Have you ever faced a major personal crisis, which distracted you from your work and caused you to lose focus? I’m convinced that we all have.
As part of his onboarding for a new staff job for a community nonprofit, Aaron attended a presentation about the organization's staff-giving initiative. Employees could designate a certain number of dollars per paycheck as a donation back to the nonprofit.
At 29, Aaron was struggling to establish financial equilibrium -- a stretch on his modest salary. After writing “$0.00” on his pledge card, Aaron's manager pulled him aside: “Son, you don’t understand the meaning of ‘voluntary.’” The message was clear: Give to the campaign, or you'll pay at work. While the program purported to be voluntary, in reality, participation was an expectation for every member of the staff.
Learning about Aaron’s experience got me thinking about the practice of employee-giving. My personal experience with it is limited. Over the years, I’ve served a number of nonprofits, and only once have I been asked--kindly and without pressure--to give back financially to the organization. But I have long felt uneasy about asking staff members to donate back to their place of employment.
I’ve seen how many nonprofit employees overextend themselves in their daily work. Too often their efforts go unnoticed, and the compensation they receive in return is underwhelming. Asking for--in some cases, demanding--more seems out of touch at best and carries the potential to stir up feelings of resentment among the staff as a whole.
In search of different perspectives on the matter, I invited colleagues to weigh in on Facebook. What had their experiences with employee-giving campaigns been like? I was curious to learn if they chose to participate or not, and for what reasons. Within an hour, twenty people weighed in. Clearly, I’d struck a nerve.
My friends’ comments ran the gamut. A few shared my skepticism of the practice. In other instances, the practice seemed to point toward prestige and appearance rather than philanthropy. A handful of respondents reported that their organizations boasted about “100% giving” to provide a positive data point in soliciting larger gifts from donors.
While maintaining a positive reputation is vital to any nonprofit’s success, pressuring employees to give financially in order to secure organizational kudos is troubling to say the least.
Are employee-giving campaigns always problematic? They don’t have to be. In fact, several colleagues emphasized the importance--and the joy--of donating to their places of work. One colleague said that being a monthly sustainer of several nonprofits, including the one where he currently works, allows him to demonstrate his deep trust and belief in their missions and programs.
Others noted special fundraising initiatives that inspired them to contribute financially. For example, one healthcare nonprofit focused its staff drive on raising money to make major renovations to a women’s services unit that had not been touched in decades. Many of the organization's employees had given birth in that very center and nurtured a deep appreciation for the unit’s nurses who cared for them in childbirth. Not surprisingly, these staff eagerly contributed to efforts to enhance the environment, not only for the benefit of future patients who will give birth there, but for the nurses who will tend to them.
When executed thoughtfully, the employee-giving model can provide a way for staff to play an even greater role in fulfilling the organization’s mission. Following are some ideas to keep in mind as you consider an internal giving campaign
Make the campaign truly voluntary. Employees should be encouraged to give, but they should never feel obligated or to do so. Avoid any potentially coercive tactics, such as publicly posting donation amounts or scheduling employee performance reviews shortly after the close of the campaign.
Design an employee-giving campaign that will excite and inspire staff to give while giving them ownership over the idea. Poll your team about the improvements and enhancements they would like to see in your organization. Designate a portion of dollars raised toward one of those priorities, or set an employee-identified priority as the designated campaign.
Have peers make the ask of each other. Once you’ve determined a giving priority or campaign, enlist staff members to serve as team leads for their specific departments. When the request comes from a close colleague, it will feel more personal and is likely to generate a positive sense of team spirit and collaboration.
Make giving back -- but to others -- a core value at work. Take steps to emphasize the importance of donating to other causes and organizations. For example, designate an afternoon every quarter when staff can take time off to give of their time at other organizations they support.
Celebrate and acknowledge every donation, no matter its size. Drive home with your staff that participation is valued at every level. In measuring success, focus less on the total amount raised and more on the number of staff members who gave.
