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Volunteer Time Off (VTO): Enhancing Your Business and Community

  • Employee Benefits
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 06/11/2024

A volunteer time off (VTO) programs gives employees paid time off to volunteer a nonprofit organizations

Table of Contents

Volunteer time off (VTO) programs provide employees with paid time off to volunteer for charitable causes and nonprofit organizations. More and more companies—from scrappy startups to established enterprises—are using VTO to make a positive impact on their communities while improving employee engagement and retention.

To help you implement an effective VTO policy, we'll explore how it works, why it's good for business, tips and best practices, and how to measure the payoff.

Understanding Volunteer Time Off

Volunteer time off is a unique benefit that can make your business more attractive to job seekers, particularly those who look for ways to give back to their communities.

What Is a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Policy?

A volunteer time off (VTO) policy is an employee benefit that allows workers to take paid time off to volunteer. It supports their desire to contribute to causes important to them. VTO is optional — it isn't on the list of employee benefits a company must provide to staff.

Volunteer Time Off vs. Voluntary Time Off

While VTO typically stands for "volunteer time off," companies can also define VTO as "voluntary time off," which is unpaid time off from work.

Volunteer time off and voluntary time off may sound similar, but they are two distinct types of employee leave policies. Companies should be clear about which type of time off they offer, so there's no confusion.

Volunteer time off lets employees give back to their community while receiving their regular compensation. VTO can provide anywhere from 8 to 80 hours per year for employees to spend volunteering. Conversely, voluntary time off allows employees to take time off without pay, while keeping their employment status.

What Is the Difference Between VTO and PTO?

Paid time off, or PTO for short, is a broad category that covers many types of paid leave, such as vacation days, sick leave, and personal days. VTO can be one part of an employer's PTO policy. The key difference between VTO vs. PTO is that VTO is reserved for volunteering activities, while employees typically can use PTO for any reason.

Businesses usually offer VTO as a separate bank from PTO, but workers can't use the hours interchangeably. This lets employees contribute to their community without sacrificing their earned PTO.

How Does Volunteer Time Off Work?

VTO begins with a volunteer paid time off policy that outlines eligibility criteria (e.g., whether it's available to full-time or part-time staff), qualifying volunteer activities, the number of VTO hours or days available per year, and whether unused time can roll over to the following year.

Your volunteer time off program might require employees to submit a VTO request form to their supervisor in the same way they would request vacation time or personal days. Supervisors can then review the form to approve or deny the VTO request.

Benefits and Challenges of Implementing a VTO Program

Adding a volunteer time off policy to your employee benefits package offers many benefits for employees, employers, and the community. However, it also presents challenges you should address proactively to ensure a successful program.

Benefits of Implementing a VTO Program

A VTO program can build a culture of social responsibility, boost employee morale, and positively impact the community.

For Employees

VTO programs can give employees a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment by allowing them to pursue their passions and contribute to causes they care about. It can also lead to higher levels of job satisfaction because employees may feel that the company supports their values.

For Employers

Offering VTO can be a powerful tool for employee retention and attraction. It shows a company's commitment to social responsibility and employee well-being. This can set the organization from competitors and appeal to top talent, especially among younger generations who prioritize working for socially conscious organizations.

For the Community

Volunteer time off benefits the community, as well. VTO provides volunteers to local nonprofits and charitable organizations, creating a ripple effect of positive change and leading to more robust and resilient communities.

Challenges of Implementing a VTO Program

Implementing a volunteer time off policy can disrupt workflow and decrease productivity. When an employee takes time off to volunteer, it often means putting off or delegating regular job responsibilities to another team member. It can also be a financial burden for a company since employees are typically paid for time not spent on their regular duties.

Best Practices for Designing a VTO Policy

Businesses of all sizes can make a real difference in their communities by giving employees time and flexibility to pursue causes they care about. But aligning the VTO program with your company's goals, values, and culture is essential — it helps make the program feel more meaningful. Here are some additional best practices to consider:

  • Clearly define eligibility and guidelines: Make sure everyone knows who can take VTO, how much time they get, and what types of volunteering are okay.
  • Simplify the process: Lay out an easy-to-follow process for requesting VTO and what paperwork is needed.
  • Encourage leadership involvement: When bosses and supervisors roll up their sleeves, it shows that volunteering is important to the company.
  • Communicate and promote often: Regularly talk about the VTO program and share stories of how your team's volunteering makes a difference.
  • Track your impact: Monitor how many people are volunteering and the good it's doing. This helps show the value of your program and where it might need tweaking.

Once you have the guidelines in place, remember to regularly review and adjust your policy based on feedback and changing needs to ensure its success over the long term.

Considerations in Offering VTO to Employees

When setting up a VTO program, investigate labor laws in your area regarding volunteer paid time off to avoid legal pitfalls. You'll also want to assess employee interest in a volunteer time off policy. After all, the success of VTO depends on enthusiasm and participation from the team.

Operational impact is another major factor. Launching VTO can benefit the community, but companies must balance it with operational needs. For instance, you may consider limiting volunteer activities to an off-peak season to ensure coverage for all necessary tasks.

How To Promote and Encourage VTO Participation

To get your team excited about a volunteer time off policy, you need a solid promotion strategy. Integrating VTO into your internal communications is a good start. Highlight it during onboarding, mention it in regular meetings, and feature it in your company newsletters. Make sure everyone knows it's not just an option, but a valued part of your company culture.

You might spotlight stories of employees who have taken VTO to spark interest and inspire others. Share their experiences on your company's social media or internal platforms, focusing on personal stories and community impact.

Measuring the Impact of VTO on Your Business

To measure the success of your volunteer paid time off program, start by looking at participation rates. If many of your team members use their VTO, they likely value the opportunity. Also, keep an eye on employee morale and retention rates. You might conduct regular surveys to see how volunteering is affecting team spirit.

Logging the total hours your workers dedicate to volunteering is a smart tactic. It shows your community involvement and strengthens your reports to stakeholders, helping underline the program's value in your business strategy.

Harness the Power of Volunteer Time Off

Volunteer time off offers many benefits that go beyond the immediate impact of the service performed. For businesses, a VTO policy can boost employee morale, increase brand loyalty, and lead to a more robust applicant pool the next time you're hiring.

If you're considering a VTO policy for your company, remember that you're both investing in your workforce and the sustainable development of your community.

Paychex offers employee benefits services for businesses of any size to help you create an employee benefits package and policy that fit your business goals.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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