Updated: November 02, 2023

Volunteer Time Off and Volunteer Leave Policy: Ultimate Guide

You found our ultimate guide on volunteer time off and volunteer leave policy.

Volunteer time off is a paid leave system that allows workers to donate their time to a nonprofit organization while still collecting a paycheck. Volunteer leave policies make an organization appealing to potential employees. In addition, these programs allow businesses to give back to their communities and nonprofits in ways beyond monetary donations.

These initiatives are a type of employee benefit and are similar to corporate volunteering programs, group volunteer projects, and charity team building.


This article contains:

  • volunteer time off and leave definition
  • volunteer time off best practices
  • volunteer time off examples
  • benefits of paid volunteer leave programs
  • paid volunteer leave program tips

Here we go!

Volunteer time off and leave definition

Volunteer time off, or VTO, is a workplace policy that lets employees spend a portion of their working hours or days volunteering. Unlike regular time off or vacation days, VTO is typically a form of paid leave provided by the employer to encourage employees to give back to their communities. By participating in these programs, individuals can contribute their time and skills to charitable causes without sacrificing their regular pay. This benefit aims to promote social responsibility and employee engagement.

VTO policies may vary between organizations, but they generally outline guidelines for participating in volunteer activities during work hours. For instance, employees may need to request time off in advance, specify the organization they intend to support, and document their volunteer hours. Employers often limit how much VTO employees can take in a given period to ensure it does not interrupt regular business operations. VTO programs aim to help employees make a positive impact in their communities while fostering a sense of corporate social responsibility.

In addition to the positive impact on communities and employee engagement, VTO can also have wider-reaching benefits. Companies that offer this benefit often find that it enhances their reputation as socially responsible organizations. This reputation can attract potential job candidates and customers who value corporate ethics and charitable acts. Further, VTO can promote teamwork and collaboration among employees. Teams may also participate in volunteer activities together, fostering a sense of camaraderie within the workplace. Overall, VTO is a valuable policy that aligns corporate values with community involvement. This policy contributes to a more socially conscious and interconnected workforce and society.

Volunteer time off best practices

To implement a VTO policy, businesses should consider the following factors to make the program hitch-free.

1. Eligibility Requirements

First, you should decide if full-time and part-time workers will be eligible for this benefit. This step may mean choosing criteria like the employee’s rank in the firm and the minimum years of employment. You could also set stipulations like performance for receiving this perk. For example, you should decide if an employee on a Performance Improvement Plan would get to take such a leave.

2. Volunteer Organization

You can choose whether your workers can volunteer for any company they prefer, like spending the day helping out at their kid’s school. On the other hand, the company can provide a list of approved charities. You might need to decide if your company will allow its workers to participate as volunteers in political groups. It is important to consider any constraints or stipulations for choosing an organization. For example, if an employee chooses a group whose ideals conflict with the company’s values or is very divisive or controversial, issues can arise. Common places to volunteer include food banks and homeless shelters.

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3. Tracking and Documentation

Effective tracking and documentation are essential components of a well-managed VTO program. This process involves creating a system for employees to record their volunteer hours, activities, and supported organizations. This data ensures employees are following policies and serves as a valuable tool for measuring the program’s impact. Tracking allows companies to assess their contributions to the community and identify areas for improvement. Further, firms can demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility through concrete data. By maintaining accurate records, organizations can also use this information for reporting and recognition.

4. Community Partnerships

Building strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations and community groups is a cornerstone of a successful VTO program. Collaborating with these firms helps ensure that volunteer opportunities are meaningful and well-organized. These partnerships can lead to more impactful volunteer experiences for employees and make a more significant difference in the community. By working closely with local nonprofits, companies can identify specific community needs and offer VTO programs to address them effectively. Additionally, these partnerships can foster a sense of shared purpose and mutual support. Collaborating with nonprofits can strengthen the company’s ties with the community it serves and enhance its overall corporate social responsibility efforts.

5. Request Processes

When setting the policy for requesting VTO, you should keep the following in mind:

  • Platforms for sending the request
  • Additional information regarding the volunteer work and the organization
  • When to begin the request process
  • Blackout days
  • The plan for coverage if a large number of workers choose to take time off around a particular holiday
  • The manager responsible for approving VTO

Outlining clear guidelines for submitting VTO requests ensures the time off does not disrupt workflow. This step means deciding the schedule, getting a manager’s authorization, and ensuring that the employee’s critical tasks are completed in advance.

