How Crowdfunding Can Help Cultivate True Employee Engagement

September 26, 2018 Maria Carolina Simon

Forward-thinking companies understand that both their employees’ purpose and their community’s social good needs play into their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Creating and running a successful CSR program these days is no longer a “nice to have,” it is the new expectation. If you are not convinced yet, take a look at the open letter that Blackrock’s Chairman, Larry Fink sent to CEOs last year.

Employees, potential talent and other stakeholders expect that the companies they work for offer them opportunities to play a role in their social impact programs. Employees want to know that their employer is committed to social good. Customers want to support brands that show a strong stance towards social good. These expectations are backed by research that shows that when your employees have sense of shared value within their company, it will positively affect the overall bottom line.

Some of this research is highlighted in Blackbaud’s CSR 2020: Experts Look Ahead eBook, which includes insights from a number of CSR thought leaders. In the chapter titled “Elevating Employee Voice with Social Fundraising” Jerry Needel starts by reminding us that we live in a world of unlimited, on-demand choices: “The digital transformation has changed our world: We have unlimited on-demand choices for almost every service, product, and experience, and we can access endless possibilities our mobile devices 24/7.” This trend is reflected on employee expectations as they choose how to give, when to give and which tool to use.

Traditionally, corporate philanthropy programs have taken a top down approach that limits cause areas and the ways in which employees can get involved. Those programs no longer feel engaging for employees who want their voices heard, their time valued and the ability to support the specific causes they care about. Employees want tools that offer them choice and that help them seamlessly share their cause with the world.

Crowdfunding, which has been defined by Merriam Webster as “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet” is the fastest growing form of online giving. The following data points confirm this trend:

As crowdfunding grows in popularity, your employees are looking for opportunities to get involved, perhaps by even creating their own fundraising pages. Corporations can benefit from a crowdfunding strategy in multiple ways, some of the key reasons include:

  • Crowdfunding is easy to implement: Cloud-based technologies don’t require heavy lifting from your IT department, so your program can be up and running in just a few days.
  • Crowdfunding is authentic: There is a lot of skepticism around CSR and cause marketing, but crowdfunding gives your stakeholders the opportunity to tell their own stories.
  • Crowdfunding is scalable: Crowdfunding is a great way to amplify the reach of your social good dollars.
  • Crowdfunding helps you understand what your employees care about

Some of the most common crowdfunding strategies for corporations fall under one of the following categories:

  • Project-Based Fundraising: Project based fundraising is typically a short-term initiative tied to a specific project or idea. Examples of project-based fundraising include:
    • Casual Fridays
    • Giving Days
    • Virtual Food Banks
    • Affinity Groups
  • Fitness and Well-being Employee Fundraising: This type of fundraising gives employees the opportunity to stay active and bind with their teammates in a healthy way.
    • Team-based Fitness Events (i.e.: 5K)
    • Virtual Events
    • Third Party Events that your employees want to support (i.e.: A running team at a marathon)
  • Disaster Relief Crowdfunding: Provides your employees with the tools they need to fundraise in the aftermath of a disaster.

In a recent article titled “Four Ways to Engage your Employees with Crowdfunding Technology,” I shared some additional ideas on how to launch a variety of crowdfunding initiatives, including supporting affinity groups and running virtual food banks. There has never been a more important time to evaluate your corporate social responsibility programs. If you are not offering employees a way to get involved with social good, you might be missing a crucial way to engage employees, share the stories of your impact and align your strategy with stakeholder expectations.

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