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Drive employee engagement and maximize community impact

Emma Clary
Content marketing manager
November 14, 2023
Put together a dedicated task force like this group of volunteers by enouraging CSR participation.

Drive employee engagement and maximize community impact through equitable workplace giving programs.

The call for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is more pressing than ever. And in recent years, many organizations have prioritized responding to that call: since May 2020, corporations have committed approximately $340 billion to fight racial injustice. As a result, DEIB has become more salient within the social good sector, pushing leading corporations and foundations to create more equitable opportunities across their employee giving and grantmaking programs.

But what do equitable opportunities look like? And how do they differ from employee giving to grantmaking?

From an employee giving and volunteering perspective, creating equitable opportunities means that you are working to reduce barriers that may prevent certain cohorts of your workforce from getting involved. For example, not all employees can make a monetary donation or use personal time to volunteer.

From a grantmaking perspective, creating equitable opportunities means reducing biases and offering programs that are accessible for all nonprofits. For example, using inclusive language on grant applications and making an intentional effort to support nonprofit leaders of color and racial justice organizations.

In this blog, we’ll offer tactical ways that you can pivot your employee giving and grantmaking programs to implement more equitable practices and share ways that Bonterra Corporate Social Responsibility (formerly CyberGrants) can streamline and simplify these processes for your teams and their nonprofit partners.

Empower employees through accessible opportunities.

When you pivot your employee giving and volunteering programs to address the varying needs of your workforce, offer flexible and accessible ways to participate, and support a diverse group of causes that align with employee interests, your participation will skyrocket. Identifying ways to shift existing programming can be challenging, so we’ve done some of the heavy lifting and outlined three ways to expand existing programs with accessibility and flexibility in mind.

1. Volunteer time off

Many volunteerism activities take place during the workday, making it difficult to balance both giving back and collecting a paycheck. Volunteer time off (VTO) is a form of paid time off (PTO) that allows employees the flexibility of volunteering during the workday while still getting paid.

Offering VTO is a great way to show your team that you value their time and their efforts. And don’t lose sight of team-based volunteerism! Encourage your employees to get together, leverage their VTO, and give back to their local communities. This is a great way to promote team building, boost corporate morale, and increase employee engagement.

Pro tip: Within the Bonterra Volunteerism platform, employees can search for relevant events based on personal preferences or needs, allowing them to narrow their search by cause area, location, whether it’s family-friendly, and a variety of other factors. It also allows administrators to categorize volunteer events based on specific criteria, creating a simple and easy way for employees to find opportunities that work for them.

2. Action-based initiatives

Consider expanding your volunteerism program to encompass a broader spectrum of qualified opportunities, including behavioral habits, acts of kindness, and green acts. Think of giving blood, picking up neighborhood litter, or donating clothes—these are all ways of giving back, so why not incorporate them into your company’s volunteer activities to inspire greater engagement?

By broadening the scope of your initiatives, you can make volunteerism more flexible and accessible than ever before. This allows employees who can’t give back through monetary donations or don’t have time for traditional volunteerism to participate in your company’s corporate philanthropy programs.

3. Employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace and build a greater sense of community. Usually, an ERG aligns with a shared identity, background, or experience as they work to lead programming that informs and amplifies the histories of their community. For example, LGBTQIA+ employees might form a group for community members and allies.

Together, their work can include anything from workplace advocacy to hosting panel discussions or events. Through these programs, employees have an even greater say in how or where they can give, creating more equitable giving opportunities and supporting more diverse causes and organizations.

Pro tip: With Bonterra CSR’s Search by Cause feature, employees can find giving and volunteering opportunities by cause-area, allowing them to give back to nonprofits that align with their passions and enabling organizations to support more diverse causes. The feature also helps administrators measure their contributions by social good area and donors to discover a broader range of opportunities they may otherwise miss out on.

We know that shifting your existing strategy can require extra effort, but with these program ideas in hand, you have a great starting point for developing an equitable workplace giving program.

Expand grantmaking opportunities to support diverse causes.

