The holiday season is about giving on many levels. Sharing joy and giving gifts is part of what brings the spirit to life. Charitable giving is also in the spotlight, extending gift-giving to those who need it most. As we are about to enter the second holiday season of a pandemic, the incentive to give might be even stronger this year.
Here are some creative ways your workplace can give to charitable organizations and the people they serve this holiday and throughout the year. Giving initiatives and socially conscious gifting can become a tradition for your team and deliver feel-good sparkle all year-round.
1. Change Up Your Grab Bag
Grab bag gift exchanges are an office party staple. This year, in lieu of an exchange among colleagues, think about choosing a charitable organization and helping to fulfill a holiday wishlist. There are numerous nonprofit organizations that post ways you can support their efforts. Most collect and distribute donations year-round, with an extra push at the holidays.
There is more than one way to incorporate charitable giving into your grab bag:
- Purchase a toy or another item from a wish list
- Grant a wish
- Donate a dollar amount
- Engage in a team volunteer event
- Initiate a fundraising effort
This year, instead of drawing a colleague's name, each individual might choose a star from a giving tree or select an item from a wishlist to provide. If your team works in person, you can meet to deliver the goods and gifts you've collected. If it's a remote team, most organizations are set up to receive online donations.
Most charitable organizations have adapted to the times we live in. You can donate a physical gift or check, or you can make it virtually or via social media. Toys for Tots, for example, still welcomes the traditional donations of new, unwrapped toys but now also accepts PayPal and cryptocurrency.
2. Plan a Team Volunteer Event
Since the pandemic arrived, in-person volunteering has taken a hit. According to the annual report of the Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), between 2018 and 2020, the volunteer participation rate declined 13 percent. However, this prompted an increase in the number of companies that offered virtual volunteering options: from 38 percent in 2018 to 87 percent in 2020.
Whether your team is comfortable participating in a live-action volunteer event or prefers a remote opportunity, there are ways to get engaged this holiday or at any time throughout the year.
When you've identified a charitable organization that fits your company's mission, you can find out how your team can best contribute to that group and help the people they serve.
Opportunities may include working inside that organization to help organize and distribute holiday donations, planning and working a holiday party for the population the organization serves or doing something year-round, like providing one-on-one tutoring or working on a pro bono project, like marketing or grantmaking, that helps the charity advance its mission and grow more donors.
You can ask the company to make matching gifts to each organization your team supports.
3. Engage the Team in Choosing a Charity
If you are going to donate as a team, it's important to engage everyone in deciding where the donation will go. Involving the group in selecting the nonprofit organization or public charity ensures they'll be more invested and engaged in the activity, which, in turn, makes for a stronger initiative – and makes team members feel good.
In fact, a Deloitte survey found that 37 percent of professionals participated in workplace giving programs in 2020 and were more motivated when the causes were ones they cared about. More professionals, especially younger workers, expect their company to have a social conscience. And they like to be involved.
In today's multi-generational workplace, you'll find plenty of different ideas about giving. The 75 million Millennials and more than 60 million members of Generation Z comprise the next generation of donors and have their own ideas about giving. Donation-based crowdfunding is a way for social media-savvy professionals to engage in charitable giving and directly impact causes they care about in real-time.
Getting everyone's input is an important first step.
Read More: Types of Charity
4. Team Giving Events and Fundraising
If you have a small team or are a remote group, you may not be able to have a planning committee dedicated to your event. Fortunately, there are plenty of ready-made volunteering and charitable giving opportunities that you can grab and go with.
- Dress for Success: This local nonprofit helps women gain economic independence through employment resources and wraparound support services. You can help by having a clothing drive for your local Dress for Success partner organization.
- No Kid Hungry Campaign: There are many ways to give to this charity that tackles child hunger. Consider a Friendsgiving campaign in the fall to raise awareness and funds, or plan a fundraiser any time of year.
