Letting employees give back and pay it forward to increase employee engagement


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This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture:


whats your green goldfish book cover1st inchOnboarding

2nd inchFood & Beverage, Shelter / Space, Transparency / Openness

3rd inchWellness, Time Away, Modern Family


4th inchRecognition

5th inchTeam Building

6th inchFlexibility


7th inchTraining & Development, Retirement

The eighth INCH

The eighth inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees involves Paying it Forward. Let’s look at a Baker’s Dozen of companies that go the extra mile to enable employees to serve those in need:

Letting employees give back


Umpqua Bank (#7) allows its employees to give back to the community. Here is a comment by employee Heather Primeaux,

We are given and encouraged to use 40 hours of paid time each year to volunteer (which I can and do use to volunteer at my kids’ schools and for field trips).” (Source: money.cnn.com)

Volunteering is part of public relations firm MWW‘s (#728) ethos. MWW created Matter More Day to give all employees the opportunity to volunteer for their favorite non-profit organization. On this day all offices close for one day of company-wide volunteering. Each year, the MWW Citizen of the Year Award is presented at the end of each year to one employee who has made an outstanding contribution to improving his or her community. The award includes a sizable donation made in his or her name to the charity of their choice. MWW programs include: Tools for School (MWW offices collect supplies for distribution to low-income and foster children); Neighbor to Neighbor (MWW kicks off the holiday season by helping food banks in its communities to obtain, prepare and distribute Thanksgiving meals for families in need); Letters to Santa (MWW makes wishes come true for hundreds of children in the communities in it works). (Source: PR News Online)

Volunteering Plus a Little Extra

green goldfish

Embrace Home Loans (#57) has the “Embrace Cares” program. The Newport based company offers 100 hours of paid time off per year for volunteering, and donates $10 for every hour worked by the employee to the volunteer organization of their choice. (Source: GreatPlacetoWork.com)

Employees at National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (#261) are encouraged to volunteer. For every 24 hours of time an employee gives to charity, he or she receives an extra vacation day. (Source: Washingtonian Magazine)

QBP (#414) gives $10 to any 501(c)3 organization for every hour our employees volunteer there. Every employee can record up to 40 hours per year that QBP will pay out $10 per hour. Last year they logged 1,280 off-the-clock volunteer hours. This year they are shooting for 2,000. (Source: Outside Magazine)

Giving Back and Donating

Microsoft (#276) donated $844 million worth of software to nearly 47,000 nonprofits in 2011. The Oregon office has an annual giving campaign where employee contributions are matched dollar-for-dollar. An added benefit, organizations where employees donate time to receive $17 an hour for each hour of service. (Source: Oregon Business)

TOMS Shoes (#44), without a doubt, will revolutionize how we look at corporate culture in the future. They are championing the idea that a company can sell a quality product, be profitable, and give back to those in need. (Source: Comment on Quora.com)

Decision Analytics Corporation (#250), a military contractor, believes in giving back. Each quarter, staffers assemble care packages for soldiers overseas. (Source: Washingtonian Magazine)

The employees of Canadian airline WestJet (#485) manage a highly focused charitable program through and in-house “Community Investment Team” — supporting numerous initiatives every year and donating over 4,790 flights to charitable initiatives last year. (Source: eluta.ca)

Lending Skills as Well as Hands

hp green goldfish

Hewlett Packard (#52) empowers employees to make a difference and give back. Let’s do the math: 4 hours per month x 300,000 employees = 1,200,000 hours of HP social impact. (Source: HP.com)

The Olympics are close to the heart of the people running and working for Lane4 (#338). The company takes it name from swimming lane given to the competitor with the fastest heat. The firm advises other businesses and human resources leaders on organizational change, leadership development and executive coaching. Adrian Moorhouse, who won swimming gold at Seoul, set up Lane4 with a leading sports psychologist in 1995 to show that people can achieve excellence in everything they do if they have the right “high-performance” environment. They practice what they preach. The business contributes to the community in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire (75%), running a free walk-in clinic on CV writing and interview techniques to help tackle local unemployment. (Source: The Sunday Times)


Tabar (#412) fully sponsors a child in each full-time employee’s name with the organization Save the Children. Tabar currently sponsors 23 children worldwide. Employees also get paid time off for approved volunteer work for community or church services. (Source: Outside Magazine)

Going Above & Beyond

The six-year-old firm Knight Point Systems (#257) was founded by a service-disabled veteran. The company has donated more than $106,000 to charity over the last three years. In addition, the management team buys lunches or dinners for servicemembers they see in airports. (Source: Washingtonian Magazine)

Dedicating a Percentage of Sales or Profit

Patagonia (#800) in 1986 committed 1% of sales or 10% of pretax profits, whichever was greater, to local NGO’s committed to fighting for the environment. In the last 26+ years the company has given ten of millions of dollars back to the environment. In addition, the outdoor-apparel maker (#188) also gives employees two weeks of full-paid leave to work for the green nonprofit of their choice. (Source: Inc.com)

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – A heartwarming CNN news report on “Paying it Forward”:

All of the examples in this post were taken from the Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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