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To Fill Your Company's Empty Positions, Invest in Your Employees' Charitable Passions Telling your employees you'll match their donation to their favorite charity has a powerful psychological effect.

By Debbie Wilkerson

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Getty Images

It's a good time to be on the hunt for a new job in America; unemployment is at its lowest level in a half century. There are nearly 1 million more job openings than jobless Americans. And, according to new research from the Federal Reserve, sectors from finance to trucking face labor shortages.

Related: Corporate Charity Is What Inspires Greater Employee Engagement

Consequently, employers are fighting tooth and nail to attract and retain top talent. If you're one of them, you can expect any skilled workers you pursue to insist on competitive wages, generous benefits and flexible work hours as conditions for even considering working for you.

Then there's the other expectation employers are hearing: In-demand individuals often want their companies to be good corporate citizens, too. What this entails goes far beyond the CEO writing checks to his or hers favorite charity. Workers want to participate in, even direct, their employers' charitable efforts.

And if companies let them, they'll be making a smart move, by building loyalty within their employee ranks -- and helping to attract new talent, too.

The reason is that a job is no longer just a place from which to draw a paycheck. Workers want to know that their efforts are making the world a better place. According to a 2017 survey from Povaddo, 62 percent of workers polled at billion-dollar-plus companies said they'd recommend a company as a good place to work if it made a positive impact on a societal issue.

Fifty-eight percent said they'd work for that company long term.

By contrast, about half of the employees surveyed said they'd be less likely to recommend their workplace to others if their firm made zero effort to make a difference. Thirty-eight percent said they'd be less likely to work there in the long run.

Related: Corporate Philanthropy: It's Not Just Money That Changes The World

These trends are even more pronounced among younger workers. Three in four millennials would be willing to take a pay cut in order to work for a socially responsible company. Nearly 90 percent said they tend to feel fulfilled by their jobs when their employers provide opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues.

Many employers have responded accordingly. Corporations gave away more than $20 billion in 2017, according to Charity Navigator. And more than three-fourths of executives polled said citizenship and social impact were important or very important to the success of their business, according to a Deloitte survey.

That's good news, of course. But it also presents a problem for employers. It's not enough to be charitable or to tout a company's social conscience. Everyone's doing that. Instead, employers must escalate their corporate social responsibility efforts by putting their workers in charge of them.

Matching gifts puts workers "in charge."

To put workers in charge of their social responsibility efforts, employers needn't take workers away from their day jobs -- or even create a constellation of employee-run committees to oversee charitable giving. Instead, they can simply match their employees' gifts.

Corporate giving directed from on high might not engage everyone within a company's workforce; workers might not care for the company-designated charity. They might prefer that those dollars be invested elsewhere.

In the end, a company that intends to appeal to its employees' charitable instincts may get little more than a shoulder-shrug from them -- at significant cost.

This is where a matching gifts program comes in. It can empower employees to determine their companies' charitable missions themselves. And that strategy can make for some impressive donations: Global marketing agency VMLY&R's company foundation, for example, provides a match that's twice as large as any donation a worker makes to a 501(c)(3) of his or her choosing.

Burns & McDonnell, a 100 percent employee-owned company specializing in engineering, architecture and construction, matches employee donations up to $250 annually.

By attracting additional dollars to the causes workers truly care about, matching gifts programs foster gratitude and loyalty to employers. As one employee at American Century Investments, a Kansas City, Mo.-based asset manager with a matching gifts program, said on the company's blog, "It's nice that I can do the work I'm passionate about rather than my company telling me what to do or where to volunteer and donate. It shows that the organization cares about the nonprofit work that I'm passionate about."

Charitable giving has a powerful psychological effect.

That kind of passion is key, because personal charitable giving has a powerful psychological effect. Research from two professors at the University of Notre Dame showed that generous people are happier, feel more purpose and are less likely to be depressed.

Scientists at the University of Zurich, meanwhile, analyzed brain activity and found a neural link between generosity and happiness. So, we're apparently hard-wired to feel good when we do good for others.

Related: How to Start a Charitable-Giving Program at Your Company

In other words, employee-directed corporate giving can make workers happier and more productive. Supporting workers' charitable ambitions can be a key differentiator for a company looking to stand out in today's ever-more competitive labor market. And that's as true for large, established companies as it is for smaller, entrepreneurial ones.

Debbie Wilkerson

CEO, Greater Horizons

Debbie Wilkerson is CEO of Greater Horizons. She oversees a team that is passionate about helping donors
create their charitable legacies. With an asset base of more than $3 billion, Greater Horizons houses more than 4,000 charitable funds established by individuals, families and businesses. Wilkerson earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Kansas and started her career as an attorney with the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, where she focused on tax and estate planning.

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