Benefits of paid volunteer leave programs

VTO, like other benefits, requires a financial commitment. Yet, companies should look beyond the cost implications and focus on the benefits of this program to the company’s bottom line. The following are the positive effects of VTO on your business.

1. Improved Public Relations

Public relations involves how a company interacts with the public and media to build a positive image. In the context of a VTO program, PR means using the company’s volunteer efforts to show that it cares about social issues. By sharing stories about employee volunteering, companies can get good publicity, show they care about important causes, and connect with folks who like companies that give back. This process can help attract customers and investors and make the company look good in the public’s eyes.

2. More Networking Opportunities

Networking opportunities in a VTO program mean employees can meet new folks and make professional connections while volunteering. When employees volunteer, they often meet others who care about the same causes, work for nonprofit organizations, or are community leaders. This networking can be helpful for personal and career growth. The process lets employees build relationships with folks who can offer advice, support, or even job opportunities in the future. In addition to helping others, volunteering is also a way to meet those who can help with career and community involvement.

3. Better Employee Engagement

Most staff members want their companies to give back to the community. Companies can demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility to workers by providing additional paid time off to devote to causes and activities they love. This step also shows that the firm shares its employees’ values. As a result, employers benefit from increased motivation, dedication, and output.

4. Better-Qualified Workers

Your workers’ job may appear unrelated to volunteering at a food bank or national park. Yet, VTO is an important aspect of skill growth, according to 65 percent of HR managers.

Through voluntary work, employees may use their present skills and learn new ones, including empathy, resilience, leadership, and public speaking. These competencies will be essential for workers who wish to future-proof their careers as more and more work is automated and handled by artificial intelligence.

5. Enhanced Well-Being

Volunteering and doing good deeds can boost employee morale and make team members feel more optimistic. According to a United Health Care study, almost 93 percent of respondents who volunteered in the last 12 months reported feeling happier. In addition, the stress levels of 79 percent of the participants decreased.

Staff members’ physical and mental health benefits from volunteering. Volunteer work can vary from cleaning and lifting boxes to helping with building constructions. Researchers found that older individuals who volunteered had a 40 percent lower chance of developing hypertension.

While most research focuses on volunteering’s long-term benefits, the act may also immediately positively impact your staff’s emotional and physical well-being. In addition, your VTO program should facilitate employee involvement with a cause close to their hearts, inspiring them to volunteer again in the future.

Here are more employee wellness ideas.

6. Sense of Direction

Seeing the positive effects of your volunteer work on other people’s lives is a powerful motivator. Volunteering may help employees feel more connected to others and boost their sense of achievement, belonging, and self-confidence. The positive emotional boost it provides may go a long way toward encouraging workers to live happy, productive lives and keeping them interested in and enthusiastic about their jobs.

Paid volunteer leave program tips

Making a VTO policy is not a one-size-fits-all procedure. The approach depends on several factors, including the size and purpose of your company, the resources at your disposal, the course you want to take with your brand, and the organizations with whom you choose to collaborate. Consider these tips to make your VTO program a smashing success.

1. Take Baby Steps

The first step in starting a VTO program is determining the interest level. In some cases, most of your staff members would be interested in the program. You may determine interest by asking about the program in your employee engagement surveys.

If there is genuine interest, then you may test the waters on a smaller scale for a day every year and assess the results. If your company exists in more than one location, then you may beta-test the program by trialing volunteer shifts in one place.

2. Offer Support and Resources

It is important to help employees find volunteer opportunities easily. For instance, provide staff with information about local nonprofits and upcoming volunteer events. Additionally, create partnerships with community groups or volunteer platforms to make it simple for employees to get involved. Also, allow employees flexibility in scheduling their volunteer time, and make sure that managers and HR staff can answer questions about the program. By offering these kinds of support and resources, you can encourage more employees to volunteer and make a positive impact in their communities.

