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Mandatory Volunteering?

My work includes our volunteer hours on our employee reviews, and this makes me uncomfortable. What is your opinion on mandatory volunteer work? Does it negate the idea of volunteering in general, or is this something that has to be done for the greater good?

Today, my work team went to Feed My Starving Children and packed rice bags to ship to Central America. It was an ok experience, though I would have preferred it if the managers had rescheduled instead of insisting that we go in the middle of a blizzard. It was work sponsored time off to volunteer, so it counted as paid company time. FMSC is overall a great cause, and they do a lot of wonderful work for developing countries. But what made me a little uncomfortable was that this organization is quite religious, and we spent the whole shift listening to Christian rock music while working.


At the end of the shift, they invited everyone to stand over the boxes of food we packed and offer a prayer. Luckily, we were told this was optional and one of the other people on my team backed out of the room slowly so I didn't look out of place backing out myself. Had no one else backed out, I would have probably felt more pressure to stick around for the prayer even though it means nothing to me personally. I was technically still on the clock, and I really don't want to bring in my personal beliefs into workplace politics.

Apparently there's been a downward trend for volunteering in my department - I'm new, so this has nothing to do with my own personal efforts. I'm not sure how this plays into how our department gets reviewed or funded, but they do discuss it quite a bit in meetings. My personal belief was volunteer work was just that - volunteer. So it makes me uncomfortable to think that this would some how play into my year end review.

I do plenty of volunteering in my spare time, when I want to. I have close ties to many local nonprofits, but all of those connections were initiated by me and I wasn't seeking any personal credit for my work. When I went in twice a week to do data entry at another food bank, the coordinator asked for my paperwork so that they could write off my class credit. I told them I was there because I wanted to be and there was not credit to be earned, which really impressed the volunteer coordinator, which in turn made me wonder why it was such a big deal that I was there simply because I like helping people.

It great that work wants employees to be more engaged in the community, and to spend as much time as they can helping in any way. But something about it rubs me the wrong way. For the record, I've already started insisting to my boss that the next paid volunteer time be spent walking dogs and playing with rescues at the local Humane Society. No religion, just awesome animals.

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