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EARTHSHARE RESOURCES

Workplace Giving 101

An introduction to the basics of workplace giving

1. Introduction

You may have heard about workplace giving campaigns, but what are they exactly, how do they work, and how can they benefit you? We’re here to give you a quick rundown of all the basics so you can get started with confidence!

EarthShare has been helping environmental nonprofits enroll in local, state, federal, and private campaigns for decades. For more than 30 years, we’ve worked with employers in the public and private sectors to ensure environmental nonprofits are represented in workplace employee giving campaigns. To date, our organization has driven more than $375 million to urgent environmental issues. We have provided millions of individuals with the opportunity to begin and continue their environmental journey.

When you join our network of more than 450 environmentally-focused nonprofits across America, you increase your impact and amplify your mission. Discover the vital services and support EarthShare provides to our Nonprofit Partners every single day—all at a cost you can afford. When we band together, we can make the world a stronger, healthier, and greener place.

2. What Is Workplace Giving?

What are workplace giving programs and campaigns, and how do they relate to your organization?

FOR EMPLOYERS

Workplace giving programs allow employees to give to charity through payroll deductions (typically every pay period) and one-time cash, check, or credit card donations. Depending on your employer, you may have the opportunity to select individual organizations you want to support.

This is where workplace giving campaigns come into play. Employers can establish a workplace giving campaign (organized and managed by the employer or a third-party vendor/fiscal agent) that takes employee-donated funds and distributes them to designated charities. These campaigns can take place at private sector, local, state, and federal levels. One of the largest public campaigns in the United States is currently the Combined Federal Campaign, which raises tens of millions of dollars every year from federal employees, military members, and government retirees.

DEFINITION

Workplace Giving

Workplace giving allows employees to make charitable donations through payroll deductions as well as one-time cash, check, or credit card donations. Workplaces and nonprofits alike must sign up or apply to these campaigns. Email [email protected] for details on how to participate. 

FOR NONPROFITS

If you represent a 501(c)(3) organization, you have the opportunity to enroll in workplace giving campaigns that are relevant to you and the work you do. You can supplement other fundraising and revenue with the donations that come in through these campaigns.

A number of public sector workplace giving campaigns require an application to be submitted as they sometimes have specific requirements that need to be met. EarthShare provides support by guiding your organization through this process and offering assistance where needed.

3. Types of Workplace Giving Campaigns

Workplace giving campaigns can be broken down into two categories: public and private. We’ll provide a brief overview of these types of campaigns, how they differ, and what you can expect when applying.

Public Workplace Giving CampaignS

Public campaigns occur at local, state, and federal levels, as well as at many public universities. Funds raised through these campaigns come from donations made by employees of a city, county, or state government. The requirements for nonprofits to apply to these campaigns vary, but nearly all require an application and charitable registration submitted to the government entity hosting the campaign. In addition, most of these campaigns only accept charities that are members of federations. EarthShare is one of the oldest and largest environmental federations for workplace giving campaigns! By participating under EarthShare, you are able to access a wider range of campaigns.

DEFINITION

Nonprofit federation

A nonprofit federation is an organization consisting of smaller nonprofit organizations, each with their own autonomy and united by similar purposes, functions, audiences, goals, and missions.

Well-known public sector campaigns include the Combined Federal Campaign, the State of California’s Our Promise campaign, Pennsylvania State Employee Combined Appeal, and New York City Gives, as well as campaigns at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Combined Federal Campaign

The largest federal public workplace giving campaign in the United States is the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Nonprofit organizations can apply once a year and, once accepted, are required to submit updated documentation of their services every three years. This is one of the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace giving campaigns, raising more than $8.6 billion for local, national, and international charities to date. Pledges are accepted from donors who work within the federal government, military, and U.S. Postal Service. Retired members of these fields can also give.

