Did you know that 1 in 4 U.S. companies and nonprofits nationwide offer volunteer time off (VTO)? VTO is an emerging trend that benefits employers, employees, and the communities they serve. Volunteer time off not only empowers employees but also makes good business sense.
To support your VTO program, you’ll need to implement a volunteer time off policy. Learn how to write a no-frills VTO policy that communicates the why and how of volunteer time off.
- Volunteer Time Off FAQs
- What Is a Volunteer Time Off Policy?
- How to Write a Volunteer Time Off Policy
- Volunteer Time Off Policy Examples
Volunteer Time Off FAQs
Before we dig into the volunteer time off policy, let’s answer a few essential questions about the topic:
What is Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
Volunteer time off (VTO) is an employer-sponsored benefit for employees who want to volunteer in their communities. Where VTO is offered, employees are granted paid time off to participate in approved volunteering activities.
Participating employers typically grant between 8 and 40 hours of volunteer time off per year and compensate this time with an hourly rate equivalent to the employee’s typical salary.
What Are the Benefits of Volunteer Time Off?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) allows companies to boost their image and garner loyalty among consumers and employees alike. And while CSR is a multi-faceted strategy for bettering the workplace and the community in which they operate, corporate volunteerism is one component of CSR that mobilizes a company’s biggest asset: its employees.
Corporate volunteer programs allow employers and employees to positively impact their communities, and volunteer time off incentivizes participation in these programs. In fact, offering VTO can make a business more appealing to potential candidates—as well as customers and clients.
Volunteer time off not only helps attract top talent and gain a competitive advantage, but it also aids employee retention. 60% of millennials (which now make up a majority of the workforce) report choosing and remaining with a company because they feel a sense of purpose there. Moreover, 70% of millennials volunteer at least once per year. In short? VTO just makes good business sense.
What Are Some Volunteer Time Off Best Practices?
What should companies consider when implementing VTO? Here are a few best practices:
- Plan Coverage and Budget. How many company-paid volunteer days can you afford to offer employees? Will you need to consider coverage for employees participating in VTO? VTO requires separate budgeting from traditional paid time off, so you’ll need to work with your Finance department and Human Resources to plan ahead.
- Consider Volunteer Management Tools. You’ll need a system to manage time-off requests and track employee volunteer hours. Make sure you have the tools in place, such as a dedicated corporate volunteer management software, to ensure your volunteer program runs smoothly from start to finish.
- Promote Your Employee Volunteer Program. If you want employees to get involved and take advantage of your company’s VTO benefit, you’ll need to spread the word about your program. Reach volunteers through your company’s usual communications channels and designate volunteer champions to promote your program among coworkers.
- Implement a VTO Policy. A volunteer time off policy provides employees with the essential information they need to get involved—and get paid to do so! Keep reading to learn how to structure an effective volunteer time off policy.
What is a VTO Policy
A volunteer time off policy provides context for your employee volunteer program and communicates expectations and procedures for getting involved and getting paid.
The policy is usually provided digitally and can exist either on your website or in a PDF file; electronic policies make it easy to distribute and reference.
Keep reading for our volunteer time off policy templates and examples.
How to Write a VTO Policy
Now that you’ve established a plan for volunteer time off, you’ll need to communicate this plan to employees. You can use the following volunteer time off policy template to structure the document:
- Time Off Policy
- Employee Eligibility
- Organizations and Volunteer Activities
- VTO Application and Approval Process
- Reimbursement and Time Tracking
Begin by introducing your employee volunteer program. Include the program’s mission statement and goals and provide resources for learning more about your company’s CSR promises. Then, briefly discuss the intent behind providing employees with volunteer time off.
Time Off Policy
Outline the basic parameters and policies regarding the extent of possible volunteer time off offered. In this section, you’ll want to address the following questions:
- How many days or hours will employees receive within a given time period?
- Are volunteers paid their standard rate?
- Does unused VTO rollover?
- At which point during the year does VTO reset?
