Incorporating charitable elements requires research, coordination

Article published by Midlands Business Journal
Written by David Kubicek

Incorporating charitable components into a holiday office party requires research and close coordination with the nonprofit organization.

“Understanding how your company can make the largest effort and listening to what the charitable organization needs will be the best first step in the right direction,” said Jaycee Stephens, event producer at planitomaha.

The most popular charitable events seem to be labor- or monetary -based efforts like facilitating bike builds or putting together donation bags for children and adults full of items like toiletries or school supplies.

Direct giving is becoming increasingly popular at corporate events. Attendees can donate with minimal effort through direct text, online or through an e-invite.

“We’re also seeing clients taking on corporate social responsibility, like using more recycled products or going completely paperless,” Stephens said.

VGA Marketing and Development Specialist Laura Paulsen said that for the past few holiday seasons the firms staff has donated to a fund to support an annual Day of Giving, and the company matches employee contributions.

“On that day, our employees break out into teams, each covering an assigned area of [Omaha], to perform random acts of kindness,” she said.

These acts have included purchasing clothing accessories and personal items for donation to schools and shelters, taking donuts to police or fire stations, picking up someone’s grocery tab and making donations
to some of the films favorite nonprofits.

Clover Frederick, president of the Nebraska Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, said she has seen few examples of charitable events happening as part of holiday office parties.

“Some companies choose to have charitable event instead of a normal office party while others do both,” she said. “Of those that do both, some choose to incorporate them together and others have two separate events.”

Start by setting aside some financial resources and/or time during work hours. Next, have employees decide which charity to support. Using a committee of employees to narrow down and research opportunities,
then letting all employees vote, will have greater buy -in than if the CEO mandates a charity.

“I recommend working with local charity or the local chapter of a national charity,” Frederick said. “Also, steer clear of controversial causes if you want all employees to participate.”

Make a plan with the organization the firm is supporting. Work with representatives to provide a variety of ways that employees can participate. Make sure opportunities are during work hours for those employees who
have difficulty participating because of child care or transportations burdens.

Dani Ohlman, director of volunteer engagement at United Way of the Midlands, said the organization is in contact with nonprofit agencies regularly and knows their urgent needs.

“[By contacting us first] if your company holds a donation drive, the donations can be utilized right away and/or possibly fill a need for the agency that is not being met during the holidays,” she said. “We can also
coordinate a Good on the Go event for your company. Good on the Go events boost engagement, foster teamwork and build morale as employees work together to assemble kits for local agencies.”

Companies can choose from multiple types of kits, from hygiene kits to new mom and baby kits to literacy kits that contain new books for children. United Way takes care of the purchasing and transportation of the materials as well as event set up and execution. All companies have to do is fund the project, provide the space and recruit volunteers who are ready to give back. United Way handles the kit delivery and event clean-up.

“Incorporating volunteer events during the holiday season is a great way to give your employees the opportunity to share their time, efforts and treasure with our neighbors in need to make their holidays brighter,” Ohlman said.