- Habitat for Humanity: Find your local branch of Habitat and find out what initiative and projects you can help support in the coming year. Whether it's a building event or a fundraising opportunity, this is a way to give locally.
- One Simple Wish: Create a cobranded Giving Page within your company to raise funds for children in foster care due to abuse, neglect and trauma.
- Crowdfunding and Social Media: It's easy to identify a cause your team wants to support and set up an internal collection site for the team. This is a convenient and uncomplicated way to give, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that you do your research first.
- Amazon Smile Charity Lists: Identify a charity your team will donate to throughout the year and generate donations through any purchases individuals make through Amazon.
These are just a few of the ways your team can jump in and get started. Organizations like these will welcome your support any time of year. If you are looking for a holiday giving opportunity, you'll find special promotions you can tap into.
Read More: How to Volunteer to Feed the Homeless
5. Matching Gifts Inspire Giving
Another choice for your grab bag or annual giving is to let individuals make charitable donations to the organization of their choice.
You can ask the company to make matching gifts to each organization your team supports. All organizational and employee donations can count toward an overall team total that you can celebrate at your holiday gathering, in person or virtually.
This obviously boosts the total funds raised, but charitable giving is tax-deductible, as well. And studies show volunteerism and employee engagement increase employee retention, too.
Whether you are looking for one organization or numerous for your workplace giving, here are some ideas for choosing a charitable cause.
6. Choose a Charitable Organization
If you need help choosing where to give, you can look locally, nationally or globally. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers the Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool, where you can look up a U.S.-based charity's tax-exempt status.
Other factors that may help your decision include:
- What percentage of donations are spent on administrative costs?
- Is the organization transparent about activities and finances?
- Is there an annual report you can read about the mission and outcomes?
- How updated and informative is the website?
The Society for Nonprofits has a guide to help organizations prove their trustworthiness to donors. You can use this guide to help you size up how well the charitable organizations you are considering meet that mark.
For example, the One Simple Wish foundation has a website that clearly outlines its mission, as well as pages that are very transparent about its impact and financials. They also have an advisory council that interested parties can learn more about. How to donate and who receives your donation are easily visible on their homepage.
When checking out organizations, look for these clear signs that your charitable contributions are being used effectively by an organization that has clear outcomes. If the charity is a smaller, local organization, they may not have a slick website, but you should be able to find most of the same information fairly easily.
- Fidelity Charitable: 2021 Future of Philanthropy
- The NonProfit Times: Millennials Value Everyday Social Good Above Cash Donations
- Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP): Giving In Numbers 2021 Edition
- Microsoft: Corporate Social Responsibility
- Pew Research Center: Which Americcans Donate to Crowdfunding Platforms?
- Society for Nonprofits: How Can You Boost Donors' Trust in Your Organization
- America's Charities: Facts & Statistics on Workplace Giving, Matching Gifts and Volunteer Programs
- Deloitte [Press Release]: More US Professionals Donate to Hunger, Homelessness, Education, and Social and Racial Equity Causes Through the Workplace, Says New Deloitte Survey
- Mayo Clinic: How Sharing Kindness Can Make You Healthier and Happier
- Cleveland Clinic: Why Giving Is Good for You
- Gunn-Chamberlain, CPA: Business Meals and Entertainment Expenses 2021
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Charitable Contribution Deductions
- IRS: Publication 535 - Publication 535 (2020), Business Expenses
- IRS: Tax Exempt Organization Search
- IRS: Expanded Tax Benefits Help Individuals and Businesses Give to Charity in 2021
- America's Charities: The Business Case for Employee Volunteer & Skills Giving Programs
- Habitat for Humanity
- Dress for Success
- One Simple Wish
- No Kid Hungry Campaign
- Federal Trade Commission: Donating Through Crowdfunding and Social Media
Melissa is a writer and editor from Chicago, with a background in small business ownership. After selling her business, she moved into marketing for nonprofits and now manages volunteers at a large medical association. She is a writing and editing contractor and contributed to dozens of blogs and websites.