Culture   //   March 24, 2023

Amid cost-of-living crisis, more employees donate their benefits to charities

The late American poet Maya Angelou once opined: “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” But are these wise words being heeded in 2023?

It would be logical to assume that during a cost-of-living crisis and a global financial crash looming, people would be less willing to donate their money to charitable causes. How uplifting, then, that new data from employee well-being platform Juno suggests people are being driven by their hearts rather than heads and assisting, despite the challenging economic climate. 

More than 10% of the platform’s users have opted to donate their benefits to charitable causes to date rather than using their credits – allocated monthly by their employer, which can be spent on over 10,000 products, services, and experiences – to treat themselves. 

Further, in the first two months of this year, the total value of benefits donated more than doubled (111%) compared to the last two months of 2022. 

The last three years have been especially tough for charities, with fewer individuals willing to help them financially. Indeed, a Charitable Giving Research report published last year found that between January and April 2022, almost 5 million fewer people in the U.K. said they had donated to charity or sponsored someone in the previous year compared to the same months in 2019. 

“For every month of the year in 2021, the proportion of people making a donation was lower than the equivalent month in 2019, suggesting a substantial and established trend,” was the grim assessment.

Conversely, corporate giving in the U.S. surged to over $21 billion in 2021, a 24% jump from the previous year, according to Minnesota-headquartered fundraising consultancy BWF. Again, though, is enough being done on a personal level, or have people become more stingy?

Providing the option to donate

“Users have been able to choose to use their employee benefits to donate to charities on the Juno platform since 2019, and we’ve added over 15 different charities since then,” said Barcelona-based founder and CEO Ally Fekaiki. “Most recently, this includes the option to support the earthquake relief efforts in Turkey and Syria via The Disasters Emergency Commission, and before that, we added an option to support the crisis in Ukraine.”

Regarding the recent spike, he said: “It shows when employees are empowered to make one-off donations in a way that’s sustainable and affordable for them, charitable giving remains important to individuals even during tough economic times.”

Fekaiki said that Caritas Ukraine relief was the most popular charity on the platform, accounting for 46% of all donations and raising an “astonishing” £10,900 ($13,300). “It’s clear that, given a choice, lots of employees believe that supporting others is the most meaningful way they can use their workplace benefit support,” he added. “It’s amazing to see how much people continue to care.”

“It shows when employees are empowered to make one-off donations in a way that’s sustainable and affordable for them, charitable giving remains important to individuals even during tough economic times.”
Ally Fekaiki, founder and CEO, Juno.

One such caring person is Meike Lakerveld, entity and governance manager at Oyster HR, a global employment platform with a fully distributed 600-strong workforce that uses Juno. She started donating her benefits to charity in January 2022. “My reason for donating is a combination of feeling that it seems unfair for me to receive these extras in a world where there is so much inequality – others need it so much more – and how easy it is just to click a button and donate.”

Lakerveld, who lives in the Czech Republic, said she donated her benefits to charities focused on climate change and humanitarian causes, specifically refugees and people in crisis zones. “I am trying to balance contributing to a better future world for my children on the one hand and making a tiny difference to people suffering now,” she added.

Power of choice

Oyster began using Juno in 2020, and Kim Rohrer, principal people partner, said having the opportunity to donate had been widely welcomed. “Having the option to use employee benefits to support several vital causes from domestic violence survivor support to relief for refugees to combating climate change has been met with positive feedback by our employees.”

However, Rohrer stressed the importance of affording workers the option to use their well-being credits as they desired. “Ultimately, everyone wants different things, and no two employees are the same,” said the California resident. “Using a platform that enables users to donate benefits to charity, but also to use benefits for other things, empowers them through choice.”

Finally, Rohrer urged other organizations to consider “opening-up options” for employees. “Give people the opportunity to donate their benefits allowance, should they want to,” she added. “But make sure there are also lots of other great things to spend them on if they don’t want to donate them. The most important thing from an employer perspective is to offer your employees the power of choice.”