Friday, March 9, 2012

Expected to volunteer

Warning! Highly opinionated blog to follow!

I spent a few years working in the banking industry. When I first started, I was impressed that we were given paid time to do volunteer work in the community. Granted, we had to volunteer for certain types of qualified activities, but still, I was happy the company would be willing to do that.

Every so often we’d get notifications of certain events the bank was sponsoring and they would ask for volunteers. Over time, the paid time allowed to do volunteer work was reduced and the bank sponsored events moved from being voluntary to an expectation—especially for salaried managers. Regardless of what volunteer activity was completed, it needed to be documented.

There was one activity that was held on a Sunday. It conflicted with my church obligations. I remember getting a call from my district manager asking me why my name wasn’t on the list of volunteers from my branch—I was the manager after all. I explained I had a previous commitment to my church. His response was “This is the biggest event we do all year! How will it look if I don’t have all my managers there?” I went on to explain I had already made a commitment to my church at that time. He responded, “It’s just this one time! Your God will understand.”

I didn’t back down and I kept my commitment to my Heavenly Father. To me, jobs come and go, but it’s the eternal things that matter the most.

It was some time later when I was studying one of the many rules and regulations we needed to follow as bankers. One of them is something called the “Community Reinvestment Act” (or CRA). The Community Reinvestment Act was passed in 1977 as a federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Banks are audited time and again to make sure they are following this act. What is one thing banks can do to make sure the will do well in these audits? Simple: have proof that the bank is doing “qualified” volunteer work.

So in the end, the bank leaders weren’t paying us to do volunteer work or holding these volunteer events out of the kindness of their hearts. It was all part of the plan to make sure they were able to pass the CRA audits.

To be fair, a lot of people in the community benefited from these volunteer activities. And I know that whenever I give service to another, I feel good inside—so I can only imagine there were many other employees that felt the same way.

But the question lingers: how sincere are the bank’s motives when they are basically forced to do something?


  1. Good for you for standing your ground. :D Somehow, expected volunteer work never feels as good as voluntary volunteer work!

  2. Gosh, there must be a new definition of "volunteer" now a days!!

    Glad you didn't back down. Shame on your manager.