Building employee giving programs for scale: How C.H. Robinson’s Jessy Annoni expanded their Robinson Cares program across 70 of their global offices

The reason Robinson Cares is successful is because it's employee-led. Jessy Annoni
In 1999, C.H. Robinson launched their first-ever annual giving campaign, Robinson Cares, at their corporate headquarters in Eden Prairie, MN. According to Community Relations Program Manager Jessy Annoni, over the years it's become a point of employee pride — and that all started four years ago when Jessy and her team spearheaded a major expansion of the program.

In 2016, Jessy and her team expanded Robinson Cares to 16 offices across North America and the program has been growing ever since.

Through the Robinson Cares program, Jessy said each office decides which registered nonprofits they want to support and how they want to support them — whether that be volunteering at their local humane society or fundraising for their local children's hospital.

“Additionally, through our employee match programs, we support employees' individual efforts and help them deepen their impact,” said Jessy. “Employees who donate their time or money are eligible for a match of up to $10,000 annually from the C.H. Robinson Foundation.”

Employees who donate their time or money are eligible for a match of up to $10,000 annually from the C.H. Robinson Foundation. Jessy Annoni
According to Jessy, in 2016 they raised over $596,000 — their biggest campaign to date. Then, they expanded even further across their global network and encouraged year-round engagement in the process.

“Last year, over 70 offices across North America, Asia, Oceania, and Europe participated,” said Jessy. “With our employees volunteering over 10,000 hours and donating to more than 800 nonprofits.”

Their primary goal for Robinson Cares is to support their offices' engagement efforts in their local communities through volunteerism and giving.

Alongside that goal, Jessy said they hope to strengthen their impact and build relationships with local community partners across the globe, engage and recruit talent, and increase their reputation as a socially responsible company within their industry and communities.

But, Jessy emphasized their success and ability to achieve their goals is due the program's emphasis on employee choice and helping them engage with causes that matter most to them.

Knowing how employees in different regions prefer to give is important for tailoring your program messaging to them. Jessy Annoni
“The reason Robinson Cares is successful is because it's employee-led,” said Jessy. “C.H. Robinson employees are passionate about making a difference in their communities in which they live and work. They join committees to raise awareness about Robinson Cares and encourage their teammates to donate their time or resources to local nonprofits and causes.”

She said what matters to their employees in Atlanta might be different than those in LA, Amsterdam, or Brazil — and it's important the program takes those differences into account.

“C.H. Robinson is proud to support the issues and organizations that matter most to our people knowing that employee and office choice is a critical component,” she said. “This is the foundation of our giving strategy and has been since the beginning. Our employees are behind the wheel and will continue to drive our CSR strategy.”

She also emphasized the importance of understanding what giving looks like around the world.

“I quickly learned that our employees in Asia are more passionate about volunteering, our employees in Europe love a bake sale fundraiser, and our employees in North America often rally around fundraiser walks and bike rides,” she said. “Knowing how employees in different regions prefer to give is important for tailoring your program messaging to them.”

Jessy said they also benefited from leadership support and a strong partnership with their giving platform.

The first year we offered the program globally, eight offices in Asia participated and volunteered 475 hours. The next year, they doubled it. Jessy Annoni
“We're fortunate to have the support of our leadership team,” said Jessy. “They encourage our people to give back, truly understanding the value and impact community work can have not only on our employees, but the communities where we are located.”

Externally, she said moving to YourCause as their giving platform allowed them to scale their programs across North America.

“With YourCause, we have better resources to vet nonprofits, manage our employee match programs, communicate about our programming, and so much more,” she said.

As they've grown the program over the years, they've continued to see employee engagement compound across their offices and communities.

“It started at our headquarters with a few hundred employees and spread globally, engaging thousands of employees allowing C.H. Robinson and its people to help so many more nonprofits and causes,” said Jessy. “Since expanding, fundraising has increased by 112 percent. The first year we offered the program globally, eight offices in Asia participated and volunteered 475 hours. The next year, they doubled it.”

However, as they've scaled the program, Jessy and her team have also had to find a scalable solution for maintaining their Robinson Cares committee volunteer pipeline.

Creating a program that supports employees globally is a great way to help them feel connected to others in the company. Jessy Annoni
Jessy said maintaining this necessary pipeline has been the primary challenge they've faced with Robinson Cares.

“Our employees volunteer their time while maintaining their full-time jobs, and roles evolve, employees leave, and new employees join our team, halting the great momentum,” she said. “To overcome this, we encourage our offices to form a committee, rather than relying on an individual, so when someone steps down, they have someone who is already engaged ready to step up to the plate. Additionally, we reach out to local managers to seek out new members as needed.”

Moving forward, Jessy said they hope to continue expanding the program and supporting their employees internationally.

Currently, she said their employee match program is only available in North America. So, she and her team are looking for ways to implement it in other countries as well.

“Creating a program that supports employees globally is a great way to help them feel connected to others in the company,” said Jessy. “While they may all engage in different ways, they love seeing the end results and knowing, ‘We were a part of that and together we are making an impact in our local communities.'”

For any CSR leaders looking to launch their own employee giving program, Jessy emphasized that employee choice is key.

I would highly recommend a pilot, rather than going all-in right away. Jessy Annoni
She said whether it's new hires or long-time employees, she always hears how much they value being able to make their own choices of how to participate in Robinson Cares.

“They love that we don’t have a set list of nonprofits they are limited to supporting, but that they get to choose to support the causes they truly are passionate about,” said Jessy. “That makes a difference in the success of our Robinson Cares program. Offices can choose the causes that the employees in their office can really rally around and have higher engagement rates because of it.”

She also recommended starting small — whether you're revamping aspects of your program or building it from the ground up.

“We launched our Robinson Cares Committee program with a small pilot group and found it very beneficial,” said Jessy.

“We learned what works, what doesn’t, where we could provide greater support, what tools and resources they needed, and so much more. Additionally, those offices became huge advocates for the program because they helped shape it. I would highly recommend a pilot, rather than going all-in right away.”

Jessy Annoni has been a member of the CSR Board since 2019. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.