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How to Improve Your ERGs with Workplace Philanthropy

Joel Pollick headshot
Joel Pollick • Founder & CEO

Employee resource groups


There are many ways to define this increasingly popular HR term; we like this one from Catalyst:

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. Other benefits include the development of future leaders, increased employee engagement, and expanded marketplace reach.

Of note, these are typically created – and led – by employees who share some common characteristic (gender, ethnicity, identity, interest, etc.). Thus, the groups your company has – if any – should largely depend on the make-up of your employee community.

Current trends

  • ERGs are on the rise for all businesses. This is good because these groups give a broader voice to often marginalized employees’ communities, and these groups create a more inclusive workplace.
  • The rise of ERGs has coincided with the rise of diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) programs and workplace philanthropy programs.

ERG & workplace philanthropy

The two are increasingly connected – and better together – but let's start with names because these terms have many aliases:

  • For employee resource groups, you could also see affinity groups, community groups, employee service groups, employee interest groups, etc.
  • For workplace philanthropy, you could also see corporate social responsibility (CSR) social impact, community impact, corporate philanthropy, workplace giving, etc. (we break down a much fuller list here).

Two main ways they work well together within your company

  1. Establish a philanthropy-focused ERG → As an example of this; we recently engaged with a 1,000-employee media company with 10 ERGs and one of those focused exclusively on philanthropy. Their 10 ERGs are BIPOC, Music, LatinX, Foodies, Women in Tech, Women in Workplace, Parents, Philanthropy, LGBTQ+, and Mental Health.
  2. Establish a community or social mission for each of your ERGs → As an example of this, we recently engaged with a 200-employee technology company that is launching three new ERGs and requiring “Community Impact” to be one of the three defining pillars and measures of success for each.

Both of the options above can work quite well, but we recommend #2 simply because it is best practice for each employee-led group to have philanthropy as part of their charter and mandate.

Also, with #1, you will inevitably work cross-functionally to help every other ERG establish philanthropy anyways (e.g. nonprofit partnerships, volunteer hour goals, etc.), so #2 is simply more efficient!

How to infuse workplace giving into your ERGs

(Note: these are mutually inclusive, and combining multiple is a force multiplier.)

  • ERG Social Missions – require each ERG to formulate a mission statement for how their work will positively impact both the community they represent and the community your company serves.
  • ERG Impact Goals – ask each ERG to set impact goals that can be managed and measured, such as the number of volunteer hours.
  • ERG Nonprofit Partners – help each ERG research, vet, and partner with local nonprofit organizations that support the communities your ERGs represent

Note: managing and measuring these impact goals may require a workplace giving solution like Percent Pledge. But one free pro-tip: create these impact goals before looking for nonprofits partners to guide your nonprofit vetting criteria (e.g. ask each nonprofit what corporate volunteer opportunities they offer).

Benefits of infusing workplace philanthropy into tour ERGs

  • Simplifies your workplace philanthropy strategy → Answering “what causes should we support?!” is often a bottleneck for companies, but simply aligning your causes to your ERGs solves this quickly.
  • Enhances your ERGs → The employees leading and joining your ERGs are likely your most socially active employees. Adding philanthropy to their ERG work is a natural extension that will enhance their experience and purpose.
  • Engages your broader employee community → Typically, less than half of your workforce participates in ERGs, which leaves a significant population of employee supporters and allies. Adding a philanthropic component to your ERGs (like nonprofit partnerships) provides your broader employee population with a very tangible way to be an ally; they can easily join their ERG-member colleagues in volunteering with or donating to that ERG nonprofit partner.

To end, take what we did with Yello as an example of this last benefit (above).

Every Percent Pledge customer can feature a custom company Cause Portfolio on their Pledge Portal (workplace giving platform). The Cause Portfolio is filled with nonprofits our team of social impact experts thoughtfully curated. 

For Yello, we led the research and vetting process to help each of their four ERGs form a local nonprofit partnership. Then, we filled their company Cause Portfolio with those four nonprofit partners. This portfolio became the most highly-supported giving option on their Pledge Portal.

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Why companies partner with us:

  • One platform for donations, volunteering, and reporting.
  • Easy to manage for you, easy to use for your employees.
  • A searchable database of more than 1.5 million verified charities.
  • Field, skills-based, and virtual volunteering events.
  • Personalized monthly impact reports delivered on a per-employee and company-wide level. Plus, real-time impact dashboards.