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How to Create an HR Policy for your Giving Program

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4 easy steps and a downloadable template

If you are a business leader, establishing a charitable giving program should be a no brainer. Companies with a strong social purpose have better financial performance and employee engagement. Once the decision is made, setting up your program is equally as simple with the right workplace giving platform. However, it’s important to be thoughtful about your program to achieve the positive impact you intend. While Bright Funds advocates for open giving to any legitimate registered nonprofit, you may decide to limit your giving to causes that align with your specific goals and values. Regardless of how you decide to define your program, having a clear policy in place will help lay the foundation for the success of your program.  

Sample HR Policy For Employee Giving and Volunteering 

Every organization has different goals and priorities, but sometimes an example helps! A clear policy will help align your employees to the mission and get them excited about the program while ensuring that guardrails are in place for smooth operation. This sample policy will help you answer key questions around your philanthropic mission, rules and operation.

Download the template ➔

HR Policy Template Cover - Workplace Giving and Volunteering

What to include in your charitable donations policy

Careful consideration of key policy areas such as program objectives, mission, scope and eligibility criteria will help ensure that your program achieves the right goals. Before we dive into the policy elements, it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you launching this program? There should be a clear connection between your company’s mission and the mission of your giving program. Whenever possible, reiterate that point of connection to keep employees excited about the program and aligned to the mission.
  • Who is the audience for the policy? Will it be an employee facing statement or also shared publicly? Some companies have separate versions for each audience. An external version can paint a transparent picture of your philanthropy approach to potential employees, customers and partners but will need input from marketing and legal teams. By contrast, an internal version can include more details and use cases for program administration.
  • What type of program will you provide and what are the eligibility criteria?
  • Where will you offer the program? This includes the location of your employees as well as the location of nonprofits you want to donate to.
  • When / How will you manage the program and measure success? This includes establishing a process for annual review and improvements.

Now let’s walk-through some guidelines for developing your giving policy:

Step 1: Define your philanthropy mission and how your giving program supports it

Begin with an overview of your company’s social impact vision and approach to charitable giving. Outline your goals for the program, how it will align with your business and values, general principles and the scope. Be cognizant of how your business strategy might intersect with your giving policy.

Step 2: Identify focus areas, eligibility and restrictions

Determine what cause areas align with your corporate values and what categories of organizations are eligible to receive funds. Many businesses set specific focus areas for charitable donations. Technology companies often prioritize STEM causes, while retail stores may give precedence to local community needs. As a case in point, Cisco prioritizes education, economic empowerment and critical human needs, while the Campbell Soup Company focuses on increasing access to healthy food, encouraging healthy living and nurturing Campbell neighborhoods.

You’ll also want to indicate any eligibility requirements and restrictions such as limiting donations to nonprofits recognized as 501(c)(3) organizations, excluding certain categories. Exclusions commonly include political or religious organizations, as well as organizations that support harmful practices such as discrimination, human rights abuses or environmental damage.

Step 3: Outline the type of program you will provide

Before describing your giving program, you’ll want to define who is eligible to participate. Will you limit it to full-time regular employees or will you include contractors, part-time employees and retirees? Is there a service requirement such as new hires must be there for more than 30 days? Although there are many ways to give, businesses commonly implement one or more of the following types of programs:

3.1 Giving and matching

Giving programs allow employees to make financial donations to eligible nonprofits, sometimes through payroll deductions. Companies will also often match employee donations as an additional benefit. Key questions to cover in your giving policy are:

  • How will you account for employee donations?
  • Can employees donate to nonprofits outside of your giving platform? If so, what are the eligibility criteria, restrictions and process for submitting offline donations?
  • Will you accept donations made by the employee spouse or partner?
  • Do you plan to grant matching dollars? What are the matching rules?
  • Will you match 1:1 or something higher? Do you expect your matching ratios to change over the course of the year? Are they different based on the cause category or for specific nonprofits?
  • Are there any limits by employee or company-wide? If so, your policy should clearly call out the match limit per employee. Optionally you can include an overall program budget limit but that can be tricky to explain clearly.

If donations are subject to processing fees, clearly state whether you or your employee will cover those fees. If your company plans to cover it, you’ll want to make sure your employees know about that benefit!

3.2 Volunteering and service credits

Volunteer programs allow employees to contribute their time to eligible nonprofits. Companies may provide paid time off for volunteering and/or credit grants for every hour an employee volunteers with an eligible nonprofit. For example, you may donate a credit grant of $20 per hour of service that an employee spends volunteering which they can then donate to an eligible nonprofit of their choice. Key areas to address in your volunteering policy include:

  • Do you plan to offer a volunteer time off (VTO) program? If so, what are the rules?
  • How will employees secure approval for time off and track their volunteer time?
  • What organizations can employees volunteer with? Some companies restrict volunteering to designated 501(c)(3) organizations while others allow volunteering to a broader group of organizations – for example, volunteering with local governments for environmental clean-up projects.
  • Will you offer service credit grants or dollars for doers? If so, what are the rules?
  • What organizations are eligible for the volunteering hours and what organizations are eligible to receive the resulting credit grants?

3.3 Grants

Grant programs provide donations to eligible nonprofits through an application or other selection process. If you plan to offer employee requested grants, you’ll want to describe the criteria for the grants, the amounts, the timing, the focus areas and how the employee can apply and be notified of grant delivery. Other grant programs such as community or foundation grants will generally have a separate policy and process from your employee giving program.

Step 4: Specify responsibilities and processes

While your human resources (HR) team may be responsible for managing your giving program, it’s important to have cross-functional involvement. Programs that have ongoing input and support from executive leadership, legal and other relevant functions have a better chance at success. Your policy should include a description of who is responsible for managing the program, how the oversight process will work, program instructions and reporting procedures. Ideally, you should plan to review and update your policy on at least an annual basis but have the flexibility to update it as needed to address ad-hoc business or employee needs. You’ll also want to state how the program will comply with applicable laws and regulations and be updated over time as necessary.

Examples of workplace giving policies

Sometimes looking at what other companies have done can help you formulate a plan for your company. Here are some examples of giving policies from other companies that may help inspire you as you write your own:

Ready to get started?

We hope this has helped to simplify the process of creating the policies you’ll need for your giving program. Download our free workplace giving and volunteering policy template to get started.

You may also be interested in exploring our Philanthropy Toolkit to help you make informed decisions about your charitable approach.

Let’s go do some good!

Julie Yamamoto

Julie Yamamoto

Julie is a Content Strategist at Bright Funds. She works closely with clients to deliver compelling content that inspires action. Her work has been featured in several enterprise and nonprofit digital channels, as well as GreenBiz and American Forests. She is a trained Climate Reality leader with a passion for environmental topics (technology for good, sustainable business, forests and carbon markets, climate change, conservation and biodiversity). In the future, she hopes to start a nonprofit focused on harnessing creativity to protect nature.

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