3 Marketing Hacks to Transform Your Employee Giving Campaign
Hack #1: Ethos
When Jon McCoy and Becky Endicott launched the employee giving program at INTEGRIS in 2012, they faced an uphill battle. That year, only 310 of INTEGRIS’ 10,500 employees had donated to the health system, and most of that was for rural capital campaigns. A plethora of charities were already vying for INTEGRIS employees’ attention, including the United Way, Susan G. Komen, and the American Heart Association.
Standing out among heavy hitters like that was going to take extraordinary measures, especially since only 10 of those 10,500 employees were dedicated to fundraising for the INTEGRIS foundation. Jon and Becky were fresh from a stint in higher education, where they worked with a staff of 150 on a billion-dollar campaign. Obviously, turning the ship at INTEGRIS would require a different approach.
Their goal: create something remarkable and then persevere until it catches fire.
“Getting the gift isn’t the end game,” said Jon, the director of annual giving. “But rather getting a donor to actually believe in the power of philanthropy at your organization.”
It sounds deceptively simple, but it worked. In 2019, 3,374 employees participated in the employee giving campaign at INTEGRIS, generating almost $1 million for the foundation.
We asked Becky and Jon to let us in on their secrets to success. The pair have used an arsenal of marketing tactics in their seven-year journey, but they group them into three overarching themes: ethos, brand, and story. In this three-part series, we’ll cover each of them, starting with ethos.
Why Your Campaign Needs an Ethos
“Ethos is a strange word to use in the lexicon of fundraising,” Becky, the leadership gifts officer at INTEGRIS, said. “But ethos is your why, your anthem, your manifesto.”
Your ethos “defines your campaign’s DNA” and allows you to focus on what you want to be true for your employee giving efforts. When you have an ethos, you can filter ideas about things like incentives and volunteer engagement through it. If a tactic supports your ethos, use it. If not, move on.
Jon and Becky agreed that their ethos was to show the impact INTEGRIS activities had on their community, and that they wanted all staff to believe in their ability to make a difference to those activities.
“We sat down and said what are our goals?” Becky said. “We knew we wanted everyone to feel they matter, from the CEO down to the people who work in the cafeteria.”
Jon agrees. “It’s not just about giving. It’s about belief,” he said. “We didn’t want transactional donors. We wanted people to believe that when they gave a gift it would make a difference.”
With their ethos in mind, Jon and Becky set about deciding on a strategy that aligned with it.
How Ethos Took Shape at INTEGRIS
Becky and Jon’s first goals were to “break out of the corporate box” and be authentic. To move their employees, they needed more than INTEGRIS key chains. They wanted to create “rabid fans” who believed in the organization’s mission and their ability to affect it.
“You can’t buy rabid fans with cheesy gifts or a Jamaican Me Crazy theme,” Jon said. “It’s not just about giving. It’s about belief. Rabid fans emerge from a place of passion.”
To generate that passion, they knew they needed to humanize their efforts with great stories (more on this in part 3 of our series). They also knew they needed time, and a different mentality about the goal of their efforts.
“We didn’t want to have a dollar goal,” Becky said. “We just wanted people to join the giving movement. That concept was hard to sell to leadership in the first years. But nine years later, it’s paying dividends.”
Jon recommends not focusing on participation numbers, especially at the beginning. “Chase the belief. You can activate believers to prospect people for you in the long term.”
Jon and Becky cultivated believers from the entire staff, not just those likely to make large donations. They bucked the established donor pyramid and served the base.
“Let the joy of giving and passion filter up to the 10 percent at the top of the pyramid,” Becky said.
“Don’t worry, the money will follow,” said Jon. “Investing equally in your employees puts everyone on the same threshold. This is how cultures of philanthropy are ignited and born.”