Does your corporate philanthropy program engage your community AND your employees? In a recent Peak Grantmaking webinar, our client, UWorld, shared how they built a philanthropy program that connects their corporate grantmaking with employee giving and volunteering opportunities.
UWorld is an industry leader in online learning tools for exam preparation. They launched their UWorld Cares program to drive success in education by investing in their community. Jackie Johnson, who oversees the initiative, shared three best practices for building an engaging and impactful program:
Find ways to engage your employees with your grant recipients
Whether you already offer corporate grants or are looking to launch a comprehensive program like UWorld’s, making connections between your employees and your grant recipients is a powerful way to amplify the impact of your efforts.
Jackie explained: “It was important to us to not only grant dollars to organizations but to also provide manpower and volunteers in a way that would be beneficial to them… A lot of our employees were engaged in the grant review cycle as well, so it was a chance for them to get to know the [grant recipient] organizations a bit better. The more that you are engaged with these organizations, the deeper the relationship.”
UWorld connected their employees to their grant recipients first through volunteering. When organizations applied for a UWorld grant, they were asked how they could utilize volunteers and it became one of the grant review criteria. By connecting with grant recipients, UWorld employees were able to witness, firsthand, the impact of the dollars in their community, which resulted in deeper impact and broader employee participation. These volunteer activities also offered team-building experiences to help UWorld create a more connected workforce committed to their community and their organization.
Give employees a wide range of giving and volunteering opportunities
While UWorld fosters connection between their employees and their grant recipients, they also quickly saw the value of allowing employees freedom in choosing where to give and volunteer.
UWorld’s early philanthropy approach was to be responsive to whatever needs arose in the community. When launching their comprehensive philanthropy program, UWorld Cares, which aligns corporate grants with employee giving and volunteering and provides paid volunteer time and company matching, leadership initially wanted to be “laser focused in driving change”; including focusing their employee giving programs in the areas they defined. However, they soon shifted their approach.
“The benefit for employees to have paid volunteer time and matching gifts is to allow them to identify what is important to them and to be able to make an impact that was meaningful to them," Jackie said. "And as the program has gone on, we have seen that what we would have envisioned our employees being passionate about is not as much of what has come in. So we have had a lot more participation by removing restrictions and allowing people to give in a way that makes sense for them. ”
Communicate and educate
“Because this may be a new concept to some employees, it’s really about repetition and communication... letting people know that they have these benefits and what matching gifts really means,” Jackie explained.
The success of any program is dependent on having active participation. Continual communication and education is critical to foster employee engagement. UWorld understood this and utilized their intranet and Bright Funds portal to share helpful and motivational documents and articles, as well as stories of how other employees were getting involved. They ensured that employees saw that these programs were supported by top leadership and also shared information in town halls, through managers, and in quarterly meetings.
UWorld also created opportunities for participants and recipients to come together and share their experiences and insight into what worked. This open communication allowed program leaders to learn from those that participated in the program, make improvements, and build excitement among employees to increase participation.