Within the grantmaking space, there are dozens of factors that may contribute to inequitable funding opportunities. For example, your grant applications and requirements may unintentionally create challenges for small nonprofits without administrative resources and limited staff. Similarly, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color)-led organizations have historically been excluded from grantmaking circles, making it challenging to access applications.

But before you can begin pivoting your programs to prioritize equity, it’s important for your team to understand grantmaking barriers and why they exist. From there, you can begin to evaluate your programs and identify opportunities for improvement. To get you started on this process, we’ve outlined five common grantmaking pitfalls that you can look for.

1. Inaccessible grant applications

Grant announcements typically require having prior inclusion, whether through existing grantmaking circles or email lists, ultimately excluding groups without prior access. This is especially challenging for small nonprofits or BIPOC-led organizations that don’t have connections due to historical exclusion.

2. Inequitable grant language

Grant language has a reputation for being too vague or too specific, making it difficult for grantees to gauge the level of specificity (and resources) required to be successful. Plus, many grant applications are centered on the grantmaker experience, rather than the individuals or communities being served. Together, these challenges make it difficult for smaller organizations without experienced, professional grant writers to secure funding.

Pro tip: To avoid creating grant applications that are centered on the grantmaker, leave out questions that require the nonprofit to provide hyper-specific information as to how their work aligns with your company’s initiatives. Instead, ask applicants to highlight how their work drives impact and supports meaningful causes.

3. Lack of community input

Many grant programs are developed with little to no consultation from community leaders or the organizations actually applying for funding. This lack of partnership ultimately leads to grant programs that do not address the needs of the communities they’re meant to serve, and do not focus on addressing challenges that could lead to long-term impact.

Pro tip: Another way to understand and assess your community impact is to leverage a purpose-built analytics tool. At Bonterra, our Insights solution and Community Impact dashboards allow you to see how your programs are supporting low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities, revolutionizing how you measure and demonstrate your commitment to social responsibility.

4. Racial disparities in funding

Another common barrier to funding is the lack of diversity within the grantmaking space. According to the Racial Equity and Philanthropy report by Bridgespan, “on average, revenues of Black-led organizations are 24% smaller than the revenues of their white-led counterparts.” In many cases, this is due to a lack of diversity within funders’ staff, leading to programs that do not serve a diverse range of causes or nonprofits.

5. Complex processes and tedious requirements

Smaller organizations without professional grant writers or with fewer staff members don’t have time to prepare long, complex grant applications. Adding screening steps or removing unnecessary questions can help make grant applications more streamlined and accessible.

Pro tip: Implementing a nonprofit portal like Bonterra’s FrontDoor solution alleviates the administrative burden for both grantmakers and grantees by addressing the significant time investment required for grant applications and approvals. For example, FrontDoor streamlines operations for nonprofits by allowing them to access a central online hub for easy management of essential information. Similarly, FrontDoor vets the nonprofit by working with the IRS Business Master File and other global databases, ensuring the nonprofit meets the charitable standards of our corporate customers and reducing risk.

We urge you to keep these pitfalls in mind as you create grant applications and build your next program. In doing so, you’ll be able to build more equitable grantmaking programs that do more to address the challenges your community is facing and make a lasting, long-term impact.

Next steps: Take the equitable giving assessment.

Before you begin pivoting your employee giving strategy to encompass more equitable opportunities or shifting your grantmaking programs to be more accessible to smaller, BIPOC-led nonprofits, it's important to assess your current programs. Without understanding where giving or funding barriers exist and how they impact your employees and nonprofit partners, it’s impossible to know how to improve your programs.

Although taking this kind of baseline is important, we know that identifying gaps in your company’s employee giving or grantmaking programs can be a complex, tedious process. To guide you through this process, the team at Bonterra created an Equitable Giving Assessment to help you understand where program barriers exist. As you complete it, engage in honest reflection about your organization and its programs. Afterward, we’ll provide you with resources to help you better understand your barriers and take meaningful action to address them.

Take the Equitable Giving Assessment and unlock a new way to drive meaningful community impact.

Written by

Emma Clary
Content marketing manager
    Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Corporations
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Employee giving
  • Grant management & grant making