As we adapt to the changing workplace, it is evident that organizations will need to find innovative tools to boost employee engagement and, in turn, increase morale. COVID-19 has forced most offices to go remote – leaving many employees feeling isolated. How do we empower employees to do their best and increase team engagement in this era of social distancing?

One solution we have found to be successful has been in our annual employee workplace giving campaign. Data shows that highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable, individuals are 57% less likely to leave a job if they feel connected at work, and employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to “feel empowered to perform their best work.” It’s clear that workforces are passionate about making a difference now more than ever, and they want to know that their organization has a program in place to accomplish that goal.

In 1998, Global Impact launched Caring@Work to exercise our own best practices for workplace giving. To date, Global Impact employees have generously pledged over $1.2 million for local, national and international charities. In 2020 alone, with a pandemic sweeping the globe, the campaign inspired a staggering 97% participation rate. We pledged 1,734 volunteer hours and raised over $47,000 for causes we believe in.

The numbers speak for themselves. Employees want to do more good, and they want to do it together. 

In this first post of our three-part blog series, we will dive into the strategies behind Caring@Work that can be applied to help your company accomplish similar goals in a virtual work environment.

Behind the scenes of Caring@Work
Each year, individuals from each Global Impact department come together to form the Caring@Work task force. This team of ambassadors, led passionately by Stephanie Scholz, vice president of human resources, puts together the framework for the campaign including campaign marketing and messaging, participation goals and engagement strategy including incentives and campaign events.

This year’s campaign looked different than those in the past, however. Caring@Work typically includes a number of in-person events, including a live kickoff, charity speakers, in-office decorations and activities throughout the week to consistently remind people to give and set the tone for the campaign. But this time, faced with a fully remote office, the task force had to think outside the box.

Some of the questions that this year’s team faced included:

  • What types of events can be transitioned to a virtual environment? What types cannot?
  • How do you generate interest without interacting in-person?
  • How do we encourage giving during a pandemic when facing ever-changing personal challenges?
  • Are our employees in a financial position to be able to give back?

These questions led to a major shift in the way Caring@Work was approached. The team needed to develop a workplace giving program that kept Global Impact employees in mind – recognized potential financial struggles, changes in childcare and education, include a volunteering option instead, to address the financial challenges that some employees with a desire to give back might be facing. Virtual volunteerism was on the rise prior to COVID-19, and charities everywhere are adapting opportunities to empower supporters to get involved from the safety of their own homes. To this end, the Caring@Work team:

The strategy was a resounding success. In addition to packing 5,200 seed packs to support sustainable farming worldwide, nearly 2,000 volunteer hours were pledged during our campaign. Global Impact employees eagerly came together in support of greater giving despite the challenges faced at home.

Generating excitement in a virtual setting
The pandemic gave this year’s Caring@Work campaign renewed meaning. Giving back together proved to be more important than ever before in helping to build the positive energy and comradery that everyone is craving in these uncertain times.

Using past campaigns as a bellwether we knew that there would be excitement from the outset. All that was left to do was drive engagement toward action. But developing and continuing hype, especially in a virtual setting, can be a challenge. Here are some of our strategies:

  • Storytelling. Connecting through personal stories is a great way to build a relationship and generate interest. We recruited staff to share their personal philanthropic stories through video and email, which we sent to all our employees throughout the week. This approach also served as an added reminder to employees, keeping them engaged as the campaign continued and serving as a reminder of the upcoming deadline.
  • Charity insight. We organized a “brown bag lunch” series to share stories from other nonprofits and encourage the giving spirit. These events create a relaxed atmosphere and an opportunity for staff to connect with coworkers and charity speakers while learning important new information. This year, Americares, a Global Impact Charity Alliance partner, and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press were selected to share their stories, missions and the many ways they have helped people around the world. Each charity was selected by a team member with a personal connection to the organization, allowing team members to also share their own personal stories of giving back and volunteering.
  • Personal connections. Giving back is often a very personal experience, especially when it comes to volunteering. We wanted to make sure that people were able to connect easily to opportunities in the impact sector of their choice. To accomplish this we utilized VolunteerMatch to help employees locate virtual volunteering opportunities. This platform removed the uncertainty of where to look for opportunities and gave the option to customize searches around impact sector and skill set.In addition, we wanted to foster a direct connection between our employees and the campaign. To achieve this, each member of the Caring@Work task force acted as an ambassador for their individual departments across the organization, fostering personal conversations with their coworkers where they discussed overall milestones, questions or concerns, and giving and volunteering opportunities. This line of communication between employees and the Caring@Work team also had the added bonus of ensuring that the campaign ran smoothly across the entire organization.

While many of our strategies were tweaked or added in response to the virtual environment, some of our typical approaches didn’t need to change. This year, just like the last, we relied on tried-and-true promotional methods – marketing materials, emails and a kick-off meeting (albeit virtual) with our staff – to bring employees together for a single, united purpose.

Together, this mix of old and new strategies encouraged the overarching goal of increasing employee engagement and ensuring that our staff felt heard and empowered.

Stay tuned
Now is a great time to think about implementing a virtual workplace campaign that meets your employees’ needs and aligns with your philanthropic goals.

This blog series aims to help you achieve your workplace giving goals for this season and beyond. Our next installments will look further into the foundations of Caring@Work and giving opportunities, providing insight that will help inform the development of your own campaign.

Interested in working with us to improve workplace giving? Reach out to our team today!

Read The importance of teamwork and the right tools, part 2 of the Inside workplace giving series …