A recent survey conducted by America’s Charities reveals dramatic shifts in corporate philanthropy over the last two years with participating companies reporting that employees who have grown up as part of the networked and digital culture expect their workplace giving and volunteering experience to mirror what they have access to outside of the office.

America’s Charities is a nonprofit organization that assists employers and member nonprofit groups by providing strategic tools and resources to raise funds and facilitate employee engagement through workplace volunteerism and charitable giving. Snapshot 2015 is the third in a series of original research reports released by the organization.

Kim Young, America’s Charities vice-president of business development, says charitable giving at work is an engagement issue for organizations because employees expect companies they work for to give back to the community where they live and work. “Our data shows millennials expect employers to embed these values in their DNA,” she says.

One significant change over the last two years documented in the report is the uptick in companies moving beyond fall campaigns to year-around giving. In 2013, just over one-third of companies had moved from largely seasonal charity drives to continuous giving. Today that figure has almost doubled to 60%.

“Our data shows millennials expect employers to embed these values in their DNA.”

This finding resonates with Alice Campbell, the senior director of global community relations at the healthcare renal and hospital products company, Baxter International. “We have moved away from only supporting the old United Way type of campaign which happens every fall,” Campbell says. “We have 50,000 employees worldwide and there are many different opportunities for employees to get involved over the course of a year, each typically sponsored by a Baxter vice-president.”

Eighty-two percent of study participants also note that there is a growing expectation that employers will provide volunteer opportunities for teams of employees. Furthermore, 70% believe their workforce is asking for opportunities to organize their own volunteer events and 60% say employees want to be able to recruit peers to support their own giving and volunteer efforts.

Since 2000, SKG Consulting Group Principal Steve Greenhalgh has conducted five studies, including Snapshot 2015 for America’s Charities. He says that the increased interest in hands-on volunteering is a positive development, but it has also presented a challenge for many nonprofits. “Volunteer opportunities are frequently limited and what they really need are donations to meet their operating expenses,” he says.

The “Dollars for Doers” program at Baxter effectively addresses this conundrum. “Once an employee has volunteered for 10 hours, the charitable organization is eligible for a $100 grant. Subsequent volunteer hours trigger additional grants of $10 per hour to an annual maximum of $500,” Campbell says.

Baxter also sponsors an annual recognition program where people who have 75 hours of volunteering get a ticket in a draw for $1,000 payable to their charity of choice. Other companies recognized for offering even more generous volunteer grants include ExxonMobil ($500 for every 20 hours to a maximum of $2,000) and Verizon ($300 for 20 hours).

“Only 27% of companies currently report offering financial grants in recognition of individual volunteer service.”

However, unlike the companies noted above, only 27% of companies surveyed currently report offering financial grants in recognition of individual volunteer service. Nevertheless, an additional 30% of companies say they plan to offer these within the next two years. But nearly 60% of companies offer paid time off for employees to volunteer and a further 21% plan to do so over the next 24 months.

Employer matches

In addition to giving their time by volunteering, many Baxter employees also choose to donate to causes they are passionate about. The Baxter Foundation’s Matching Gift Program recognizes U.S. employee contributions to organizations by matching their donations of $25 or more up to $5,000 to nonprofit, tax-exempt U.S. organizations (excluding religious and political groups).

The company has also eliminated payroll deductions and encourages employees to donate through giving campaigns on You Give Goods. “They decide how much they want to contribute and their contribution buys specific food/and or supplies the charity of their choice requires. There is never any pressure on employees to donate and we are able to outsource all of the administration of charitable giving,” Campbell says.

Further study results show that 65% of large companies match employee contributions while only 28% of small to mid-size companies do the same. Matching gift programs are about equally split between companies matching any employee gift (open programs) and those that match a limited number of charities or specifically identified charities. While the matching ratio is typically 1:1, Soros Fund Management with a match ratio of up to 3:1 to an annual maximum donation of $100,000, is a leader in this space.

Snapshot 2013 (the previous iteration of this study) highlighted the technology challenge companies faced finding new and engaging ways for employees to participate in charitable programs that are easy to use, don’t require a lot of time to administer and offer an engaging platform.

“We are now dealing with a generation that grew up on technology, so it’s just their life. Everything is on their phone or their iPad so if you hand them a paper pledge form it will likely end up buried in a pile of paper,” says Greenhalgh.

“If you hand them a paper pledge form it will likely end up buried in a pile of paper.”

Therefore, it’s not surprising that just two years later, with affordable technology platforms for workplace charitable programs now more widely available, 80% of the companies surveyed said they use technology to allow employees to give money, 65% use it to record volunteer hours and 69% offer the opportunity to sign up for volunteer events online. In addition, about one-third uses technology platforms to empower employees to promote their favorite causes.

An overwhelming majority of Snapshot 2015 respondents view volunteer and charitable giving opportunities as an important way to engage employees in a changing workplace, but they recognize that it is important to stay on top of what their employees want in a giving program and constantly reinvent their strategy.

“What is really important is for companies to decide up front what is significant to them, the metrics they can use to measure these outcomes and then design their programs in a way that supports these goals,” Young says.

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