The “Why” Behind Employee Volunteer Time Off

Updated June 29, 2016

A happy Charles Schwab employee volunteering to renovate a transitional housing location of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco.
A happy Charles Schwab employee volunteering to renovate a transitional housing location of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco.

It’s more than just another acronym for you to remember. Volunteer Time Off (VTO) policies are a quickly growing trend among businesses committed to authentic corporate social responsibility.

These companies provide a certain number of hours per year for employees to volunteer in the community – independent from the company-sponsored volunteer days and weeks of service. And just as these group programs show direct benefits for the employee, the company, and the community, businesses who institute VTO policies are finding they make a difference in a number of important ways.

Solutions by VolunteerMatch makes running an employee volunteer program easy. Learn more.

The Benefits of VTO

These days, companies often fight tooth and nail to attract the best talent. Generous volunteering programs can distinguish your company from others, and help you recruit engaged, ambitious and committed people. The flexibility of VTO policies is also a good way to attract Millennials.

Once you’ve got the best employees, a VTO policy is one way to help you keep them. Reports are showing that giving your employees opportunities as part of their jobs to volunteer builds loyalty to your company, making them proud to work for a place with such a strong community mindset. These are a few reason why offering a VTO policy can take your company closer to the triple bottom line.

Finally, giving your employees time to help in the community will create much-needed social impact during a time when many places desperately need the boost. Due to the sluggish economy, your company might not have the capacity to give large sums of money to help out, but enabling your employees to volunteer is another important way your company can give back.

What the Data Says About VTO

Don’t take our word for it, though – recent research backs up the growing trend towards generous VTO policies. According to the 2016 Employee Benefits report by Society for Human Resource Management, 21% of companies offer volunteer time off to their employees. This is a pretty big increase from 15% in 2009.

And it seems that bigger companies are even more on top on top of their VTO game: According to a 2014 CECP report of 261 of the world’s largest companies, 60% offer VTO as a benefit to their employees. Wow!

Also, according to our own reach, a majority of our Solutions by VolunteerMatch corporate clients (which admittedly is a self-selecting group) have a formal or informal VTO policy. For those that do have a formal policy, 8 hours is the average amount of paid time off granted per year.

Here at VolunteerMatch, we like to practice what we preach. As a company of over-achievers, though, we expanded the typical 8 hours per year to 8 hours per month. That’s one full day off per month to volunteer!

Does your company have a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Policy? Share it with us in the comments below, and check out how VolunteerMatch can help your company develop a strong employee volunteer program.

17 thoughts on “The “Why” Behind Employee Volunteer Time Off”

  • 1
    JustaNumber on December 5, 2013

    I work for a large company who does work for the DoD, federal/state/local governments, and private businesses. We don’t get any time off for volunteering – time to do the United Way Day of Caring comes out of our leave or a day w/o pay. The company just took away a comp leave benefit once your reach your max hours – we no longer earn any leave until we are below the max (once below, then we can earn again). So I now for sure our company is not going to reward anyone with paid time to do volunteer work in our communities. Are these small, medium, large or very large companies that are providing paid time off to volunteer?

  • 2
    Shannon on December 5, 2013

    At Sentric, we get 8 hours/year of VTO, in addition to the many company-sponsored projects we do throughout the year (during business hours, and outside of business hours). The employees really seem to appreciate having the opportunity to volunteer during work hours for community service projects that are important to them, not just the ones the company chooses to participate in. More and more, I’m finding that job candidates are looking at our website/blog prior to their interviews and noticing all of the corporate volunteering we do. They mention it during the interview process as one of the reasons they are interested in working here!

  • 3
    Jill on December 5, 2013

    My company gives each employee 5 paid days for volunteering each year. I recently heard that of the 3,000 employees that we have only 4,000 hours have been used so far this year. I’m just so saddened that my fellow employees don’t take advantage of this awesome opportunity. I’m trying to make it mandatory that managers ALLOW and ENCOURAGE their people to take the time. Everyone is busy but to not use this amazing benefit is just heart breaking in my opinion. Im’ making my goal for 2014 to double or triple the number of hours used. 🙂

  • 4
    Shari Ilsen on December 6, 2013

    Hi Jill – thanks for sharing! Company culture is a really important factor for employee engagement in volunteer programs. It’s a barrier many of our corporate clients encounter. If you or someone at your company is interested in learning more about how we work with companies to overcome these kinds of obstacles, check out a quick demo here:

    Good luck – keep up the great work!

  • 5
    Shari Ilsen on December 6, 2013

    Hi Shannon – thanks for sharing! Our research and experience definitely shows that volunteering opportunities is a very important factor for job candidates. IF companies want to attract the best talent, they need to give employees the opportunity to give back through their work. It sounds like Sentric already knows this and does a great job!

  • 6
    Lauren Wagner on December 6, 2013

    Hi everyone,

    What wonderful comments and questions! For an additional piece of insight into the demographics of companies offering volunteer programs and VTO programs I would recommend downloading our 2012 VolunteerMatch EVP Client Insights Survey here

    I hope this helps to offer some additional information!

  • 7
    Brian on November 3, 2017

    I didn’t know about this trend. In my company, no one said or heard about this. I will definitely offer VTO to my chief!

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