Updated: October 25, 2022

Volunteer Time Off & Volunteer Leave Policy

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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 programsgroup 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

Voluntary Time Off, or VTO, is an employee perk that allows workers to take paid time off to volunteer. Usually, this time off can be between eight to 40 hours each year. Employees may volunteer their time to causes they care about in their community without taking a pay cut.

In recent years, offering employees paid time off via VTO has grown more common. However, in 2009, only 15 percent of companies, according to SHRM’s survey of human resource professionals, provided VTO. Ten years later, almost one in every four businesses provided VTO for their employees.

Multiple studies have shown that millennials, the largest generation in the workforce currently, often have this mentality. According to 2016 research by Cone Communications, 75 percent of millennials said they would not mind taking a salary cut to work for a socially responsible firm. Of the respondents, 64 percent said they would not accept a job offer from a company that did not have robust corporate responsibility policies.

The need for company-sponsored donations is evident. Over two-thirds of Deloitte’s 2017 Volunteerism Survey respondents cited a lack of time during the workday as the primary reason they do not volunteer as much as they would like. Volunteer time off enables workers to give back to their communities while also making a difference in the world by addressing issues such as domestic abuse, global warming, and animal cruelty.

Volunteer leave is when workers devote their leave period to charitable or community service activities. Some companies give their employees the freedom to choose where they want to spend their volunteer leave time, while others limit it to pre-approved locations or organizations with whom the company has a pre-existing relationship.

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, deciding if an employee on a Performance Improvement Plan would get to take such a leave.

2. Volunteer Organization

You can decide whether your workers can choose to 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.

3. Acceptable Volunteering Efforts

You can decide if an employee qualifies for VTO by volunteering for a particular event or by helping with routine, day-to-day organizational tasks. Assisting with the distribution of food at a food bank is an example. Your volunteer time off policy should also state whether workers can do voluntary work related to their current positions. For instance, helping out with tasks like advertising, bookkeeping, and HR, are all examples of valuable contributions to a philanthropy organization. However, keep in mind that conflicts of interest may arise when an employee’s or business’s voluntary activities are too intertwined with the employee’s or business’s paid services to customers.

4. Number of Days

For this policy section, you should decide if employees’ VTO accumulates with their paid time off or go into a separate VTO pool. You should also determine how much paid time off workers get yearly, if the time accumulates, and whether employees can request more time.

For example, some firms provide two paid days off annually for workers interested in volunteer work. The company sets aside budgets to pay for employee volunteer events and encourages participation. The days for VTO may be placed in a regular calendar year or fiscal year. You should also have a system for logging employees’ volunteer hours.

5. Request Processes

When setting the policy for requesting volunteer time off, 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 VTO to the company’s bottom line. The following are the positive effects of VTO on your business.

1. Better Employee Engagement

Most millennials 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.

2. Improved Company Image

Attracting and employing workers in a competitive labor market may make or break a company. Offering volunteer time off may help you stand out as a business that cares about its employees and the community. About 90 percent of companies claim that working with respected NGOs helps build their brand’s reputation.

3. Higher Employee Retention

According to a McKinsey study, almost two-thirds of US employees said experiencing a pandemic made them rethink their career goals. Now more than ever, it is vital for workers to feel that their efforts are more than simply for financial gain. According to a Glassdoor report, 51 percent of employees want to have a positive social impact via their profession.

Allowing employees to use their skills for a good cause can boost morale and loyalty to the company. Employees who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to remain with your company over the long term. Higher employee retention correlates with lower recruitment costs and the preservation of existing knowledge and experience. Employees who feel their employer contributes positively to society are more likely to remain with the company for more than five years.

4. Better-qualified Workers

Your workers’ job may appear unrelated to volunteering at a food bank or national park. Yet, VTO an important aspect of career growth by 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 Wellbeing

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 that 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 persons 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 Volunteer Time Off 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 figure this out by asking about VTO in your employee engagement surveys.

If there is genuine interest, 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, you may beta-test the program by trialing volunteer shifts in one place.

2. Be Detailed

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

3. Ensure VTO Activities Aligns with Company’s 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 its 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.

4. Use a Timekeeping System

A VTO policy is not complete without a system to track how much time workers take off. A well-defined procedure reduces the potential for mishandling. For example, you can track time off for volunteering, like vacation and sick days. You should ensure this time is distinct leaves. It would help if you also determined in advance the time the VTO will last.

Check out this list list of time tracking tools.

5. Encourage Senior Staff Members to be Exemplary

When it comes to maintaining an organization’s culture, leaders are pivotal. Senior employees may set an example for the rest of the staff by using their VTO and then telling them about it. Leaders that are actively engaged in their communities improve the company’s image and give employees something to strive for. According to Gartner, a stunning 68 percent of workers are open to leaving their current company in favor of one with a more outspoken position on cultural and social problems.

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 and hence different time zones and you need to communicate with employees. 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. You can start small by encouraging your staff to volunteer at local organizations like food banks, clean up their neighborhoods, or chaperone a school field trip.

Another common way to use vacation time is to donate your skills or provide pro bono work for a nonprofit. Volunteer opportunities exist with major organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and the United Nations for your staff members.

Some of your staff members may struggle with taking a week or even a month off to volunteer. In that case, you may want to consider doing some volunteer work online.

For instance, Paper Airplanes is a nonprofit that offers English and computer programming lessons to individuals in violence-ridden areas. Paper Airplanes searches for enthusiastic volunteers to help with coding or operations. With this system, your staff may donate their time without leaving home.

Check out more online community service projects.


Volunteer time off 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 a component of your company’s overall corporate social responsibility program. It seems unlikely that the promise of paid time off would be enough to keep socially conscious workers in your company. 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, you may want to ask employees what they want to see included. Then, at certain intervals, inquire about the program’s efficacy and suggestions for improvement. Younger generations, in particular, are eager to provide feedback, ideas, and solutions to enhance businesses’ CSR initiatives.

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Content Expert 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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