How we use Volunteer Time Off to nurture communities
Volunteerism is healthy for people. And we do mean healthy. Studies have shown that volunteering can help you live longer and is good for your health. This means employees who volunteer are happier and healthier. Happy employees lead to better work performance and, overall, a better work environment. But like anything that’s good for you - how do you get people to actually do it?
Well, a few years ago we decided to bolster our collective company volunteer efforts by adding paid Volunteer Time Off (VTO) to our list of benefits. These are actual workday hours that can be used to volunteer with any nonprofit of the employee's choosing. We wanted to offer a way for our employees to nurture their communities, and affirm our B Corp commitment to use business as a force for good.
Volunteerism has always been a value our employees share, with many even having served in the Peace Corp. As a company, we started out partnering exclusively with nonprofits, so the majority of both current and former staff have all at some point worked in the nonprofit world. Which means we all have first-hand knowledge of how essential volunteer participation is to the success of any nonprofit organization.
So when we looked for ways to increase our commitment to nurturing communities - it was a no-brainer to provide paid time off for the expressed reason of volunteering.
While we still love an all-team volunteer day- and, let’s face it, it’s a great way to get our tech-heads out into the sunlight- we find that providing VTO as a company benefit, allows for a different kind of engagement. A personalized volunteer experience that allows each individual to support the causes that mean the most to them.
Volunteerism is more than a company value
We know that each Idealist Consulting employee comes to work not just as an individual, but as representative of their community - their families, their networks, their chosen causes. So, as a company, when we talk about nurturing communities, we are mindful of recognizing each sphere of community that surrounds each individual as well as those our collective has chosen to serve.
Our VTO benefit resonates with current employees and has been well received in recruitment and hiring as well. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report found that 77% of millennials were likely to volunteer if they could leverage their time and skills to benefit a cause. And, in action, we’ve found the millennials on our team were first in line to take advantage of the program.
How to make it work for your company
But putting together a VTO program for your company can be tricky, especially if leadership doesn’t completely understand it. So we’re offering tips to start small and make it work for your organization.
- Keep it simple: Start with just one or half a day, 4 to 8 hours.
- Create a policy and track it: Make sure employees know how to request the time off. Many time tracking platforms allow you to create custom PTO items.
- Make suggestions: Keep a list of suggested places to volunteer or upcoming volunteer events in your area. In our case, we keep a list of current clients and their volunteer needs.
- Have employees report back and share their story: our employees complete a simple questionnaire after each VTO experience. This helps us get to know the nonprofit that benefited and share stories that can inspire other coworkers to take advantage of VTO as well.
- Everyone participates: employees are far more likely to take advantage of VTO if their managers do.
- And if folks still aren’t participating you can always schedule a group volunteer day.
Business as a force for good
After the first year, we’ve found that not only have our employees benefitted but our company culture and the surrounding communities have benefited as well. Our staff uses this time in a variety of ways - serving on a nonprofit board to teaching art literacy in their children’s school.
And together we, as a company and community, have become stronger.
Looking to join a team like ours? We’d love to hear from you. Check out our open career opportunities.