Businesses often create volunteer programs for employees in order to build relationships within the community and strengthen philanthropic hearts. One oversight exists for employers, however, in making this an organization’s only focus to breeding success within its wellness program.

Employee engagement can increase when a company lives in the sweet spot that integrates how to effectively manage chronic conditions in the workplace and encourage employee focus toward serving others. Educating employees about the value of disease management is an important first step—followed by providing them with the tools and information to enhance their self-care. Then, an employer can significantly leverage the value of the education by synthesizing the “doing” portion to those employees who are unaffected by diseases in honor for those colleagues who might currently suffer.

The solution to make this happen is to utilize non-traditional avenues through securing relationships with health non-profit organizations. An employer, in essence, will have a positive impact on employees that can be measured.

Many health non-profit organizations set out to find cures for chronic conditions—diabetes, ALS, cancer, stroke and other related heart conditions are several of them—and work with companies to develop programs that impact employee population health. For example, in 2012, American Express worked with Community Health Charities (CHC) and their member, American Diabetes Association, to create a communication plan as it rolled out its educational program Healthy Living with Diabetes. Six major work locations with onsite clinics received the program, followed by all U.S. American Express employees the next year. Diabetes laboratory testing, webinars, lunch and learn sessions, and one-on-one with on-site clinic experts were several of all resources provided to employees.

The impact on employees in three years’ time showed significant behavioral and blood sugar changes to the better—several hundred employees joined the Healthy Living with Diabetes program; fifty-eight percent of them saw a reduction in blood glucose levels to healthy levels. Another 53 percent started to exercise, followed by almost 48 percent of those employees who lost weight.

An employer can also further impact its entire employee population by encouraging all employees to participate in another valuable offering that partnering with a non-profit health organization would bring: corporate volunteering. Volunteer efforts strengthens relationships among co-workers. Fundraising for continued research to cure these chronic conditions is one avenue an employer can pursue with a health non-profit and learn what is available. Running races such as a company-sponsored local 5k with work colleagues who train together in honor of affected employees leverages not only what is available from a health non-profit but also co-worker relationships.

Leveraging is defined as using something to its maximum advantage. Because health non-profits act as intermediaries between charitable groups and employers, they are able to respond to employers’ concerns by providing the educational tools and networking strategies needed to bolster employee engagement and manage chronic conditions. Their influence in the workplace can also serve as a means to reduce healthcare costs, improve productivity and enhance a company’s mission to embark on serving the greater good of society.

I hope you’ll join me and other CSR professionals for the Charities@Work conference in March in New York for more peer-to-peer sharing and networking. Click here to register today.

Be The Match had the pleasure and honor of sharing their mission with over 100 attendees at the 2014 Charities@Work conference earlier this April. As the featured activity in the Experience Lab, attendees participated in assembling Swab Kits used to identify the DNA type of potential marrow donors for the Be The Match Registry.

The event was sponsored by Aetna who exemplifies a truly remarkable partner in adding more potential donors to the registry. To date, Aetna has sponsored more than 142 marrow donor registry drives nationwide. Over 1900 Aetna employees have joined Be The Match Registry as potential bone marrow donors. Some of those registry members have been matched to a patient and gone on to donate marrow for a life saving transplant. Every four minutes someone in the US is diagnosed with blood cancer. For those needing a transplant, 70% will need to look outside their family and to Be The Match to find a marrow donor. Without partners like Aetna, the work that Be The Match does would not be possible.

The cause, kits and mission of Be The Match were brought to life when Joe, a recent transplant recipient, talked about his journey and the impact of the transplant on his family. As a result of the transplant, Joe’s wife has a husband, his children a father and the community a valued civic leader.

The Kit Making project was a great example of a hands on activity that companies can participate in to both educate and engage employees. Using those kits to facilitate company and community wide drives offers organizations the unique and special opportunity to help build communities of cures through their support of Be The Match.

A company can have a great impact on saving lives. One out of every 500 people who join the marrow registry is called to be a potential donor. By involving your employees you can host marrow donor drives, assemble swab kits or hold a fund raising event to give patients in need of a transplant a second chance at life. The outcome of these activities has the potential to have huge impact. It literally puts the power to save lives in the hands or shall we say ‘cheeks’ of ordinary people. Be The Match provides companies with the ultimate employee engagement opportunity – the ability to potentially save a life.

On behalf of be The Match, we want to once again thank Aetna and all the attendees of the 2014 Charities@Work Experience Lab for supporting the patients we serve. To bring Be The Match to your workplace please contact Angie Dahl at 612-884-8670 or adahl[at]

My experiences as a fundraiser for several major health causes over my career support a truth that we all know: the way we give has greatly evolved over the past few decades.

Today, the rise of employee programs has brought with it a powerful way for individuals to come together and give back in new and innovative ways that provide collective social impact on the nonprofit sector. This has also impacted workplaces themselves, in a way that promotes growth and development and provides unique benefits to all parties involved.

Let’s examine two trends that may significantly shape corporate giving and volunteerism programs over the next five years and beyond.

