How to Design Effective Employee-Nonprofit Experiences?

Embrace the power of business philanthropy decorativeWAM!  Embrace the Power of Business Philanthropy 

Your employees talk about the experience for months. They gain a sense of pride about what your company contributes to the community. They practice greater generosity with each other at work. They continue their involvement–they mentor, conduct supply drives, and volunteer.

Does this sound like your employee’s response to nonprofit partnerships such as board service, give-back days, sponsorships, etc.? Or, the response you hope for when you join ranks with nonprofits? Either way, you need a framework to create winning experiences. That’s where Karen’s WAM model comes in.

The WAM model assumes your nonprofit partnerships fit logically and provide benefits for the firm and the nonprofit (See 7 Tactics to Enhance Your Firm’s Return on Philanthropy.) WAM focuses on generating memorable employees’ experiences. It stands for win, appeal and meaning:

  1.  Win: For the employee, win reflects the absence of punishment or negative consequences for participating in a partnership. Instead, they’re cheered. That is, the employee who joins, volunteers, or brings the opportunity to the firm, receives more kudos than the employee who remains at his or her desk. In the extreme, if you loan an executive, the hiatus signals the employee’s assent, not management’s reluctance to fire them.    
  2. Appeal: This is about task quality. For the employee, the opportunity offers a chance to learn or polish a skill, or step out of the norm, or interact with colleagues in fresh ways. What employees do at the event, challenges them and allows them to step out of their regular routines.  
  3. Meaning: In successful engagements the results matters. In the now classic work design study, Hackman and Oldman found three criteria that create employee satisfaction: The chance to use a variety of skills, to see a job from beginning to end, and to do something that makes a difference. All three belong in your nonprofit-employee engagement opportunities. Meaning is hardest but ultimately the most important part of WAM. One criterion to determine it? The nonprofit ranks the task a least a 1 or 2 on its important and urgent list.  Another? Everyone sees how the work improves lives.    

As you plan and evaluate employee-nonprofit experiences, use WAM to make decisions and shape activities.  To learn more about using business philanthropy as a tool to enhance your profits and performance download Can Philanthropy Actually Help Your Bottom Line?

Karen Eber Davis

Before founding her firm, Karen Eber Davis developed the Sarasota County Community Development Block Grant Program. Under her leadership, this infant program received the National Association of Counties National Affordable Housing Award for the Down Payment Assistance Program. To date, the program helped over 1,800 families realize their dreams of homeownership. She also worked with the City of Ft. Lauderdale and the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, where she developed the division’s first audit program. In an earlier position at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Tampa, she organized senior, youth, and children groups plus family activities. Her youth staffing work with the Florida Synod of the Lutheran Church in America supported youth ministries in 120 congregations in Florida.