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Workplace giving vs. corporate philanthropy: key differences

Workplace giving and corporate philanthropy are two key concepts concerning nonprofit-business partnerships and overall corporate social responsibility (CSR). While each term describes a category of funding that can help boost nonprofit organizations’ revenue while simultaneously providing benefits to supplying companies, the two are not necessarily interchangeable phrases.

In order to maximize your nonprofit’s corporate fundraising efforts, it’s important to understand each initiative in its own right and how it can aid your team in driving forward your mission.

Luckily, that’s exactly what this resource is here for! We’ll explore the basic differences between corporate philanthropy and workplace giving and provide your organization with key insights on how to incorporate these ideas into your own fundraising strategy. By the end of this brief guide, you should have a solid understanding of the two topics as we answer the following questions:

  • What is corporate philanthropy?
  • What is workplace giving?
  • How does workplace giving differ from general corporate philanthropy?
  • How can organizations generate revenue through these programs?

Are you ready to compare and contrast corporate and workplace giving initiatives? First, you’ll need to start with a foundation of knowledge regarding each concept on its own.

Let’s dive in!

What is corporate philanthropy?

In its most general sense, corporate philanthropy is defined by the Council on Foundations as “the investments and activities a company voluntarily undertakes to responsibly manage and account for its impact on society.” While the idea can incorporate a number of different undertakings, the most common by far include corporate donations to nonprofit causes

But what nonprofit donations look like can also vary.

For example, one company might decide to donate a portion of its proceeds over a set period of time to a nonprofit organization in its community. Another may choose to contribute a one-time grant to a charity they feel aligns with their values as a business.

Perhaps another still opts to donate its own goods and services to an organization that needs them⁠—whether that’s food, supplies, technology, legal services, or anything else. Finally, other companies may decide to conduct the bulk of their philanthropic efforts through workplace giving programs⁠—which brings us to our next question.

What is workplace giving?

Workplace giving (also known as employee giving) is a more narrow subcategory of overall corporate philanthropy. What essentially classifies an initiative as “workplace giving” rather than general corporate philanthropy, however, is the role that individual employees play in their companies’ giving efforts.

A few of the most common types of workplace giving programs include matching gifts and volunteer grants, though the category also encompasses efforts such as annual fundraising campaigns, employee giving stipends, and more. In all of these giving initiatives, corporate funding is devoted to nonprofit causes as a direct result of individual employees’ actions.

Here’s an example:

Imagine that Company A enacts a particularly generous corporate matching gift program. One employee of the company⁠—let’s call her Brenda⁠—happens to be a dedicated supporter of your organization. When Brenda makes a $2,000 donation to your most recent fundraising campaign, she also requests a donation match from Company A, bringing the total value of her gift to more than $4,000 for your cause.

Although the donation match did not come from Brenda’s own wallet, your organization would not have received the additional $2,000 in support if it hadn’t been for her actions⁠—first in making her initial donation and then in completing the match submission process with her employer. And that’s what essentially classifies the $2,000 corporate donation as an act of workplace giving rather than generalized corporate philanthropy.

Workplace giving programs (like all corporate philanthropy efforts) can offer nonprofits significant benefits when individual supporters get involved.

And they’re pretty popular, too⁠—currently offered by tens of thousands of businesses. Not to mention, corporate giving research states that workplace giving programs are a continually growing offering by businesses of all shapes, sizes, and sectors. In fact, more than 39% of companies plan on expanding their workplace giving programs in the next two years⁠—resulting in more corporate dollars available to organizations like yours.

How does workplace giving differ from general corporate philanthropy?

Workplace giving and corporate philanthropy go hand in hand⁠, but they’re not entirely the same. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.” The same idea can be applied to workplace giving and workplace philanthropy!

In other words ⁠— All workplace giving is corporate philanthropy, but not all corporate philanthropy is workplace giving.

But what exactly does this mean for your organization? These two points are what really separate workplace giving from typical corporate philanthropy efforts, and they’re typically positive differentiators for nonprofits like yours:

1. Companies give to a wide array of organizations.

There are more than 1.6 million nonprofit organizations in the United States alone. Yet when a corporate CEO decides to invest in corporate philanthropy, they might only support one or two key causes⁠—whether that’s a local mission, an international relief team or any other charitable organization.

And, more than likely, it’s a cause that’s meaningful to whoever is in charge of making giving decisions. But those one or two causes don’t necessarily reflect the passions of the overall company and its wide expanse of employees.

Luckily, with workplace giving initiatives, it’s different. Companies will give to hundreds or thousands of organizations, depending on the causes that are supported by their own team members. When this occurs, any one organization is more likely to receive aid, thanks to the broader disbursement of funds.

2. Giving is initiated by employees, meaning your donors can take action.

In more generalized corporate philanthropy efforts, an individual employee within the company is not likely to have much (if any) say in their employer’s distribution of philanthropic donation funding. But the table is turned when it comes to workplace giving, where the nonprofit recipients and how much is contributed are each dictated by direct acts of singular employees.

As a result, this type of philanthropy provides your organization’s donors with direct actions they can take to help drive funding from their employer to your cause.

How can organizations generate revenue through these programs?

Both general corporate philanthropy and workplace giving initiatives have the potential to bring additional fundraising revenue to organizations like yours. In order to increase corporate funding through workplace giving in particular, it’s important that you equip your donors with the tools that they need to complete their end of the process.

For example, corporate giving software (such as a comprehensive database of information on thousands of companies’ workplace giving programs, follow-up email automation tools, etc.) can provide donors with a simple way to locate the information they need.

Once they’ve determined that they qualify to participate in their employer’s workplace giving programs, all they need is a little extra motivation and guidance to complete the process and secure additional funding on your behalf. Donors can begin collecting available matching gifts, volunteers can requests volunteer grants, and all sorts of other supporters can direct corporate and individual dollars toward your cause⁠—all thanks to workplace giving and corporate philanthropy.

Strategic philanthropy enables nonprofits to better connect with their funders and their communities⁠—including individual donors, corporate partners, mission beneficiaries, and more. Specifically, workplace giving facilitates mutually beneficial relationships between organizations, their supporters, and employers as real people (your donors) power corporate philanthropy efforts.

Ultimately, it’s not a question of “which type of funding is better,” but more along the lines of “how can our team utilize each kind of initiative to better engage our audiences and maximize funding for our cause?” And in each case, equipping your organization with optimal tips, tricks, and tools is essential for significant and ongoing success.

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of matching gift tools to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Adam created Double the Donation in order to help nonprofits increase their annual revenue through corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

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