The Do’s and Dont’s of Employee Giving

publication date: Jan 4, 2021
author/source: Ephraim Gopin

The nonprofit sector has its fair share of issues that stimulate discussion, cause disagreement and can, at times, devolve into a shouting match. See: Twitter, Any day on.

Employee giving is a subject which is contentious and produces sharp differences of opinions among sector pros. Should employees donate to the organizations they work for? Should nonprofits have any type of employee giving program?

There’s the “oh hell no!” camp, the “heck yeah!” folks and there’s also the “it’s complicated” gang. But each group has very compelling reasons to back up their opinion.

After surveying sector employees and consultants and studying the many topics related to employee giving, I can say this: If your organization is considering running an employee giving program, there’s a way to do it and a way not to.

Here are 4 do’s and 3 don’t’s:

The Do’s

Any Amount Will Do

A $1 donation should be celebrated just as much as a $100 donation. As Beth Ann Locke, Chief Spark at The Fundraiser Coach says: “It’s not the size of the gift that matters (generousness), it’s the act of giving (generosity).”

Whatever the amount, giving starts at the top. Senior management should donate to the employee giving program before the rest of the staff is approached.

Once they have donated, EVERYONE should be asked. No employee should be excluded. It’s about the joy of giving and everyone can participate.

Peer To Peer

All asks of employees should be done by their peers, people who are on the same level as them in the organizational hierarchy chart. These peers who will be asking need to be trained to ask in a way that’s respectful and appropriate.

In a larger organization such as a hospital, let each department have autonomy in running the campaign. The overall messaging and branding should be similar across all departments but because we’re talking about vastly different pay scales (e.g. surgeons vs. nurses), each department should come up with an ask that works for their specific staff members.

Just Like A Regular Fundraising Campaign Think of the various components of your fundraising appeals. The same rules and best practices apply with an internal giving campaign.

  • Segment: New employees may not feel as connected to the mission as longer tenured staff. Your pitch should be different for each segment of employees.
  • Personalization: Campaign pledge forms/emails/letters should be addressed to the employee by name.
  • Allow multiple payment methods: Check, cash, credit card, salary deduction.Additionally, you should offer staff the opportunity to donate as a monthly gift so it’s a stretch gift and not a one-time hole in their pocket.
  • Choices: Let staff make the choice what to give to. Provide them with options. Don’t force donations to go to unrestricted funds. Employees may decide together to give to project X and raise money for something specific.
  • Impact: Let employees know where the funds are going. Show them the impact. If they’ve chosen to fund a specific project, update them that the goal has been reached. Let them feel a sense of accomplishment!
  • Gratitude: Every employee who contributed should receive a personalized thank you. Just like you would for your regular donors. (At least I hope that’s what you do!)

Connect Employees To The Mission…And Themselves

An employee giving campaign is an opportunity to educate staff about your organization’s work, programming, who is being helped and more. The goal is to make everyone feel part of the broader mission. Instead of being stuck in their employee “box” and doing just their job, let them learn how the entire operation works together.

This campaign also serves a second and just as important purpose: It allows staff to connect to each other. In larger organizations with multiple departments and numerous programs, staff may not know one another. Turnover is also an issue. Use the campaign to build team familiarity and hopefully it will help bring about more staff cohesiveness.

The Dont’s

CEO Doesn’t Ask Or Know Who Donated The CEO/senior managers should never receive a list of who did or did not donate. The person who does data entry and maintains the database should be the only person with access to that data. Staff need to feel confident that their giving history will not be passed along. To anyone.

The CEO should not make the ask. As stated above, a proper peer-to-peer campaign should be conducted. Additionally, the HR staff should not head the campaign. Because of their position within the organization, they cannot lead an internal giving campaign.

Finally, don’t reward managers for getting a high percent of employees to give. That will lead to pressure being put on employees to give.

Rated N For No!

Staff should not be rated against their giving. Full stop. Raises and promotions should not be tied to giving. This is part of the reason why senior managers or HR staff should not be making the ask.

No Goal, No Competition

Do NOT have a 100% goal for participation. Not everyone can participate. No one is under obligation to give.

Do NOT designate a dollar goal amount. That puts pressure on employees to reach the goal. However, if the employees themselves have collectively decided to donate for a specific project and they fix a cost to the campaign, that would be okay.

Friendly wagers or competitions between departments? No. Too easy to abuse.

As I said at the outset, this is a very complicated and multi-faceted topic.

I invite you to download my ebook on employee giving and learn more about the issue. The ebook includes a look at the data I collected via a survey, talks about Board and C-level giving, how overtime affects giving, whether employees should or should not be asked and quotes more than 30 nonprofit experts and their takes on employee giving and related topics.

Ephraim Gopin is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps your nonprofit build relationships and raise more money through smart and effective marketing. 1832 partners with nonprofits to craft strategies which upgrade their online presence, improve their marketing collateral, grow their media outreach efforts and boost their email marketing and fundraising apparatus. He is always happy to connect with nonprofit pros via Twitter, LinkedIn, his daily nonprofit newsletter or his weekly podcast.

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