An Eye-Opening Look at Volunteer Time Off Programs

Explore this guide to learn more about how to start a volunteer time off program at your business.

As a business owner, member of your company’s HR department, or manager, you know just how important it is to prioritize employees’ well-being, mental health, and work-life balance. Encouraging and supporting their efforts to give back to charitable causes through corporate philanthropy promotes each of these areas and cultivates a positive reputation for your business.

In the US, some 63 million people volunteer regularly—how many of your employees are included in this figure? In this guide, we’ll explore how and why your business should launch its own volunteer time off policy. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Before getting into the details, we’ll break down the basics of volunteer time off and differentiate it from other workplace benefits. Let’s get started!

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What is volunteer time off?

Volunteer time off (VTO) is paid time off a company gives its employees to spend performing volunteer work for charitable causes. 

For example, perhaps a hurricane impacts your Houston-based company’s community. Many of your employees spring into action to assist those affected by using their VTO hours to work with FEMA. Rather than being stuck at their desks, your employees are getting paid to provide food, water, shelter, and supplies to their community.

VTO is often just one piece of a business’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, which encompasses all of the company’s efforts to promote social good by supporting nonprofits, practicing sustainability, operating ethically, and more. We’ll discuss more ways your business can give back later.

Volunteer Time Off vs. Voluntary Time Off

You may have heard the term “voluntary time off” and assumed it is the same as “volunteer time off.” While these terms sound similar (and even use the same acronym!), they have very different functions in the workplace.

Here are the key differences between each term:

  • Volunteer Time Off
  • Paid
  • Purpose is to encourage employees to volunteer during the workday without sacrificing compensation or PTO
  • Example: An employee taking a morning off from work to volunteer at an elementary school library.
  • Voluntary Time Off
  • Unpaid
  • Purpose is to give employees the option to take unpaid leave without risking their employment status or benefits
  • Example: An employee takes a morning off from work to handle a personal appointment.

VTO Example: Hasbro

So, what do VTO policies look like in the real world? Double the Donation’s guide to VTO programs highlights what some of the top companies offer—we’ll explore just one as an example.

Hasbro is an example of a company that offers volunteer time off.

Hasbro is an American company that sells children’s games, toys, and entertainment. It has a robust employee volunteer program called Team Hasbro.

As a part of this program, Hasbro employees can accumulate up to 48 hours of VTO per year. Employees are granted four hours of VTO each month to use (or save) as they wish. In addition to its volunteer program, Hasbro also offers matching gifts (more on these later!).

What are the benefits of volunteer time off?

It’s easy to see why volunteer time off is beneficial. It gives your employees more flexibility, shows that you value the causes they care about, and supports nonprofits. However, being familiar with all of the advantages of VTO can help you convince stakeholders to get on board with your company’s policy.

Here’s how these programs can benefit your business, employees, and nonprofits:

The benefits of volunteer time off programs for your company, employees, and nonprofits (detailed in text below).

Benefits for Your Company

  • Attract and retain more employees: 71% of employees say that it’s important to work at a company that gives back to the community through philanthropy and volunteering. Appeal to these employees by implementing and advertising your volunteer time off policy and other CSR initiatives.
  • Make employees more engaged: VTO helps your employees do more of what truly matters to them. Supporting their efforts to make a difference and permitting them to take the time to volunteer during work hours will make them feel more valued and appreciated—all leading to better performance and productivity at work.
  • Enhance your reputation: When your business publicly supports nonprofits, whether through financial donations or volunteer efforts, your business can strengthen its reputation as a company that cares about its community and overall social good.
  • Expand your professional network: Build connections in your community through your volunteer efforts. Get to know the leaders of your local nonprofits and connect with their staff and other volunteers. Who knows? You may meet a future employee at a volunteer opportunity or discover other ways to support the nonprofit by talking with a board member.

