How Volunteer Time Off Works

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volunteering
Cori Hammoor
Director of Marketing
June 13, 2024

Volunteer time off (VTO) is a transformative policy that empowers employees to take paid or unpaid time off to volunteer for charitable causes. This initiative not only benefits the community but also significantly boosts employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and overall company culture. Here’s a look at VTO operations and how employees can get involved, with insights on how Percent Pledge’s social impact experts support every step of the process.

What is volunteer time off (VTO)?

Volunteer time off (VTO) is a forward-thinking company-sponsored program that provides employees with the opportunity to take time off from work to volunteer for nonprofit organizations or community service activities. Unlike traditional paid time off (PTO), which is used for vacations or personal matters, VTO is specifically allocated for volunteering purposes. 

At Percent Pledge, we make it incredibly easy for companies to implement and manage VTO policies, ensuring that giving back becomes a seamless part of your company culture.

How does volunteer time off work?

Volunteer time off policy

VTO begins with a clearly defined policy. Companies establish the parameters of their VTO programs, including:

  • The number of hours or days allocated for volunteering
  • Whether the time off is paid or unpaid
  • Specific eligibility criteria

These policies typically outline the types of volunteer activities that qualify, ensuring they align with the company’s values and CSR goals. Our social impact managers at Percent Pledge regularly craft these policies, tailoring them to meet our customers' specific criteria and align with their unique corporate values and objectives.

Eligibility criteria

Eligibility for VTO is often granted to full-time employees, though some companies extend this benefit to part-time or temporary staff. Eligibility may depend on the length of employment; for example, employees might need to be with the company for a certain period, such as six months, before qualifying for VTO. We assist our customers in establishing clear, inclusive eligibility criteria based on industry best practices and company-specific needs.

Volunteer time off request form

The application process for VTO is flexible, allowing companies to choose the method that best fits their culture and operational needs. Employees interested in taking volunteer time off can follow one of these approaches:

  • VTO request form: Employees complete an application form, detailing the volunteer activity, the organization they will be working with, and the dates and times requested. This form is then submitted to their supervisor or HR department for approval. This method ensures coverage during their absence and verifies that the volunteer activity aligns with the company’s guidelines.
  • Regular PTO system: Alternatively, companies can integrate VTO into their regular PTO system, allowing employees to note that the time off is for volunteer activities. This method simplifies the process by using existing infrastructure, making it easy for employees and HR departments alike.
  • Honor system: Some companies may opt for an honor system, trusting employees to coordinate their volunteer activities and inform their supervisors of their plans. This approach can foster a culture of trust and responsibility.

Each of these methods has its advantages, and companies can choose the one that best aligns with their operational needs and company culture.

Tracking and reporting

Tracking and reporting VTO usage is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the program. Companies implement systems, like Percent Pledge, to monitor VTO usage, ensuring that employees adhere to policy limits.

For example, on our Volunteering Platform, employees can easily find their volunteer events, add their VTO details, and upload photos, testimonials, and other relevant information. This comprehensive approach makes it simple for companies to track and report on their employees' CSR efforts.

Employees may be required to provide proof of their volunteer work, such as:

  • Photos from the event
  • Details of the activities performed
  • Testimonials from the nonprofit organization

This streamlined verification process makes it easy for employees to document their volunteer hours and for HR departments to monitor compliance and impact. This ensures accurate tracking and helps highlight the positive contributions made by employees through the VTO program.

Impact measurement

Measuring the impact of VTO programs is essential for companies to understand their effectiveness. This involves collecting data on:

  • Participation rates
  • The number of volunteer hours contributed
  • Feedback from both employees and the organizations they serve

Our social impact managers compile detailed impact reports that highlight key metrics and success stories, helping companies demonstrate the value of their VTO programs both internally and externally. This data helps companies assess the effectiveness of their VTO programs and make improvements where necessary.

Steps for employees to participate

Identify volunteer opportunities

Employees looking to participate in VTO should start by identifying volunteer opportunities that interest them and align with the company’s VTO policy. However, a significant challenge is that many VTO policies go unused because employees either don't know where to find volunteer opportunities or they find it too cumbersome to seek them out. To ensure active participation, it’s crucial to provide employees with accessible and diverse volunteer options.

Most companies utilize platforms like Percent Pledge to provide a vast database of volunteer opportunities, ensuring that every volunteer experience is impactful and meaningful. This broad selection helps cater to the varied interests of employees, making it more likely that they will find volunteer activities that resonate with their personal values and passions. By offering these resources, companies can significantly increase the likelihood that employees will engage with and utilize their VTO policies.

Complete the VTO request form

Next, employees need to follow the company's chosen process for taking volunteer time off. This can be done through:

  • VTO request form: Employees fill out a VTO application form, which can typically be found on the company’s intranet or HR portal. The form will require details about the volunteer activity, the nonprofit organization, and the requested time off. We at Percent Pledge provide pre-designed application forms and support HR teams in customizing them to fit their unique needs, ensuring a smooth request process for employees.
  • Regular PTO system: Alternatively, companies can integrate VTO into their regular PTO system, allowing employees to note that the time off is for volunteer activities. This method simplifies the process by using existing infrastructure, making it easy for employees and HR departments.
  • Honor system: Some companies may opt for an honor system, trusting employees to coordinate their volunteer activities and inform their supervisors of their plans. This approach fosters a culture of trust and responsibility.

Volunteer hours documentation

After approval, employees can participate in the volunteer activity as scheduled. They should keep a record of their volunteer hours and obtain any required documentation from the nonprofit organization to verify participation.

Our Volunteering Platform automatically tracks volunteer hours for employees who attend Percent Pledge-hosted events. If employees choose their own volunteer events, they can simply fill out a brief survey, sharing some details about their activities. This makes it super easy to track and report on their volunteer hours. 

Once the volunteer hours are tracked, companies can easily create impact reports or integrate the numbers into an ESG report, showcasing their commitment to corporate social responsibility and the positive impact of their VTO program.

Volunteer time off is a powerful tool for fostering a culture of community engagement and social responsibility within a company. By offering VTO, companies can enhance employee satisfaction, improve retention rates, and make a positive impact on the community. For employees, participating in VTO provides a fulfilling opportunity to give back while also benefiting from time off work. By following the steps outlined above, employees can easily apply for and participate in volunteer activities, making the most of their company's VTO program.

Interested in learning more about implementing a VTO policy at your company? Chat with one of our social impact experts to see how Percent Pledge takes the VTO burden off your plate.

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