1.Involve your staff in the decision making process.
Inclusive co-design is one of the core values of our approach. While it’s quite an established approach in philanthropy, it's a fairly new concept when applied to employee engagement. To increase engagement in programs and help staff feel connected with the initiatives, we’ve worked alongside our colleagues to co-create a programmatic framework and have empowered staff to be at the center of decision making. We’ve done this in a number of ways: established an employee group, run several all-staff surveys to collect inputs, and involved our staff in nominating organisations and deciding upon how to distribute a portion of the Foundation’s grants.
2.Engage with the organizations your staff want to support.
In addition to offering a “standard” portfolio of organizations that our staff can get involved with through volunteering or fundraising contributions, we ask employees which organisations they want to work with, and we prioritize those staff-nominated organizations in our relationship and program building. This approach supports a real engagement, as very often your employees are already volunteering for local community organisations or supporting them financially. As a corporate foundation we can amplify those efforts, by matching staff donations, or by offering an incentive Dollars for Doers model to support volunteering. It also opens us up to organizations and programs we might not have connected with, and therefore can help increase the impact, reach, and reputation of the Foundation within local communities.
3.Behind the numbers there is always a story.
Results are important: how many people are volunteering, how much time do staff spend on pro-bono work, how much do they donate or fundraise, what causes are best supported? But numbers never tell the whole story, and it is equally important to look at the real impact and share the human stories back to staff to help build trust and continuous engagement.
4.Invest time into communication.
One can never underestimate how important it is to create an ongoing, well balanced communication strategy, so your staff understands what your values are and how they can get involved. The time you invest into communication will pay off!
5.Continuously ask for feedback from your staff and the NGOs they engage with.
Your manager is happy about the results and your annual report looks great. Well done! But if you go back and keep evaluating it, you can achieve so much more. Ask your staff: those who are engaged as well as those who never participate, to better understand the motivation and the impact you are creating. Open questions such as: why, when, what was the purpose, what did it bring to you, how to deliver the impact, etc? It can bring you fantastic insights and tips to continuously improve your pro-social programs.
6.Empower employees to become ambassadors.
Running a one-man show can be a very difficult and lonely affair. Identify colleagues who are already volunteering or engaged with local communities and care about the work your organization is doing in CSR or philanthropy. They are already motivated and the only thing you need to do is to empower them to get involved in your work.
7.Create a network of those who care about different causes.
Create a broader network. Depending on the company structure it can be a regional structure or team or department-based. Those “micro ambassadors” and enthusiasts will keep spreading the word about different opportunities and bring onboard more colleagues.
8.Get management onboard.
A blessing and endorsement from the executive team is always helpful. Talk to managers, show them the value of volunteering for their employees and their team cohesion. Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity for learning and growing, not to mention the prevention from burnout.
9.Find the right fit to the culture of your organisation.
Think of what is already recognised and part of the culture of your organisation and build on it. It can be part of your company culture that cares for the local communities, but also cares for the well being and personal development of the employees. Perhaps you ran some fundraising campaigns in the past, maybe you already support some charities with volunteering; whatever it is, build on that tradition and add more opportunities.
10.Don’t reinvent the wheel, learn from others.
When I started in my role, I had more than twenty 1:1 conversations with CSR and community engagement experts from other organisations. I contacted all my networks, used Linked-in and made notes of every single conversation. I learned so much from others, especially from their failures and unsuccessful stories, which many were very generous in sharing. Get inspired, but always ask yourself the question of what will work in your organization and how to adapt it, so your programs succeed.
And of course - don’t forget to give back! Share what you’ve learned with your networks so others can find ways to build positive cultures of giving back and community engagement within their organizations, too.