Global Impact has been working with Vicki Ebert and the Operation Smile team over the past few years to develop a strategy for engaging with workplace giving donors. Since this type of fundraising can seem to have a low return and it often requires some hoop jumping to identify donors, acquire donor data, and understand the return on investment, many charities have inadvertently (or intentionally!) left workplace giving donors at the door.

Through partnership and discussions with Global Impact, the Operation Smile team has come to realize that there are some very committed donors in this pool of givers, and even a little bit of cultivation can help ensure these supporters become advocates.

Last fall, Vicki joined one our charity briefings to share about the process of uncovering workplace donors and developing a strategy of engagement to maximize the full potential of this audience. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us a little bit about Operation Smile and your role with the organization.
Operation Smile is a global leader in the provision of surgery in austere environments. As one of the oldest and largest cleft charities in the world, our experience allows us to develop trust, global adaptability and long-term connectivity to our patients, volunteers and the communities where those individuals are living and working. 

I’ve been with the organization for six years, and specifically on the global philanthropy team for three years. My role has been a catch-all of sorts, so I manage a variety of programs, including civic and corporate partnerships, workplace giving, our mid-level business program and cause marketing. 

Let’s talk about workplace giving. What is your strategy for that angle of fundraising?
At Operation Smile, workplace giving is not centrally managed. I own the relationship with Global Impact and all the campaigns that fall within that partnership. All other aspects of our workplace giving presence fall under the fundraising team. And to be very honest, we did not have a strategy until recently. 

Our biggest challenge is that, like many nonprofit staff, we are all stretched pretty thin. So when faced with a straightforward corporate partnership opportunity that could offer a sizeable amount of funding or investing time and resources into workplace giving, which can be confusing – most will choose to use their limited bandwidth on the corporate partnership. 

But we have some amazing, engaged donors giving to support our programs through their workplace. In sitting down with the Global Impact team to develop a strategy, it was very interesting to peel back the layers of the onion and see all the work that needs to be done. From a development perspective, we realized there were companies engaged with our work and we weren’t even talking to them. We weren’t even saying thank you to some of those donors because they were simply lost in the shuffle. 

Global Impact helped us find the gap and determine some best practices for what we should be doing to cultivate those relationships. 

To understand where we stood, reports were pulled from the third-party donation platforms to create a comprehensive list of all who gave to Operation Smile through their workplace. We had an internal conversation to get into the details about workplace giving and employee engagement. I spoke with my boss and presented the information about these people giving to us even though we didn’t have a relationship with them. We questioned whether to add their information to our donor database and how we should aim to reach them.

We settled on a quarterly e-newsletter to reach workplace donors where allowed. The messaging is tailored and focused to the corporate employee invested in giving at work. Our goal in this outreach is to open new avenues for awareness campaigns, build champions, and ultimately develop the channels for people to engage. Our hope is that through this cultivation, they will invite us in even more, giving us the opportunity to share our amazing employee engagement activities.

What is a specific challenge you have faced in the development of your workplace giving strategy? And how are you working to overcome it?
While discussing what to do with the donor lists, it became apparent that our database team was overwhelmed. Not only was the information difficult to incorporate into the system, but they were also in the process of introducing a new system for customer relationship management. It was through these discussions that we landed at our final plan to begin outreach with the quarterly newsletter. Through these communications we expect to discern the champions that rise to the top in terms of engagement. Those individuals will be added to our new system once in place and we can build from there.

Has your organization been neglecting workplace donors? If so, we hope you’ll take a second to realize their potential, pull the data and start planning a strategy to connect with these valuable partners. Not sure where to start? Take a page from Vicki’s playbook and work with our team to develop a strategy that captures and engages this critical audience in a way that works for your charity and your team, while also keeping in mind your capacity.