When every dollar counts

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Workplace giving makes it simpler to give back


Cash flow is an issue for many organisations, but for the not for profit sector it's a daily struggle. Workplace giving – as pre-tax donations through payroll – could be the answer, with Australian Charities Fund (ACF) research indicating 85 per cent of Australian employees feel it's important to give back to the community through their workplace.

Employing 7.5 million people, Australia's small and medium businesses offer the most potential for workplace giving growth – especially as it's now so much easier to implement and manage. And there are valuable business and employee benefits as well.

"For charities, a regular source of low-cost income is essential," says Lisa Grinham, Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) CEO. "It lets them have certainty in delivering their programs and paying the phone bill. Traditional fundraising, through direct mail or cold calls, is costly and people who give through their pay tend to give for the long term."

Margaret Smith, Senior Adviser for ACF, says there's now an expectation businesses will invest back in their community. "That's one reason why we're seeing more workplace giving programs, but it also helps businesses retain good talent and demonstrate their 'social licence to operate'."

"The top 10 to 12 business programs in Australia already contribute about a quarter of all workplace giving funding," she says. "The Macquarie Foundation is an exceptional program – probably one of the best in Australia."

"Our business founders believed that companies should give back to society, and they wanted employees to be engaged in that giving," explains Lisa George, Global Head Macquarie Group Foundation. Since inception, the Foundation has given more than $A250 million.

And she says no business is too small to make a difference. Just a few dollars a month can help and, when combined with team activities or volunteering, it can have some important business benefits too. So what could a workplace giving program do for your business?

Attract and retain the next generation

"When I speak with younger graduates, they are very interested in the Foundation – it's so important for Generation Y to be part of a company that aligns with their values or understands the social issues they care about," says George.

Keep staff motivated and loyal

ACF research shows workplace giving correlates with higher levels of staff engagement. Community giving programs can encourage employees to become advocates for your business or brand and, by working together to contribute to something they believe in, it adds to their job satisfaction and loyalty.

Inviting charity partners in to speak to staff can give people a new perspective outside the business. "Hearing from the charities directly about how that money helped make a difference to people's lives is the most powerful thing," says George.

It's also a good idea to select staff champions to keep teams engaged with the program and make sure activities are relevant to local offices.

Boost collaboration and skills development

Team activities and volunteering can foster cross-businesses collaboration – and staff will learn valuable project management or leadership skills they can apply in their day-to-day roles.

"We link volunteering to our talent development program," says George. "This challenges our future leaders to test their skills in a different arena."

Laura O'Rourke, Macquarie Bank Division Director, says she has developed valuable experience as a board member for the Australian Stockbroking Foundation, including financial decision-making and risk management.

"Personally, I feel you can learn so much in the not for profit sector, such as the power of collaborating outside your team."

Getting workplace giving off the ground

Smith says setting up workplace giving needn't be difficult. "You can run workplace giving through any accounting or payroll software – it's similar to health funds or superannuation." If you only have a few charity partners, it's simple to then set them up as a vendor and make those payments.

But if you want to give staff more choice of charities, you may need a platform or outsourced provider to manage it for you. That's where CAF's Good2Give can help.

"We wanted to make it easier for people to give through their pay to a charity of their choosing, because it's the lowest cost funding a charity can receive," says Grinham.

Good2Give takes care of the back office administration so it's easy for payroll to manage. Employers can see reports of where their staff choose to give, so they can understand the social issues that connect them. The charity can also communicate directly back to the donor through the platform – even if their identity is protected.

"This is important, because if they can see how the money is being spent, they're more likely to keep the relationship going," Grinham explains.

Six factors for workplace giving success

  1. Start with a clear objective. Why do you want to do this and how will you measure its success? For example, if the key goal is employee engagement, how will you get them involved?
  2. Commit from the top. Staff want to know the senior management is personally involved, not just by matching donations, although that can supercharge your company's impact
  3. Identify charity partners that fit your business and focus. Smith gives the example of a financial services firm that supports financial literacy and education, giving staff a greater connection with their day-to-day work
  4. Bring the impact to life. The number one motivation for giving is seeing what the donation can achieve. Give staff the opportunity to learn more about a partner charity or donate their skills or time
  5. Embed it within your culture. Make it visible across the business, not just a payroll exercise. There's no incentive to join in if it's not part of who you are and how you operate, and that starts with leadership
  6. Make it more flexible. If your staff can support a charity of their choosing or pursue an interest they really care about, you'll get better engagement.
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