Do’s and Don’ts for Corporate Holiday Giving

When corporations give back, they can make a huge difference. In 2018 alone, corporate charity programs matched employee donations, giving more than $2 billion to eligible nonprofits. That’s a pretty big sum.

There also are collateral benefits for organizations that donate to charities: Consumers are more likely to sustain relationships with companies that support charitable giving. And, an improved social image can give organizations an edge in the perpetual competition for top talent.

“Employees want to work for organizations that have some alignment with their own personal values,” says Jim Starr, president and CEO of America’s Charities. “As they are job searching or deciding to remain, candidates and employees are looking to the company to provide them with the vehicle to be engaged in their community through philanthropy.”

Here are three tips to help your organization navigate corporate holiday giving this season.

Consider Matching Employee Donations

If you really want your charitable contributions to be meaningful, consider matching the donations made by employees to their favorite nonprofits. “Including a matching-gift component will drive participation and engagement,” Starr says. “People love to see their contribution amplified by their employer.” This demonstrates that you care about and are willing to support the causes your employees are passionate about.

You can also establish a Dollars for Doers program to incentivize employee volunteering. Your employees may want to donate to a local charity or nonprofit but be prevented by their own financial responsibilities. “Typically, though, employees are more than willing to donate some of their time,” Starr says. “And having that amplified by an employer-sponsored grant to that charity in recognition of volunteer service is pretty powerful.”

Determine Your Priorities

It’s important to give employees choices when it comes to charitable giving, but you should also watch out for potential scandals. “It’s a good practice to do your basic research to identify any potential legal or branding pitfalls prior to donating so that your benevolent gesture doesn't backfire,” says Karen Oakey, director of human resources at Fracture. “It’s typically a good idea to avoid charities that are overly political, religious or culturally sensitive in nature.”

When deciding how much freedom of choice to give your employees, it’s important to determine what your overall goals are, Starr says. When employees are given more freedom, engagement in the program tends to increase. If you prefer to keep the initiative aligned with a particular cause or charity, you can maintain more brand control — but you can expect less engagement. “There are some in-between options too,” Starr says. A common option is to encourage employees to donate to any charity that they wish, but only offer matching components to a particular cause or group of charities.

These are all viable approaches to corporate charitable giving, so the model you choose will depend upon your goals in launching the program.

Make the Program Accessible and Easy to Use

It’s important for leaders in the company to set the tone for holiday giving — but in a fun way, Starr says. Having the C-suite kick it off with their personal donations is a good way to lead the way by example. “One of the key success factors to any giving program within a company is visibility and leadership support,” Starr says.

How donations are made is important to consider too. Employees should be given options to donate through credit card, PayPal, check or payroll deductions. “Payroll deduction is by far the most impactful way to give,” Starr says. “And providing that opportunity to employees is also very important, whether they opt in for a one-time event or as a recurring donation.”

No matter how it’s done, holiday charitable giving can be a huge force for good in your communities and the world at large. “Holiday giving comes from a good place,” Oakey says. “And this world can use all of the positivity we have to offer.”