Monday, December 14, 2009


After this rough year, some companies are looking to celebrate the holidays differently. Not only are their budgets tighter than ever, their employee head count is far lower than it was last year. What to do?

According to John Challenger, chief executive of the outplacement-consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, just 62 percent of companies are planning holiday parties this year, down from 77 percent a year ago and 90 percent in 2007. Allison Linn, a reporter for who wrote a recent story on the trend, said some companies are opting to scrap their parties this year and instead use their party funds to help others less fortunate.

At Taylor Gregory Broadway Architects in Washington State, the company’s partners asked employees to come up with a plan for their holiday party this year. But instead of a party, the staff voted to buy gifts for a needy local family. “As difficult as it is for them, they all recognize that it may even be more difficult for people elsewhere,” Lois Broadway told Linn for her story.

Other companies are organizing volunteer efforts rather than hold a party for their employees. PECO, the largest utility in Pennsylvania, set aside a day for employees to volunteer with local charities and told Marketplace Radio’s Jeff Tyler that turnout was better than expected. “We took the money we’d normally spend on a party and donated it to different organizations that feed the hungry,” HR director Mary Krick told Marketplace. In all, PECO is giving about $65,000 to local charities.

And on a recent Friday at KPMG offices around the country, employees assembled teddy bears for disadvantaged kids. KPMG spokesman Mark Hutchins said his Los Angeles office spent more than $20,000 to have 700 employees stuff teddy bears – but it was “way less” than a holiday party would have been, he said.

Sometimes, you don’t have to be a start-up to think out of the box. Will the charity office party become a permanent fixture at some firms? Should it? What do you think?

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