Workplace Still Is Productive

November 1, 2011       Michele Donohue      

Jobs – the only word that seems to be on Americans’ minds. The U.S. unemployment rate was 9.1 percent for August and September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 9.6 percent for 2010. As the Dow Jones fell 12 percent during the third quarter of this year, some financial analysts are not ruling out a double-dip recession. With the unemployed looking for work and the employed trying to hold on to the jobs they have, running a successful workplace giving campaign is a tough sell but it’s happening.

Half of the success is not disregarding workplace giving, even in the recession. “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has not been immune to this recession. It’s pinched and there’s no doubt about it,” said Kalman Stein, president and CEO of EarthShare in Bethesda, Md., a national federation representing 71 national organizations and hundreds of local nonprofits with environmental missions. “The recession has had an impact, but it is not making workplace giving go away by a long shot.”

In fact, workplace giving might be ripe for growth, according to Steve Delfin, president and CEO of America’s Charities in Chantilly, Va. “You have to think more strategically. You have to be progressive and willing to do more, not less, to meet expectations of the donors.”

America’s Charities, a nonprofit federation of more than 150 national and local nonprofits in four federations, saw a nearly 9 percent growth in pledges during 2010. Delfin said he still sees “tons of growth” in workplace giving, “especially the companies we see with best practices — non-coercive, employee-centric, knowledge and information-driven campaigns. We are seeing those private sector campaigns grow, and it’s pretty dramatic.”

Many companies have been beating the drum about CSR, from the boardroom to the water cooler. While the high unemployment rate has impacted the number of people in the workforce, those companies and employees committed to CSR are still contributing, despite the recession.

“I have seen no drop off in employer support for workplace giving,” said Patrick Maguire, owner of Maguire/Maguire Inc., an association management firm in Larkspur, Calif., that works with 18 charitable federation groups, including Independent Charities of America. “People who still have jobs are being generous because they are more aware of the need. Employers are pretty good about supporting that,” he said.

United Way Worldwide’s (UWW) Global Corporate Leadership program consists of top global Fortune 500 companies and other corporate partners, such as Wells Fargo and Microsoft Corporation. Sal Fabens, director of public relations for UWW, explained that companies in the Global Corporate Leadership program build a corporate culture around CSR activities. As a result of that commitment, GCL company employees have raised more than $1 billion and given more than 25 million volunteer hours every year. Volunteer engagement increased 2.3 percent from 2009, with 2.63 million volunteers working with United Ways and community partners during 2010. Stein explained that a nonprofit can’t just stop by a company annually and expect to develop a robust workplace giving campaign. “Showing up once a year is a static relationship, not a fulfilling one. We want to be in the workplace, creating relationships with employers,” he said. “Corporate Social Responsibility no longer resides by itself. It doesn’t sit isolated from the rest of the company,” Delfin explained.

CSR has melded corporate philanthropy with the tenets of employee satisfaction more likely housed in the company’s human resources department. Nonprofits enhancing their workplace giving campaigns need to satisfy two clients: employers, who want to energize employees and create employee engagement opportunities; and, employees who want to create a relationship with a nonprofit before making a donation.

For UWW, developing engaged individuals in the workplace requires year-round support. UWW provides a year-long campaign and engagement toolkit to companies that includes providing volunteer opportunities, issue-focused campaigns and updates refined by locality and specific interest areas for employees based around education, income and health.

Fabens explained that several United Ways are piloting an Enhanced Workforce Campaign to engage corporate executives and CEOs, learning about their goals and interests. By understanding their community-centric goals, United Ways can focus on specific objectives, such as increasing the number of children reading at grade level by the 4th grade.

United Way of Greater Toledo in Ohio, one of the affiliates participating in the Enhanced Workforce Campaign pilot, asked donors what they wanted for the community. Donors wanted to focus on education. An Education Challenge Grant that matched their gifts to the United Way education focus area invigorated them. United Way of Toledo saw a 4-percent increase in its workplace campaign.

Beyond individual workplace campaigns, there is the workplace giving behemoth — the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). The CFC is the largest annual workplace giving campaign with more than 200 CFC campaigns benefiting more than 2,000 nonprofits. Federal civilian, postal and military donors can pledge to support eligible nonprofits with unrestricted donor funds during the campaign season, which spans from September 1 to December 15. The 2010 CFC pledges of $281.5 million fell just shy of the record set in 2009 of $282.6 million, and CFC has raised nearly $7 billion since its establishment by President John Kennedy in 1961.

“CFC was once a top-down organization with no donor choice. It evolved, especially after 1987 when new regulations were enacted, into a true employee benefit,” said Maguire. “No pressure to give, huge set of charity choices, and better presentation of those choices to make it easy to find charities of interest.” Maguire said that CFC donations to ICA and federations working with Maguire have increased 83 percent from 2001 to 2010.

Maguire explained his marketing mantra – Name. Statement. Overhead. – sums up how nonprofits can make efficient changes to improve their workplace giving and CFC results. “Your name has to say what you do. If you’ve got extraneous words in your official name, ‘National,’ ‘Association of,’ etc., get a ’doing business as’ name for the campaign.” For CFC, nonprofits have a 25-word limit for a descriptive statement. Think about that the next time you are on Twitter. Maguire explained that the descriptive statement “has to be a sales pitch, not a mission statement; paint a picture in the donor’s mind of what his gift will accomplish, make it human scale.”

In all workplace giving campaigns, leadership commitment matters just as much as employee engagement, according to Maguire. “When you know your boss has given it’s easier to say yes. When you know your company is picking up the cost of the campaign, as many do, and thus 100 percent of your gift will go to charity, it’s easier to say yes,” he said. Delfin explained that more nonprofits need to be bullish on workplace giving. “We have to be a little louder, a little more forceful and a little more articulate about what we bring to the table.” NPT

NonProfit  Times
The Leading Business Publication For Nonprofit Management