Benefits for Employees

  • Help employees feel more fulfilled. Everyone has hobbies, interests, and causes that make them feel complete outside of the work they do from nine to five. Your company’s VTO policy brings those causes into their nine-to-five, helping employees feel more fulfilled.
  • Offer more competitive benefits. Competitive benefits and compensation help your business attract top-tier talent. VTO falls in line with other benefits, like bonuses or hybrid work schedules. These benefits enrich your compensation package, adding more value than a salary could on its own.
  • Foster better work-life balance. Your employees likely have busy schedules, especially if they have kids, pets, or other obligations. VTO gives them more time to do the things they truly value, like volunteering with a local animal shelter, without sacrificing pay or PTO hours.
  • Facilitate skill-building. Some volunteer opportunities give your employees the chance to practice or hone their skills in a new setting. For example, perhaps employees at your hair salon regularly volunteer at a homeless shelter to provide free haircuts. During their shifts, they get experience working with different hair types, styles, and ages.

Benefits for Nonprofits

Because your company is encouraging and supporting employee efforts to contribute to worthy causes, your VTO program will have a positive impact on nonprofits as well. These organizations will gain more support from your business, helping them further their mission and aid more beneficiaries. This support can also open the door for long-term partnerships with your business that nonprofits can rely on for event sponsorships, cause marketing campaigns, and more.

Bolstering nonprofits’ volunteer programs can also make their programs more cost-effective by diverting more funds to mission-critical activities. After all, the value of a volunteer hour is estimated at $31.80, meaning that nonprofits would have to pay that much for a paid worker’s time.

Don’t forget about the many other benefits of corporate giving! Learn more!

What does VTO look like in practice?

When you think about how VTO works in practice, you might envision an employee leaving their shift early to volunteer with their favorite organization. However, there are many ways your organization and employees can use VTO, such as:

  • Individual volunteering, in which employees join volunteer opportunities on their own.
  • Group or company-organized volunteering, where groups of employees join together to give nonprofits even more helping hands. Employees may form these groups on their own, but your business can also organize a company-wide volunteer shift.
  • Skill-based efforts in which employees offer to perform a certain skill for a nonprofit, free of charge. This may be anything from offering pro-bono law services to preparing food.
  • Emergency or disaster response teams which are put together quickly to lend aid to the community after a crisis. This could be in response to severe weather, tragic events, crimes, fires, and more.

For example, let’s say you run a dog daycare business and implement a VTO policy for employees. Your employees might group together to lend their various skills to a local dog rescue. While your on-site groomer can help bathe the dogs and trim nails, your behavior specialists might teach the dogs a few basic tricks. Then, your daycare could also organize company-wide volunteer days to walk the dogs, socialize puppies, and clean out kennels.

How can your business create a volunteer time off policy?

To eliminate any confusion, make sure to summarize the stipulations of your VTO program in your employee handbook. This way, employees can easily reference the guidelines at any time.

Here are our tips for drafting your VTO policy:

VTO Policy Structure

There are a few key elements you’ll need to include in your VTO policy, including:

The ten core components of a volunteer time off policy, detailed in the text below.

