The Comprehensive Guide to Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Benefits

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volunteering
Joel Pollick
Founder & CEO
March 21, 2024

In the modern workplace, Volunteer Time Off (VTO) benefits are a need-to-have for companies of all sizes and across all industries. VTO creates necessary space for employees – which is critical when you consider that 95% of employees want to volunteer at work, but only 50% of employees feel they are given time to do so.

Creating critical space for employees to engage is why a large majority of leading companies offer VTO benefits. What’s more, VTO represents a unique win-win-win for businesses: increase employee engagement, improve employer brand, and impact local communities.

This piece provides an overview, history, examples, and best practices you should know when launching a VTO benefit. We also created a companion guide, which provides a step-by-step template to launch VTO.  

What Are VTO Benefits?

Volunteer Time Off (VTO) is a form of paid leave and employee benefit that provides employees with a certain amount of time (e.g. 3 days per year) that can be spent volunteering with approved charitable or community organizations. VTO benefits reflect a company's dedication to social impact overall, but they also specifically help attract and retain employees by making community service a part of their employee experience.

A Brief History of VTO:

The concept of VTO has evolved from a novel idea to a widely embraced practice among forward-thinking organizations. Companies like Salesforce have led the charge, integrating VTO into their corporate ethos and setting a precedent for others to follow.

Why & When Companies Offer VTO:

Beyond the altruistic appeal, VTO benefits offer strategic benefits, including improved employee engagement, enhanced brand reputation, and alignment with corporate social responsibility goals.

Companies often introduce VTO benefits in response to employee interest in social causes, as part of broader CSR initiatives, or to enhance their employer brand in competitive talent markets. For supporting data on employee interest, view the response from nearly 20,000 employees in our Employee Giving Trends Report. Or, better yet, download our free Passion Assessment Lite to survey your own employees.

Benefits of VTO: Win-Win-Win for All Stakeholders:

  1. Employers
    • Enhances employer brand and reputation overall
    • Increases visibility of corporate social responsibility and sustainability
    • Increases employee recruitment and retention
    • Improves employee engagement and team-bonding
    • Spreads volunteering out across the year, reducing the impact on day-to-day business operations
  2. Employees
    • Grows personal and professional development
    • Fosters connection with colleagues and coworkers
    • Gains personal fulfillment and professional development opportunities
  3. Communities
    • Fills critical unmet needs with skilled volunteers
    • Drives nonprofit innovation, access, and equity

VTO benefits have the unique ability to create a Virtuous Cycle within an organization, with the benefits felt by each stakeholder group reinforcing one another.

Expert Guidance on VTO:

The average VTO benefit companies offer typically ranges from 8 to 40 hours (1 to 5 days) per employee, per year. On average:

  • Small to medium-sized businesses (under 5,000 employees) typically offer between 8 to 16 hours (1-2 days)
  • Large, multinational companies (over 5,000 employees) typically offer between 16-40 hours (2-5 days)

Additionally, offering an Annual Service Day (or Service Week) has become widely popular and widely adopted by companies of all sizes. This could be common org-wide, or common to a specific geography (region, country, office). It is a phenomenal way to increase employee volunteer engagement and simplifies communications/marketing of volunteering.

Examples of VTO Benefits Across Industries:

  1. Tech Giants
    • Programs often focus on providing technical skills to nonprofits in need
    • Example: Google
    • VTO Benefit: 6 months per employee
    • VTO Description: Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, launched its own volunteer time off program, the Google.org Fellowship. The company pays its employees to do pro bono work for nonprofit groups for up to six months.
  2. Financial Services
    • Programs often focus on financial literacy and financial education
    • Example: MassMutual
    • VTO Benefit: 24 hours (3 days) per employee per year
    • VTO Description: Every employee is given 3 paid days to offer their time and talents with eligible nonprofit organizations of their choice. Additionally, employees also may participate in company-sponsored volunteer opportunities on company time.  
  3. Professional Services
    • Programs often focus on providing expertise in a variety of areas based on nonprofit need
    • Example: PwC
    • VTO Benefit: 40 hours (5 days) per employee per year
    • VTO Description: PwC gives each person 40 hours of paid time each year to volunteer with nonprofits to address social justice in our communities through our pro bono program, Skills for Society.  
  4. Healthcare
    • Programs often focus on providing skills to support health education, equity, and access
    • Example: AbbVie
    • VTO Benefit: 16 hours (2 days)
    • VTO Description: All employees can use up to two days of paid work time to volunteer in the community. Annually, thousands volunteer during AbbVie’s global week of service with hundreds of nonprofits in 50+ countries around the world.  
  5. Retail
    • Programs often focus on sustainability or local communities close to retail locations
    • Example: L'Oréal
    • VTO Benefit: 8 hours (1 day) per employee per year
    • VTO Description: L'Oréal has a robust employee engagement program called L'Oréal Citizen, which encourages employees to volunteer. Their notable initiative, Citizen Day, allows employees to dedicate a workday to support non-profit social or environmental organizations.

Best Practices for Launching a VTO Benefit:

  • Strive to be inclusive with your policy and what you count as eligible volunteer service.
  • Work on a trust basis, meaning don’t require employees to get proof of volunteering from the charity.
  • Establish clear policies for how employees will ask for time off and report their time off.
  • Allow employees to use their VTO in hourly increments (volunteer opportunities vary in duration).
  • Train leadership and managers about the VTO benefit - and how they can encourage usage.
  • Highlight employee’s great contributions - award employees who go above and beyond!
  • Implementing a system that will enable employees to find volunteer opportunities and log their VTO service, as well as track participation and impact for your company.

Additional Considerations for Launching a VTO Benefit:

Before implementing a VTO benefit, companies should consider several factors:

  • Alignment of volunteer opportunities with your company's values or service areas.
  • Alignment of volunteer opportunities with your company’s geographic footprint.
  • Budgetary implications of offering additional paid time off.
  • Legal and compliance implications of volunteer activities.
  • Identifying and establishing partnerships with relevant nonprofits.
  • Developing metrics to measure the benefit's impact.
  • Promoting the benefit effectively to maximize participation.
  • Maintaining flexibility to accommodate diverse employee interests.
  • Adapting the benefit based on feedback and outcomes.

Looking to launch a VTO benefit at your company? Want more detail on the process? Download our Complete Guide To Launching VTO (Volunteer Time Off). This kit is a companion to our blog and it will provide you with a step-by-step template you can follow to launch a VTO benefit at your company!

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