When you approach your internal giving campaigns with the right spirit, and take these steps to ensure that your employee-giving campaign is invitational, inspiring, and inclusive, you and your staff may decide it’s one of the best initiatives of the year.
Katey Zeh is Crouch & Associates Academic Executive Director.
Back in the 2000s, when my national public television series, Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska, was in production, what appeared to be a juicy plum dropped into my lap. Together with the General Manager of University of North Carolina Public Television, I had the chance to meet with one of our United States senators.
A frightening near-tragedy served as a wake-up call and made one workaholic overachiever prioritize vacation time. In this original blog for Crouch and Associates, performance consultant Scott Koskoski shows why vacations matter and urges you to pack your bags and head for the beach!
In 1988, the feminist poet and activist Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation.” Thirty years later, Lorde’s framing of self-care is instructive for those of us working in the nonprofit sector. If we are to continue the long work of healing the world, we must first do the work of healing ourselves.
As 34 senior executives from European nonprofits took seats at a large round table at Rockefeller Center in New York City recently for an intensive fundraising course, we scanned the room trying to identify our opening speaker.
Two winters ago, Wilfredo Rosario and his wife Jazmin were watching the Weather Channel as an ice storm barreled down on their Clayton, North Carolina home. One of the TV tips was to pull plastic bags over your vehicle's side-view mirrors so that when the storm passed, you could de-ice by simply removing the bags.
I love the month of April, daylight savings time, and the loud chirping of birds singing in spring. And I love the Masters Tournament. No gathering of top performers is more impressive than those who congregate in Augusta, Georgia in early April to participate in every golfer’s dream week.
I have the privilege of working with nonprofit leaders around the country and lately have noticed a common theme. They each embrace a version of this belief: The work is too important for me to slow down. This high-minded ideal is inspiring and can lead to remarkable work, but it can also lead to burnout.
The other day when my 20-year-old son and I sat down to discuss his short- and long-term goals, I pulled out the proper tools -- paper and pen. He shot me a withering look and whipped out his Smartphone.
I must admit to being startled last December as I was scanning Ralph Nader's list of his 11 "favorite, frugal, effective" charities in the Huffington Post. Nader is, of course, the famous crusading consumer rights advocate whom many consider ultra-liberal, not to mention secular.
On a donor call early in my career, the sheer power of peer-to-peer fundraising was driven home to me. It's a lesson I've never forgotten.
If you think no one will remember your words next week, let alone next year, think again. In fact, the shelf life of everything you do -- what you say and write and how you conduct yourself personally and professionally -- is much longer than you may realize. I was recently reminded just how long: Try forty years.
When Riane Eisler published The Power of Partnership in 2003, she described a new way of approaching competition in business, relationships,and society that stood in opposition to what she called the “domination model.”
I was inching my grocery cart forward in line at Trader Joe's the other day, nonchalantly checking out my smart phone when I glanced up and caught the cashier's eyes locked on mine. Not a word was uttered but his cold stare conveyed his thoughts.
I recently attended a transformative conference -- Wisdom 2.0 conference -- and one of my main takeaways was about the importance of being present--not distracted--when you're with people who are important to you.
By definition, a celebration is the act of marking one’s pleasure at an important event or occasion. Most often, we think of celebrations for major milestones like birthdays, weddings, promotions or retirements. Don’t get me wrong, these are noteworthy and momentous, but why stop there?
This past weekend, I was able to spend a few glorious days in the highlands of North Carolina – the area around Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock and Boone. The address of the Airbnb I used is a small town called Seven Devils. While the entire weekend was a wonderful getaway...
Leadership at work isn't reserved for high positions alone. It's most effective in the emotionally intelligent, no matter their title.
True story. Earlier in my fundraising career, I was working in Virginia and putting together a trip to Boston to visit some donors and prospects we had there. I still remember one particular telephone conversation like it was yesterday: I want you to read it and think of three things I did wrong.