Kira Vermond: Ensure company-sponsored charity work makes a positive contribution
- September 14, 2010 11:35 AM |
- By Kira Vermond
By Kira Vermond, a Canadian freelance writer:
Looking for a way to get out of the office, get paid and make a difference?
While most people volunteer on their off-hours, a lot of big companies - nearly 70 per cent according to one recent survey - pay their employees to volunteer.
Sometimes there's a designated volunteer day. Think 100 workers swinging hammers to build a home for Habitat for Humanity. Or 50 employees getting together to run for a good cause.
It's about team building. And all that good publicity isn't such a bad thing either.
But other employers actually allow employees to volunteer at a nonprofit of their own choice - without sacrificing a paycheque. Most companies offer eight or 16 hours of paid time. So we're only talking a couple of days.
What's so interesting about this perk is that, on its face, there doesn't seem to be much of an upside for the company. Their employee is basically working somewhere else and they're footing the bill.
But companies that offer this program say it's an investment in their workers. It boosts morale and gives employees a sense of control over their own time. And that's so important to keeping people happy on the job. It also means that employees who do good, feel good when they are back in their seat.
And one more perk? In some cases, the employees actually learn new skills they can take to work with them.
But there are some downsides too. Legal issues for one. If an employee gets hurt at the volunteer gig, but is on the company payroll, is the employer legally responsible?
It's also important for the employer to pre-screen or vet workers who want to say, volunteer with children.
Again, these are thorny legal conundrums that need to be worked out in advance.
Here's one last thing to consider. How do charities and non-profits actually feel about employee volunteers anyway? On one hand, you've got to love free labour. Especially if your understaffed organization is struggling to get everything done. A corporation that offers to donate volunteer tech support employees for a couple of hours a month can be a godsend.
Yet not every situation is such a good fit. What happens if the company's IT people are busy all month on paid work and can't volunteer to update your charity's website or fix a buggy computer?
Then there are those big, splashy volunteer days. Two hundred employees descending on a charity for one day as a team building exercise can be more work than help. So companies need to sit down with the charity they want to work with and map out exactly what their employees will do that day.
Doing good is a good idea. But getting everything in writing first is even better.
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