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A Creative New Way To Encourage Employees And Support Causes At The Same Time

Teaming with You Earned It and Donors Choose, Grey New York lets employees reward each other and support NYC schools simultaneously.

A Creative New Way To Encourage Employees And Support Causes At The Same Time
[Photo: Flickr user The International Federation of Library Associations, Muhammad Zharfan]

Think about the last time you gave one of your coworkers a shout-out for a job well done. It’s been a while, right? Now think of the last time you donated to a charity. It’s been even longer, most likely. Pats on the back and philanthropy may seem like two random bullet points on life’s to-do list, but employing them in concert at your organization may be a worthwhile endeavor.

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Just ask the team at advertising agency Grey New York. Launched in May, “Gravy Points” combines giving praise and giving back in a unique way, one powered by You Earned It, an employee rewards platform, and Donors Choose, an online charity for schools.


“Grey puts a ton of emphasis on culture; we think it’s one of the most important drivers of our business,” says Zachary Treuhaft, chief digital officer at Grey. “So as part of that, we’re talking to people all the time who we think might be able to help our culture for various reasons.”

Zachary Treuhaft

How it works: Grey allots employees a designated number of points worth a predetermined sum. When someone wants to give their coworker some recognition (help on a presentation, staying late, etc.) they do so on the Gravy Points platform, bestowing their praise as well as however many points they choose to give that coworker. Employees can then take those points and cash-out toward a school charity of their choice on Donors Choose.

“Our belief as a business is that creativity can make the world better,” Treuhaft says. “And what better way to close the loop on that than to say, look all of the things we do in our business–the little things we do every day that help our people out actually create more creativity, because that’s literally what this program does. If someone helps me, I thank them with some Gravy Points and those Gravy points turn into cash that makes creativity in New York schools–which is a thing of beauty when you reduce it to that.”

And as Charles Best, CEO and founder of Donors Choose, points out, there’s usually a disconnect in altruism at most companies.

Charles Best

“I think philanthropy is so much more in keeping with spirit of shouting someone out than a material reward,” Best says. “Acknowledging someone is an act of altruism in the first place, so converting that act of altruism into a pizza party or company fleece jacket or a gift card is fine, but it’s not in keeping with spirit in which it all began. Whereas philanthropy is maintaining the spirit of altruism that the shout-out began with.”

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As it stands, Treuhaft says he’s pleased with the Gravy Points’ adoption within the agency, citing about a 60% participation rate from employees and another philanthropic outlet for the company. Grey’s platform “The Healing Power of Creativity” serves as an umbrella for its charitable projects, which Treuhaft says are worthwhile but too involved to execute on a regular basis.

“We do things like Grey Minors, where we bring in kids from schools in New York to do creative projects. We’ve done a program for a few years now where we send people to arts businesses in sub-Saharan Africa to help organizations market themselves. We’ve been doing things like that under the banner of Healing Power of Creativity for years. But they tend to be very big and very top-down,” Treuhaft says. “We wanted a more bottom-up approach to philanthropy in addition to that. One way to think about Gravy Points is it’s hundreds if not thousands of tiny donations that all turn into a pretty big donation, in addition to all the big stuff we do.”


Having a more nimble solution like Gravy Points helps Grey to simplify its mission to keep creativity, philanthropy, and team morale on an endless loop.

“It’s easy for what we do every day to be completely separate from what we do philanthropically as an organization,” Treuhaft says. “The thing we like about this program is that makes a really clear connection between the goodness and gratitude that happens in our business every day, and the outcome we’re trying to deliver as an agency in the world–which is more creativity and a better world. That’s what excites us about it and how we fit it in our culture.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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