For businesses

How to engage volunteers in your business?

According to the definition recognised in Estonia and elsewhere in the world, volunteering means work done for the benefit of someone else or society in general. Usually volunteers work for non-profit organisations, for foundations or on their own initiative.

The main goal of a business is to generate profit. Therefore, volunteer work at a business is not justified, as it indicates volunteer exploitation and a desire to cut back on wages. This is shameful and discredits volunteering.

Sometimes businesses recruit people to help with various tasks as so-called volunteers for special events, concerts, etc. but in these cases it would be more appropriate to call them unpaid workers. If the worker receives things like gift cards or free tickets to events, they are technically an employee or service provider and their pay is received in the form of gifts or so-called cash equivalent items. Cash equivalent items are taxed according to Income Tax Act § 48.

There are exceptions where for the involvement of volunteers is justifiable:

  • Charity projects. These are initiatives where a business is trying to address or raise awareness of a social issue.
  • Social enterpriseSee if your business meets the criteria for a social enterprise. There is no separate legal form for social enterprises in Estonia. A social enterprise can legally be a non-profit organisation, a foundation, a private limited company or an association. A social enterprise cannot be a self-employed person. A business can only be a legal person, while a self-employed person is a physical person.
  • Putting on sports events or other events which are usually of no financial benefit and are organised for public interest.

Businesses must register their volunteers in the Tax and Customs Board employee register.

How can businesses help to promote volunteer work in Estonia?

There are many ways businesses can support their employees’ volunteer work:

  • You can join the charity initiative “Let’s donate time” started by Swedbank and the Estonian Employers’ Confederation. Businesses that join the initiative provide their employees with one paid day off so that they can use it to do volunteer work. It’s an easy and flexible model for businesses to become involved with charity or contribute to existing socially responsible activities.
  • Give employees 1-3 paid days off a year, which every employee can use to do volunteer work of their choice.
  • Offer organisations professional skills, for example, according to the model of strategic philanthropy. The Good Deed Foundation may be of assistance here.

Upon the initiative of the European Volunteer Centre, three volunteer activity planning handbooks have been published for businesses and employees which aim to help employers and employees make the necessary steps to plan and organise volunteer activities.

  1. Private Volunteering Initiatives
  2. Volunteering Activities During Working Time
  3. Volunteering Team Building Events

Find more online by searching for the keyword ‘corporate volunteering’.