Finances & Money

Would you accept a volunteering activity instead of a holiday party?

Question: Would you accept it if your company decided to forgo a year-end party and instead hold a volunteer event?

My wife’s company decided that instead of hosting or having catered a holiday party, which can easily cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, even if hosted at someone’s home, they would volunteer at a local charity and follow with a pizza party.

Scenario Condition: First, we are both blessed to be employed and know that to even have recognition of any sort is above and beyond what is required of our employer. However, I want you to think more about the traditions of the common workplace rather than the fact the we should just be glad to have a job.

Back to the scenario. The charity is one dealing with used home products, and I love volunteering when it involves throwing heavy stuff around. For example, our charity group just volunteered for 9 hours in selling Christmas trees at our church. I got the chance to unload hundreds of trees from a tractor-trailer, throw 10′ tall trees around and use a chainsaw. So honestly, I didn’t mind the volunteering part. I can also say I don’t care whether it’s a pizza party or a meal at a 5-star resort, free is free, right?

But my wife works at a doctor’s office with many highly-paid doctors, nurses, etc. They put in tons of time at the office helping save lives and do a lot of work on the side for free. Was replacing a party with a few hours hauling washers and windows fair? I can tell you that there were many grumbles from the office, but I can’t say whether they were from doctors or receptionists (although I know who showed up and who didn’t).

This isn’t about my opinion (although you can probably guess it), nor Stacie’s, but yours. How would you feel? I would bet many of your companies have downsized their holiday parties this year, and you might not even have a party at all, so what are your thoughts?

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Clever Dude


  • I think I’d be happy to do the volunteer work and eat a tasty pizza afterward. I’m not the type of a person who’s staying away, if need comes for some hard work, even if I am a web designer and a woman too. But, if I have to unload something, clean or do anything for a good cause, I am in it no questions asked.

    As for the party: it doesn’t matter where or what you eat. It matters to have nice people with you and a good time 😉

  • Is the volunteer activity mandatory or optional? If it’s optional, I wouldn’t have a problem with it (I would actually be more willing to participate in a volunteer activity than attend a party), but I don’t think it’s fair to force people to volunteer.

    My company has canceled holiday parties altogether. It is a large company that makes over $10 billion in annual revenue, and they told us they can’t afford to hold holiday parties because of the economy. I never went to the holiday party anyway, so it doesn’t make a difference to me, but I found it interesting that the CEO can still afford to give himself millions of dollars in bonuses.

  • I absolutely detest employers dictating anything! They decide if they will match my charitable gift (my charities are somehow never on their list), they decide what my “fair share” is to United Way. I decided several years back to end my contribution to United Way due to the charities stance on homosexuals (boy scouts must let them lead, big brothers/big sisters must allow them as mentors). Where does my employer get the right to try to force me to give up my precious paycheck? We didn’t make 100% participation this year, hmmm. Was I the only one who didn’t participate? What I do in my spare time is none of their business and if I don’t show up to a company-sponsored volunteer event it might just be that I have other obligations or have already spent my volunteer hours on other projects without their help.

  • I really like the idea of volunteering and helping others in need. Giving time and energy for those who can use help is a part of my belief system.

    That said, a volunteering activity – if a replacement for a holiday party, or even otherwise – should be voluntary. Part of the definition, clearly. If employees had the option to volunteer or go home, instead of participating in a party as in year past, that would seem more fair.

    Also, if the “volunteering” involves heavy lifting or things outside the normal job description, it shouldn’t be mandatory and could be dangerous to expect…from all perspectives.

  • That’s a tough one. I think it’s cool to do company-sponsored volunteer events, but I think it’s better to do those a few times through the year, not necessarily for a holiday party. There’s just something about getting gussied up around co-workers for socializing. It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s a fun way to get in the spirit.

  • Interesting. I thought a end of the year holiday party was to say thank you to the employees for a job well done during the year. A volunteer event should be done as a way to say the company is involved in the community. I do not believe they should be mixed as you really can only send one message at a time for it to be clear. Sounds like companies are trying to kill two birds with one stone. That said I volunteer when the time is right and would if the company asked me to help them out. But I still would like a little something that said thanks for the hard work that kept us in business for another year.

  • I think a volunteer event is a great team builder. Plus everyone feels great after for making someone else’s holidays a little bit better. I definitely would do that instead of a holiday party.

  • I personally wouldn’t mind, but I’m not so into parties and I like helping people. I guess your opinion of the company you work for would help form your idea on this as well. I like the company I’m at now, but I’ve worked for terrible employers in the past, and that has formed my opinion of their end of the year events.

    Our company scaled back and held the party at our office, in exchange for giving everyone a small holiday bonus.

  • Last year, the staff took the attorneys to lunch! Staff = three people, attorneys = 2 people. It was a hard year for my boss so we decided to take him out. This year, we are having our holiday dinner at Bonefish and the boss is paying. I agree with the one poster that said that holidays parties are for saying thanks to the staff and volunteer activities are to show involvement in the community. Two different things. I guess it would depend on the volunteer activity as to whether I would go or not.

  • I like the idea in theory, but the Christmas party is more about celebrating the year and the holidays. I think if the company wants everyone to donate their time (which is a great idea) — they could certainly do better than pizza. Instead of the fancy dinner, what about just cocktails and appies? A lot less expensive than the full on dinner, but a lot more holiday-ish.

  • My old employer hosted a dance and dinner at Christmas which included a food drive. We got tickets for each food item we brought which went into a raffle for prizes. Everyone was super generous. I have no idea how much food was donated but it would have been impressive. I was leaving the country so I donated everything nonperishable I had. I think my table alone donated a few hundred items.

    I enjoy that sort of thing. I used to do food drives at my parties. It worked well.

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