Sona Khosla, VP of Marketing, Benevity
2020 has been a year like no other, with the Covid-19 pandemic upending everything – how people work, school and child care, travel, commerce, and more. But in this anxiety-ridden year – also marked by a contentious election season and a spotlight on systemic inequalities – the one bright spot has been the action that people have taken in support of those in need and the causes they care about, with a ton of help from their employers.
In fact, based on data captured through Benevity’s corporate purpose software platform, 2020 was a record-breaking year in terms of how people stepped up to do good through their workplace giving programs.
Benevity tracks workplace giving and technology trends annually, and we recently released some truly staggering (and inspiring) numbers: As of October 31, 2020, more than $1.6 billion had been donated by companies and their people through the Benevity platform, $200 million more than in all of 2019. Part of this giving was driven by Covid.
During an eight-week window starting in April, 450,000 people from 537 companies donated $640 million to causes supporting vulnerable populations. Giving was also sparked by passionate responses to the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice protests in the summer, with a new record – $300 million – set in June for donations made in a single month, with the majority going to causes advancing racial equity and social justice.
All of these donations were made through Benevity’s technology or mobile app, making it simple and easy for more people to give in the moment, with matching dollars from their employers, when issues surrounding some of the biggest events of the year were top of mind.
In addition to these numbers, here are some other significant trends that we uncovered in this year’s data:
More people gave more money
51 percent more people donated through the Benevity platform from January through October 2020, giving 41 percent more dollars per donation, and culminating in an average of $64 per donation compared to $46 the year prior.
In the first ten months of 2020, employees and customers of Benevity’s corporate clients donated $500 million of their own funds – a 76 percent increase over last year – indicating an increasing desire from more people to take personal action to support critical societal issues, as well an ability to do so with ease through technology made available in their workplaces.
Corporate matching campaigns in support of the Covid-19 pandemic and protests against racial injustice drove spikes in donations, with average total donation amounts rising by 150 percent in April and 215 percent in June. Matching donations also saw a 76 percent year-over-year total increase, while corporate rewards, such as “dollars for doers,” where employees earn charitable funds for tracking their volunteer time, also increased by 25 percent.
With individual donors, corporate matching, and corporate rewards combined, the average donation amount was nearly $140 – a 49 percent increase over last year. Benevity expects a record year for giving in 2020 to continue through the holiday season, as companies continue their matching programs to support seasonal campaigns. These numbers demonstrate that matching is a powerful incentive for engaging employees through a greater sense of purpose and impact, especially when corporations match donations for the causes their people care about the most.
Participation in employee giving, volunteering, and positive actions increased
Increasingly, employees expect their employers to support their values and to have a purpose beyond just profit. This, and a year marked by multiple challenges, inspired companies to expand their workplace giving programs to include new types of opportunities, enabling technologies and rewards that support employees, customers, and even the public in their determination to take action.
In fact, 23 percent more people engaged in giving, volunteering, and/or positive actions in the first 10 months of the year through their companies, indicating that business is doing its part to catalyze greater action and impact through their greatest asset – their people.
Employee volunteerism was hindered by physical distancing requirements
Employees logged 4.5 million volunteer hours through the Benevity platform compared to 6.4 million in the same period the year prior, a drop of 30 percent. April and May saw the most drastic reductions to volunteerism at -46 percent and -42 percent respectively.
Mainly attributed to lockdowns, physical distancing, and the cancellation of large corporate volunteer events, people had far fewer organized opportunities to give their time and skills.
However, the year-over-year gap is beginning to close with only a 4 percent decrease in hours logged in the first week of November, due in part to an increase in the number of virtual volunteering opportunities that are being made available through technology, as well as the expansion of corporate volunteer programs to include non-traditional forms of volunteering, such as acts of kindness.
People embraced positive action
Compared to the same period in 2019, 3.5x the number of individuals who participated in activities through Benevity’s Missions technology, which engages people in pro-social education and action. (Things like writing letters to elected representatives, checking in on an elderly neighbor, or supporting a colleague with kids at home, for example.)
This was a whopping 250 percent increase. Most notably, people were taking part in activities that helped them stay connected while apart, manage physical and mental stress, and support local businesses. Additionally, people engaged with educational content to raise awareness of racial prejudice, systemic racism, unconscious bias, and privilege.
The skyrocketing interest in action is proof that giving doesn’t just have to be about money – people can contribute by giving their time and attention to causes that matter to them, even if they are not in a position to donate dollars. Plus, taking action with co-workers is a great way to boost employee engagement and build culture and connection during a time of physical isolation.
The number of unique nonprofits supported increased by 20 percent
168,346 causes received donations or volunteer time in 2020 – a 20 percent year-over-year increase. The same percentage growth pattern is reflected internationally, with 14,979 nonprofit organizations based outside of North America receiving either time or financial support, as global challenges affect individuals and communities everywhere. When more people engage in goodness, everyone benefits – companies, individuals, and nonprofits.
2020 has been a challenging year overall, but when it comes to giving, it’s also been a testament to the power of purpose, especially when people are supported and encouraged by their employers, and enabled by innovative technology, to put their time, money, and action behind the causes they care about the most.
Let’s let this year serve as the blueprint for what dynamic and democratized workplace giving programs can do to sustain corporate culture, increase employee engagement and carry the passion for spreading goodness in the world – through matching, rewards, volunteer programs, and positive action – into the year ahead. Here’s to another record-breaking year in 2021 and beyond!
In mid-career, Sona decided to make her lengthy workweek “mean something to the world,” so she jumped at the opportunity to join Benevity, the leading global provider of corporate social responsibility and employee engagement software for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Sona is driven by finding ways to enable humanity to do more of the innate good that is in all of us, and she is inspired by the idea that a single person can make a difference in people’s lives. In Sona’s VP role at Benevity, she champions the expanding role of corporate purpose for Benevity’s 600 corporate clients and works to share their stories of “doing well by doing good” with the world.