The benefits of workplace giving

21 June 2017

Bernard Curran, Consultant, Business Services |

As the end of financial year approaches, so does an opportunity to review your corporate giving strategy.

The philanthropic sentiment in Australia continues to gain momentum with the latest report from QUT’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies finding that corporate charitable giving is “thriving”.

Whilst it is not surprising that large businesses donate the most ($9b in 2016), it is great to see that SMEs donated $8.5b in the same period. The difference comes down to how they preferred to support charities – SMEs demonstrated a preference for donating money, while larger companies preferred partnerships and sponsorships.

While it is clear that many Australian businesses have active corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, workplace giving is a component that can add a tremendous amount of value to both the charity and your corporate culture.

At BDO we have seen a heart-warming uptake of our workplace giving program, which we have called “BGenerous”. Since implementing BGenerous, there has been an increase in employee giving (currently at almost 12%) and a rise in other charities actively supported by our staff.

And it is not just about financial giving – increasingly, we are seeing people contribute their time or skills, such as pro-bono advice, discounted project-based work, acting on boards, and so on. Many of these activities have been evident for many years, however, our more structured approach today means more partners and staff are actively participating.

Just last week we recognised a group of people at our annual staff awards ceremony for their volunteering efforts at Community Canteen. For four hours each month, these team members volunteer their time to prepare and serve meals – a total 500-plus hours of combined time donated annually.

Put simply, by having an open discussion around workplace giving we have people taking greater initiative in supporting the broader community. 

While our experiences may be formative, based on our recent observations we have seen that a strong workplace giving program needs the following:

  • Let your staff take the lead
  • Conduct a staff survey to identify the charitable areas of interest
  • Select a charity, or charities, that fits with staff preferences and corporate values, noting that fewer may be better to enable dedicated focus
  • Make it easy for employees to donate, with pre-tax benefits, through their payroll
  • Consider matching employee fundraising with a corporate contribution
  • Encourage other giving activities and non-financial options
  • Facilitate opportunities for staff to volunteer skills and time

And what should you look for to measure impact? Give to organisations with good governance, and where the donated funds demonstratively support the stated cause. Look for projects or programs with evaluation frameworks in place, projected outcomes, and progress reports.

Act for Kids is an example of an organisation which meets the criteria noted above. I have seen first-hand the wonderful work they are doing in very disadvantaged communities, supporting children and families with innovative solutions to community needs. Act for Kids’ work is often done without fanfare for the most needy and remote Queenslanders.

A wonderful example is the safe houses Act for Kids operates in towns such as Doomadgee, providing a safe and culturally appropriate home environment for children 0–17 years of age to remain within their communities and stay connected to family, culture and country, whilst their ongoing child protection intervention and placement needs are assessed.

According to Penny Parsons, Marketing and Communication Manager for Act for Kids, one of the preferred ways to help is to donate via workplace giving:

“A monthly donation is a commitment to provide meaningful, lasting change for abused and neglected children. Of course individuals can also make gifts directly to charities and are entitled to a deduction for gifts over $2 to registered and approved charities.

“Charitable gifts help Act for Kids by:

  • contributing to the cost of integrated therapy for children who have experienced abuse and neglect
  • providing specialist therapy tools and equipment
  • enabling Act for Kids to direct funds to expand their child and family support services where they are needed most.”

If you would like to explore corporate giving structures that provide the greatest benefit to your organisation (including tax concessions), ensure they have support from your organisation’s leadership, fit with strategy, and that you have a budget to work with.

Bernard Curran is the Chair of the Board of The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation and was recognised with the Queensland Community Foundation’s Emerging Philanthropist of the Year Award 2017.