Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Explained

Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Explained
Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Explained
July 14, 2022
Employee Volunteering

There are countless ways for companies to positively impact their communities, the world, and employees through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Today, however, employees want to play a role in their company’s social impact.

Opportunities to engage your employees in these programs include both donating to good causes and volunteering with organizations locally, globally or remotely. One step to take is to offer volunteer time off (VTO).

What is Volunteer Time Off?

Volunteer time off, or VTO, is a form of paid leave.

It is slightly different from paid time off, or PTO. VTO is meant as directed time away from the office that is spent doing good on behalf of a charitable organization or their community. Employees receive their normal compensation for this time and, in most cases, approved organizations are charities or other mission-based nonprofits.

Offering VTO is becoming more popular. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 26% of organizations were offering VTO as of 2019. That figure represented a 5% increase from 2018.

Why is VTO experiencing growth? Surveys indicate that employees are seeking out companies that offer pathways for employees to give back or have a social impact. Specifically, 75% of millennials want their employers to support those in need in their communities “through donations and/or volunteer efforts.”

Creating a VTO Policy

All organizations want to attract and retain high-quality talent. CSR programs, including VTO, can be tools that help attract the right people, especially among the millennial generation.

If your company has yet to explore VTO as part of its existing CSR program, follow these 6 best practices to get started:

1. Define Your Objectives

Determining what you want to achieve with your program will go a long way toward its success. Do you want to maximize social impact by encouraging employees to volunteer with a few chosen organizations? Are you trying to get more employees engaged by allowing them to choose organizations that most closely align with their passions? Define your objectives first, and then let those objectives inform the structure of your program.

2. Get Leadership Buy-In

For VTO programs to function properly, there must be buy-in across all levels of your organization. Encourage executives and managers to take VTO to demonstrate its importance to others within the company. You can also consider allowing teams to take VTO together to make it more of a collaborative effort.

3. Develop a Communications Plan

Don’t go through the effort of creating a VTO program only to see few employees take advantage of it. Develop a communications plan to boost participation rates. Make VTO education a part of the onboarding process, and remind employees about VTO as part of regular internal communications.

4. Determine the Eligibility Criteria

You’ll need to determine what employees are eligible to take VTO (and how much), as well as what organizations qualify to receive volunteer hours from your employees.

For example, are only full-time employees eligible? Must newly hired employees wait a certain number of days or months after their hire date to take VTO? VTO is often limited to nonprofits, but you’ll need to decide if non-charitable nonprofits (like political and social organizations) are also eligible to receive volunteer hours.

5. Launch a VTO Request and Tracking System

Launching VTO requires launching a system for two purposes. First, you’ll need a system for employees to request and managers to approve VTO. Second, you’ll need a system for tracking VTO taken on an employee-by-employee basis.

6. Consider a Dollars-for-Doers Program

A dollars-for-doers program provides employees with giving credits that can be donated to charitable organizations based on volunteer hours performed. Dollars-for-doers is a natural way to expand an existing VTO program and to reinforce your commitment to CSR with donations.

The Benefits of VTO

Companies with VTO set themselves up to enjoy a number of related benefits, including:

  • Better recruitment/retention: When incorporated into an employee giving and volunteering program, VTO can help your company become a magnet for talented employees. We previously mentioned the effect employee social impact programs can make on attracting younger employees. Programs like VTO can also help reduce turnover.
  • A greater sense of purpose: VTO programs can give your employees a greater sense of purpose as they come to work day after day, which can provide more satisfaction with their job.
  • Improved mental health and wellbeing: VTO provides your employees time away from their desks and their jobs to do something meaningful, which naturally improves mental health and wellbeing.
  • Increased engagement: Research indicates that volunteer programs can increase employee engagement at companies.
  • An opportunity to give back: VTO allows organizations large and small to give back to the communities where they work and operate.
  • More corporate visibility: VTO gets your brand into communities with a positive connotation. Visibility isn’t the reason to start a VTO program — but it is a natural byproduct.

Connect Your Employees With Volunteer Opportunities

When you’re deciding how to use volunteer time off within your organization, take advantage of Bright Funds as a volunteering platform to connect your employees with opportunities to serve. With Bright Funds, you can give your team members more than 450,000 opportunities to volunteer — both in-person and remote. You can even boost participation by giving employees service options that match their skillsets.

Discover how Bright Funds can empower your corporate volunteer programs. Schedule a demo today.