HOW TO HELP NOW: Free Platform for High-Priority Volunteering during COVID-19 March 20, 2020
How Your Company Can Benefit from Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
Volunteer Time Off (VTO) is a strategy that a growing number of companies are using. In fact, according to CECP data, 66 percent of corporations in 2019 offered some sort of paid time off to employees so they could volunteer.
It has become a best practice, especially among tech companies, to offer VTO. Salesforce offers a full seven days of paid time off for employees to do anything that is volunteer-oriented. With 78,000 employees worldwide, that adds up to 3.9 million hours of paid support to nonprofit organizations!
The best companies manage these VTO programs with state-of-the-art tech tools. Volunteer management platforms can help track hours and impact across an employee base, streamlining corporate social responsibility (CSR) data and oversight.
6 Reasons why VTO is Valuable for Corporations
First, it is critical to understand the exact value-add that a VTO program brings to a corporation. There are at least 6, which is why so many companies have opted to have a policy!
- Employees are demanding VTO. Millennials and Gen Z are both insisting that the companies they work with have paid volunteer time off. They want to have flexible options for how and for whom they can volunteer. If your company wants to recruit top talent under the age of 40, which is now the majority of the adult working population, you might need a VTO program.
- Volunteering improves work output. Vacations and personal leave are necessary for rest and recovery. But volunteering can have a similar or even more impactful effect. It has the benefit of a rest from the desk but sharpens skills at the same time.
- Volunteering reduces stress. Volunteering has been proven in multiple studies to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and other stress-related problems. A healthier employee base is always a best practice!
- Volunteering improves retention. Employees are much more satisfied with their jobs if they volunteer, especially if they have an opportunity to apply skills-based volunteering. Happier employees stick with you.
- It improves your CSR positioning and output. Salesforce can honestly say they donate tens of millions of dollars of in-kind volunteer support to the world because they pay for VTO. This is an amazing CSR for your company. It also helps, if you have a good tech tracking tool, to be able to measure impact across volunteering experiences and collate the real-world difference that your employees are making in the community.
- It improves teamwork and “soft skills”. Corporate volunteering is a way for your team to work together outside of the office. Most roles help sharpen at least a few “soft skills” beyond teamwork, too, such as collaboration, communication, and active listening.
4 Reasons why Volunteer Time Off is Valuable for Employees
VTO is very valuable to companies, but we can argue that it is equally valuable to employees. This is why so many people are demanding VTO in the modern workplace.
- It fosters a sense of connection. Americans are lonelier than ever. Modern tools like conference calls from home make life easier, but too much remote work causes a sense of disconnection from people and places. Volunteering is a way that employees can work together with other teammates in your company that they otherwise would not connect with, adding to a sense of community in your corporate culture.
- It generates pride. Whether they work for an accounting firm or a nonprofit organization, everyone benefits from being proud of their employer.
- Volunteering makes you happy. Along with reducing stress and anxiety, volunteering has been proven to release endorphins and create a general sense of happiness and well-being. Everyone wants to be happy!
- It encourages you to make a difference. Too many people do not volunteer just because they do not have time. Getting paid days off of work to do something that you value is a tremendous bonus for anyone.
VTO Best Practices to Consider
Now that you understand all the benefits of VTO, it’s important to consider the best practices used across the most successful companies when designing your program.
Define the number of hours. You want to think about how many days or hours of VTO you can afford to give your employees. Some companies structure the plan with vacation, giving more VTO days as a person logs time with the company. Others have a straightforward policy of a set number of days across the employee roster. You have to calculate the cost of paying out salaries without work toward your bottom line being completed against the benefits of the CSR engagement you will receive. Consider if you want to encourage volunteering during work hours or if you wish to incentivize it outside standard business hours, such as nights and weekends. For smaller companies, it might be too difficult to give more than a few hours!
Define terms for volunteering. Should you create volunteer opportunities for your team or should you leave it open for anything they would like to achieve? Employees generally like flexibility in their VTO, but with some boundaries. That means you might create a set of pillars that match your CSR values, such as hunger relief, zero waste, or climate impact. Then, ask employees to volunteer on causes that match within the pillars so you can better tally your impact assessments.
Get a great software tool. The best way to keep track of all of the hours that volunteers spend while creating and collating volunteer opportunities is to use the best volunteer management platforms. A platform like Golden, for example, enables you to set a branded workspace for your volunteers, link them to opportunities, and track their hours logged and impact across different charities. You can curate opportunities according to keywords, themes United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), cause area, availability, and much more!
Do you like giving VTO to your vast pool of employees? You need Golden’s easy-to-use tech tool to follow your teammates’ volunteer hours and their priceless impact.
Types of VTO Policies
After you have considered the different pros, cons, and associated risks, it is important to codify your program into a specific policy. There are two main types of policies.
- Corporate volunteering. This is a more rigid VTO policy where the company decides what the volunteering event options will be and employees can opt to participate if they like. If you want employees to have opportunities to work on teambuilding and socialize, this is probably the right choice. Also, if you are worried about potential issues with your company’s brand or want to control the CSR outcomes of volunteering, this is the best path to take. You can film the event, create press inquiries around it, and generate buzz on your social media.
