Involve Your Employees in Community
Service Efforts

by Christina Morfeld

Many organizations support local charities and events as a way of "giving back" to the communities in which they do business. But the benefits of such activities are not one-sided: The company may, in turn, earn tax advantages, increased name recognition, and a reputation for being socially responsible.

While these programs can be successfully accomplished at the corporate or executive level, there are added bonuses associated with involving your employees:

  • Increased loyalty, morale, and overall job satisfaction;
  • Enhanced recruitment and retention;
  • The opportunity for staff members to hone skills that may be transferable to the workplace

Even small organizations lacking the resources to staff a full- or part-time Volunteer Coordinator can easily implement one or more of the strategies described in this article.

"Drives"

These need not be monetary in nature. Besides fundraising for a specific charity, you can organize collections for canned food, used clothing, "Toys for Tots," and even blood!

Group Activities

Examples include participating in "walk-for-a-cause" events, tutoring or mentoring local high school students, and competing in a baseball game for which the proceeds benefit a specific organization.

Individual Activities

There are a number of steps you can take to support employees who perform community service outside the scope of company-sponsored initiatives.

  • Volunteer Matching
    If possible, assign an individual to develop and maintain relationships with local charities, hospitals, schools, etc. This person can then match employees who express an interest in volunteering with current needs.

    A simpler alternative is to post these opportunities on a bulletin board or intranet and encourage employees to pursue them on their own.

  • Time Off
    Consider implementing a policy whereby staff members may take a certain amount of paid time off for volunteer work each year.

    A strong written policy should be developed:
    • Encouraging employees to limit their use of this policy to situations in which the volunteer work cannot be done outside of business hours. Furthermore, flextime should be utilized if available.
    • Instructing employees to obtain advance supervisory approval as they would for any other absence. It should also be made clear that requests can be denied based on the business needs of the department at the time in question.
    • Informing employees that time spent volunteering is not eligible for overtime pay.

  • Matching Gift Program
    This initiative involves making charitable donations that correspond with those made by employees.

    The details of this program should be carefully documented in a written policy. For example:
    • Are all employees eligible to participate or just full-timers?
    • Will you match all donations, or just those to eligible organizations? If the latter, will your list include the name of every acceptable charity, or will only broad categories be specified?
    • Is there a minimum and/or maximum donation that the company will match?
    • What amount of the employee's donation will the company match (50 percent, 100 percent, etc.)?

Some of the programs described in this article are more administrative and labor-intensive than others, and may not be feasible in small organizations. Even those that require minimal effort, however, can have a tremendous impact on your staff. They will be proud to be part of an organization that cares about its "fellow man" and spreads good will.

Be sure to return the favor: Recognize and reward those who volunteer and publicize their efforts both internally and externally.


Christina Morfeld is a writer for Suite101.com and president of Affinity Business Communications, a provider of high-quality instructional design, technical writing, and content development solutions. Whether writing to instruct, inform, or persuade, our work is reader-focused, benefits-oriented, and results-driven. Visit our website at http://www.affinitybizcomm.com to learn how we can increase your firm's sales and effectiveness!

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Copyright 2000-2002 by Christina Morfeld and Affinity Business Communications, LLC.
Originally published by Suite101.com. All rights reserved.

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