What is Volunteer Time Off (VTO)?

Volunteering is a great way for your company to build corporate culture and bring teams together for the common good. Besides giving back to the community, volunteering is a chance for your employees to gain valuable experience that can help them grow as individuals. But not everyone can find time outside of work to volunteer—life is busy and demanding enough. That’s where volunteer time off (VTO) is an increasingly popular way for companies of all types and sizes to support their employees. VTO allows people to use regular work days to give back—while still getting paid.

VTO is a wise workplace benefit 

Volunteer time off is an employee benefit where companies give their employees paid time off to volunteer in their community, similar to parental leave, sick days, and vacation time. And it’s no less important. Offering VTO in addition to a full suite of benefits communicates to employees—as well as prospective talent—that doing good in the world is an important part of your company culture. 

Making VTO an official, ongoing corporate program (rather than a one-off event) is a great way to “walk the walk.” It’s one thing to claim your organization cares about giving back and another to actually do so regularly in the community.

VTO policies don’t need to be one-size-fits-all 

VTO policies can vary widely. Some companies allow employees to volunteer during regular work hours, while others provide additional paid days off for volunteering. These policies are designed to give employees more ways to contribute their time toward causes that matter to them on their own schedule.

The amount of time allotted for VTO depends on your company. According to the 2022 CECP Giving in Numbers report, the median number of VTO hours offered to employees was 16. That might be a safe place to start your program and adjust once you get more data on employee participation.

VTO can—and should—be tracked

VTO programs are most successful when there is tracking involved. That doesn’t mean just a mechanism to approve time off requests, but a system through which you can measure the real impact of your volunteer program on employee happiness and engagement. 

If no one uses the VTO program because getting approval is too slow or because the policy isn’t clear or accessible, it’s doomed to fail. Corporate volunteering software can be a huge help make the volunteering process simple for everyone involved. 

Over time, a tracking system will help you see important trends, such as which teams volunteer the most, how many days or hours on average get used, what impact is there on the community, etc. This kind of data will help make the case to management that the VTO policy is worthwhile and effective. Plus, software can help you survey employees for feedback about their VTO experiences so you can continually tweak and improve the program. 

VTO boosts employee morale

Companies that offer VTO programs reap the rewards in several ways. First, employees who participate in VTO are more likely to be engaged with their work and feel a greater sense of purpose in their jobs. They can also serve as company ambassadors to future talent, contributing to a good company reputation.

A good volunteering program gives people an opportunity to focus on something positive and productive instead of stressing about deadlines or project feedback—things that often contribute negatively to job performance. It’s also worth noting that volunteering can bring teams together across the company who don’t normally interact. This not only builds relationships between colleagues but also fosters collaboration between departments and can spark new ideas. 

When deciding whether your organization should implement a VTO policy, consider how your efforts will align with your overall mission and values and what you want your employees to get out of the experience. Think through how the entire company can participate—from the CEO to the newest intern—and how you will track program effectiveness (*hint: with Submittable’s corporate volunteering software). Everyone benefits from volunteering, and formalizing paid time off to do so is a huge win-win.

Eric Thompson

Eric is a content marketing manager at Submittable with an interest in the future of technology, philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility. When not at work, you can find him running the trails around Missoula.