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5 steps for launching a successful annual giving campaign

July 01, 2023
This image shows two businesswomen sitting at a table discussing annual giving campaigns.

One of the biggest challenges corporations face when implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programming is employee participation. Whether it’s lack of program knowledge, inability to give to causes they align with, or time and monetary restraints, there are dozens of reasons your employees aren’t getting involved.

While there are several ways to engage employees in workplace giving, annual giving programs provide predictable and low-stakes opportunities for employees to be involved. These programs are proven to support both your community and your corporation, but it’s your responsibility to implement and execute them effectively.

In this guide, we’ll outline five steps for launching a successful annual giving campaign at your organization, making it easier for you to execute a successful initiative. Let’s get started!

1. Determine your approach

When it comes to annual giving programs, the possibilities are endless! As a CSR leader, there is no shortage of days, causes, or organizations to align your program with. Although there are dozens of ways to position your campaign, most programs fall within three categories; community-driven, point-in-time, or United Way.

To help you implement a campaign that best aligns with your business and its needs, let’s explore each of these programs.


Aligning annual giving campaigns with local causes is a great way to create a positive impact on the communities where your corporation operates. These programs are most effective when your company understands the specific needs of the community and can tailor programming to address them effectively and sustainably. You can support the same cause each year or select new causes affecting your communities.


When you align your annual giving campaign with national holidays or awareness months like Juneteenth, Pride Month, or Hispanic Heritage Month, you demonstrate to employees that your company is committed to building a culture centered on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). Additionally, some of your employees may have a personal interest in some of these specific holidays or awareness months, so you’ll be showing them that you care about their interests.

You can choose to rally your workforce around the same holiday each year or select a new point-in-time every year.

United Way

United Way campaigns are annual workplace giving programs that bring together employees, businesses, and community organizations to support local nonprofit organizations and address pressing social issues. These campaigns are a great option for businesses just getting started with annual giving because they are hosted and managed by United Way, reducing the administrative work businesses need to put in for a successful campaign. Your company’s donations will support organizations that are carefully vetted to ensure they are effectively addressing community needs. 

2. Select a program

Once you’ve identified a campaign type, it’s time to select a program format. Whether you want to anchor your efforts around employee giving or volunteering, there are many ways to engage your workforce and incentivize participation.

Here are three common programs you can implement: 

  • Matching gifts. Matching programs offer a powerful opportunity to maximize impact and are proven to boost participation by doubling the impact of your employees’ donations. After all, 84% of donors say they’re more likely to give if a match is offered, and one in three donors indicate they’d give a larger gift if matching is applied to their donation.
  • Charitable spending accounts. Make your program equitable and accessible for anyone by offering a charitable spending account. Essentially, you’ll allow your employees to donate a specific amount of money per year to an eligible nonprofit or cause. Be sure to let your employees know about this program and encourage them to take advantage of this benefit.
  • Dollars 4 Doers. If your annual giving campaign is rooted in volunteerism, maximize your employees’ efforts by implementing a Dollars 4 Doers program. When an employee volunteers and logs their hours, match their time with a monetary donation to your nonprofit partner. 

While these programs are a great starting point, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. To ensure that you pick a program that best fits your organization, thoroughly research your corporate philanthropy options. Ask yourself which programs would generate the most impact for your nonprofit partners to ensure that you make a difference for your community.

3. Align with your employees

Before you begin executing your annual giving campaign, ensure you have employee alignment and buy-in. Don’t just assume that you know what causes your workforce wants to support or how they’d like to participate—ask them!

Issue a company-wide survey asking your employees about the kind of giving program they’d be excited to participate in. From there, review the feedback and align your annual campaign with your employees’ interests and passions. Be sure to consider your employees’ opinions as you select a campaign type and a program.

4. Acquire stakeholder buy-in

Now that you’ve leveraged employee feedback to select a campaign type and a program, you’ll likely need to get buy-in from your executive leadership team. In most cases, these stakeholders are looking to understand the value of your proposed programming.

To help you make your case, here are a few benefits of annual giving campaigns:

  • Improved employee engagement and retention. Employees who are actively engaged in giving and volunteering are 57% less likely to leave their jobs. And since it costs about 148% of an employee’s salary to replace them when they leave, having a higher retention rate is better financially for your corporation.
  • Leadership development. CSR programs can provide employees with opportunities to develop and showcase their leadership skills in a meaningful way. Identify employees who participate year after year in your annual giving campaign and elect them to the planning committee or position them as program advocates. These experiences can help employees develop critical leadership skills such as communication, delegation, problem-solving, and decision-making.
  • Team building. Especially if your annual giving campaign involves volunteerism, your program allows employees to collaborate with each other. Having this extra connection will foster a sense of camaraderie amongst team members, leading to a more tightly-knit and positive work environment.
  • Increased impact. After giving back to the same cause or nonprofit each year, your company’s impact will be tremendous. This consistent support allows nonprofits to plan and invest in long-term initiatives, knowing that they can count on your company as a reliable partner. And when you measure and track your annual giving metrics, you can prove year-over-year growth to employees, investors, and other key stakeholders.

With these benefits in hand, you’ll be equipped to advocate for an annual giving program across all key stakeholder groups.

5. Execute your program

Once you’ve secured buy-in from your leadership team, it's time to dive into the planning process. To begin, you'll need to define the key components of your program. Some questions you need to answer include:

  • What’s your budget?
  • Is there a limited timeframe?
  • How will you communicate the program to employees?
  • Will you share your program with external stakeholders?

After you answer these questions, you’ll be ready to define the finer details of your annual giving program. That includes implementing your annual giving program, providing information to your employees, and getting them excited to participate.

Hosting your annual giving campaign

Although hosting your annual giving campaign may feel intimidating, you now have a better grasp of the steps you need to take to ensure that your initiatives are successful. Remember that giving to nonprofits and their causes has benefits for your corporation as well, and this is an opportunity that you shouldn’t overlook!

Ready to Get Started?

    Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEIB)
  • Volunteerism
  • Corporations
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Employee giving
  • Employee volunteering