A more flexible way to apply the same policy principle is to choose specific days, like Earth Day, and let employees work in teams to pick any project to work on that benefits the Earth. This way everyone is participating in a similar project but has the flexibility to choose an area they care more about, such as working in a school rather than cleaning up a beach.
- Employer-sponsored volunteerism. Corporations use this type of policy when they want to pick the nonprofits that will receive employee support, build specific relationships within the community, and improve upon sponsorship goals. Employees receive the option to help the charity during their work hours. Sometimes the corporation offers a matching gift for volunteer time or donations raised.
The 6 Elements of a VTO Policy
A VTO policy is where you communicate your expectations to your employees and outline the procedures for participating in the program. There are 6 main elements to a good VTO policy.
- Purpose. Like any document, you need to outline the purpose of the document first. State why you are developing the policy, provide a key summary of major points and note who is the principal contact within the organization to answer questions and resolve any disputes.
- Time Off Policy. State exactly how many hours and/or days the VTO includes. If you are going to implement more time off for a certain number of years an employee stays with the company, clearly state the terms.
- Employee Eligibility. It is possible you will have to require volunteer background checks for your employees to be able to volunteer in the community, especially if they will work with children. Make sure they understand the process for the check. You can utilize a tool like Golden, which enables volunteers to complete a check through a comprehensive volunteer management platform to save time on administration and cost.
- Organizations and Volunteer Activities. Clearly state what types of volunteer opportunities are allowable. If you are organizing events, provide a simple way for employees to be notified of opportunities. A tool like Golden’s platform enables you to send automatic updates and alerts to your volunteer base when you post a new opportunity or seamlessly link your chosen nonprofit partners or approved external events to your workspace.
- Discovery and Participation Process. You will likely want volunteers to sign up in advance for different events or opportunities, or they will have to do so for external opportunities. In some sensitive environments and skills-based roles, volunteers may have to go through a certain qualification and approval process depending on the type of opportunity that interests them (Golden applies credentials automatically, so what the volunteer sees is what they are qualified to do).
- Reimbursement and Time Tracking. Software can help track hours and collate them with your payroll system. Make sure your employees know where to sign up or track those hours to be linked to your reimbursement system. If you link them to one central platform, like Golden, it makes it a lot easier to keep track and ensure they are logging their work time in the right space.
3 More Examples of How Corporations Use VTO
Big companies like Salesforce can offer flexible, extended VTO, while other, smaller companies craft smaller VTO plans. There are several ways your company can structure this initiative that can incorporate different aspects of volunteering, such as community-based groups, fundraising for a local charity, and mentoring in a specific field.
Here are some other prominent examples of how to apply VTO.
- Verizon: This company offers 50 hours of paid volunteering through its Citizen Verizon Volunteers and Volunteer Incentive programs. Verizon focuses its volunteering on three pillars: digital inclusion, climate protection, and human prosperity. The company allows employees to volunteer at locally curated Volunteer Champion events and within a network of more than 40 strategic partners. Its goal is to reach 2.5 million volunteer hours by 2025. The company also provides opportunities for eligible employees who volunteer 50 or more hours in a calendar year to an eligible charitable organization to request that the Verizon Foundation make a $750 grant to that same eligible charitable organization.
- General Motors Financial: This company offers 32 paid volunteer hours per year for employees in North America, South America, and Asia, breaking it down to 8 hours per quarter. Even part-time workers are given 16 paid hours to volunteer per year! In addition to individual volunteering opportunities, GM Financial offers American and Canadian employees annual days of service with nonprofits such as March of Dimes and The Salvation Army. GM Financial also sponsors employees for two walking, running, or cycling events per year. These types of events are often organized to fundraise for causes, such as cancer research or housing for people experiencing homelessness.
- Dartmouth College: This university offer 1 fully paid day off for employees to volunteer. It might seem meager compared to some of the big companies, but Dartmouth provides this opportunity for team building and community engagement. The university also asks employees to only use a list of eligible organizations from the Granite United Way from the Upper Valley Region. This way, employee volunteering has a major impact on the local community.
VTO Made Easy
VTO is a critical aspect of a good corporate strategy, especially if you want to appeal to the younger (and now most prominent) generations of workers. Nearly 70 percent of employees will not work for a company without a social purpose, and 60 percent will take a pay cut to work for a purpose-driven business. This means that not only do you need to show purpose to attract the best employees, but you can also save on your bottom line by having a purpose.
Letting your employees earn while they help you articulate that purpose in your community through logging volunteer hours is a fantastic way to demonstrate purpose.
If you use the best tech tools available, like Golden cloud software, you can streamline the process of your new VTO policy to track hours for you, calculate impact, run background checks, automate event publications, help digitize any necessary training, and link you to new potential nonprofit partners who align with your CSR goals. Your new program may only be a few clicks away!