1. That disengaged employee costs me how much?

Overall, employees are now more expensive for companies than ever before. From an engagement perspective, Gallup’s Employee Engagement Index shows that disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses an estimated $350 billion a year because of issues like disconnectedness and lost productivity.

They lack qualities that engaged employees tend to have, such as motivation, passion and innovation. Further, more recent research by Gallup finds a significant connection between disengaged employees and their health and well-being. Actively disengaged employees tend to have similar levels of poor health as the unemployed.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index, disengaged employees also have higher rates of chronic disease and obesity, which is tied to a higher percentage of unhealthy days at work that keep employees from their usual levels of productivity. So, not only do your disengaged employees impact your bottom line through lost productivity but it’s also likely they also cost you more to employ overall through high insurance cost-drivers.

On the other side of the coin, engaged employees tend to enjoy better health, with a lower incidence of chronic disease than the actively disengaged and underemployed population.

In my role at Community Health Charities, I’ve seen many companies in the health industry reaching across department lines to begin to marry the goals of supporting a healthy workforce with their community relations and philanthropic efforts. This approach provides a framework for better and more measurable outcomes and a more holistic approach to solving social issues both internally and externally.

In creating the Engagement 365 program at Community Health Charities, for example, our goal was to help companies reach across departments lines and begin to better connect their various employee benefit programs. How else could they connect with important social issues – health or otherwise – besides connecting with a charitable cause through giving and volunteerism?

2. Millennials Require a Redefinition of Giving

Companies are already adapting their recruitment and retention tactics to appeal to the specific needs and desires of the average Millennial.  Since Millennials are such a large cohort (somewhere between 80 to 90 million as compared to 76 million Baby Boomers) their advancement in the workforce will be relevant very quickly.

According to Achieve’s Millennial Impact Report, for instance, volunteerism is extremely important to this group, with 63 percent currently volunteering and 41 percent planning to volunteer even more.  But traditional workplace volunteerism may not appeal to Millennials as greatly, says the report.

As Chris Jarvis, founder of RealizedWorth points out:

“Many employee volunteer programs seem like a solution in search of a problem. Providing employees a warehouse full of opportunities to volunteer is a good idea…but it’s not good enough.”

Companies will need to be relevant and direct with their volunteerism programs – and don’t forget to focus on the impact and continued social engagement this cohort will be looking to address.

We will also likely see a greater prevalence of “micro” concepts come to fruition.

Research shows that even when they don’t have a great amount of time or money to give, millennials still like to give what they can in meaningful ways.

While 75 percent of Millennials donated to charitable causes in 2011, they also tend to give in smaller amounts (with 58 percent giving gifts of under $100). This points to gift maximization being a likely incentive, which can be leveraged by existing matching gift and dollars-for-doers programs.

Expect to also catch these donors online, the preferred method of donations for 70 percent of them.  In fact, the online habits of Millennials align very well with the tenets of the customer experience movement. “We live in a web-centric, highly visual, one or two click world. With a litany of personal experiences using technology in everyday life, the modern tech-savvy employee already has an idea of how he or she should be able to conduct their giving business at work,” explains Bryan de Lottinville, CEO of Benevity. “Software needs to be EASY, visually appealing and have a compelling user experience… if not, people won’t play.”

But this may require a change in how we’ve traditionally thought about running our programs.

For example, more companies are now considering a year-round model for their giving and volunteering programs to be more flexible and address employees’ needs. This could impact every area of the program – from what technology platform you utilize to aligning nonprofit relationships more strategically to corporate goals. The end result, though, should address employee interest and fuel the growth of your programs through increased participation.

Topics like this and more were covered at the Charities@Work Best Practices Summit, held in Manhattan earlier this month. Learn more about this annual summit or join a year-round working group on LinkedIn to collaborate with your peers on critical topics and join Charities@Work in 2014.

Maya, now 22, remembers growing up and seeing her best friend’s dad carrying around a little case with vials and needles. He had diabetes, and it was then that she decided she never wanted to have that disease.
When she was 21, Maya first developed diabetes symptoms. While she was playing basketball one day, she became thirsty and couldn’t see the other players. A few days later, she noticed she could not read license plates while driving.

Maya went to the eye doctor for a vision test. The doctor asked her some questions about her vision and later told her to find a doctor to care for her diabetes. Maya says her diagnosis was the easy part – daily living is much more challenging. She is constantly reminded to check her sugars and take insulin. She longs for the day when diabetes does not exist. Until then, she finds comfort in the support, education and research funded by the American Diabetes Association.

At age 2, Allison was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Two years later, she began attending the family swimming program at Easter Seals. The program provided Allison with the exercise she needed to increase her range of motion and relax her muscles.

At 14, Allison wanted to create a place where all children, those with disabilities and those without, could play together, side by side. She was asked to serve as the youngest member of the advisory board for her local children’s park. When her role as design consultant for one of the first fully accessible parks for children with disabilities ended, she thanked a pool of more than 4,000 people for helping to make her dream a reality.

The Easter Seal Society is proud of the role that its services played in helping Allison to develop her greatest potential. But more than that, the Easter Seal Society is proud that Allison has already started giving back to her community.