How to Empower Employees to Engage in CSR Initiatives

From positively impacting the community to increasing customer loyalty, corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs provide several impactful benefits for companies. The most significant of these is the potential to boost employee engagement, productivity, and retention—but you’ll only gain these benefits if your employees actually participate in your CSR initiatives.

How do you get team members to engage with CSR? This article explores several ways to inspire and empower employees to take full advantage of your CSR programs and get involved regularly. Once they do, you can improve philanthropy initiatives based on their feedback and maximize employee engagement long-term.

Choose programs employees care about

The potential to engage employees in CSR starts with your program’s inception. You’ll see much higher participation rates if you choose CSR programs that resonate with employees’ interests and values in the first place, rather than trying to interest team members in an established program that isn’t as appealing to them.

Start by considering your company culture and values. Which programs or causes align with them? Consider options like:

  • Matching gifts: In this program, your company matches employee donations to eligible nonprofits dollar for dollar. If an employee gives $50 to an animal shelter, for example, your company would donate an additional $50 on top of the employee’s original gift.
  • Volunteer grants: Also called Dollars for Doers, volunteer grants are monetary grants awarded to nonprofits after your employees volunteer with them for a certain number of hours. This way, the organization receives both volunteer time and a financial donation.
  • Team volunteering opportunities: If you value teamwork or giving back to the community as a group, you can offer company- or team-wide volunteering opportunities where employees can participate together.
  • Grantmaking programs: Awarding corporate grants to organizations typically doesn’t involve employees directly, but you can empower employees to get involved by suggesting grant recipients or joining grantmaking committees.

Ask for employee insight into any CSR programs you consider. Send out an anonymous survey, or ask groups of team members if they see themselves participating in these initiatives. Do they seem excited? Do they have ideas for ways to make your programs more appealing? Consider their advice as you make your final decisions. 

Give them the freedom to choose their favorite causes

The latest CSR statistics show that of employees involved in workplace giving initiatives, 97% want flexibility in giving to the causes they care about.

This means that your employees will be much more likely to engage with CSR initiatives if you leave their options open. As you set guidelines for each of your chosen programs, consider putting fewer restrictions on which cause areas and types of organizations are eligible to inspire participation.

For example, you might match employee donations to any registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, rather than limiting your matching gift program to a list of pre-approved organizations or only environmental nonprofits.

Keeping employees’ options open is also much easier than trying to uncover employees’ favorite causes and vet organizations yourself. If you’re concerned about the legitimacy of the organizations your employees choose, look for a CSR solution that handles vetting for you by listing thousands of verified, legitimate nonprofits for employees to give to.

Recognize employees who participate in CSR initiatives

Just like employees want to be recognized for their work achievements, they want to feel appreciated for their CSR participation (especially if it occurs outside of their work hours). Showing your appreciation is a natural way to boost engagement and improve relationships with team members. After all, 92% of employees are more likely to repeat actions if recognized for them.

Try recognizing CSR participation in different ways.

  • Personalized thank-you messages sent via email, handwritten cards, or eCards.
  • Employee leaderboards that highlight top donors and volunteers.
  • Small prizes for top participants, such as branded merchandise or an additional corporate donation to their favorite charity.
  • Digital badges they can earn and display after developing certain skills through volunteering.
  • Employee shoutouts in team-wide emails or meetings that highlight specific CSR achievements.

To appeal to the largest number of employees, recognize CSR participants both publicly and privately. Some employees will appreciate public recognition like a shoutout, while others will see a personal thank-you note as more heartfelt thanks.

Regularly update employees on your programs’ impact

Once employees start participating in CSR, they’ll want to know how their efforts are making a difference. Employees will be much more motivated to continue giving and volunteering when they can see the impact of their contributions firsthand. 

Keep employees regularly updated about the impact of your CSR programs by sharing results like:

  • Total funds donated by employees
  • Total amount of nonprofit donations matched by your company
  • Number of hours volunteered
  • Number of different organizations and causes you’ve supported
  • Number of team members who participated

Use CSR software to easily keep track of these metrics and generate detailed reports about your company’s impact.

Whenever you receive more information from a specific nonprofit about the impact of your company’s funds, share that with employees, too. Seeing reports like “2,000 community members served hot meals” will likely inspire more engagement than “$10,000 donated to the local soup kitchen.”

Build genuine relationships with charitable organizations

Finally, do your best to open the door for future partnerships to specific organizations that you notice many of your employees support.

When you develop a relationship with a nonprofit that employees love, you’ll not only be able to make a larger, long-term impact on their cause, but you’ll also boost employee engagement in CSR. Plus, it’s much easier to understand and demonstrate the real, tangible impact of your CSR efforts when a nonprofit can tell you exactly where your donations or grant money went.

Once you identify a nonprofit you want to work one-on-one with, you can partner with them to offer employees specialized opportunities like:

  • Company-wide or team volunteer days with the nonprofit
  • A custom matching gift program where you match gifts at a higher amount for this nonprofit only
  • Higher volunteer grant amounts for individually volunteering with the organization
  • Special skill-based volunteering opportunities

Speak directly to the leaders of these organizations to learn about their needs and how your company can help. See if they have ideas for ways your employees can work together with the nonprofit to further their mission and positively impact the community.

Employee engagement is essential to a successful CSR program that furthers your goals and makes a real difference to the organizations you support. As you implement these strategies, don’t forget to check in with employees periodically to see what they think. Take their feedback seriously, and strive to continuously improve your CSR initiatives.

June 28, 2024

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