3. Provide Evaluation and Feedback

Regularly checking how well the program works and asking employees for their thoughts is essential. Firms can look at numbers like how many employees are taking part and how many hours they volunteer. Also, gather employee feedback through surveys or discussions to understand what is working well and what may need improvement. Companies can use this information to make smart decisions and improve the program. When businesses show that they value employee feedback and use it to make changes, it can make employees feel more connected to the program.

4. Be Detailed

It would help if you elaborated on the specifics of your VTO policy. Having a policy in writing helps simplify program management at your company. The policy should contain answers to some critical points about the methods of operation, such as eligibility, number of hours, request processing, and auditing procedures.

5. Align VTO with Company Objectives

A company’s brand reputation often reflects the organizations and activities the employees choose for volunteer work. Therefore, ensuring your VTO policy aligns with your company’s goals is important.

Depending on your company’s needs, there are two approaches to employee volunteerism. You can either offer workers the freedom to pick whatever activity they choose or set strict guidelines on where employees can volunteer. For example, if your company has a strong relationship with several local NGOs, it might be more beneficial to highlight those organizations as the best options for staff volunteerism. Following these steps can help your company keep up and improve its ties to charitable partners.

Even if you do not restrict your workers’ ability to choose how they spend their volunteer time, you should nonetheless lay down specific guidelines to reduce any unfavorable reactions. For example, supporting political organizations can be problematic when workers volunteer on the company’s behalf.

6. Educate Your Staff

Employees may attend meetings where they receive detailed instructions on utilizing their VTO, or you can make a short video that they can view at their convenience. This option is particularly helpful if your firm has offices in various parts of the world. You should also compile all the data on VTO into a formal document and make it available to every staff in the company.

Volunteer time off examples

Volunteer opportunities are readily available.

Here are some examples of VTO initiatives and activities that employees might engage in:

  • Environmental Conservation: Tree planting, beach cleanups, or wildlife habitat restoration with environmental organizations
  • Mentoring and Tutoring: Mentoring and tutoring students in in-need communities, helping them with their studies or providing career guidance
  • Food Drives and Hunger Relief: Volunteering at food banks, soup kitchens, or meal delivery programs to help fight hunger
  • Homebuilding and Habitat for Humanity: Constructing or repairing homes for families in need
  • Animal Shelters: Caring for and supporting the well-being of animals awaiting adoption
  • Disaster Relief: Assisting with disaster relief efforts, including providing food, shelter, and support to affected communities
  • Senior Care: Visiting seniors in nursing homes or assisting with senior center activities
  • Children’s Hospitals: Engaging in activities that bring joy and comfort to young patients
  • Cultural and Arts Organizations: Supporting museums, theaters, or cultural festivals
  • Community Gardens: Tending community gardens to provide fresh produce and promote sustainability

These examples showcase the diversity of volunteer opportunities available through VTO programs. Programs can align with companies’ values and the interests of their employees, creating a positive impact on both the community and the company culture.

Check out more online community service projects.


VTO is a fantastic method to motivate and keep staff. You may use the program to attract candidates searching for meaningful employment. In addition to the obvious advantages for your company, VTO also lets you make a difference for the greater good in the world. However, there are variables to these programs. Some businesses donate a tiny percentage of their earnings to worthy causes. It is common practice for companies to match their workers’ charitable contributions.

Although VTO is a pleasant workplace bonus, it should only be part of your company’s overall corporate social responsibility program. Instead, you should develop a plan that facilitates several forms of corporate and staff philanthropy.

Next, check out these ideas for International Volunteer Day and virtual fundraising.

FAQ: Volunteer time off

Here are frequently asked questions about volunteer time off.

What is volunteer time off?

Volunteer time off is a company benefit that allows employees to volunteer during regular office hours and get paid. Volunteer time off includes having a food and clothing drive at work or helping out at local public schools.

What are the benefits of paid volunteer leave programs?

Some benefits of paid volunteer leave programs include better employee engagement, employee retention, improved company image, and better general well-being. VTO also fosters a sense of purpose among employees.

How do I create volunteer time off policies for my company?

As with any HR initiative, hearing what employees say is crucial. If you are beginning with a program to provide employees time off to volunteer, then you may want to ask employees what they want to see included. Next, at certain intervals, ask about the program’s efficacy and suggestions for improvement. Younger generations, in particular, are eager to provide feedback, ideas, and solutions to enhance businesses’ corporate social responsibility initiatives.

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People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

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