Employee Volunteering Dropped, Cash Donations Rose

The social distancing requirements of the coronavirus cut employees’ willingness to volunteer in person during 2020, but they made up for it through their cash contributions to nonprofits, according to Industry Review: Employee Engagement & Corporate Social Responsibility, a report from YourCause, a unit of Charleston, S.C.-based Blackbaud.

The uncertainty of employment status played a large part in determining how individuals gave. Retirees, who are more likely to have fixed but dependable incomes, continued to contribute more dollars ($2,356) on average, than full-time ($757) or contract ($557) workers. But full-time employees were more likely to have increased their contributions over 2019’s levels, with the average donation jumping by $106.

The average amount companies contributed in matching funds followed these patterns. Matches rose by $215 for contributions made by full-time employees, to $817, while matches for retiree and contract employees held steady, at $1,974 and $615, respectively.

When individuals offered volunteer efforts, the types of activities they participated in reflected their employment status. The overwhelming percentage of retirees undertook individual activities (96%). While solo volunteer efforts also dominated among full-time employees (61%), they similarly offered their time to small-team activities (13%), medium-team activities (12%) and large-team activities (14%). Contract workers, perhaps seeking to strengthen their ties to those with whom they work, were more likely to volunteer with small teams (28%), while some were part of medium teams (12%) or large teams (12%). Only 48% did individual activities.

The study’s findings underscored the value of cultivating donor relations. Employees new to giving programs made only one gift, with an average size of $594. Those with a history of giving made 12 gifts, contributing an average of $1,551.

Employee generosity also correlated with how close an individual was to the employer’s headquarters. Employee giving engagement among those in corporate headquarters was 21.25%, compared with 9.02% among those outside the headquarters. Donation rates, too, were higher: headquarter-based employees offered an average of $862, compared with $744 for the outsiders.

Similarly, 6.31% of employees within headquarter settings volunteered, compared with 4.78% of those outside. That said, volunteers gave an average of 16 hours regardless of where they worked.

Volunteerism and donations were more prevalent among smaller, more intimate organizations. Those with up to 1,000 employees saw volunteerism rates four times higher than those in the largest organizations (100,000+ employees): 19.31% versus 4.48%.

Education and Human Services held the first and second positions for both the types of charities receiving gifts as well as benefiting from volunteerism. But the top-five charities receiving cash also included, in descending order, philanthropic organizations, religious charities and agricultural concerns, while the top-five list of charities aided by volunteers included animal-focused institutions, youth groups and leisure charities.

YourCause and Blackbaud analyzed employee activity data from 284 companies during the period between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. The current review marks the ninth industry analysis.