What is VTO or Volunteer Time Off [Everything You Need to Know]

The acronym VTO usually refers to volunteer time off.

When developing the leave policies at your company and promoting them to your employees, you should consider adding this benefit to your company benefits.

In this post, we will be taking a covering:

  1. What is VTO
  2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of it?
  3. How to implement VTO
  4. How to include it in your corporate social responsibility program.

Let’s start!

What is volunteer time off?


Volunteer time off is paid time sponsored by the employer which allows the employee to do volunteer work in their community. Most employers that offer this benefit typically grant between 8 and 40 hours of VTO per year to their employees.

About ten years ago, VTO was a rare benefit offered to employees. However, over the past decade, companies have started to take corporate take social responsibility seriously, and when combined that with a surge of a generation that has a strong sense of purpose and that cares about social justice—Millennials—into the workforce, VTO has slowly but surely started to make sense for more and more companies.

What are the benefits of VTO?


Attracting top talent


If your company is struggling to attract top talent—and most companies are—a VTO policy is sure to get the attention of people, especially Millennials. Research shows that 18 to 34-year-olds are more likely to want to work for a company with a history of social activism, and VTO is a social activity.

Corporate visibility


Studies say that employees which participate in corporate-encouraged givebacks are much more likely to spread the good word about the company they work for and the volunteering efforts they are participating in thanks to a VTO policy.

Spreading the good word about the company can impact a business on so many levels, from public relations to talent attraction, and even sales.

Employee retention


Employees appreciate VTO because VTO policies help with employee retention efforts. It makes perfect sense that employees want to feel good about their jobs. By volunteering for a charity is a great way for employees to feel empowered and engaged about their job and with their team.

Why should you offer volunteer time off to your employees?


Most employees prefer to work for companies that support their values. Studies show that businesses that accommodate giving back during work win points with employees, both those that are currently employed and those prospective.

A great way to ensure that the values of your employees match your values is by making them an important part of the hiring process. Seek out candidates that share your values and that would want to volunteer for nonprofits and causes you see fit. To do this automatically, use Recruiteze, an online recruitment software that can help you make high-quality hires that share your values in a fraction of the time.

Another study says that a huge majority of businesses that offer VTO as a benefit say they saw a positive correlation between being a part of volunteer initiatives and engagement of their employees. Companies that offer these benefits are able to more easily present their corporate brands favorably to the public and thus attract and retain top talent easier.

Also, employees who give back can be less stressed, they can also feel more confident, or even live longer. However, even with all these benefits, making time to volunteer is not always easy. That is why a VTO program is great. By offering volunteer time off allows your employees to do good without sacrificing valuable time they have with family and friends.

What are the drawbacks of a VTO policy?


Of course, there are always positives and negatives when it comes to any company benefit or policy. Before implementing a VTO policy in your company, here are a few drawbacks that may apply to your business.

For many small businesses, losing an employee for an additional day or just a few hours could be a huge burden. If that is your case, you need to make sure that your scheduling is worked out in advance before you find your company short of a much-needed employee.

It might be a good idea to set a few rules when it comes to the type of volunteering your employees can do as a part of your VTO program.

Some companies select a few charities as the recipient of their volunteer efforts, as that is the best way to avoid any potential PR mishaps if an employee chooses a charity that does not align with your company’s values.

Types of VTO policies you can implement in your company


There are two types of VTO policies you can implement in your company: corporate volunteering and employer-sponsored volunteerism.

Corporate volunteering


Corporate volunteering usually includes pre-selected volunteer projects that the entire (or just one part) company does together, as a group. The benefit of this type of volunteering is that it allows employees to bond together and build their skills with their teammates outside of their usual responsibilities.

Sometimes, employees form their own groups and choose the opportunities that work for them, while other businesses dedicate a specific time slot for all (or certain) employees to give back to a cause or a charity.

Employer-sponsored volunteerism


On the other hand, employer-sponsored volunteerism is a partnership effort between the company and a nonprofit agency to bridge the gap between the two and get employees involved in volunteering.

The company usually offers a VTO program for employees to volunteer for a certain charity or a cause during their work hours or they may match an employee’s volunteer hours with donations to the nonprofit.

How to implement a VTO policy at your company?


The great thing about implementing a VTO program at your company is that you can easily customize it to fit the exact needs of your business. Volunteer programs are almost always quite flexible and can be modified to work in any type of company, no matter their budget, size, the work they do, the free time they have, or any other reason.

#1 Offer paid time that fits with your business


8 hours of VTO per year is the minimum that most companies generally offer when it comes to VTO, with 40 hours being the usual maximum.

However, some companies, like Deloitte, have unlimited VTO offerings. No matter if you choose 4, 8, or unlimited hours for volunteering, make sure that those hours are truly the ones you can allocate, as the last thing you want to happen is to have to pull out employees or create unnecessary stress and burnout.

#2 Choose a nonprofit organization that qualifies


For many companies offering a VTO program, their employee volunteers must choose an organization that is registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit.

However, you can choose to offer VTO programs that support the local communities or schools, which usually do not operate as a nonprofit. What you end up choosing will largely depend on your other internal rules and regulations.

#3 Decide how your company will track and approve VTO initiatives


An easy hack to keep track of VTO in your employee management tool is to treat it like paid time off.

You can ask your employees to submit VTO requests to managers for approval via the usual channels. Just make sure to properly track everyone’s volunteer hours and that all the information is up to date.

#4 Consider having other eligibility requirements in place before starting a VTO program


For many businesses, VTO usually is not offered to all employees. It is up to you to decide whether or not part-time employees and contractors need to have the same eligibility requirements as full-time employees. Also, you should also consider how long new employees need to be working at your company to become eligible for a VTO program.

Make sure that you set standards for minimum and maximum VTO an employee can take. Outlining the VTO program rules for your employees will make it easy for them to participate. Communicating the offerings clearly is an essential step in providing your employees with a meaningful volunteer experience.

Integrating VTO into your corporate social responsibility program


Instead of simply offering your employees the opportunity to volunteer, you can do it together. This is a great way to build brand awareness, build trust among your workforce, and ensure that everyone knows that giving back is important to your business model.

Also, you need to emphasize to your employees that VTO is not mandatory, but also encourage as many managers and board members to join in.

By actively participating in VTO activities, your executives can see a great example that giving back is a good thing and thus eventually create a workplace culture where VTO initiatives are encouraged.

Remember that the more active your workforce is in volunteerism, the more responsible your business stands to be to other people.

Additional reads:

  1. Tips for recruiting volunteers
  2. Recruiting volunteer firefighters
  3. Recruiting and attracting unicorns
  4. Recruiting and hiring interns
  5. Pros and cons of hiring seasonal summer staff
  6. The benefits of an apprenticeship program
  7. The advantages and disadvantages of hiring remote workers

Final thoughts


Thanks to VTO and other similar initiatives, businesses of today have a great chance to make a significant and truly meaningful impact on the community that surrounds them, as well as on causes they value as important.

VTO programs are also a valuable personal and professional development opportunity for employees, as they can work on their leadership, empathy, and problem-solving skills while volunteering. A VTO program may also reap significant health benefits for your employees.

You can also consider compensating employees for their volunteering time with a paid day off, as this is a great incentive to get more people involved and be even more interested in the idea.

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