At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. In this post: REwards: The Ins and Outs of VTO.
This past year, our Client Summit REwards session on paid Volunteer Time Off (VTO) was, well, rewarding. Thought leaders from Time Warner Cable and Brooks Brothers shared valuable insights and tangible takeaways for companies either hoping to launch or already fostering a VTO program for their employees. Jennifer Reed Holick and Hannah Nance walked us through different approaches for how VTO can be used, the ins and outs of pitching a VTO policy, and how to ensure robust participation while keeping the company’s best interests in mind.
The benefits of a VTO program are numerous and compelling, not just for the employee, but for the company as a whole. Hannah from Brooks Brothers explained that by giving employees the freedom to choose where they volunteer, a company is making a donation to that organization: The employee’s time, which might not have been available otherwise. While the organization an employee chooses to volunteer for might not fit into the company’s core cause areas, it means the company can have a broad presence and impact in its community. It will also prove it cares about its employees by supporting causes near and dear to its employees’ hearts.
For those employees who don’t have much volunteer experience, or don’t yet have a favorite charity, paid time off to volunteer provides a risk-free trial for them to check out a new organization or new type of volunteering. Presumably, some of your employees will go on to volunteer regularly outside of their VTO. The idea that VTO is just the foundation is core to how Brooks Brothers views the ideal commitment to service.
Jennifer from Time Warner Cable then dove further into how VTO can fit into a company’s volunteer program. She believes that while VTO is not critical to employee retention, it’s the “secret sauce that can take a strong volunteer program to new heights”. Her “must haves” for starting a program include: Oversight from a senior management task force, an involved legal and HR team to work out important logistics, a review of the cost implication and ROI, a strategy for maximizing results, and use of a strong management tool to support employees’ efforts, such as VolunteerMatch’s corporate toolset.
Jennifer presented deliberate and convincing formulas around the cost and return of implementing a VTO program. She shared how she opted to use conservative data when pitching her program, in order to drive home just how clear it was that the program would have positive payback.
Both Jennifer and Hannah emphasized the importance of asking key questions at the outset, such as how the program will be communicated and how much time off will be given in the policy. They agreed that it’s important to have strong, visible support from leadership. They also emphasized how important it is to “do your homework” around legal or impact issues specific to your industry, such as if employees on commission will participate, or what risks are being assumed by the company during team outings.
During this session, audience engagement and participation were high. It seemed that everyone walked away with renewed enthusiasm about the role VTO can play as the “cherry on top” of employee engagement efforts.
Interested in learning more about VTO programs? Check out the slides from this presentation.