Thoughts on Giving Circles in the Workplace

The median contribution made by individuals in workplace giving campaigns declined by 10 percent from 2016 to 2018, according to a report from Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose. This coincides, says the Chronicle of Philanthropy, with an increase in the philanthropic choices for employees – from matching contributions to paid time off and new online giving platforms that pop up every day.

We’ve seen another trend from our work with corporations at the Community Foundation of New Jersey. It’s the introduction of giving circles – a time-tested, even ancient philanthropic technique – which have become increasingly popular in the workplace. We recently explained in Commerce Magazine that giving circles are a quintessential “employee engagement” with numerous added benefits for employees and employers alike.

Participating employees have the opportunity to:

  • learn about local challenges in a deeper, more meaningful way,
  • become closer to the communities and causes about which they care,
  • expand their professional and personal networks,
  • refine skills and develop new ones through research and decision-making processes,
  • gain an appreciation for the role of their employer in solving problems,
  • come into the fold of effective philanthropy (which is especially valuable for those who might not have the time or resources to give on their own), and
  • live out their company’s inherent trust in them to make the best decisions around philanthropic support.

The benefits to employers are equally abundant. An effective employee giving circle can:

  • provide a competitive advantage and bring a company in line with or ahead of philanthropic trends,
  • engage employees how they want to be engaged – on issues about which they care and through a process whereby they can actually make a difference,
  • boost employees’ confidence, morale, and talent by reinforcing the company’s trust in them,
  • be an effective recruitment tool, especially for the millennial generation, of which 64 percent prioritize a potential employer’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work,
  • be attractive to consumers, 55 percent of whom are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive impact,
  • augment the work of a company’s foundation, which typically provides a good jumping-off point for community relationships and supporting data, and
  • come at a very low cost to the company, especially when partnering with an experienced manager of giving circles like the Community Foundation of New Jersey.

We’re host to four giving circles at the Community Foundation and look forward to this number growing.