You likely know by now that many of our donations come from Austin-based businesses running employee giving campaigns by asking their employees to give a bit of each paycheck back to UWATX. But did you know that United Way for Greater Austin runs our own internal employee giving campaign too?
That’s right–we don’t just talk the talk of being philanthropists, we pledge to pledge! We held fun activities to inspire our employees to give, including Twin Day (dress up like the person who inspires you to be a philanthropist), Represent Your Favorite Sports Team Day (complete with trivia and prizes) and Campaign Cool Down (in which we got to wear comfy workout clothes to the office and had a group stretch). Our own UWATX employees pledged to donate more than $23,000 out of their paychecks over the past few days back to United Way programs.
As this year’s internal campaign kicked off, we asked our team leads what it was like to run a campaign in an organization that already gives so much. Our Resource Development team travels around town every day helping businesses run their employee giving campaigns, but how does this differ when it’s your own coworkers?
Check out their answers to get some inspiration and tips when it comes to running your own campaign:
When you signed up to be a part of organizing the United Way for Greater Austin campaign, what were your initial thoughts?
Jeffrey King: Very excited! This was a learning experience and an opportunity to work cross departmentally with staff I usually do not get to work with directly. I was eager for the opportunity to work creatively with Building Spirit Committee members to find ways to promote employee engagement.
Chelsea Swenson: As an advisor to the Building Spirit Committee, the opportunity to encourage staff to participate is an honor. I was excited and delighted to engage in the campaign.
Were you nervous about anything, if so what?
Jeffrey King: Public speaking is something I will never become entirely comfortable with and I was very nervous to speak in front of our entire staff at the campaign kick off. I respect my coworkers and admire the work they do a great deal. I look up to them, and I want to do them justice when representing the internal campaign that supports UWATX’s work. In order to calm those nerves, I try to speak sincerely about the appreciation I feel for my own colleagues’ work in the community and how their impact inspires me to be a philanthropist.
Do you find planning and running the UWATX campaign is too much on top of your normal workload?
Jeffrey King: The companies and organizations that I have seen run the most effective employee campaigns always build a team of volunteers from different departments to support the campaign, and they begin planning at least a month before the campaign kick off. We had a really good team of six volunteers this year that made up our campaign committee (Building Spirit Committee). The supervisors of every volunteer also offered support and encouragement, and all of these things made it so much easier.
Chelsea Swenson: My role in supporting the Building Spirit Committee is to encourage and provide helpful feedback that aligns with the organizational and Human Capital missions. Our current committee is comprised of natural leaders and creative thinkers who have really owned the internal campaign, and I’ve been here for support. The preservation and growth of employee team spirit and individual morale are a major part of my job, so I don’t really consider it added work.
What were you most excited for this year’s campaign?
Jeffrey King: We kicked off our campaign right as Blue Bell went back on the shelf (coincidence or best practice?), and I am definitely a Blue Bell man. We had a lot of good food! Our breakfast kick off meetings had Kerbey Lane Café pancakes. We held a staff queso, salsa and guacamole competition instead of the usual bake sale, and we threw in pizza during staff trivia, as well as popsicles on final day for good measure. As Nikki Krueger (Director of Volunteer Engagement) would say: “Boom!”
Chelsea Swenson: I was most excited for the chance to share my inspiration to give with my colleagues and see others do the same. I really like the momentum we gain by showing respect and admiration for our fellow coworkers as a motivation for being a philanthropist.
How do you inspire your coworkers to give to a nonprofit they already support in so many other ways?
Jeffrey King: I think you can empower others by using the fact that philanthropy is all about the willingness to give back, and reminding them how their investments make a significant impact in the lives of families struggling to make it in Greater Austin. The Building Spirit Committee intentionally tried to make our campaign inspiring too. We decided our theme would be “What inspires you to be a philanthropist?” and then used the campaign as an opportunity to highlight the collective impact made in our community from all of the employees at UWATX.
Chelsea Swenson: I think that giving is about making a personal connection. I enjoy getting to know people and telling my story as well. Sharing my own experience and dedication to our mission is part of that. When I simply make relationships and get to know what other people value as well, I hear their story. Then, I help connect them to cause that matches their character.
If you could give advice or tips to ECLs (Employee Campaign Leaders) and their teams on how to run a successful campaign, what would it be?
Jeffrey King: Build a campaign team of volunteers from different departments throughout your company or organization. Determine the length of your campaign, and mark the dates on the calendar. Start planning early to make it easier on the team. Determine what your goal will be, both monetary and morally. Plan meetings to kick off your campaign where you can inspire employees to give back, and announce events that employees can participate in during the week. Remind your employees how they can make their pledge, upcoming campaign deadlines and most importantly: be sure to say THANK YOU!
Chelsea Swenson: Be yourself. Dig deeper into your own experiences to relate to the community we serve beyond just helping, “those in need.” Don’t separate yourself from their needs; find a way to connect. When their story is your story, their needs are your needs, and you’ll have a much more genuine place to come from.
Anything you would like to add?
Jeffrey King: Have fun, laugh a lot, it won’t be perfect, learn from mistakes and move forward, and always remind yourself that collectively you are doing something really important for our community. I was incredibly lucky to be able to run an employee campaign with an awesome group of employees that are all smart, passionate and funny. I would say that I got lucky, but honestly I think we just hire the best.
Chelsea Swenson: Making Austin greater is a community commitment! It is a mantra for the entire city and surrounding area who enjoy living here and want contribute in a special way. United Way for Greater Austin has served this community with dignity and respect for generations. Before I moved here, I looked into all the area nonprofits and even chose housing in close proximity to UWATX because I wanted to participate as an active member of the community. I came straight to UWATX to volunteer upon arrival because I knew this would be the best place to make the broadest and biggest impact.