Workplace Giving, Beyond The Numbers

There’s nothing like a competitive, achievement-oriented culture to get results. The trick: to make sure you’re aiming for the right results and measuring the right metrics the right way.

The Largest Workplace Giving Campaign in the Country
For the past three years, Wells Fargo’s workplace giving campaign has been the biggest in the country according to United Way Worldwide. There are lots of ways to measure being the “biggest,” and in workplace giving terminology, most measurements amount to a permutation of “total dollars raised.”

Our 2011 campaign raised over $43 million, and when you add in the donations our team members made during the rest of the year, we pledged a hefty total of nearly $64 million to charity. We’re collecting over $1 million per paycheck in 2012. Results worth celebrating.

The trick, however, with breaking your own record year after year is that the pressure builds to keep growing. And pressure to hit a certain number can distract your focus from where it really needs to be.

Beyond the Dollars: Focusing on Culture
We’ve grown our campaign over the past ten years by fostering a culture of grassroots involvement. Through communications and volunteer activities, we:

Educate our team members about the community’s need for their support
Enable them with online tools, templates, and guidelines;
Protect them by monitoring compliance issues; and
Empower them to tell their own stories and make the kind of difference they want to make.
This culture, not a focus on the numbers, is what has led to our incredible results.

We all know that “what gets measured, gets managed,” so it’s important to have cultural measures that can complement and explain the more in-your-face measurements of total dollars and participation rate. Those will always be important outcome metrics, but it’s equally important to measure the culture you’re creating.

Measuring Culture
In our 2009 campaign survey, for example, we discovered an uptick in team members concerned about privacy and a growing pressure to participate in the campaign. Not exactly what we wanted to see.

We have always had a strong privacy policy and talked about participation as a choice, but it was clear that we needed to reinforce those messages for our managers and campaign leaders. So for the 2010 campaign, we published an updated privacy policy, tightened our reporting controls, and added extra emphasis on leadership education.

We also made sure that special recognition events celebrating campaign success were held later – weeks or months after the campaign instead of right after the solicitation period. The measures worked and our survey showed a dramatic reversal in the feeling of being pressured that following year.

Strength in Data
We invest a lot of time and thought into refining the survey every year, making sure it gets high visibility in our communication efforts (we need to get a healthy mix of participants and non-participants in order to get real results), and analyze the results like crazy.

I firmly believe that it’s the focus on these measurements that will keep our campaign not only one of our team members’ favorite activities every year but keep it going strong and positive. Because without these metrics to measure ourselves against, we’d only have donors and dollars, and no context. Ultimately, we would fall into the all too common trap of managing to the available measurements.

Which, while presenting successful results in the short run, could be very detrimental to the powerful culture of involvement we’re trying to foster over the long term. We want to build loyalty and pride amongst our workforce.

Our approach to workplace giving – and employee engagement – will be the topic of my presentation at the upcoming 2012 Employee Engagement Summit in New York on April 3rd and 4th. Join us by registering at or follow along the conversation at #BPSEE12.

This blog entry comes care of a partnership with CSRWire