It is not uncommon for companies to have casual dress days or even allow employees to wear jeans on Fridays, but accounting firm Deloitte and Touche’s Chicago office has taken this relatively routine practice and added an interesting twist.
The company’s standard dress code is business casual, professional dress when at a client site. The one exception is on the last Friday of every month when employees can wear jeans if they purchase a sticker for $5 dollars. The $5 fee is donated to charities that are chosen by the employees and rotate on a monthly basis. The charities are determined by a nomination process with an evaluation committee making the final selections for the year.
Last month’s inaugural event raised money for the Inspiration Cafe, an organization that provides food, counseling and job training to the homeless. In the coming months, the firm’s Jeans Day Charity Initiative will be raising money for such diverse causes as PAWS (a pet rescue and adoption organization), the Howard Brown Health Center (a health and human services organization that serves the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities) and Breast Cancer Awareness.
Deloitte and Touche’s Jeans Day Charity Initiative was based on the March of Dimes’ Blue Jeans for Babies program. Blue Jeans for Babies is an annual fundraising event that the March of Dimes conducts in partnership with companies across the United States. Like Deloitte’s program, Blue Jeans for Babies affords employees the opportunity to dress casually at work by simply purchasing a sticker, button or T-shirt to benefit the March of Dimes.
The monetary costs for the Blue Jeans Day Charity Initiative are minimal: about $100 dollars for the stickers. According to Human Resources Manager Julie Gandolfi, the biggest expense is time and even that is modest.
“The most time I’ve spent on this has been creating the promotional e-mails, but once you’ve created a format for that it becomes easier,” she says.
The initial review process was somewhat time consuming, particularly since it entailed choosing a different charity for each month of the year, but Facilities Project Supervisor Ginger Mavros says that a smaller company can shorten the process by choosing a single organization to support. A smaller organization can also forgo a committee review process, leaving the final choice of a charity or charities up to a company-wide vote.
Mavros established a similar program when she worked for Arthur Andersen. There she helped open a small office of about 85 people. The office chose one organization to support, allowing them to make a single, large, end-of-the-year donation, rather than 12 smaller contributions, while reducing the logistical hurdles involved in Deloitte’s current, more extensive initiative. In addition, Mavros’ program served a dual purpose, with half of the money going to charity and the other half to a holiday party fund.
With 2500 employees spread out over multiple locations in the Chicagoland area, Deloitte’s program does pose some logistical challenges that a smaller organization would most likely never have to face. Fortunately, the firm possesses the resources and commitment to deal with these challenges.
Deloitte uses e-mails and an intranet site to solicit nominations and promote the initiative. The firm enlisted nine different administrative people to collect fees for the program and distribute stickers to participants. At a smaller company with a shared entrance, however, the day-to-day administration of the program could fall to one or two people. At a company lacking a human resources or community relations function, this responsibility could provide the person elected to oversee the program with an opportunity to develop new skills.
So far, the program has proven to be an affordable way of promoting teamwork and community involvement at Deloitte. Not only do the employees choose the charities, but the person who nominated the charity is given the opportunity to present a check to it on behalf of the firm.
“We really tried to give the employees a sense of ownership over this program,” says Community Relations Manager Amy Silverstein. “They’re submitting it, they get to donate and they can encourage their colleagues to participate. It really helps create a sense of community.”
“The great thing about this program is that it gives employees a voice,” she adds.
The program has also proven beneficial to the firm. In the wake of Arthur Andersen’s recent dissolution, Deloitte has emerged as Chicago’s largest accounting firm and the company believes that the Jeans Day initiative helps it connect to the community.
“I think we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” says Silverstein.