20 Tips for Establishing a Corporate Giving Program
Corporate giving is a growing and worthy trend in workplaces. Companies see the need to give back and employees feel good about working for an organization that cares about people, their community and the planet. Corporate giving programs will look different for each company, but here are 20 tips to help you get started.
When, Where and How to Start
- Start at the Beginning – Establish a corporate giving program at the founding of your organization, even if it’s small. This enshrines giving as a core value for the company, and you can always grow the program as the business grows.
- Go Local – If you need a good launching pad for basic community engagement, start with your local United Way. They fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Then once you become more engaged with the needs of your community, you can branch out into other areas of giving that align with your company’s mission.
- Try Well-known Groups – Some more specific community options include your local symphony, ballet, arts school, Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army or food bank. Operation Christmas Child and Angel Tree efforts are usually seasonal but very worthy of consideration. Genius Tip: Get ideas for organizing a holiday Angel Tree.
- Think Global – Consider supporting water filters, mosquito nets or a well through a child development organization such as Compassion International or World Vision. Some nonprofits even offer trips where employees can go visit the work in which they invested.
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How to Select Your Cause(s)
- Identify Nonprofits – Find a nonprofit that is serving a need that reflects the passion and heartbeat of your company. This not only reflects consistency in your overall mission, but it makes it easier for your employees to get behind the cause. For example, an engineering firm can support engineering education through scholarships or engineering initiatives in high schools. This not only helps individual students, it ensures the organization has a future workforce, and employees will hopefully see themselves as inspiring the next generation of engineers.
- Diversify – Don’t feel like you have to only pinpoint one specific cause. If you’re that engineering firm, you can also invest in a variety of other causes, from renewable energy to biomechanical innovation. Find at least one local nonprofit and an international cause.
- Be Proactive and Strategic – In choosing a nonprofit to support, do your homework and select a cause that is effecting positive change. Look at their past annual reports to help determine their impact and how they manage their finances. Talk to other giving partners who are already supporting the organization to gain an understanding of their experience working with them.
- Set Clear Parameters – To avoid mission creep, set clear parameters determining what kind of cause(s) you choose. For example, the company president may have a pet project, but if it does not fit in the established parameters for giving, then it is much easier to say no.
- Select a Cause – When the time comes to choose your giving partners, ask yourself if you can see your employees connecting with the cause. This will help with morale and makes it easier to build momentum after the initial education phase.
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How to Navigate Tax Implications and Documentation
- Manage Corporate Contributions – A corporate giving program allows companies to make tax-deductible contributions to eligible 501(c)(3) organizations that are selected either by the business, employees or both. All types of businesses are able to claim a charitable contribution for the amount of money they give to charity, but there are limitations as to how much is deductible in the current year, so it is best to consult with your tax advisor.
- Match Employee Contributions – A corporate giving program can be structured to allow employee contributions up to a certain amount to be matched by the business, which allows the employees to make a greater impact with their charitable giving. Put parameters around the matching gifts. For example, the company can say, “We love dogs and trees, but all matching gifts must go to an area of human need.” This prevents matching gifts from going to areas that don’t align with the company’s core values.
How to Promote and Communicate Giving
- Brand Giving – Match communication to the company culture. Make it fun! For example, have employees submit artwork or a tagline for the annual company-branded giving campaign. Have a committee select finalists, and the officers of the company can select the winning idea. Then use the winning design or tagline in campaign communication, on T-shirts and signage, etc.
- Set Up a Meet and Greet – Plan a lunch and learn with a representative from the nonprofit. Putting a face to the name makes it more likely employees will engage with a cause. Plus, it helps them connect more deeply with their community. Genius Tip: Collect RSVPs for a lunch event with an online sign up.
- Market the Cause – Generate social media buzz on your internal networks. For instance, do you have a regular employee newsletter, bulletin board or intranet where you can communicate? Make corporate giving a routine part of business that is enmeshed with the company culture.
- Keep Up Communication – Update employees to keep them engaged and remind them that they are a part of the nonprofit’s success. Regularly pass along the nonprofit’s newsletters to employees and make sure any volunteering and giving opportunities are publicized.
How to Encourage Participation After the Initial Push
- Get Involved – For a local nonprofit, encourage employees to volunteer, donate and visit the charity’s operations. When employees can meet beneficiaries in person and hear their stories, it goes a long way to inspire their long-term support.
- Give Volunteers Incentives – To promote involvement, offer employees paid time off to volunteer individually or as a group. For example, the marketing department may take a Friday afternoon to go volunteer together. This builds team unity as well as further engages employees with the nonprofit. Genius Tip: Organize a company day of service with an online sign up.
- Set Goals – Consistently include giving partners in company updates and set clear goals. For example, set employee participation targets each year and give a reward when the goal is met. Have fun with this: Maybe an executive will shave his longtime beard if the company beats a participation goal or a another team leader will volunteer to get a whipped pie in the face.
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How to Evaluate if Your Donation is Making an Impact
- Research and Evaluate – Review a company’s annual reports and 990s — most are available online. If you’re a larger donor and have a particular program goal, make sure to schedule a regular check-in with the nonprofit. You don’t want to find out at the end of the year that the nonprofit isn’t making the most of your corporate giving.
- Build Relationships Between Organizations – Establish a good relationship with the charity’s executive director and/or head development officer. Open and honest communication about the nonprofit’s challenges and accomplishments will benefit both sides.
Finally, make it fun! There is a lot of truth to the old adage it is better to give than to receive. When you encourage your employees in their giving by making it fun and engaging, your money will go a long way. Learn more about SignUpGenius’ corporate giving programs here.
Andrea Johnson is a native Texan living in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys running, photography and good chocolate.
Posted by Andrea Johnson
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