Charity time replacing the office party

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Let's face it -- the standard corporate holiday party is part
schmooze-fest, part loosening up with co-workers and part getting-something-for-free. But fewer companies are having the seasonal get-togethers. Some of it is cost, and some of it is because they want to do something bigger. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler explains.


Jeff Tyler: At companies across the country, human resource professionals like Mary Krick have been weighing this question:

Mary Krick: Given the economy and what folks are going through, did it really feel right to spend money on a party?

Krick works for PECO, the largest utility in Pennsylvania. Normally, the company holds a gala sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with such high unemployment among its customers:

Krick: The decision was it didn't feel right. But we did have the money in the budget and everyone wanted to do something.

PECO set aside a day for employees to volunteer with local charities. Krick says turn-out was better than expected.

Krick: We actually had more volunteers than there were slots available for.

She says the company decided to donate more than time.

Krick: We took the money that we would normally spend on a party and donate it to different organizations that feed people.

In all, PECO is giving about $65,000 to local charities.

Other companies are also re-thinking holiday festivities. Mark Hutchins is with the international auditing firm KPMG:

Mark Hutchins: For the last 20-plus years, we've done a holiday party sometime in December.

In this economic climate, Hutchins says a party seemed out of place.

Hutchins: So we decided to do something a little bit different that still brought our people together and was more giving-back to the community.

On a recent Friday at KPMG offices across the country, employees assembled teddy-bears for disadvantaged kids. The final gift package included a children's book. I asked Hutchins how much his Los Angeles office spent to have 700 hundred employees stuff teddy-bears.

I'm sure it's in excess of $20,000. But that's way less than a holiday party would have been.

Few employees complained that the Grinch stole their holiday party. Though one person said she enjoyed volunteering, but wouldn't mind having the holiday party, too.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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