Equal To The Love You Make: Improve Your Company Culture With Charitable Giving


There is a new trend in the workplace. Since 2007, employer sponsored charitable programs have been rising steadily, with 20% of employers offering some kind of charitable options as of 2013[1.Halzak, Sarah. “Paid Time off for Volunteering Gains Traction as Way to Retain Employees.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/paid-time-off-for-volunteering-gains-traction-as-way-to-retain-employees/2013/08/09/86189774-fe95-11e2-96a8-d3b921c0924a_story.html]. Whether employers are offering their workers time off or matching contributions in their name, employers are learning that getting involved doesn’t just help the community. It boosts company morale and improves the organizational culture.

Microsoft Matches Their Employees Enthusiasm
When it comes to corporate giving, very few companies have Microsoft beat. The technology giant has more than a few charitable giving programs and hosts many events in order to raise money for various charities. Since 2005, Microsoft employees have donated more than 2.5 million hours of their time to charitable causes[2.“Employee Giving Program.” Microsoft Employee Giving Campaign. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/serving-communities/employee-giving/].

The key to Microsoft’s program is that they encourage employees to do this and allow company resources as well. Instead of doing simple pre-tax donation programs, Microsoft encourages employees to donate their time and gives them the time to do so. They incentivize giving, which makes employees feel better, like their employer is supporting their community.
One great thing Microsoft does is targets their own workforce’s skills with their Tech Target for Good Program[3. Harnick, Lori. “Volunteers – A Critical Contribution to Our Communities – Microsoft on the Issues.” Microsoft on the Issues. 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2015/04/15/volunteers-a-critical-contribution-to-our-communities/], where volunteer workers help nonprofits with their technology. It’s a skill Microsoft employees are specialized in, which makes what they give so much more valuable than money.

Companies can follow Microsoft’s lead by targeting their own workforce’s abilities to needy organizations that need their skills or resources specifically. It allows employees to own the experience, rather than just feel like their funneling money into a program for the tax incentives.
Of course, if you don’t have the time to donate, then many employers are trying something called Prosocial Bonuses.

Letting Employees Choose to Give Leads to Satisfaction
In a workplace study completed by Harvard Business School, it was found that employees who were allowed to give to charity at their job had higher satisfaction rates than those who didn’t[4. McGregor, Jena. “What’s Better than a Bonus? Prosocial Incentives – the Bonus You Give Away.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-leadership/post/whats-better-than-a-bonus-prosocial-incentives–the-bonus-you-give-away/2011/04/01/gIQAlsLRHJ_blog.html]. This was a result of something called ‘prosocial bonuses” or money given to the employee, with the intention that it be given to someone else.

Lots of employers do this with match programs, like the one at Microsoft, where for every dollar the employee pays to a charity, the employer matches. This again helps develop a feeling of teamship and allows the employees to give to the charity of their choice, for a cause that’s close to them personally.

Setting up prosocial programs can be as easy as giving employees vouchers for a job well done, allowing them to give that voucher to the charity of their choice. This is a dual natured way of improving morale, as it gives the employees individual recognition, while allowing them to give back to a charity they care about.

Make it a Favorable Impression
Employees who have a favorable view of their companies own charitable program are four times more likely to be loyal to their employer and satisfied in their jobs[5. Parrish, Ali. “Corporate Philanthropy Boosts Employee Morale.” Web. 27 Oct. 2015. http://www.cfneia.org/content/filedrop/Philanthropy_and_employee_morale_Ali_Parrish.pdf]. The key words here are ‘favorable impression.” We all know of companies who only sought to give to charity to improve a reputation. A prime example of a company who uses charity as a form of reputation management is Goldman Sachs[6.Craig, Susanne. “Goldman Sachs, Buying Redemption.” The New York Times. 26 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/10/26/goldman-sachs-buying-redemption/?_r=0].

Goldman Sachs hasn’t had a great reputation. When many thought they were making billions betting on crashing housing market, and giving their executives huge bonuses while receiving government bailouts, their reputation was already suffering. So when it came time for bonuses, Goldman Sachs announced they were requiring executives to give a certain amount to charitable causes, in a charitable fund held by Goldman Sachs’ company.

This was a calculated move that made their motives clear. The company was attempting damage control; the charitable giving wasn’t designed to help others. That was simply a side effect of helping the company manage their reputation.

Programs like these, where company’s motives are questionable, won’t do much to improve employee morale. In anything, they might make employees resentful, as the company is using their hard work to appear better in the eyes of the public, and not giving their employees the credit. One company employee of Goldman Sachs said of their charitable giving program “It’s run as if it’s a Broadway show.”

That kind of charitable giving can be viewed as condescending and dishonest. To avoid that, companies should avoid making a production out of their charitable giving. Oversized checks or expensive ceremonies where they deliver the funds appear calculating. Instead, companies should be partnering with employees to help further their causes, and allow the employee to reap the benefits of their good deeds.

Giving Back While Getting Ahead
Charitable giving, whether it be time, cash or company resources, can have a profound effect on employee morale. It can unite employees in one cause and improve collaboration in the workplace. Encouraging the employees to give back to their communities can go a long way towards improving a workplace culture and teamship

At Applied Vision Works, we embrace teamship as one of the key elements that leads to an effective, collaborative culture. While charitable giving is one good way to improve a connected work atmosphere, there are many others that leaders can learn about in our Team Challenge program.



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