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Help employees ‘give back’ during crisis and all year-round

by on
in Employee Benefits Program,HR Management,Human Resources

by Christopher Scott

Businesses nationwide are helping their employees find ways to help Haitians as they recover from the January earthquake. Doing that helps employees in other ways, too—and, in turn, helps employers.

We’ve seen it with Haiti. We saw it on the Gulf Coast with Hurricane Katrina, and when floods and wildfires have ravaged other parts of the country. When employees see an organization taking the initiative to help victims of natural disasters or support charities in their own communities, it sends an important message: This is a good place to work because it’s about more than just making a buck.

Credibility, productivity boost

Support for charitable causes builds the credibility of the organization’s leaders. It paints a clearer picture of what they value. It helps define the organization for the people who work there.

Participating in charitable activities is good for employees, too. It can make them prouder of what they do for a living. That, in turn, can make them more productive and satisfied at work.

When we focus on serving other people, we seem to be more productive. When we know that what we’re doing is going to help someone else, we do it better or we do more of it.

This is especially true for younger workers, who have grown up with a focus on social justice and concern for the community and their environment.

It’s not just helping out after major disasters that generates employee goodwill. All year long, employers can make it easy for employees to volunteer in their own communities and donate time, money, food, toys—whatever is needed—right in the neighborhood.

10 ways to do good

Here are 10 ways your organization can turn doing good deeds into an appreciated and well-used employee benefit:

1. Create opportunities for employees to volunteer or donate money to good causes in your community. If the process is readily available, employees won’t have to jump through hoops to get the organization to support a walk for charity or grant a day off to volunteer at a worthy event.

2. Organize group volunteer projects and invite employees to participate in specific activities at assigned times. Avoid pressuring employees to join in.

3. Compile a list of volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits and distribute it to employees. That way, employees can take the initiative if and when they want to.

4. Choose local recipients for charitable donations your employees make or collect. Donors often say they prefer to give money that will be spent locally. Exception: Major tragedies, such as the earthquake in Haiti. If the need is great enough out of state or in another country, people will pitch in.

5. Look for causes that are relevant to your organization’s work and mission.

6. Steer clear of controversial organizations and causes. Participation and donations will drop off if causes go against the faith or morals of any employees.

7. Choose fun volunteer opportunities. Activities that employees can do together build camaraderie. Examples: car washes, sorting food at a food bank or sprucing up a nonprofit’s facilities.

8. Tap the giving mood that sweeps people during the winter holidays. It’s a good time to collect food, toys and money for distribution to the less fortunate.

9. Pin down all aspects of the project before you start. Example: If you’re going to collect food and clothes for disaster victims, know how you’re going to deliver them before employees start stacking cans or boxes in their cubicles.

Note:
In many cases (such as Haitian earthquake relief), cash donations to aid organizations are far more useful than food or clothing drives.

10. Make sure employees see the results of their donations or volunteer work.

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Author: Christopher Scott is a founder of A Day of Hope, a nonprofit organization that distributes food for Thanksgiving to needy families in Stanislaus County, Calif. Contact him at Christopher.Lynn.Scott@gmail.com.

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