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Harnessing the value of the employee resource group

July 06, 2021
A group of business professionals sit in a circle in an office and discuss how they will form an Employee Resource Group (ESG).

Corporate social engagement is fueled by passionate people who want to do more for their community. Businesses interested in engaging with corporate philanthropy should start by reaching out to their employees to learn about the issues and causes they care about, as well as effective ways you can encourage inclusion and diversity

Through this process, your business can help create an employee resource group. Employee resource groups (also known as ERGs, affinity groups, or business network groups) are groups of employees who voluntarily join together to promote diversity and community in their workplace. 

When encouraged, ERGs can be a powerful tool for promoting employee engagement. Here are a few ways you can leverage these groups at your business: 

Tap the passions

ERGs are formed voluntarily, meaning employees that participate believe strongly in the causes their ERG promotes. When combined with a corporate volunteer or giving program, you can channel this passion into not only improving your workplace but your community, as well. 

Meet with your ERG to discuss how they can promote a culture of giving and volunteerism. A few ways they can help might include:

  • Creating a comprehensive list of nonprofit organizations. You likely are aware of a few nonprofits in your community, but chances are that there are even more causes that your employees would like to support. Ask your ERG to share the causes that matter to them and form a list of reputable nonprofits your corporate giving program can support.
  • Organizing volunteer days. Corporate volunteer days are an effective way to get your employees out in the community and feel like they’re truly making an impact. Your ERG can organize these volunteer days by finding nonprofits to partner with and coordinating days to have your employees volunteer as a group. 
  • Being peer leaders. Often, the way to get an employee engagement program rolling is by having a few dedicated employees publicly participate. Then, others who trust and respect them will likely join in, growing your program and making it a staple of your work culture. 

ERGs want to change your workplace for the better, so support them by working together to find actionable ways to promote a culture of giving and inclusivity. Make sure to meet on a routine basis to sort out any obstacles your corporate philanthropy program may encounter or plan new ways to get even more employees involved. 

Engage diverse groups of stakeholders

ERGs are committed to diversity and are made up of employees who have strong ties to their communities. As such, your ERG can help your business build connections with a wide range of stakeholders and form a powerful network of organizations committed to social good. 

For example, a member of your ERG might regularly volunteer with a nonprofit and put you in touch with their leadership to arrange a sponsorship, boosting your business’s reputation. Or, other members may have children who attend the local public school and can set up an in-kind donation opportunity of used but still fully functional office supplies. 

Plus, all of your ERGs can share the positive actions your business has taken to improve the community with their networks. This can lead to your business enjoying the benefit of a boosted reputation for corporate philanthropy quicker and earning more customers and more volunteers eager to help the causes your programs have drawn attention to.


Your ERG should be your leadership’s partner in promoting social good in your community and inclusivity in your workplace. By making diversity and giving priorities at your business, they can reinforce your business’s values and ensure all employees are committed to them. 

Your business should begin its corporate philanthropy program with a goal. This should include the amount of resources you plan to dedicate to social good causes, as well as the impact you would like that investment to create. 

Your ERG can help you craft this goal by providing insight into a diverse range of causes and offering new perspectives on how you can best make a difference. Then, once you’ve chosen your goal, your ERG can help organize your employees to fulfill it and ensure your entire business is held accountable for seeing it through. 

The bottom line

Ultimately, ERGs are voluntary, employee-led organizations that foster employee awareness and respect in the workplace. By supporting your ERG and harnessing the passion of its members, your business can create a greater impact in both your workplace and your community as a whole.

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