Engaging employees to improve the community

Many companies donate to charities, but some, like TASC, go above and beyond in the ways they allow employees to give back, and they reap the rewards in more engaged workers.

The saying is, “It’s better to give than to receive,” but isn’t it really be best if you can do both?

Corporate giving programs are nothing new. For the positive PR hit alone, cutting a check to a charity is a smart business move. However, there are so many other ways for a company — and its employees — to give back that can reap even more rewards for the organization.

During IB’s inaugural Think Tank on Corporate Culture May 24, sponsored by WPS Health Solutions, Dan Rashke, CEO of Madison-based TASC, discussed the employee benefits administration company’s thoughtful commitment to community engagement, and how giving back to the community is an integral component of an organization’s culture.

Rashke says for a company to have an active philanthropy program it requires more than just writing a check or rolling up your sleeves. It requires stewardship — showing up, contributing resources, and getting engaged in the process. The result doesn’t just benefit the charity of choice. It also creates business and networking opportunities, as well as promotes increased brand awareness.

Furthermore, having an active philanthropy program creates happier, more engaged employees. According to a 2017 report from American’s Charities, 55% of employees would choose to work for a socially responsible company even if the salary was less — and that number trends even higher among the millennial generation.

Younger employees are not as likely to give money to charities, notes Rashke, but they do want to volunteer or be involved to see their impact firsthand. Younger workers are also more driven by causes rather than organizational contributions, and when they do give they prefer selecting the individual organization as opposed to trusting a large federation to dole out the money for them.

Rashke points to another report, a 2016 community involvement study performed by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, which found nearly 90% of the companies that measure the connection between volunteer participation and employee engagement found a positive correlation between participation and engagement scores. That’s significant because it shows workplaces that emphasize active philanthropy are overwhelmingly seeing a return on that investment in the form of highly engaged employees. And we all know that engaged employees are productive employees, which benefits the company’s bottom line.

Charting the give-back landscape

According to America’s Charities, more than 49% of nonprofits identified workplace giving as a growth strategy for their organization. They see workplace giving and employee engagement programs as opportunities to promote their mission, programs, and services, and identify and recruit new volunteers.

Additionally, 86% of companies surveyed believe that employees expect them to provide opportunities to engage in the community and 87% believe their employees expect them to support causes and issues that matter to those employees.

The key is finding unique ways to engage employees and offer a variety of options for how they can give back.

For instance, a lot of companies work well with United Way on annual giving programs, but what works well for one company may not fit the culture of another. Indeed, America’s Charities also notes in a survey of companies that switched away from the traditional United Way-only campaign to an expanded model with more charity choice, more than 79% of companies reported increased donor participation rates and 73% raised more money.

In the case of TASC, Rashke says the firm’s TASC Cares initiative is how it allows its employees to make a difference in the community. In addition to the company’s — and Rashke’s — own financial contributions to local charities, TASC employees are given numerous ways to support the causes closest to them, including:

Paid volunteer time

One of the more unique employee benefit offerings at TASC is its paid employee volunteer time. Employees are provided with 40 paid volunteer hours each year to allow them to get out and serve the community.

According to the company’s website, entire TASC departments have been known to work the evening rush at a local food pantry, employees have traveled to participate in national disaster relief efforts, and some have even enlisted the talents of their co-workers to start their own charitable organizations.

Dollars for Doers

The TASC Dollars for Doers program encourages employees to continue their volunteer efforts outside of their paid volunteer time. For every hour of volunteering outside of work hours, TASC will donate to the employee’s nonprofit of choice.

The Reason I Give Back

TASC employees are invited to submit videos for the company’s annual “The Reason I Give Back” contest. Employees are encouraged to share their favorite organization and volunteer activity through video. The winner’s charity receives a $1,000 donation on behalf of TASC.

The results have been overwhelming. In 2016 TASC and its employees donated $248,000 to United Way. Through TASC Cares, more than $985,000 has been donated to various charities.

TASC has also shown its commitment to its employees in other ways, including offering employee scholarships through a registered 501(c)(3), as well as a crisis fund that helps employees cope with unexpected financial problems that make it difficult for them to handle their personal financial obligations.

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Other types of corporate giving programs

In addition to some of the methods for giving back listed above, there are a number of other proven methods companies have used to increase employee engagement and make a difference in the community. Some of those include:

  • Volunteer support programs, which allow companies to offer their products and services at a reduced rate or for free to the people who need them most. Depending on their industry, companies can provide computers or IT assistance, consulting services, food, marketing strategies, or other tangible products.
  • Similarly, some companies offer employee product donation programs (EPDP), which encourage employee giving by offering discounts on company products that employees donate to nonprofits.
  • Annual grant stipends, which are allocated amounts of money given each year to employees to donate to the nonprofit of their choice. Employees don’t have to volunteer their own time or money; the company donates for them.

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