Revolutionizing Workplace Giving: Modern Approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility

By Ashley Tedham

Remember the days when workplace giving consisted of short one-week campaigns that involved things like collecting toonies in exchange for a “I donated in support of my community today” button or sticker? We would raise hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands in a week or two in support of a single community organization.

Today, advanced technology and a new-found understanding for the value of more democratic workplace giving programs allows companies to collectively raise tens of thousands of charitable dollars in hours, supporting organizations that their employees truly care about.

Whether it’s through ‘dollar for doer” programs or corporate volunteering activities, companies are taking a different approach to their CSR and ESG strategies, and it’s paying off!

Today companies understand that creating meaningful opportunities for their employees to contribute to causes and non-profits they care about not only attracts talent, but it serves in keeping them engaged, committed, and inspired to show up differently than they did 10 years ago. I definitely feel that way.

Whether your company is big or small, there are so many ways in which corporates can create space for their employees to give back and help to generate a corporate culture that serves everyone involved.

Here are 5 examples! Do you know what your company offers? If not – ask!

1.       Volunteering or ‘dollars for doers’ – creating space for connection and meaningful contribution.

One way in which companies can encourage community engagement is by providing a monetary incentive for each hour an employee volunteers and tracks their time. The funds that are generated are then donated to the non-profit or cause that the employee supports. For example, at my company for every hour I volunteer (physically or virtually), my company grants me $20 that I can then use to make a donation to a cause I care about, even the same one I volunteered for! This not only incentivises me to volunteer, but it provides a greater impact to the non-profit, sending a message to both myself – as an employee – as well as the non-profit that I support that my company not only cares, but is willing to invest in things that I personally feel are important. That matters to me and to others!

2.       Corporate Volunteering Events

Corporate volunteer activities have been around for a long time, but they have evolved immensely, especially following COVID, where there are now endless opportunities for companies to bring their people together and volunteer collectively. Volunteer events can take place in person or virtually! Whether it be through skill based volunteering by offering free seminars, training events or career mentoring, or serving at a soup kitchen, putting together care kits, event set ups & take downs, garbage pick-up, there are endless ways and opportunities that corporates can organize and facilitate group volunteer activities. Get creative, reach out to the non-profits you care about and ask about the ways you can support! Maybe your company has technology that can help facilitate this, or perhaps you have a team or group within your HR department that can support.

3.       Corporate Rewards – putting their money where their mouth is

A relatively newer development in the world of CSR is when companies provide employees with a lump sum – sometimes each year or at the start of their employment, or both – where the money can only be used to make a donation to non-profits of the employees choosing. This is a tremendous way for a company to communicate their commitment to investing in communities and moreover, it entrusts the employee with the power to do it on their behalf! This creates a sense of partnership and investment, putting their money where their mouth is!

4.       Giving Opportunities – creating a sense of togetherness

In the last couple of years, our team at work has experienced a lot of loss. Losing three colleague tragically left a lot of us feeling heavy and powerless in our desire to support the families and friends of the colleagues we had lost. Thankfully we  were able to utilize our corporate giving platform to create a ‘giving opportunity’ in honour of the friends we had lost, ensuring that all the money raised internally was granted to causes that meant something to them or honoured their legacy in a meaningful way. It created a collective space for all of us to grieve, support each other and celebrate the lives that were lost far too soon. How wonderful it feels to be able to do that in the workplace.

5.       Corporate Matching & Corporate Giving – giving with intention

Similar to corporate rewards programs, some companies chose to also match donations that their employee make each year, to booster impact and engagement in the community. My company provides 100% matching to hundreds of non-profits, granting me the ability to enhance my impact, leaving me to feel as though my company partners with me and supports my community involvement.

Not all companies are able to provide all of these things, but many can and do! Do you know what your company offers? Do you know how to access the program and are you aware of the effortless opportunities you may have in front of you, allowing you to support the communities and causes you care about?

Something that I realized working in the non-profit sector for so many years is that there are millions of corporate charitable dollars that are left on the ‘table’ simply because employees aren’t aware of, or don’t utilize their companies workplace giving programs! Be sure to ask your company if they have one of the 5 opportunities above and how best to advocate for it if they don’t. It matters and should matter to both employees and companies alike. After all, we are all in this together!

About the Author

Ashley Tedham

A native Calgarian with a passion for international and community development, Ashley obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Political Science at the University of Calgary in 2007, and a Master's Degree in 2012 in International Affairs at The Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.  After starting her career at Immigrant Services Calgary working with youth settlement and integration programming, Ashley moved on to work with various International Organizations in Sierra Leone, Canada, and Switzerland, including the Canadian International Development Agency, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations and World Trade Organization, the World Meteorological Organization and the World Health Organization. In 2016 Ashley returned to Calgary and became the Executive Director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (the Award).  In 2020, Ashley was included in Avenue Magazine's Top 40 Under 40, highlighting the Award's work empowering criminally involved youth through a project she developed called The Youth Resiliency Project. In April 2021, Ashley took on a new role with Benevity acting as their Director of Global Operations & Foundation Partnerships. Ashley is a passionate volunteer and currently sits on the board of CAUSE Canada and Making Changes Association.

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