Businesses are doing more to encourage their employees to give their time, money or skills to worthy causes. But what happens when it’s written into their contract?
The money that philanthropists donate to causes each year makes a huge amount of difference to their work and reach. But new philanthropic tools – tools that extend beyond money – are emerging all the time. For example, skills sharing and volunteering are becoming more popular, and allow people to explore the ways in which charities work, as well as their impacts, while they support them.
Many groups have now been set up to help facilitate volunteering and skills sharing between business and charities, helping people to apply their skills in different areas in ways that are convenient, for example, goprobono and the Engage Experience Philanthropy Network.
But while most of these match-making groups and networks have been non-profits, companies themselves are now becoming more likely to shoulder more of the administrative and financial costs involved in helping their employees reach their philanthropic potential.
Google gives its employees 20 hours each year to volunteer with approved charities and runs ‘GoogleServe’ for a fortnight each year, whereby its employees volunteer in community programmes, from social coding to gardening. Bloomberg operates ‘matching gift’ and ‘dollars for your hours’ programmes, where they match donations made by employees to charities up to $5000 (USD) and make a contribution for hours spent volunteering.The UK’s top FTSE companies, and therefore the City, is particularly active as CAF’s new report shows. The list could go on.
While these volunteering programmes are proving increasingly popular, with a growing interest from younger staff looking to get involved, one brave businessman is taking the concept further by ‘contracting in’ staff to compulsorily take part in engagement programmes.
Such ‘contracted giving’ is, of course, a bold move and flies in the face of ‘volunteering’. It could have wide implications for companies’ productivity and making such a commitment to a cause, or causes, would be a big statement for businesses to make. It could also impinge on employees’ ideological freedoms, depending on whether they were at liberty to choose their own cause.
In a recent interview, the colourful musician, businessman and self-proclaimed humanitarian Yank Barry told City Philanthropy how his contracted giving policy works. Along with two companies, VitaPro Foods and ProPectin, Barry has founded a charity called The Global Village Champions Foundation, which focuses on providing meals to impoverished children. The foundation claims to have served 988 million meals around the world to date, and, with the help of its spokesman Muhammad Ali, hopes to present its billionth at the Super Bowl in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2015.
The foundation has no employees; it is run by staff at Barry’s portfolio of companies. Everyone who works for Barry is required to devote 20% of their time to Global Village.
“Global Village is very unique. I think we’ve received less than $5,000 in donations in almost 20 years. We don’t solicit funds, we have zero admin.”
When asked whether his employees were happy with that, Barry responds “they haven’t left.”
The idea of compulsory giving policies becoming popular seems doubtful. But as philanthropy evolves, and as people and companies see more of the benefits that come with engaging in it, we can expect to see more businesses helping to foster their employees talents for good causes.
If your company operates a volunteering programme, we’d love to hear from you. How does it work, and how has it benefited you or the company? What are its challenges and how could it be improved? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.