Empower Employees Through Charitable Giving

Everyone’s shopping for the holidays, and corporations are no different. ’Tis the season of corporate gift giving to employees. Many of my friends have received chocolate, baked goods, gift cards and other items that are nice tokens of thanks -- but, to me, they are also, well, predictable and somewhat generic. Instead of giving employees the usual, I like the idea of charitable giving for the holidays because it makes a gift more personal and impactful. Charitable gifts or actions go beyond the gift giver and the recipient. 

Applying the rule of six degrees of separation, every employee has a connection to some cause or charity. Maybe a loved one was ill and a nonprofit organization provided support and care. Perhaps someone found a new best friend at a local animal shelter. Maybe a friend was afflicted by a natural disaster and needed assistance from a rescue and recover group. And, I talk with people all the time who want to volunteer but have trouble finding time.

With these things in mind, I suggest that companies try a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)-inspired approach to gift giving:

  • Give employees Network for Good cards so they can donate to the charity of their choice — an easy and effective way for staff to get involved and feel good.

  • Allow employees to volunteer at least one day a year at a nonprofit that has personal meaning to them. The gift of time — especially to help make a difference — is very valuable.

  • Have a traditional holiday party (we do all need to have fun) but also have a volunteer party where staff visits a shelter or food bank to chip in for a good cause. 

  • Give gifts without guilt: presents that also support a charity. Many nonprofits have an online shop where proceeds help fund a mission (Product (RED), Nature Conservancy). The GreaterGood Network offers a collection of sites selling merchandise that directly help people, animals, and causes in need. 

  • Instead of having staff participate in the dreaded Yankee Swap, host a company toy drive and deliver the gifts as a group to the charity of choice. When employees see at-risk children first-hand, the gesture has a more powerful affect.

Charitable giving and volunteering are also good for the company bottom line. Forbes reported that “CSR is a way for companies to benefit themselves while also benefiting society.” CSR activities raise employee morale. According to a Network for Business Sustainability article, “employees who are satisfied with the organization’s commitment to social and environmental responsibilities demonstrate more commitment, engagement and productivity.”

So, boss, forget the chocolates this year (unless they are fair trade certified, with a portion of the proceeds aiding source farmers), and instead empower employees with something more meaningful.

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