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The holidays may be over now, but I still find myself reflecting on the “season of giving.”  People do fascinating things during the holidays that they wouldn’t normally do, expanding their generosity to positively affect those around them.  Interestingly, some organizations behave similarly.  Charitable giving is a common way for companies to give back to their communities and garner an even more favorable reputation from their followers.  (I’ll ignore the potential tax advantages for the purpose of this blog.)

Does charitable giving only have the ability to earn positive press for organizations?  Can charitable giving have any effect on a company’s employees?  University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics follow an interesting practice to involve employees in the giving season.  Early in the year, UWHC asks its Community Service Award nominees to serve on a committee to select one or more community organizations that would receive that year’s gift on behalf of staff.

“The entire committee took this task very seriously and dedicated significant thought to each decision,” says Thom Weiss, UWHC director of compensation and benefits, and committee facilitator. “The resulting donations will make a difference in the communities served by UW Health and those in which our patients and employees live and work.”

Allowing employees to direct the philanthropic efforts of the company is an excellent way to promote employee engagement, as UWHC has observed.  Employees develop a greater sense of   meaning, impact, and connection in their jobs when presented with such opportunities.

  • Meaning—When employees are able to decide how their employers give back to the community, employees value their work as something more than just a means of earning a paycheck; they are able to be engaged in the company’s mission and they feel like their opinions are important to the organization.
  • Impact—When a company listens to the collective voice of its employees and turns their feedback into results, employees feel a sense of impact on the organization, the surrounding community, or the entire global community.  By allowing employees to nominate organizations and causes to be beneficiaries of corporate giving, employees feel that their opinions and actions yield positive external effects and they become further motivated to perform well in their jobs.
  • Connection—When employees collectively nominate organizations to receive charitable gifts from their company, they feel a stronger connection to each other through the cause they are supporting.

We have noticed this even with our own organization.  At DecisionWise, employees are also encouraged to support organizations we are passionate about.  DecisionWise Assessment Office Manager, Katie Nelson, explained her excitement at the opportunity to nominate an organization: “I was so excited DecisionWise was willing to take recommendations for charities from their employees.  I am proud to work for a company that takes such a personal interest in its employees and community.”

As we reflect on the most recent “season of giving,” we might, perhaps, want to consider ways employee engagement can be improved while simultaneously helping those in need.

How have you seen employee-directed corporate giving impact employee engagement?  Join the discussion in the comments.

About Reese Haydon

Reese is the Marketing Specialist at DecisionWise. His professional experience comes from working with the Organizational Leadership and Strategy department at Brigham Young University, the editorial team at brass Media, Inc., and other teams in both for- and non-profit organizations.

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