In order to apply for the CFC campaign, you must meet the campaign’s requirements. A verification process must occur, which needs a variety of documents such as an audit and IRS Form 990. Additionally, local organizations “must demonstrate they provided services in the previous calendar year in the local CFC zone to which they are applying.” National organizations must provide services for at least fifteen states to provide proof they are a national organization. Since there is not a government appropriation to administer the CFC, it is paid for by the nonprofits participating each year. Nonprofits are charged three separate fees throughout the campaign year, which includes an application fee, listing fee, and distribution fee. EarthShare can provide more information on how these fees pertain to your organization as they are based on annual revenue.

What Are CFC Zones?

There are 36 individual CFC zones that are made up of segmented regions throughout the United States. Within these regions (or “zones”), a group of localized federal agencies contribute to the fund in that region. For example, the Southern California CFC Zone (also known as Z003) includes federal agencies in the following counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. The Edwards Air Force Base is also included.

In specific cases (as with Alaska and Hawaii) an entire state may be recognized as a CFC zone.

Charities can apply to one local zone (lowest cost), or they can apply nationally to be listed in all zones. Even if an organization applies locally, they can still be found and receive donations nationally, but they won’t be included in national campaign marketing materials

Private Workplace Giving Campaigns

Private campaigns, as the name suggests, are campaigns hosted and organized by private employers. These employers often use employee engagement platforms through technology vendors (e.g., Benevity, YourCause/Blackbaud, etc.) to help organize and deliver funds. Additionally, many of these companies keep their platforms open all year so employees can give and volunteer at any time instead of within a dedicated timeframe. Private sector companies may also provide a corporate match of employee donations which increases the fundraising opportunity.

The difference between public and private workplace campaigns is largely that public sector campaigns typically vet the nonprofits who join them given that the funding is coming from government employee donations.

4. Benefits of Workplace Giving Campaigns

From both the employer and nonprofit perspective, workplace giving offers a considerable number of benefits. These can be fiscal, social—even emotional. It’s a way to drive purpose, not only for the employees who are donating to causes that they care about, but also for the nonprofits who are able to take these donations and translate them into positive impact for the community; local, national, or global.

For Employers

Giving and engagement in the workplace often ties directly to employee satisfaction. Employees want to know that they can donate to and support the issues they care about most (and, in the case of some private sector campaigns, a company may decide to match employee donations). This can lead to more employee involvement in volunteer opportunities (where available) as well as general awareness and education.

For Nonprofits

Workplace giving campaigns are a great way to solicit large numbers of individuals in an organized, efficient, and cost-effective way, raising funds for programs that make a positive difference in the world.

On average, payroll gifts are three-to-five-times larger than one-time gifts. Donors who might write a one-time check for $25 may just as easily consider a $2 donation per pay period. If there are twenty-four annual pay periods, this results in a $48 annual gift.

From a donor’s perspective, workplace giving is a secure and trusted form of donating. For nonprofits, workplace giving offers a revenue stream that’s year-round since individuals regularly contribute to these campaigns. In addition, workplace giving:

  • LOWERS OVERHEAD COSTS | Organizations can grow revenue with lower admin costs compared to other fundraising initiatives.
  • IS NON-RESTRICTIVE | Funds distributed via workplace giving campaigns are unrestricted, meaning the receiving nonprofit doesn’t have to use these funds for any specific, pre-identified purpose.
  • IS COST-EFFECTIVE | Nonprofits don’t have to make a large initial investment in order to raise more money

5. EarthShare’s Role in Workplace Giving

If you’re interested in signing up for workplace giving campaigns, you’re going to want some support. EarthShare will help you review requirements, develop your application, and apply to relevant campaigns across the nation. And, what’s more, EarthShare covers all up-front campaign costs, deducting fees from the campaign’s total earnings, so you never have to pay out-of-pocket.

How to Enroll IN Public & Private Campaigns

Campaign enrollment can be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with the process. Luckily, we have a legacy of three decades of experience! We’ve helped hundreds of environmental nonprofits successfully enroll in municipal, state, university, federal, and private campaigns, and we can help you too.

