offer it to our customers for free.  Saving you time and money – how’s that sound?

Does Benevity effectively reduce a company’s administrative burden?

When compared to a fully manual employee matching program, wherein employees are submitting PDF requests for their match and a company’s accounts payable team is sending individual matching checks – the answer is yes. However, when compared to Groundswell, Benevity simply cannot compare.

With Benevity, companies can still anticipate multiple monthly invoices, payment auditing and reconciliations, and complex and recurring data management to support payroll giving deductions, among other things.

With Groundswell, companies deal with only a single annual invoice for their licensing fees. Additionally, our platform’s design has eliminated:

  • Monthly invoices for employee matches
  • Monthly data management for recurring payroll giving deductions
  • Payment auditing and reconciliations
  • Complex data exporting for management reports

Does Benevity provide employees with donor-advised funds?

No, Benevity does not offer employees an individual donor-advised fund. Benevity’s platform simply automates the donation matching process – it does not provide employees with a tax-advantaged vehicle to set aside funds for charitable giving.

Groundswell’s vision of democratizing philanthropy is in part rooted in its drive to make donor-advised funds a ubiquitous part of employee benefit packages.  Just as 401ks and health savings accounts have financially empowered employees over the past several decades, Groundswell believes that donor-advised funds empower employees with a tool that helps them become modern philanthropists.

Groundswell is proud to be the only enterprise corporate giving platform that provides employees with donor-advised funds. These accounts are critical to Groundswell’s key differentiating features, including:

  • Ability to instantly match employee donations
  • Ability for employees to take their giving account with them if they leave the company
  • Ability to centralize all of their personal giving into a single end of year tax receipt for deduction purposes
  • Ability to donate stock instead of cash, thereby avoiding capital gains taxes on appreciation

How effective is Benevity at increasing employee engagement?

While Benevity offers giving and volunteering features, they lack some capabilities that can impact a good employee experience.

Privacy on donations. For many people, their philanthropy is deeply personal and inspired by lived experiences. For that reason, Some employees don’t participate in giving programs via Benevity because administrators have full visibility into their personal giving history. This can make them feel that the program isn’t inclusive and equitable.

Here are some reasons why employees might want privacy in their giving:

  • As mentioned, their giving could be deeply personal – for example, a recovered alcoholic may support Alcoholics Anonymous, but not want someone in HR to know about their struggles with addiction.
  • In today’s hyper-polarized world, employees within larger companies likely fall on both sides of emotionally charged issues. An employee may sense a risk of retaliation or alienation for submitting a donation related to a nonprofit they sense is not aligned to the particular values of the Benevity administrator at their company.

Additionally, Benevity has a very poor mobile experience.  Having been available to download and use for several years, the Benevity app has only 19 reviews on Apple’s store, with an average 3-star rating.  

Making matters worse, submitted reviews include comments such as:

  • “Do any of the developers use this app themselves??”
  • “Easy to use, but very unstable and crashes a lot.”
  • “Downloaded to search for some non profits [sic] to donate to. The search feature is broken.”

Meanwhile, Groundswell is built as a mobile-first company. We have conviction that today’s workforce expects a rich native-mobile experience, and research indicates that most people today do the majority of their financial transactions via their mobile device. Our mobile app has over 300 reviews in the first year, with an average 4.95 star rating in the Apple store.

Did you know: Nonprofits today prefer donations over volunteers?

How effective is Benevity at distributing funds to charity?

Admittedly, Benevity is a recognized leader in its ability to support large multinational corporations seeking comprehensive tax-advantages across a global workforce.  Companies can pay additional fees for separate corporate instances across multiple continents.  These separate instances assist local employees with maximizing the tax deductibility of their gifts, however, it adds significantly to the annual cost and monthly administrative burden for companies.

Where Benevity fails its customers, its employee-users, and most importantly, the nonprofits it is sending funds to, is the length of time it takes for an employee’s matching donation to reach charity.

Let’s dive into this for greater clarity.  First, it’s important to understand that Benevity aggregates all user donations made to a charity throughout a month and sends those aggregated donations as a single payment.  So, as an example, imagine one hundred employees across ten different companies donate to the Red Cross in January, and the aggregate total of these donations is $10,000.  Here is what Benevity’s rough distribution timeline looks like:

  • January: 100 employees across 10 companies donate $10,000 to the Red Cross
  • Late February: Benevity sends the employees’ $10,000 to the Red Cross and sends an invoice to the 10 companies for their respective share of the match for their employees.  Note that each company will have different invoice payment terms, typically no less than net-30 days, but often stretching to net-60 or worse.
  • Late March or April: Benevity begins receiving the matching funds from the 10 companies, but is delayed in distributing them to the charity until all companies have remitted payment.
  • Late April or May: Benevity initiates payment of the matching funds to the Red Cross, a full 3-4 months after the employee made the donation.

There are two major issues with this timeline.  First, the employee would likely be very disappointed if they knew that their match was going to take four months to reach their nonprofit.  The thrill of thinking their donation was having twice as much impact would be significantly diminished – especially if they’re donating in response to an emergent event like a natural disaster. Second, this timeline exacerbates cash flow issues that already hamper nonprofits in need of funds to execute their mission.

Groundswell has gone to great lengths to resolve this delayed distribution standard.  With Groundswell, an employee’s contribution to their Groundswell account is matched instantly, and when they donate their funds to charity the distribution process never takes longer than the fifth business day following month-end close.

So, is Benevity a good fit for you?

If you’re a company that is annually donating in excess of $10,000,000 with more than 20,000 employees across dozens of countries, Benevity might be a good fit for you. However, companies should carefully consider whether they have the excess capacity across CSR, HR, IT, and finance departments to effectively support the administrative burden of managing the platform.

Additionally, companies with large populations of low-wage or deskless workers may find that Benevity’s predominantly desktop based experience is largely inaccessible to these workers.

In summary, Benevity is:

  • Expensive
  • Difficult and costly to implement
  • Challenging to administer
  • An automation tool, not a donor-advised fund
  • Not mobile friendly
  • Slow to distribute funds to charity

Groundswell, a better alternative

With Groundswell, we offer far better pricing regardless of company size.

  • Annual licensing fees: *start at $10,000
  • Implementation fees: $0 (forever)
  • Distribution fees: 1%

Our platform is simple and easy. We provide:

  • Mobile-friendly app for employees. Employees can save, donate, and track all their donations in one place. See the employee experience here.
  • Tax-advantaged Personal Employee Giving Accounts. Groundswell provides accounts powered by  Donor-Advised Funds (DAF).
  • Admin-free burden. Admin teams can manage their giving program in one platform and don’t have to collect any receipts.

We also think it shouldn’t take months to have your company start giving. We can get you live within a week.