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Changing the World Through Your Workplace

More time spent at work means less time for volunteering and philanthropy. But there are ways to put your ideals to work in the office.

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2. The company allots each employee a select number of paid hours to be spent volunteering at the employee's nonprofit of choice.

3. The company chooses a select number of nonprofits to support and announces volunteer opportunities to employees.

4. The company establishes a formal volunteer program and coordinates volunteer opportunities with a select number of nonprofits.

5. The company decides to support one particular organization and encourages employees to contribute their time and skills to that nonprofit, promoting and acknowledging their efforts through the company newsletter or website.

6. The company offers pro bono services to a variety of nonprofit organizations.

Corporate Philanthropy

Corporate America donates billions of dollars to charitable causes and organizations every year. Just about every company has money available for charity. So why not try to reserve some of your employer's funds for your favorite organization? Whenever you are considering making a philanthropic donation, look into whether your workplace has any of the following programs in place that can help maximize your giving capacity.

Company Match. A simple way to double your donation to a nonprofit is by taking advantage of your workplace's company match program. Once you have determined where you want to make a financial contribution, check with your Human Resources Department or company website for a list of non-profits the company supports. If yours is one of them, simply fill out the relevant paperwork and send it in to the appropriate party. If your nonprofit isn't among the company's selection, and especially if you are donating in response to a natural disaster or other unique circumstance, find out who is in charge of deciding which organizations the company will match and petition for the one you wish to support. (Many companies will provide matches to any nonprofit in the community, but some give you the option of donating only to a predetermined list of organizations.)

Federated Funds (also known as workplace giving programs). Many businesses offer their employees the option of donating a portion of their paycheck to a federated fund, which then distributes the money to a select group of local nonprofits. You can choose the charity to which you want your donation to go, and then that amount, whether $2, $4, or $100, is automatically deducted from every paycheck. Federated funds are beneficial in many ways: you get a tax deduction, your employer gets recognition for doing good for the local community, and the nonprofit only has to process paperwork for one lump donation. United Way is one of the oldest and most well-recognized federated funds, but there are also other funds that target specific issues affecting the environment, health, arts and culture, or racial minorities. If you weren't informed at the time you joined your company, ask your HR department whether federated funds are available to you. If not, find out whether anyone has ever looked into establishing such a program and make it clear that you'd like to participate should the opportunity arise. If enough people seem interested in the idea, it's possible that HR will take steps toward establishing the program.

You might also investigate a socially responsible fund and ask if your business would consider adding it to their investment choices. These are funds that generally avoid investing in companies that aren't environmentally responsible, produce nuclear technology, promote gambling, or sell tobacco or alcohol products. One site devoted to providing the public with information about socially responsible investment funds is Social Investment Forum (

Money for Time. If you already volunteer or are about to begin, see if your company has or might consider what Gap calls a money for time program. When Gap employees volunteer fifteen hours for an organization, the company donates $150 to that organization. Microsoft matches employees' volunteer time with a $17 donation for each volunteer hour, up to $12,000 per year. Naturally not all companies can contribute at this financial level, but in the nonprofit world, everything helps. Your time plus your company's financial contribution makes for a valuable boost to helping that nonprofit fulfill its mission.

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