Volunteer time off, or VTO, is a popular trend in employee benefits and, as a result, more and more companies are taking notice. But why is corporate volunteerism a hot commodity, and what does it mean for businesses, employees, and nonprofits?
What is VTO?
VTO is a program companies offer their employees. With VTO, employees are given paid time to volunteer for a nonprofit organization. A company will often partner with a nonprofit organization to provide approved volunteer opportunities for its employees. The amount of VTO given to employees varies by company; for example, software company Salesforce lets its employees take as much as 56 total paid hours (7 days) for volunteering per year. Salesforce also awards $1,000 grants to employees who complete all 7 days, to donate to the nonprofit of their choice.
Corporate volunteerism actually reduces costs
At face value, paying employees to spend time out of the office seems like the opposite of making a profit. Research has shown, however, that offering corporate volunteerism opportunities actually benefits companies. That’s because it reduces expenses allocated for benefits, cuts down on human resources costs, and essentially streamlines productivity and engagement.
How does this happen? The employees are the answer. Many employees today, especially Millennials, place a high value on volunteering. In fact, a study on employee benefits earlier this year found that 76 percent of employees agreed with the statement “When work and life blend and enrich each other, everybody wins.” Part of this successful work-life balance included volunteerism. Volunteering is important to Millennials: more than half stated that a company’s policy for giving back influenced their decision to accept a job offer.
VTO helps businesses stay competitive
When a company provides a solid VTO program, it also attracts talented, passionate potential employees who are more apt to fit in with the company culture. These employees are more likely to feel loyal to and proud of their company when their values align. Skilled employees who are happy with their jobs will improve operations and cut down on time spent finding and training new employees. Companies are noticing this, which is a major part of why VTO is on the rise. In fact, as of 2018, nearly one in four companies in the United States were using VTO to their advantage. It makes sense that other businesses will begin to offer these benefits as well to meet current demand (and especially to attract Millennial and Gen Z employees).
VTO and corporate volunteerism boost the nonprofit sector
Of course, corporate volunteerism benefits nonprofits, too. Partnering with a company gives a nonprofit consistent access to a pool of volunteers. These employee volunteers often have skills that can benefit a nonprofit. For example, if a nonprofit has enough volunteers to help run a large event, employee volunteers can help in other ways: teaching project management skills, taking a pro bono law case, consulting, copywriting, and more.
Skills-based volunteering helps nonprofits in a variety of specific ways and also lets employee volunteers use their skills. A nonprofit and company partnership also boosts brand recognition and visibility for both parties, usually with minimal costs as compared to marketing. When a company announces support for a nonprofit through its volunteer program, or a nonprofit shares progress on a joint project with a company, both receive media recognition.
Employees are happier and healthier
We’ve seen that VTO is great for businesses and nonprofits, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the employees. Without them, none of these benefits would be realized. So what do they get out of this?
Career-wise, volunteering improves a number of employee skills, including leadership, adaptability, and communication. On top of that, employees who volunteer are more engaged and loyal to their companies. Employees also strengthen bonds with their colleagues by working together on a project in a different environment. Having volunteer experience on a résumé shows that an employee is passionate about causes larger than him- or herself, and that he/she has dedicated time to giving back. Using VTO can even lead to an employee volunteering on his/her own time, either for the same nonprofit or one of his/her choice. Volunteering reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood, and increases self-confidence. It’s easy to see the personal benefits of volunteering.
But mostly, employees are happier, more productive, and confident when they’re able to contribute to a shared cause.
The big takeaways
Because Millennials, the majority generation in today’s workforce, highly value volunteerism, it’s important that companies recognize the benefits of having a volunteer program. When companies offer a VTO program as part of their benefits, they’ll entice skilled workers who are passionate about making a difference. Volunteering improves employee skills and attitude toward their company which, in turn, can decrease costs and improve productivity. Corporate volunteerism also enhances visibility for both the company and nonprofits and creates much happier, healthier employees. At the end of the day, corporate volunteerism isn’t a new trend, but it’s becoming a cornerstone of how this generation works.
Latasha Doyle (@latashamdoyle) is a content writer who focuses on helping charities, as well as nonprofit software and services, find the right words. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or playing with her six pets. She lives in Denver, Colorado, and can be found on the internet at www.latashadoylewrites.com.