Get paid to volunteer: 4 awesome service sabbatical programs


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No longer just for college professors, sabbaticals have become a norm at many large companies that understand the benefits of allowing employees time to explore areas they might not otherwise explore during full-time employment. And while some offer leaves of absence for a variety of reasons, an increasing number of companies are providing select employees with the chance to spend time — while retaining full salary and benefits — volunteering.

Xerox founded its social service leave program in 1971, making it a pioneer in the area of paid sabbaticals. Every year, a group of peer-selected employees are selected to take a fully paid leave of absence to volunteer for local nonprofits.

“A hallmark of Xerox’s deep value system is giving back to the communities where our people work and live,” said Ursula Burns, Xerox chairman and chief executive officer, in a company statement. “Xerox’s Social Service Leave program allows us to spread the true wealth of our company — our people — with organizations that need them now more than ever.”

Wells Fargo
If you work for Wells Fargo, you have the opportunity to take up to four months paid leave to work on a volunteer project impacting a nonprofit organization or school. In 2011, Wells Fargo awarded volunteer leave to more than 26 team members representing more than 32.5 months of paid leave, according to a company press release.

For 20 years, Timberland’s Path of Service program has been giving employees paid time off for community service projects. Employees in the program use the time off to build trails, plant trees, create community gardens and other ways to better their communities.

SAP is a relative newcomer to the list of companies offering paid service leave with its social sabbatical program. Each year, a select group of employees is chosen to spend four weeks paid time off to bring their expertise to such fields as marketing, information technology or finance to help various organizations in developing nations. The first group of participants was assigned to Brazil, and future programs will take place in India and South Africa, the company said.

"SAP is committed to helping the world run better and improving peoples' lives by making strategic social investments that have a lasting and sustainable impact on society," said Jan Grasshoff — SVP talent, leadership and organization design for SAP — in a press statement. "Engaging our best talents in skills-based volunteering through the social sabbatical program is an important part of SAP's social investment strategy to support emerging entrepreneurs, and we are thrilled at the level of interest in the program."