Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Building a Volunteering Program that Really Works

By CSRWire Blogs

Submitted by Nita Kirby

Volunteering at work can be a great force for social change and increase retention and employee engagement in your company. Whether companies are giving their employees time off to work on specific projects, defined as “paid release/volunteer time off” programs, or teams are getting together to tackle an issue at a local non-profit, giving time within the workplace has been growing over the last decade, despite multiple changes in our world and citizens finding their voice to make a difference.

Why is this phenomenon continuing to grow? The advantages of building a Volunteer Time Off program or a volunteering program for your company are numerous (as well as charitable) as they are well-documented. And that’s not an opinion, it’s backed up by research. Here are some statistics around volunteering at work and why it works so well:

●      Graduates are willing to sacrifice an average of 14.4% of their expected salaries to work at socially responsible companies, according to a Stanford Graduate School of Business study.

●      A PwC study revealed, Employees most committed to their organizations put in 57% more effort on the job—and are 87% less likely to resign—than employees who consider themselves disengaged.

●      Cone Research found that 79% of people prefer to work for a socially responsible company.

●      According to a Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, 91% of surveyed corporate human resources executives believe that pro bono service would add value to training and development programs.

It’s simple to see why companies are clamoring to implement or reinvent volunteerism initiatives within their organizations. Excellent EVPs (Employer Value Propositions) implement a variety of time release policies, depending on the company’s nature and strategic approach around employee volunteerism. This means that while some companies can afford to give employees PTO to serve on volunteer committees, smaller companies may have to rely on increased PTO if the employee chooses to spend that PTO giving back to the community in a formalized way. 

The advantages are clear: employees see the time off, skill building and camaraderie they get from volunteering on “company time” as a value add, volunteer programs like this can give the organization a good name in the community and it can bridge the gap between union and management (which can occasionally be a tenuous relationship).

So how do you build a volunteering program in your own company?

1.     Ensure your program is properly administered and someone is on hand to handle the the requirement of requesting and approving paid time off. The last thing a great volunteering program needs is someone not playing by the rules.

2.     To avoid understaffing in specific departments, ensure that manager approval is involved. This ensures that both the company needs and employee needs are met. But caution managers not to squelch PTO requests for volunteer work.

3.     Consider combining your volunteer paid time off policy with a program that is near and dear to the organization (if your company has its own charity or non-profit arm, for example) or one that is meaningful to employees (smaller towns may have schools where many employees’ children attend that can use the volunteer hours).

4.     Build in a “disaster relief” clause that allows for employees to go without sufficient notice to assist during a time of crisis (Hurricane, earthquake, tornado, et al). 

For example, here is how one company broke down their volunteer PTO program:


The purpose of the program is to support activities that enhance and serve communities in which we live and work and the issues that impact quality of life.

We recognize that participating in these sorts of activities enriches the lives of its employees.  Community is not defined as just local community, but may encompass the global community. 

Amount of Time:

Employees can donate up to 24 hours (3 days) per calendar year toward a 501c3 charitable organization, in accordance with giving and volunteering guidelines.  More than one organization may be chosen.

The hours break down as follows:

●      2 half-days off for group volunteer activities, sponsored by the company (8 hours)

●      16 hours off for personal volunteering by the employee

This donated time, up to 24 hours per calendar year, will be considered paid time off.  The pay rate will be the employee’s current base salary on the day(s) the time is taken.

This time is refreshed at the beginning of each calendar year, unless the program is amended or discontinued, and does not accrue from year to year.  Usage of this time or lack thereof does not affect vacation accrual or sick leave usage.

Volunteering at work may be having a moment or it may continue to trend upward, but what is certain is HR executives, CFOs and CEOs are recognizing what it can do for the organization and they are acting on it. However, without the proper preparation and guidance, those efforts won’t stand the test of time and certainly won’t beat out competing organizations. It takes a lot of moving arms throughout the entire organization to make volunteering at work not just a reality, but a thriving enterprise. Do your research, get advice and then make something big happen. The advantages of some sort of volunteerism are clear, it's up to you to assess what will work for your organization and begin reaping the benefits.