Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Six Ways to Engage Employees in CSR

By 3p Contributor

By Caitlin Hotchkiss

In recent years, we have watched CSR evolve from a luxury to a priority for organizations of all sizes. Companies are increasingly venturing beyond their own walls to advocate for solutions around issues such as education, environment, poverty, equal and human rights, and other issues. They are taking philanthropy to a level of engagement, providing ways for employees to donate or volunteer on behalf of their workplace.

Consider Walt Disney as an example of this higher-level thinking. The company’s social mission is to strengthen communities “by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to kids and families who need it most.” Disney gave more than $400 million to nonprofit organizations in 2016 but the CSR mission didn’t stop with philanthropy. Their “VoluntEARS” program, which encourages employees to donate time, has totaled to nearly three million hours of community service since 2012, with a goal of five million hours by 2020. If your organization can replicate a fraction of Disney’s impact over time, you have realized CSR success!

A CSR program is a great way to keep employees happy and see some great returns in the workplace and community. According to a Gallup poll, engaged employees nearly doubled their odds of success compared to disengaged employees – plus, there was less turnover in companies with engaged employees.

Starting a CSR program can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are six ways to get started:

1. Start with simple donations

You don’t have to have an extensive, complicated CSR program to engage employees. Start with small opportunities for employees to give back, such as enabling employees to support special causes or give back in a time of need to disaster relief campaigns. Be sure to communicate how quick and easy it is for employees to make donations, then make it easy for them with a link that jumps to an online fundraising form. As the program grows, consider rolling out an annual campaign that employees can to look forward to each year.

You can kick it up a notch by providing a charitable match program. Cone Research found that 79% of employees think it’s important that their companies match their charitable giving. So while it’s great that employees make donations, it’s even better that their contributions are doubled by their employer.

2. Use surveys to help choose partnerships

When choosing which nonprofits to partner with in order to provide donations, giving your employees choices is a smart move – but it’s also good to highlight reputable nonprofit partners that align with your company’s mission in that process. Design short surveys that ask employees for feedback on engagement opportunities they are interested in, so they see that their employer cares about what they care about. Gauge sentiment in the office (offer anonymous options on the surveys!) to make sure your efforts are going in the right direction. This thoughtful process will produce partnerships that represent the company “brand” to employees and consumers.

3. Foster (team and paid) volunteering

Nearly three quarters of employees who volunteer through work report feeling better about their jobs. Explore local charities or nonprofits to partner with (especially if their causes align with your company mission) in order to set up a regular volunteering partnership. Consider allowing 1-2 paid days per year for employees to volunteer or do charitable work for a nonprofit of their choosing.

Encouraging employees to work together in teams to reach a volunteer or fundraising goal can increase participation and engagement at work. Whether departments compete or you bring groups together to help the community, it is a great chance to get staff to bond for a good cause.

4. Lead by example

Make sure senior executives are taking part in charitable efforts as well, and not just for a photo opp. A leading driver of employee engagement and participation is transparency with senior leadership. Employees look for communication and accessibility from company executives – so they have to set the tone. In addition, a company that matches donations and/or supports paid time for volunteering further demonstrates its commitment to CSR programs. These efforts show employees that budget has been allocated and approved. The majority of the Fortune 500 offer corporate gift matching programs to employees, often matching donations dollar for dollar!

5. Keep employees informed

Today’s technology has made communication easy; when employees know when, where and how to participate, they are more likely to do so. Engagement hinges on regularly communicating the opportunities available for donating and volunteering. Send out emails, include events in company newsletters, and bring opportunities up in team meetings. Close the satisfaction loop by sharing results at the end of a campaign. This validates employee fundraising efforts and sets the stage for future campaigns. Establishing a company culture where the annual giving goal is to raise more year-over-year helps create excitement around annual campaigns.

6. Recognize your champions

Last, but not least, recognize top employee giving and volunteer participation. We all want our staff give and volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts, but it is also important to recognize their contributions. Recognition does not have to be expensive. A thank-you note from the CEO, a casual dress code, a front-row parking space, lunch with the boss, or gift cards, show ample appreciation.

Putting together a CSR program doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. You can pick and choose a few simple strategies and supporting technologie to get started and then build from there. The important part is making sure that your program inspires employees to feel like they’re a part of something bigger.

Caitlin Hotchkiss is social media and content manager for FrontStream, which powers the online fundraising of more than 10,000 charities and nonprofits worldwide. She can be reached at caitlin.hotchkiss@frontstream.com

TriplePundit has published articles from over 1000 contributors. If you'd like to be a guest author, please get in touch!

Read more stories by 3p Contributor