International Giving: Challenges and Solutions

In February 2016, users of Benevity‘s SaaS tool gathered in San Diego to discuss the future of corporate philanthropy. TriplePundit was a media partner of the event. You can follow our coverage here.

Diane Solinger from Google and Sheila Warren from TechSoup Global laugh during a panel presentation. Andy Howell and Dave Sciuk from Benevity are in the foreground.
Diane Solinger from Google and Sheila Warren from TechSoup Global laugh during a panel presentation. Andy Howell and Dave Sciuk from Benevity listen in the foreground.

“We are living in a borderless world,” Janelle Saunders, director of employee engagement solutions for Benevity, said at the company’s Goodness Matters user conference, which took place Feb. 24-26 in San Diego. “More and more folks want to be able to get engaged in the ways that mean something to them.”

For employees of multinational companies, this often means international volunteer opportunities or cross-border giving, Saunders continued, and Benevity is seeing “internationalization really growing” in the corporate volunteering and giving space. But expanding corporate philanthropy programs like giving and volunteering to employees in every country in which a company does business is complex and requires sophisticated solutions.

On Thursday, a panel of experts from the international giving and volunteering space detailed the growing global demands of companies as they relate to ‘Goodness’ when launching and expanding such programs — and solutions that are being used to make it work.

Make Goodness programs available to all global employees

“Once you’ve offered something that’s perceived as a benefit to your people, you need to offer it to all of them,” Dave Sciuk, VP of business development for Benevity, said of the trend of company-wide expansion of giving and volunteer programs. “So, we’re seeing more and more interest in truly global programs. It is vital for these programs to not only reach employees in all corners of the world, but also to provide the same culturally relevant experience for every employee,” Sciuk said.

Diane Solinger, global lead for Google’s GooglersGive program, echoed Sciuk’s sentiment. The tech giant employs 60,000 people at 100 offices in 50 countries around the world, so all of its philanthropy programs began with the global perspective in mind, Solinger explained, and the company is ambitious in its goals to boost engagement globally.

“Some key steps that we’re thinking about as we try to further the global programs is lowering barriers, making it frictionless,” Solinger said. “This has to be seamless and easy. Every user should have the same experience. That is not yet always the case, but we’re working toward that … because it’s what our employees expect.”

With international giving on the rise, it makes sense to invest in a technology like Benevity’s Spark solution. The SaaS tool allows employees to choose from charities in 218 countries to give to and supports 15 languages, making a global experience more accessible than its ever been.

Streamline the nomination process

Once your company expands its giving and volunteer programs worldwide, your employees will expect to be able to engage right out of the gate. This is especially important when it comes to nominating nonprofits to be added to the company’s giving network, Sciuk said.

But in the international context, this can become much more complicated than it sounds: Nonprofits often must be vetted in accordance with U.S. tax law to enable cross-border giving, and your company must also be able to communicate with nonprofits and earn their trust so they’ll even be willing to join up with your giving programs.

“If we’re offering that benefit to employees, they’re going to want to nominate their favorite local charities,” Sciuk explained. “All of this has to be invisible to the user. They have to be able to nominate and bring forward a charity that we can quickly communicate with … If we can’t reach or speak to those charities quickly and in their language, it’s much more likely that they won’t onboard.”

Quickly reaching a charity, vetting them, communicating with them in their language and establishing trust can be nearly impossible for any one company to do on its own — let alone in a timely fashion. The Spark tool can help bridge the gap with its extensive database of vetted nonprofits worldwide.

Using Spark, employees can find their favorite charities in two clicks and give any amount they like via payroll deduction, credit card, PayPal or the tool’s Giving Account. Corporate gift-matching is completely automated through the system.

Work with the tools you have

Expanding giving and volunteering networks around the world can be a daunting task.

Solinger of GooglersGive recommends taking a look at where your programs are right now, and utilizing all the tools at your disposal to expand as much as possible. It may be a while before you can make the experience the same for every employee or be able to onboard every nonprofit your employees nominate, but starting where you are and building on that is the only way to scale, she advised.

With this in mind, Google has now expanded its payroll giving program to 17 countries, with the hope of rolling it out to more countries this year. In countries where the company doesn’t offer payroll giving, it does a bit of finagling to provide a similar experience to employees. “In places where we don’t necessarily have payroll giving yet, what we find we can do is work with our employees on optimizing the options we currently have,” Solinger explained.

“We have a very wonderful engineer who created a way for us to swipe our Google badges, after which donations come out of our paycheck and it’s automatically matched. We can’t give that same experience to people that don’t have payroll giving yet, but what we can do is have them swipe their badge, they get on a list and we email them a way to give afterwards.

“So, it’s a similar experience but not yet identical. And we try to do the best with the tools in our toolkit to enable a similar experience as much as possible.”

Benevity is continuing to expand its network of nonprofits and further simplify cross-border giving and volunteering, which can go a long way to helping its corporate clients further scale ‘Goodness’ programs around the world. It’s not something that will happen overnight, the experts emphasized, but utilizing the tools at your disposal — whether it’s the passion of your own employees or a tool like Benevity Spark – goes a long way to making it happen.

Image credit Edison Miclat for Benevity 

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Mary Mazzoni

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for storytelling and sustainability. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal.

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian with an interest in climate resilience, clean tech and social justice. You can contact her at mary@triplepundit.com.

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