Working for Global Impact, I have attended many conferences and events over the years that brin stakeholders and partners together to discuss how we can solve world issues. For those who know me, I consider myself an optimist, ready to share in the next big idea of solving global problems and overcoming engagement challenges. However, in the past it has felt that although our intention is to come together to solve goals with these conferences and events, little progress is made. Especially after a two-year hiatus of meeting in-person, I don’t want to see that happen with an event I just recently attended, Boost Matching!

Boost Matching is an incredible initiative started by David Hessekiel and the team at Engage for Good. They hosted their first gathering on May 17 bringing together a noteworthy group of representatives from leading nonprofits, companies and technology platforms that are all central to workplace fundraising. The impetus of this initiative was how to unlock the estimated $4-7 billion in corporate matching gifts that go unspent annually by 65% of Fortune 500 companies who offer this kind of program.

Great concept, right? What could nonprofits do to advance their missions with an additional $4-7 billion dollars? Perhaps address some of the most underreported humanitarian crises? Maybe put some of it toward solving world hunger, an estimated cost of $6 billion? Regardless of cause or goal or problem waiting to be solved, the ultimate question is this: how do you get employees to give to unlock those matched funds?

At the Boost Matching conference, we heard research findings, behavioral science techniques, case studies and had multiple discussions on the challenges and barriers that are holding us back from increased participation in workplace programs. If you want to know what these were, you should have attended the conference! Just kidding, of course. We attended for you and I want to share with you a snapshot of what I heard, saw and discussed relating to partnerships between companies and nonprofits to make real progress.

CREATING A PRIMED ENVIRONMENT 

Companies and workplaces (I’m broadening from companies to include local, state and federal government friends, who run employee engagement programs, too) see the value of engaging employees, being strong corporate citizens in their communities, and ensuring overall purpose and social impact is met. In turn, they create programs like employee giving and gift-matching, which create a culture of purpose, demonstrate support for individual employees’ passions and ultimately paint an amazing picture of global impact.

But a lingering issue remains that companies are trying to solve today: despite the programs they offer, employees still don’t seem to be engaging. The story for individual companies and workforces across each industry is different, making the answers complex and particular to each group. Leadership, organizational culture and communications are often components of engagement issues. Since this challenge seems to be common and yet varies in cause, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged at the entire effort of employee engagement. However, as we discussed at the Boost Matching conference, there are steps that can be taken. So let’s hone in on a strategy. Let me recommend a tactical path forward, one that both companies and nonprofits can be a part of: creating a primed environment.

What is a primed environment?

My proposed path forward leans heavily on the behavioral science research that was shared during the Boost Matching conference. One of my key takeaways was presented by Chris Jarvis who talked about the Realized Worth Institute’s “Nudge the Good” project. He shared that for companies to move employees to action, they need to create a “primed” environment so that when the “ask” to give is made, employees will be quicker to act. So, what exactly is a primed environment? The way I see it, it is an effective marketing campaign, where education and awareness of the program are at their peak. Employees are reached through a wide range of mediums- intranet, email, physical signage, social networks, meetings, etc. They have seen a variety of different messages that leave them knowing giving is important to leadership and it is something everyone within the company is a part of. They may have already started to think about their own giving, organizations and causes they support and begun to weigh the benefits of participation. Information on program benefits, incentives and how to make a gift are readily available. There is a part of this that feels like information overload, but the key piece is that you HAVE NOT made the actual ask for the employee to give YET. ONCE an employee has been exposed many times to the campaign, there is a strategically timed “ask.” This will make your ask more successful, harder to ignore, and more likely to get a quick response.

How do companies create a primed environment?

