What is volunteer time off (VTO)?

Volunteer time off

Volunteer time off (VTO) is a form of leave in which companies pay employees their normal compensation for time spent supporting an approved charitable organization. Paid volunteer time off can be an attractive benefit for philanthropic employees. It can foster a sense of community and emphasize the importance of giving back within a company.

What does a typical volunteer time off policy entail?

More than a quarter of U.S. companies offer paid time off for volunteering, but these policies can look different from one business to the next. The way you structure your policy should align with your company’s culture, strategy, and objectives.

Many employers offer between eight and 40 hours per year of volunteer time off benefits. Smaller employers may offer fewer hours, while larger corporations may have the means to offer more time off work for volunteering.

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What is volunteer time off used for?

Offering volunteer paid time off can provide many benefits for an organization. Most notably, it can strengthen or reinforce your company’s corporate social responsibility, which enables organizations to contribute to societal and environmental goals through philanthropic endeavors and other means. This can have a powerful impact on a brand’s overall image and make a positive impression on stakeholders, community members, and customers.

A company’s workforce plays an important role in volunteer time off, meaning you can leverage your employees to fulfill corporate volunteerism. Not only does offering paid time off to volunteer help your company pursue goals that are important to its ethics, but it can also attract job seekers with a passion for volunteerism and giving back. This likely makes up the majority of your workforce, as most of today’s employees volunteer their time at least once annually.

Companies that offer volunteer time off enjoy a multitude of perks, both in terms of keeping their employees happy and promoting their brand. In fact, organizations that emphasize volunteerism as a component of their corporate culture, including companies with volunteer time off, have better retention, employee engagement, morale, and brand perception.  

In other words, reimbursing your employees for the time they spend volunteering could actually drive revenue for your business. But can you write off the cost of doing so come tax time? We can provide a general answer, but it’s best to consult your accountant to determine your business’s unique tax opportunities. While U.S. businesses can deduct qualified contributions up to 25% of their taxable income, employees can’t write off volunteer time on taxes, regardless of whether or not they’re paid for it.

Volunteer time off best practices

Google “volunteer time off” and you’re certain to get a mix of examples and recommendations. Each organization has to structure their volunteer time off program in a way that works best for them. With that in mind, here are some general recommendations on how to create a volunteer time off program.

  • Establish a budget. Determine the amount of time your company can realistically offer employees for volunteering with compensation. Involve key stakeholders, including HR and finance decision-makers, to come up with a budget.
  • Create a policy. A volunteer paid time off policy should outline the expectations, requirements, and other details for the program. It should be clear, concise, and enforceable.
  • Select and implement tools. Most companies already have systems in place for tracking time off requests. Determine who will manage volunteer time off request forms and data, and whether you’ll need to appoint a designated individual for overseeing the program. Consider whether you’ll use apps or other programs to track volunteer time.
  • Promote the program. Spread the word about your company’s volunteer time off program by communicating through the channels your employees use most frequently. Encourage everyone to get involved, from managers to leadership.

Volunteer paid time off policy details

When developing your program, consider following this volunteer time off policy template.

  • Establish a clear, succinct purpose. Develop a mission statement and goals, and make sure it aligns with your corporate mission and company culture.
  • Create a time off policy. This may involve requiring a specific amount of notice before taking time off to volunteer. You might also consider how many days or hours will be provided and at what rate of compensation, and whether unused hours can roll over.
  • Determine eligibility. Certain factors may disqualify employees from this benefit. For example, employees may have to be with the company for a certain amount of time before receiving volunteer time off hours.
  • List approved organizations or activities. Make sure employees know which causes or organizations will qualify for volunteer time off. Consider providing volunteer time off examples or a list of approved organizations with local chapters. Some options might include volunteering at a foodbank, working at an animal shelter, or cleaning up the local community through environmental nonprofits.

About Oyster

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