Here are your next steps at a glance:

Application Process Overview

Ready to explore campaign opportunities? Are you a registered US 501(c)(3) with a majority focus on environmental work? Awesome! You must first complete the following:

  • STEP ONE | The first step is to apply to become an EarthShare Nonprofit Partner. This means you will be able to enjoy a free profile on our Giving and Engagement Platform. You’ll also have access to our expertise regarding which of the hundreds of giving campaigns across the United States make the most sense for you. If you have interest in applying to join EarthShare’s network please reach out to us at [email protected] to learn more.
  • STEP TWO | Allowing that your Nonprofit Partner application is approved, the next step includes us sending you welcome details (such as how to access our media kit and campaign application schedule) as well as next steps to complete your profile on our Giving and Engagement Platform.
  • STEP THREE | The third and final step is a quick call to discuss a strategy for your campaign involvement with the experts on our team. Most campaign applications will require some additional information and financial documents (e.g., signed current 990, audited financials) as well as any marketing collateral that can be shared with campaigns to tell your story. This can include “dollar buy” statements, photos, videos, success stories, and impact statements.

Once your initial application information has been received, EarthShare may take up to four weeks after reviewing your application to ensure that you meet all qualifications. This time window is subject to change depending on relevant campaign deadlines and the quality of the information provided. If your application has been approved, we will assist you with applying to campaigns and be a source of support every step of the way.

2022 Application Due Dates

If you are interested in applying to one or more campaigns within the 2022-2023 campaign season, beginning in Fall 2022, EarthShare offers services to help you from beginning to end. Reach out to our team at [email protected] to discuss your options and get started!

If you are an environmental 501(c)(3) you can also get involved with EarthShare at any time by applying to become a Nonprofit Partner so that you may participate on our new Giving and Engagement Platform. Contact [email protected] to apply to join the network.

6. Application Timeline

The overall timeline for public campaigns, from application to payout, is often longer than most nonprofits anticipate. Payouts occur one year (or more) after the application process begins; this gives employees contributing to the campaign one calendar year to make their recurring donations. These donations are then calculated and distributed to all recipient nonprofits on a quarterly basis.

If EarthShare is helping you apply to campaigns, your organization’s general information (e.g., campaign profile with an updated audit, IRS form 990, proof of services, etc.) is due the Fall prior to the desired campaign year. For example, campaign profile information for the 2023 campaign season is due October 2022.

Depending on the due dates for individual campaigns, these applications may be open for submission any time between November 2022 and June 2023. These applications will draw information from your previously submitted campaign profile, though often you will need to complete additional specific details as requested by each campaign (e.g., state office locations, proof of current state charitable registration, etc.).

Once an application is processed and approved, the applying nonprofit will be added to the list of campaign beneficiaries for the 2023 campaign year with most of these campaigns taking place in Fall 2023. Employees will make pledges during the Fall and any payroll deduction pledges will be taken from their paychecks between January and December of the following calendar year. Those funds are then distributed to EarthShare on a monthly or quarterly basis. EarthShare, in turn, distributes these funds through quarterly payouts to our participating Nonprofit Partners (at this time, any campaign dues and fees are withheld) beginning in July 2024, often across six total quarters.

While the time horizon is long, patience yields consistent benefits to help build foundational fundraising for your organization’s mission and programs. We would be honored to partner with you in your efforts, fulfilling our mission of helping everyone take action for a healthy planet! Join us today.

2023 CAMPAIGN

Application Timeline

Essential Dates

  • Campaign Profile Due

    October 2022

  • Applications Due

    November 2022 – May 2023

  • Marketing Materials Due

    June 2023

  • Campaign Solicitation Period

    September – December 2023

  • Payroll Deduction Period

    January – December 2024

  • Acknowledgement Reports Sent

    January – July 2024

  • Acknowledgements Sent

    January – July 2024

  • Quarterly Payouts Begin

    July 2024