The traditional model of the internal workforce campaign is shifting. Research shows that the workforce of the future expects employers to support their involvement with causes they care about, and plays a big role in their decision to work for or with potential employers. As expectations rise, companies must intertwine social responsibility and employee engagement, and a company’s workforce campaign provides the opportunity to do just that.

Take DTE Energy’s annual United Way campaign for example. At first glance, dueling pianos, an Oktoberfest celebration and family-style trivia competitions don’t necessarily translate into your typical, employee workforce campaign. Yet combined with volunteerism, leadership support and a network of 40 employee ambassadors who develop and organize everything from tours to group fundraising activities – it’s the workforce campaign of the future.

“Our measurement of success is more than dollar amounts –  it is about creating a highly engaged, inclusive and active campaign that encourages employees to participate,” said Shawn Patterson, vice president of organizational effectiveness and chief learning officer at DTE Energy. “Two years ago, we took a close look at how our employees viewed and interacted with our annual campaign and how we could further connect them to United Way’s mission and work. We created a few large events to elevate the campaign, and reached out to employees on an individual level – ways that matter to them.”

Here are seven tips from Shawn Patterson on how businesses can transform their workforce campaigns to match evolving cultures, and how DTE applies these principals to its annual United Way campaign:

1.Volunteerism: The more companies connect their workforce to meaningful opportunities to showcase the impact the nonprofit has on the community, the more likely individuals can see firsthand how it important it is to support the nonprofit’s work.

In 2016, DTE employees volunteered more than 200 hours with United Way – supporting the nonprofit’s mission to “Give. Advocate. Volunteer.” This year, the company developed two volunteer events to multiply its impact. In August, it partnered with United Way on a multicultural literacy book drive to benefit Osborn High School, and this October will assemble and donate 300 literacy kits for youth through United Way’s Bib-to-Backpack program

2. Allow for employee ownership and involvement: By empowering individuals and giving them the tools to do the work, the individuals can integrate personal and professional interests.

At DTE, the company calls on its ambassador network of nearly 40 employees, who lead their individual business units and actively engage colleagues to connect them with the work and mission of United Way. Throughout the campaign, ambassadors are asked to organize grassroots, volunteer events and educational tours, host representatives on-site and develop small-scale, location-based fundraisers.

3. Use technology and matching gifts programs: In a technology-driven world, it only makes sense to provide employees with ways to donate online. Offering payroll deduction, one-time gifts and online systems to log in securely, not only makes employees feel better about the security of their contribution, but can even save time and money to your business. Incentivizing employees with a matching gifts program can motivate them to increase their contributions each year, or even begin to donate in the first place.

In 2016, through corporate donations, DTE Energy Foundation gift matching, employee and retiree contributions, DTE provided more than $7.8 million to 52 United Way chapters across the country. In fact, nearly 41 percent of all donations were through the online donation portal, managed by United Way.

4. Leadership Involvement: Effective campaigns highlight the need for a culture that supports the campaign and involves senior leadership. Building a strong leadership network and having leaders be visible and active in campaign events, reinforces the importance of getting and staying involved.

DTE Energy has three executive champions who oversee the success, participate in events and encourage fellow leaders and employees to get involved. It also partners with United Way to offer leadership opportunities by becoming an Emerging Philanthropist or member of Alexis de Tocqueville.

5. Build a strong educational component: Employees need and want to understand where their money is going and how it will positively impact the community. Educating employees on key pillars, showing them the work first-hand and sharing impact stories help to reinforce the importance of the campaign.

Throughout the season, DTE uses a variety of opportunities to share the impact of the work and educate employees on key programs United Way has developed. Whether it’s through a person, meeting, newsletter, video or event – finding new ways and channels to reach employees is critical to engagement.

6. Implement an internal recognition programs. Recognizing employees for their contribution or work during the campaign makes them feel valued and provides a positive experience with the campaign.

For the past three years, DTE has hosted its signature Oktoberfest Recognition and Appreciation event for all continuous donors – it’s fun, and gives leadership a chance to say “Thank You.” Plus, it’s another opportunity to educate and share the work being done in the communiy.

7. Track and monitor results throughout the campaign. Not all employees will participate in the campaign, but ensuring they’ve been given the opportunity to make their own decision, will help you determine more effective ways to communicate in the future. Not only that, but showing the results creates a friendly competition among business units.

DTE Energy creates an ambassador scorecard to help them identify unique ways to reinforce the above tips and more importantly, connect employees to the great work United Way does. By assigning point values and offering a trophy, and asking for weekly updates – the campaign chair can more effectively evaluate and adjust to the results, ensuring targets and campaign goals can be reached. So ultimately, more work can be done and reach more people who need help in the community.

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