Apple matches charitable donations up to $10,000

Gift matching increasingly prevalent among employers: CEO
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/10/2011

In September, Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, announced an employee program where the company will match personal charitable donations of up to US$10,000 annually. Money donated to any non-profit organization will be matched dollar-for-dollar, Cook said in an email to staff.

“We are all really inspired by the generosity of our co-workers who give back to the community and this program is going to help that individual giving go even further,” he said.

Gift matching is usually a part of an organization’s workplace giving program and is becoming increasingly prevalent, not only among larger companies but in mid-size and smaller firms as well, said Bryan de Lottinville, CEO of Benevity Social Ventures in Calgary.

“There’s a lot of data that suggests companies of all shapes and sizes either are or should be more interested than ever in workplace giving,” he said. “The matching is a key piece because it’s basically the company putting its money where its mouth is to incent the targeted behaviour.”

While a typical program sees employers matching donations on a percentage basis up to a certain amount, organizations may also match on a case-by-case basis, said Lara Ryan, owner of Lara Ryan Consulting in Halifax.

“If there’s a fundraiser going on or an employee is participating in a marathon or race and they commit to raising this much money, the employer would match it,” she said. “Sometimes, it would be a more organized approach, like the United Way or something like that — a bigger campaign.”

Monsanto matches donations

At Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology company in Calgary, employees are eligible for 100 per cent gift matching to the registered charity of their choice up to $500 per year, said Trish Jordan, director of public affairs at the 300-employee organization.

“(Employees give to) things like multiple sclerosis, cancer, some schools, agencies that work with the poor and hungry… it really does cover the gamut,” said Jordan. “As long as it’s a charitable organization, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the health sector, arts, food or whatever, we will support it.”

Offering a matching program can help employers with engagement and retention in showing they value employees and the contributions they make to the community, said Ryan.

“The biggest reason why employers do this... is because they want their employees to feel good about their employer and they want (employees) to feel supported by them,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t get thanked enough for the work we do and this is kind of a way for employers to say, ‘Thank you.’”

Gift matching also plays a big part in recruiting talent — especially the younger generations. Millennials are more conscious of social responsibility and have an expectation around it, said de Lottinville.

“It used to be good enough to give to the United Way and you felt like you ticked a box, you’ve done some good,” he said. “But younger people want a greater relationship with causes… and they have an expectation of interaction, choice and empowerment.”

Monsanto benefits from its matching program in many ways — including retention, recognition and creating a great place to work — but the program also helps boost its corporate social responsibility portfolio, said Jordan.

“Making these contributions, that may or may not have any connection whatsoever to your business, can show people corporations do good in the community,” she said. “It helps raise awareness and the profile of Monsanto as a business.”

Talk to employees to find out what interests them

When developing a donation matching program, employers should first talk to employees — through surveys, discussions or lunch-and-learn sessions — to find out what they are interested in, said Ryan.

“Oftentimes, employees are involved in a lot already so it’s nice to see what people are doing and if it fits with the organization,” she said. “If you survey employees and find out 50 per cent who volunteer (do so) for Red Cross, maybe that’s a great organization for you as a company to hang your hat on.”

But some organizations may find it more beneficial to open the floor completely to employees without any restrictions on their charity — although many exclude political and religious charities, said de Lottinville.

“The broader the choice of what the company is matching to, the more likely employees will participate,” he said.

Next, employers need to determine what percentage of the donation they will match — they should strive for 100 per cent — and maximum and minimum amounts, said de Lottinville. While maximum amounts vary based on an organization’s budget and revenue, employers should try not to have a minimum amount, he said.

“There’s a broad economic demographic in many companies and it may be 10 bucks to me is a significant investment but I want to give back too… so we recommend people try to remove (a minimum),” he said.

All the parameters of the strategy should be included in a written policy along with simple guidelines for employees on how to use the program, said Ryan.

Employers should have a regular communication vehicle for the program, whether through the intranet, posters or a brag board, to showcase the accomplishments, she said.

“It’s about creating some sort of consistency so people are familiar with the programs that are available… it helps make people aware internally that you are externally involved,” said Ryan. “It’s a bit of putting your thinking cap on and being creative in how you encourage this kind of behaviour — and it works best when it’s really authentic.”

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