Charitable Involvement in the Workplace

Dear, Anita,

My company would like all of our departments to become involved in the executives’ pet charity. There is one large annual event, for which my department has been given some responsibilities. How can I get the employees I supervise enthused about this extra workload? Plus, the event itself is after hours. Am I obligated to pay overtime to employees who participate?

Dear, Involuntary Volunteer,

Corporate social responsibility is important, so I’m pleased that your company is taking an active role in a community charity. Despite the fact that the company will benefit from favorable publicity and goodwill from their customers and the general public (Ben & Jerry’s springs to my mind), it’s noble and fitting for the “haves” to help the “have nots.” When employees feel they are working for a company with a conscience, they will likely be more engaged in their jobs and willing, if not enthusiastic, to participate in the annual event.

I’ll get off my soapbox now to address the nuts and bolts of your question. Are you and the executives clear on the amount of time and resources the assigned tasks will require from your department?  Asking for employees to donate their personal time is one way to go, but if there are deliverables that need to be executed and plans that need to be made to pull the event off, allotting time during work hours will guarantee the projects get done without excuse.

Select Staffing Santa Barbara International Marathon

Select Staffing Santa Barbara International Marathon

When a company is looking for a philanthropic partnership that their employees will rally around, it helps if the charity relates somehow to your core business. For example, my friends at Select Staffing sponsor the Santa Barbara International Marathon and are partnering this year with a local Job Smart program, collecting donated shoes to help local job seekers put their best foot forward.  To generate enthusiasm, your company executives could announce the new charitable partnership in a companywide meeting or through a newsletter, intranet site, or other internal mode of communication. Sometimes, though, you as a middle manager may be required to be the torch bearer and relay mandates from the executives to your team. Do your best to promote the charity’s purpose and main goals and outline how your department will contribute. Most employees won’t mind a break from the mundane for some once-a-year assignments.

Charity EventAttendance at the after-hours event should be voluntary. I’m not a lawyer, but common sense tells me that if you are requiring people to attend the charity event, then they must be paid.  Your company may wish to promote participation by offering to pay any employee’s entry fee, admission charge, or per-plate contribution. (They are on their own for raffles and silent auctions!)

Readers: In which charity does your company invest time and money? How do employees participate?

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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