At Boost Matching, a lot of great examples of how this primed environment is created were shared, including use of time-bound campaigns around giving and unique incentives like double or triple matches at strategic dates and a variety of different messaging styles to drive behavior. Some others to add to the mix include effective storytelling, events and use of ERG/BRG groups (employee/business resources groups). One of the biggest untapped resources for creating a primed environment is the use of the nonprofits your employees would consider supporting. At the end of the day, giving is about making an impact and there is no one better to tell that story and communicate what an employee’s gift can do than the nonprofit themselves. When you encourage employees to release their contact information, you have a built-in vehicle to cultivate future giving and participation in your engagement program. By giving nonprofits insight into your campaign- things like dates, matching information, key themes or messages- you are creating another outlet to build a highly primed environment through the nonprofits themselves. Using digital and email marketing, the nonprofits can contribute to create YOUR primed environment. Check these boxes and you are on the way to a building a successful campaign:

  • Set a date
  • Create a theme, establish key messages, determine incentives
  • Maximize your communication channels
  • Engage your nonprofit partners to boost your message
  • Strategically time your “ask”

How can nonprofits contribute to a primed environment? 

For the nonprofits that participated at Boost Matching, many see growth and increasing potential in their employee giving revenue. However, it can be challenging to identify the right strategies to increase and cultivate donors without the knowledge or insights on the employee giving programs themselves. What I see happen all the time is that we let these challenges and lack of knowledge hinder us from trying things out. That wasn’t the case for Sarah Thompson at Save the Children! Sarah was willing to work with us and test some new strategies despite these challenges. She shared some of the results at Boost Matching, piloting advertising and digital marketing strategies specifically targeted to a workplace donor and yielded strong results in year one, including 11% growth. Particularly as more employees work in hybrid work environments, there is a great opportunity to reach donors directly via digital marketing, building that primed environment for the potential workplace donors. Whether it is using specific audience targeting via social media or other forms of digital advertising like mobile geofencing, industry/professional network outlets or geographically specific publications, you can reach your potential donors more directly than ever. One of the keys is to adapt your message. The ask to give must highlight giving in the workplace, the opportunity for matching funds and it is essential for the employee to see themselves and their workplace in your ad. Nonprofits should do the following to help set a primed giving environment for the employee audience:

  • Set a budget
  • Determine specific employee giving programs you want to target
  • Identify vehicles (social media, other outlets)
  • Create unique and creative messaging targeting that workplace

READY TO GET STARTED? 
Does this proposed path seem doable? I am sure some of you are still not convinced but perhaps you found a small nugget of something you will take with you and test this year! After the conference, I came away feeling exhilarated to implement what I had learned. It has been nearly two months now—and I have a few commitments and strategies identified to test in the next six months. If we each make that commitment, that would feel like success. I hope to come back to the proverbial table (Boost Matching!) with our results.

Now, I invite you to learn more about our resources to help your company or nonprofit take these crucial steps to implement successful employee giving programs. Global Impact represents an alliance of charity partners, supporting their marketing and visibility efforts within employee giving programs. We consult with each member to identify revenue generating strategies that take into consideration their unique resources and labor available, the sophistication of their CRM and ability to track and email workplace donors, and their unique missions and partnerships. Simultaneously, we work with employee giving programs to increase their participation- whether it be through a 1:1 consultation, our employee giving hub, or through training of team members to support effective fundraising within the workplace.

Using advertising to prime employee donors
Through our Strategic Workplace Advertising and Email (SWAE) program we have now seen proven results to increase employee giving through targeted advertising and email marketing when we know the right timing, the right audience and key messages to leverage for an employee giving campaign (like the CFC). This program is available to our Charity Alliance Members and we welcome other nonprofits to join! We work with many companies willing to share information on their employee giving program to help implement this highly targeted program. It helps our nonprofit members be successful and boosts the company’s own employee participation.

Interested in sharing resources on your employee giving program to the nonprofit community or if you are a nonprofit interested in learning more about membership? Connect with us directly at [email protected].

Using turnkey nonprofit resources for companies to prime their employees
We offer several resources for employee giving programs to support your connection to the nonprofits and the causes your employees are supporting. These include photos, videos and dollar statements that are key to internal communications. We offer training for campaign ambassadors or champions (those leaders within your company planning and engaging employees within their respective departments). Lastly you will find mini toolkits to support a campaign around peak national giving times such as Giving Tuesday, current events/crises like Ukraine, and Mother’s/Father’s Day. These specific, initiative-driven efforts center around strategic dates when your employees are highly primed to give. We have seen these national giving moments compel new donors to give through employee giving programs, potentially unlocking a lifelong philanthropic journey, which benefits the program, the nonprofit and the world.

Access Global Impact’s Employee Giving Hub.