- Is disaster response volunteering managed separately? (Typically, emergency and disaster volunteerism is managed ad hoc and depends on employee skill sets and community need).
Discuss your company’s policies on volunteer time off eligibility. Who is eligible for VTO? Are part-time employees eligible for VTO? If so, are they entitled to the same number of hours?
You may also want to outline any conditions for ineligibility in this section. For example, employees may be ineligible for VTO if they are on a Performance Improvement Plan.
Organizations and Volunteer Activities
Employees should know which causes, organizations, projects, and activities qualify for VTO. So, you’ll need to provide a list of approved organizations and participating community partners.
In addition, list the types of volunteering activities that are eligible for VTO. For example, do expect employees to volunteer at pre-selected events throughout the year. Are volunteers encouraged to offer pro bono or skills-based services? Alternatively, you may require employees to participate in opportunities that differ from their typical work responsibilities.
If employees can select nonprofits or volunteer opportunities themselves, outline criteria for appropriate volunteer activities and the steps to getting these activities approved. Should these activities align with your company’s mission or the employee’s personal values?
Additionally, we recommend you provide a general statement about how VTO cannot be used to support organizations or activities that participate in discriminatory practices. Your statement may read something like this:
“Volunteer Time Off may not be used for organizations that discriminate based on race, age, gender, sexuality, religious creed, veteran status, marital status, national origin or ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition or genetic information, or political affiliation.”
Examples of Appropriate Uses of VTO
If you’re allowing volunteers to choose the organizations and activities for which they will volunteer, it can be helpful to list examples of appropriate use for VTO, such as:
- Volunteering at a foodbank
- Serving on a nonprofit board
- Cleaning up public spaces
Examples of Inappropriate Uses of VTO
It may be helpful to provide examples of inappropriate uses of VTO, such as:
- Coaching your child’s sports team or serving as a scout leader
- Judging a beauty pageant or other competition
- Taking a vacation
- Attending a professional, religious, or personal interest event or conference
Application and Approval Process
Next, discuss the VTO application process. List the steps for submitting a VTO request form. To whom should employees submit their application or request? Who approves the request? How much notice do applicants need to provide?
Some nonprofits will require qualifying documentation, like licenses and waivers. Be sure to have a process in place for handling the collection of this information efficiently and securely. A corporate volunteer management software stores digital copies and e-signatures for the easy and safe transfer of personal data.
In addition, provide a volunteer time off request form or hyperlink to your online application process. Reference the sample volunteer time off template below:
Volunteer Time Off Request Form
- Date of Request
- Employee Name
- Charitable Organization Information
- Date and Time of Requested Volunteer Activity
- Total # of Hours Requested
- Role Title
- Description of Volunteer Activity
- Employee Signature
- Supervisor Signature
You can also download a volunteer time off request form here.
Reimbursement and Time Tracking
In the final section of your volunteer time off policy, you’ll want to outline the steps required for tracking volunteer time and handling any reimbursement, if any.
Tracking and communicating volunteer hours is essential to measuring the impact of your VTO program. So, you’ll want a reliable system for doing so. We recommend implementing an employee volunteer management software, which not only streamlines the volunteer application and registration process, it also automates company-wide volunteer time tracking.
Whichever way you decide to track volunteer time, participants will need to know how to log their VTO hours.
VTO Policy Examples
If you need a little inspiration to get started, check out these volunteer time off policy examples:
- Dartmouth University offers an easy-to-navigate Volunteer Time Off Policy and digital Volunteer Time Off Form.
- Borrow these Volunteer Time Off Sample Clauses from Law Insider.
- Check out the University of Wisconsin’s brief but effective VTO Program and Policy page.
- This Sample Volunteer Time Off Policy from Silicon Valley Clean Energy also includes an attached Volunteer Time Off Request Form.
Volunteer time off can lead to positive outcomes for your company, its employees, and the community. A volunteer time off policy ensures employees get the most out of your program while maximizing impact.