Volunteering at the Office: Altruistic & Self-Serving?

Another year gone. Once again, we’re at the beginning of the holiday season. One aspect of the holiday season is the season of giving. That one time a year were the number of tellers asking for donations sky-rockets, retail workers are driven crazy by the Salvation Army constantly ringing their bell, and army personal stand guard over Toys For Tots bins. And just to ensure you’re bombarded by the season of giving on all fronts, work begins to urge their employees to give.

The entire season makes me a feel a little like Scrooge McDuck or the Grinch. I can’t help but wonder, I get hit up for money all year round. I get hit up for money when I go to the store during the holidays? Do I really need to be hit up for money at work as well? It gets you wondering, with all the opportunity to give why are volunteer initiatives cultivated in the workplace? Why do people actually give to them?

Genuinely Helping People in Need              

Some just genuinely enjoy giving. These individuals are rare. They’re the Captain America’s of the human population. They flit from one opportunity to give to another gleefully. Work is asking them to donate or volunteer. They just gave twenty dollars to charity last night, but Caps got this. Just tell them when, where, and how. No one puts the give in giving better than Captain America.

Helping Fellow Co-workers

Work volunteer opportunities can be great opportunities to strengthen bonds between co-workers. Rather than give to one of the nameless, faceless masses, work volunteer opportunities focus its volunteer efforts on ensuring all of their workers families are taken care of. This can strengthen the ties between co-workers and give more meaning to the act of giving. You may not know exactly who the donation will go to, but you do know that it will positively affect people you see every day.

Harder Societal Pressure to Donate

Not everyone love giving their hard earned money and time to the less fortunate. The Scrooge’s and Grinch’s of the world prefer to hoard their money. At stores, there is very little fallout from being a Scrooge. The teller might give you the stink eye, but you’ll never see her again. Not participating in a work food drive can lead to your co-workers labeling you a Grinch. And some people really need societal pressure to be super good people.

Health Benefits

Did you know volunteering and donating can improve mental and physical health? In a survey conducted by UnitedHealth Group and Optum Institute, 76% of participants reported feeling healthier and 78% reported lower stress. Yes, volunteering can transform you from an achy Debbie Downer to an energetic, physically enriched Debbie. Forget about volunteering for all of those needy kids, do it so you and everyone around you becomes less of a Debbie Downer.


There is a minor “look at how good I am” element to public, formal gift giving. Some givers live for the public accolades. They want individuals or a group to acknowledge and reaffirm their charitable action. They’ll bask in the accolades of their peers. It’s a thing apparently that some people like. Personally, I prefer to never, ever be acknowledged. Like Buffy, except with far less death.

One-Up Man Ship

Some people thrive on competition. Charitable giving is just another way to prove you’re superiority and claim a potential prize. You think you can beat me in giving until it hurts? Think again!

Business Charity Matching

Sometimes it’s just a way to maximize your gift giving efforts. Some companies in an effort to encourage their employees to volunteer will offer to match a certain percentage of their employees’ contributions. For every old, unwanted can of beans you bring in from the back of your pantry, we’ll contribute another can of food! This is what like to call a win-win situation. Needy people get more donations and you get to claim you gave twice as much to charity that holiday season on your Christmas Card. The best part? If you squint it’s technically true. With charity matching, you don’t need to give until it hurts.

Business Marketing

Charitable contributions and events look good for businesses. It’s a great networking and marketing technique that many companies leverage, especially smaller business owners. Why? It encourages the employees to form relationships with community leaders. And it allows members of your community to connect the company brand with civic duty. Businesses bank on their good deeds being rewarded indirectly down the line. By participating in this, you could potentially make contacts personally that could help you personally or professionally down the line.

Volunteering at the office is a weird mix of altruism and self-serving. At the end of the day, don’t feel pressured to fall in line to give to a work charity. Give to who you want and when you want. If you do give at work, feel free to bask in any of the more self-serving reasons to give. No one says giving has to be a one-sided contribution.

Samantha Stauf

Samantha Stauf graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in technical writing. In the last year and a half, she has been working in the marketing department at a local start-up

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