  • The purpose of the program. Briefly explain why you’re implementing the program (e.g., to better the community). Knowing the purpose of the program gives employees more context about your decision and can help them better understand how to use their VTO hours.
  • Hour accrual details. Explain how employees will accrue hours. For example, they might earn one VTO hour per biweekly pay period.
  • Hour accrual limit. Set a specific cap for how many VTO hours an employee can save up during a set time period. For example, you may limit the hours to 40 VTO hours per year.
  • VTO pay rate. Note that employees will be paid their standard rate during VTO. This will assuage any concerns about sacrificing pay to volunteer.
  • Impact on PTO usage. While VTO should not reduce an employee’s available PTO hours, you may need to provide clarification for certain situations. For example, if you have a limit on how many PTO hours an employee can use per month, how does VTO factor into that policy?
  • Usage limits or guidelines. Decide on other usage guidelines to ensure employees are using the program the way you envision it. For example, you may limit them to a maximum of two volunteer days per month and require that each volunteer opportunity be at least three hours long.
  • Eligibility. Outline which employees are eligible to accrue and use VTO hours. Perhaps you’ll require them to have worked for your business for at least three months and be full-time.
  • Request and approval process. Walk through how employees can request their volunteer time off, and include or link to the request form. Lay out any rules you have about these requests such as how far in advance employees need to put them in, what information they must provide, and who to send them to.
  • Examples of appropriate and inappropriate use cases. To make sure all of your employees are on the same page, include examples of proper and improper use of the program. An “appropriate” example could be cleaning up a beach or park while an “inappropriate” example might be vacationing in Hawaii and providing free surfing lessons.
  • Miscellaneous guidelines or rules. Finally, list any other guidelines that may be relevant during the program, such as a cash-out policy, how to log hours, and how to obtain “proof” of the volunteer experience.

While this may seem like a long list of information, including each of these elements is critical to the success of your program and reducing miscommunications with employees. Your HR team, company leaders, financial professionals, and any other major stakeholders will need to collaborate to build out the policy and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Sample VTO Policy

Every company’s VTO policy will look different depending on its needs, budget, other time off policies, and more. We put together a quick example that can help you get started:

A sample volunteer time off policy.

ABC Company, Inc. Volunteer Time Off Policy 


The VTO program is designed to encourage and support our employees’ commitment to community service and civic engagement by providing paid time off for volunteer activities. Through this program, employees have the opportunity to contribute their time and skills to nonprofit organizations and community initiatives, fostering personal growth and strengthening our company’s connection to the community.

Program Details

  • All regular full-time employees are eligible to participate in the VTO program after completing 90 days of employment.
  • VTO hours will accrue at a rate of 1 hour per pay period. Accrued VTO hours will be tracked in the company’s timekeeping system.
  • The maximum accrual limit for VTO hours is 40 hours per calendar year.
  • Employees will be compensated at their regular hourly rate for VTO hours used.
  • Utilizing VTO hours will not affect employees’ accrued paid time off (PTO) balances. VTO hours are separate from and in addition to PTO hours.


Employees may use VTO hours for eligible volunteer activities during regular work hours or outside of work hours with prior approval from their supervisor. VTO hours cannot be used for personal activities or as a substitute for planned time off.

Request and Approval Process

Employees must submit a VTO request form to their manager for approval at least two weeks prior to the planned volunteer activity. Supervisors will review and approve VTO requests based on operational needs and staffing considerations within two business days.

Use Case Examples

  • Appropriate: Volunteering at a local animal shelter, participating in a company-sponsored community service event, serving as a mentor for a youth program.
  • Inappropriate: Using VTO hours for personal errands or leisure activities, engaging in political campaigning or advocacy activities during work hours.


  • Employees must adhere to all company policies and procedures while participating in volunteer activities.

  • VTO hours cannot be cashed out or carried over to the following year.

  • Employees are responsible for ensuring that their volunteer activities align with the company’s values and code of conduct.

What are some other ways to give back?

CSR is a great way to cement your business as one that goes above and beyond to serve its community and the greater good. Practicing CSR can have huge benefits for your company in acquiring the best employees, making connections with social good organizations, and building deep bonds with customers. After all, customers are more than four times more likely to purchase from a company with a strong purpose.

