How to Convert an Employee Giving Critic


Let me tell you a story about Dee.

Dee works in registration at one of our metro hospitals in the emergency department. In fact, she is practically a local celebrity - she has the respect and appreciation of all her peers. Her fellow caregivers look up to her and love being around her - Dee’s energy is infectious. So when our inaugural employee giving campaign rolled around several years ago, her initial reaction wasn’t one you’d hope to have from someone so influential among her fellow staff. Dee was furious. She didn’t understand why she was being asked to give - and she wasn’t shy about sharing her opinion with others. She couldn’t believe her organization was asking for her to help fund equipment - it just didn’t add up in her mind.

But curiosity got the best of her before the close of the first campaign. Begrudgingly, she decided to give anyway. Dee saw that her campaign gift promised to fund a neonatal transport isolette - and after all, she couldn’t resist the idea of doing anything to help our most fragile and tiny patients. So she made her gift of a few dollars that year and didn’t think another thing about it.

Flash forward to a fateful Tuesday afternoon about 9 months later. Dee was working her shift and looked up to see a preemie baby being rolled out of the ER in a neonatal isolette. But this wasn’t just any neonatal isolette - this one had a bright “powered by the employee giving campaign” sticker on the side of it. And the second she saw it - she had a pit in her stomach. She immediately knew what it was - that very piece of equipment she funded with her own gift last year. And in that instant - her belief in philanthropy changed her. She welled up with pride seeing the very family in front of her that she was able to impact - and tears came to her eyes.

Dee became a face of the campaign when it rolled around a few months later. In fact she shared her story with anyone who would listen - and even a few of those who wouldn’t. She volunteered to walk the halls of the hospital at midnight to make sure even the late shift caregivers understood the power of their philanthropy at our hospital.

Dee has become a legend of our employee campaign - and her personal belief and transformation would not have been possible if not for the project that made the campaign real for her.

Is your campaign built to cultivate belief in philanthropy?

With employee giving - the end game isn’t just in getting the donation or growing your participation (both of which are awesome by the way) but instead it’s about cultivating belief among your employees: belief in philanthropy at your organization.

When your employee-donors believe and have tangibly seen the power of giving within the walls of their hospital - they become champions of philanthropy. This transformation is what holds the power to become a culture-maker for your organization. But these kinds of transformations aren’t just a given. You have to design your campaign in a way to maximize the opportunity for belief to happen.

When we launched our first employee giving campaign, we were coming from a place of very minimal engagement of giving back to our organization. In fact, less than 3% of our employees were counted as a donors. The plight of asking a cold employee prospect for an unrestricted gift couldn’t be the answer to engage our workforce. Giving to an unrestricted fund takes a level of trust in the philanthropic process that simply wasn’t present yet for our organization. We knew to cultivate the type of believers our organization needed would require a process of much more transparency from the beginning to the end. So our campaign was built on the idea of letting employees read exactly how their gifts would be spent and letting them pick how and where to make their impact. We also committed to making sure these projects were deployed before the campaign rolled around next year. Pulling this off isn’t easy - but this process built tremendous belief as the projects unfolded.

This approach also builds a tremendous amount of goodwill and connections across your organization. By engaging clinical leaders and working alongside them to define and select philanthropic priorities for your campaign - you are cultivating their individual belief as well - the perfect training ground for growing true partners in the philanthropic process at your hospital.

How to find the right projects to maximize belief.

There’s certainly an art and science to all things fundraising - and it certainly rings true in selecting your fundraising projects. We developed a one page Project Brief that we use to guide our clinical leaders in selecting the right project for inclusion in our annual campaign. Download a free copy of the Project Brief template here.

This Project Brief template asks a series of questions to ensure the project you select will align with your objective of building belief in your donor base. This includes ensuring your project has philanthropic appeal, having a tangible and timely impact component and to be something that can be reasonably accomplished within the timeframe you are working within. We’ve found that by working with clinical leaders through this process -- we have been able to coach them to understand the types of projects we want to partner on and those that would be best left to be funded by the operational budget.

At the end of the day, it takes cultivating a campaign that breeds true belief in your philanthropic mission that will be your biggest driver of turning your greatest critics into the evangelists for your mission. After all - who can argue with impact?

What projects haas your employee giving campaign funded that have built belief among your donors? I’d love to hear from you! Jump into the conversation in the comments below!

*Note: I changed Dee's name so she can keep her local celebrity status low profile. But she is amazing - and the story is true. :)


Jonathan McCoy, CFRE is Director of Annual Giving at INTEGRIS Foundation and Founder and Chief Visionary of We are for Good. {Read more] [Email Jon]