However, your CSR efforts shouldn’t stop at offering VTO to your employees. There are so many initiatives you can implement to build a full-fledged charitable giving policy, including:

  • Matching gifts: In a matching gift program, your business matches the donations that employees make to charitable causes, usually at a 1:1 ratio. This means that you can double the amount your employees are able to contribute to the causes they care about without them having to spend more. When developing a matching gift program, you’ll need to choose a match ratio, maximum gift size, which organizations are eligible for the match, and which employees can receive matches (e.g., part-time versus full-time).
  • Volunteer grants: These monetary grants are given to the organizations with which your employees volunteer the most. Say an employee volunteers with a nonprofit each weekend for four hours—once they reach your minimum hour threshold (usually 10 to 20 hours), the nonprofit is eligible for a volunteer grant!
  • Corporate grants: These grants are standard financial donations to nonprofits that align with your organization. You may create an application process for organizations or simply choose a nonprofit you’d like to support. Have employees suggest causes and even vote on which one receives the grant to get them involved. Consider setting some funding aside for community grants, which are intended for emergent situations like natural disasters.
  • Sponsorships: A corporate sponsorship is used to fund specific nonprofit events, projects, or programs. Sometimes, your business may receive something in exchange for these sponsorships. If you sponsor a fundraising event, the nonprofit may include your logo on promotional materials and event signage.
  • Payroll giving: Also known as automatic payroll deductions, payroll giving allows your employees to donate directly from their regular paychecks. Similar to contributing to their retirement or savings account, they can route a portion of their check to a nonprofit each month or pay period. This is a great way to encourage regular support and make giving as easy as possible for your employees.

Your company can also work to make its operations more ethical and environmentally friendly. For instance, you may become a B Corps organization, source materials from ethical manufacturers, and implement a sustainability pledge (e.g., reducing carbon emissions by 50% within 10 years).

Keep in mind that these efforts will be most successful when you get buy-in from your employees. After all, they are the driving force behind matching gifts, payroll giving, volunteering, and similar initiatives.

Encouraging Adoption

These programs can take large investments of your time and resources to get up and running. Additionally, your leaders and stakeholders want to see the benefits we discussed earlier come to life as a result of your CSR program. This is why it’s vital to promote the programs to your employees and encourage them to participate.

Encourage your employees to use their VTO hours, leverage matching gifts, and more by:

Five ways to encourage your employees to participate in CSR programs like volunteer time off (detailed in the text below).

  • Getting them involved. Have employees weigh in on which causes your business will support. When they know that their dollars or volunteer hours will go toward a cause they deeply care about, they’ll be much more likely to engage with your program. Additionally, make sure to gather and implement employee feedback on the program to continuously improve it.
  • Promoting opportunities. Share frequent reminders about your CSR programs with employees to motivate them to participate. For example, create an event invitation for a volunteer excursion and remind employees to register in advance. Or, you might remind them that you have a matching gift program during the holiday season when more people tend to donate.
  • Recognizing their efforts. When employees participate, reward their efforts with recognition. Using your recognition platform of choice, send them a quick eCard or note thanking them for their time or contribution. This affirms that they are making a difference by engaging with your CSR initiatives.
  • Offering incentives. In addition to recognizing employees, you might also reward them with tangible incentives. These could be simple gifts like company swag or restaurant gift cards. Or, you might offer bonus PTO for joining a group volunteer shift.
  • Leading by example. Get leaders involved to show employees that giving back is an important part of your company culture. Senior executives, managers, and other leaders should regularly participate in efforts like VTO to highlight the significance promoting social good has at your company.

Finally, remind employees about what really matters. Their efforts bring more support to nonprofits, which drives meaningful change for nonprofits, their beneficiaries, and the community. After all, help from your employees can fill hungry bellies, find homes for shelter animals, and even transform dirty beaches into clean, safe environments for wildlife.

Wrapping Up

Volunteer time off gives your employees the freedom they need to volunteer with their favorite organizations regularly. Not only will they help those important nonprofits do more to promote their missions, but they’ll also feel more fulfilled, valued, and productive while at work. Your business will have a base of thriving employees, a reputation as a responsible company, and the ability to make a positive impact on the world.

If you’re curious about starting a VTO program, implementing more CSR initiatives, or simply making your workplace giving efforts a success, explore these resources:

Grow volunteerism by promoting corporate volunteer incentives with ease. See how 360MatchPro can help.